GARDENING: Take cuttings for your favourite shrubs now

Daphne odora
Daphne odora
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This is the best time to take cuttings of shrubs. Yes, even the most difficult ones because if cuttings are taken now they will root within four weeks.

Now, what are your favourites?

Daphne, camellia, forsythia, rhododendron, wonderful azalea or perhaps heather.

To take cuttings of these lovely shrubs, here is what to do.

A plant propagating box will be very useful but the heater in it doesn’t have to be turned on. 

If you don’t have one, find a wooden box about nine inches deep and find a sheet of glass to go over the top – like a mini greenhouse.

The secret of success is to keep the box in a place facing northwards because when taking cuttings at this time of year, they need to be kept cool and shaded.

Hardy shrubs such as rhododendrons are best treated by making a cut just below a leaf joint, also known as node. 

C amellias are best taken by finding a shoot about four to five inches long and then simply pulling  off a shoot from the main branch and it will come off with a heel.

Snip the skin off the heel and remove all the leaves,  apart from the top pair and the tip.

Heathers need to be pulled off with a heel but all the lower leaves are pulled off between the finger and thumb, just leave a little frill of foliage at the tips.

The cuttings will root even more successfully if the compost is correct and again there is a little secret; add 20 per cent extra potting sand and mix this into the compost. Sand really helps rooting.

If it makes you feel more confident, dip the cuttings into a root hormone powder or liquid.

But most importantly, keep the cuttings moist by spraying over the foliage and provide shade.

When the cuttings have rooted, take out the tips – very few people do this but,  believe me, it ensures your cutting will produce a wonderful bushy plant.

Plant each one into a three inch diameter pot and plant into the garden once the pot is full of roots.

If you are finding the garden is becoming an overgrown problem and it is impossible to keep up with the weeding, then take this opportunity to also propagate evergreens which you love because evergreens cover the ground which therefore reduces the weeds.

All of the summer-flowering clematis should be pruned at this time of year too. They need to be cut right down to the lowest shoots, seen at the base, down to about a foot in height from the soil.

It’s fairly normal for Clematis Jackmanii to suffer from clematis wilt.

To prevent this, find a piece of rainwater pipe which is about a foot long and put this over the stems left after pruning. Push the base of the pipe into the surface of the soil.

This will prevent clematis wilt disease because the down pipe stops the fungal spores from attacking the basal stems of the clematis.

And always, after pruning, give the plants a nice watering. 

This week’s top tip: Remove single flowers on begonias which should have double flowers. If you forget to do this, even more single flowers appear which could cause a problem. 

Question time with Brian Kidd

Q: I found two feather pillows in our loft and as we don’t go to the recycling centre very often I asked my dad if they feathers can be composted. He told me to ask you. MG, North End.

A: Yes, carefully tip a four inch layer into the bin and add two pints of water and sprinkle over the top. Add a layer of another material, such as grass cuttings, followed by another layer of feathers. One part urine in seven parts water will ensure the compost process works well. Sprinkle, don’t pour.

Q: I am bothered by small bees in the wall in our front garden. What can I do to get rid of them please? EP, Eastney.

A: These are solitary or sand bees and it isn’t necessary to even think about killing them as they are wonderful pollinators. Simply leave them alone. If you have children tell them how wonderful they are and never wave around in that part of the garden. 

Jobs for the weekend

Did you remember to cut back the aubrietia plants? There is still time to do this and give them a liquid plant food afterwards.

Spray rows of peas with Copper Mixture fungicide to reduce an outbreak of powdery mildew – it’s one of the reasons why people don’t grow their own peas.

Indoor hibiscus plants are growing rapidly. To keep them shorter, nip out the tips of all the main stems.

Remove dead buds from all annual flowers. When the weather is hot, use a high nitrogen fertiliser instead of tomato feed.

Disbud dahlias by leaving the top bud and remove the two little flower buds which grow each side. When cutting dahlia blooms long stems are required but before cutting, look what side shoots are left because these will come into bloom in a few weeks time.

Keep an eye out for special offers of winter pansies by post. There are often special offers for early orders.