We're spoilt for choice in propagating terms

Propagating new plants from our existing tender, half-hardy and hardy collection continues throughout the year, but there are periods when we are spoiled for choice, and this is one.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 4th August 2018, 4:46 pm
Penstemon, curry plant and lavender are all offering cuttings to root at the moment. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Penstemon, curry plant and lavender are all offering cuttings to root at the moment. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

As August arrives, several hardy outdoor shrubs that flowered in winter and spring, have responded to post-bloom pruning with soft new shoots, which are ideal for softwood stem cuttings.

Forsythia, weigela, viburnum, spiraea, escallonia, et al, are ripe for the taking. A driveway border has heather, penstemon, curry plant and lavender offering cuttings, and ceanothus, osmanthus and hebe are begging me to remove short side shoots with a heel attached and get them into moist, gritty compost.

Blue flowers have faded on the rosemary and new growth is well under way. The stems are bristling with side shoots circa 10cm long, which could easily be removed with finger and thumb. Mature sage plants in a raised herb bed are just as generous in offering short summer stems. A handful of each could easily go in amongst the shrub stem cuttings to root.

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Hardy fuchsias, cut back pre-winter, have also developed rapid growth, with short stems full of rooting potential. Examples abound throughout this garden, where they’ve been planted individually or in groups to pep-up border displays.

‘Genii’ is quite stunning, with red stems and lime-yellow leaves. The flowers have cerise tubes and sepals, the violet corollas turning purple-red. It’s been eye-catching when reflecting sunlight, but also illuminates the border on dull days.

Magellanica fuchsias have small flowers, but they are so graceful and come in profusion. Our modest collection includes Gracilis Variegata and Versicolor, which have the added attraction of colourful foliage. This said, Alba and Hawkshead, white and pink blooms respectively, have green leaves, but also add a wow factor when planted in groups of three.

Fuchsias root so easily from stem cuttings that they are ideal subjects for anyone wishing to try their hand at general propagation. With so much natural warmth around, this is a good time to start.

Either buy a simple tray with domed top or make your own propagating box. I built one in timber with a square metre of rooting space, adding a transparent top to retain moisture.

Once the propagating box or frame has been filled with an open, gritty medium to encourage good drainage and air spaces, it’s time to collect some healthy young plant material for rooting. The best time to do this is early morning.

When collecting the material, I carry polythene bags, one for each variety. The best chance of rooting cuttings comes from using only those that have been immersed in a dish of water for an hour or so.