Thanks again for all your letters. It’s good to hear from you particularly when you ask me to write about a particular topic.
This week, because I’ve had several letters and e-mails asking how to take cuttings, I thought you might like some information about how to propagate shrubs.
This is the ideal time to take softwood cuttings of all sorts of shrubs including daphne, camellia, rhododendrons and lots of others too.
No heat is required, no greenhouse either, all you need is a 10in-deep box and a sheet of glass to cover the top.
Find some side shoots which are about four to five inches long and gently pull them off by putting your thumb on the main stem then bend the thumb so the shoot comes off with some bark. This is called a heeled cutting.
If you can’t pull off a heeled cutting, choose side shoots, cutting off pieces again about four to five inches long. The cuttings are now prepared so they have the best chance of rooting.
Using a sharp knife or safety razor blade, remove all the leaves apart from the top pair and the tips. The heeled cuttings now need the final snip and this means cutting off any excess green skin.
Look carefully and you will see a heart shape which is woody. Simply snip off the skin where you see the woody part. Those which would not come off as heeled cuttings are cut two millimetres below the lowest node.
Dip the ends of the cuttings in rooting hormone liquid or powder and insert the cuttings in a 50-50 mixture of universal potting compost and sharp sand. Three-inch diameter pots are ideal and insert the cuttings so the ends of the stems are almost at the bottom of the pots. Water afterwards.
The pots are now placed inside the deep box in a shaded place outdoors, preferably facing north. Keep an eye out and water and spray the foliage. These cuttings normally root in about five weeks and once rooted each one is potted into a three-inch inch pot and planted out in the garden once the pots are full of roots in April the following year.
If you have tried this and have found it impossible to get them to root, try aerial layering. This method can be used for any type of shrub.
Look at the tip of a branch and using a very sharp knife make a cut through the stem about four inches from the tip and try to cut through two nodes (leaf joints). Use a small handful of wet moss pushing this into the slit in the bark and wrap a piece of thin, black polythene around the moss and keep it in place with a twist tie at the top and bottom.
Occasionally undo the top tie and water the moss. The aerial layering will root by October. Cut it off, keep the moss on the roots and pot into a four-inch pot. Once the pot is full of roots, plant it in the garden. If you have a go at this and the stem roots, you will be delighted. Try it on any shrub just for a bit of experience.
TIP OF THE WEEK
How are your tomatoes in the greenhouse? They should be fruiting now but to ensure a good crop, shake the stems every day so the pollen falls on to the blooms.