This is the ideal time to take softwood cuttings of shrubs. I am sure you have a favourite such as daphne which can be impossible if attempts are tried at the wrong time.
Softwood cuttings are taken by pulling off the side growths so a little piece of the main branch is left at the base of the cutting.
Using fingers and thumb, remove all the leaves, but leave the top pair and the tip of the cutting intact.
Using a sharp knife or razor blade, cut off the excess skin back to the bark at the base of the cutting so that area looks like a heart.
Just inside the heel which has been created, there are xylem and phloem cells.
These conduct water up and down the plant.
Once the cutting is created, the cells – cambium cells, which are in-between the xylem and phloem – begin to be activated due to a hormonal reaction at the tip of the leaves.
Hopefully you will understand that cuttings really do want to root.
If it makes you feel more confident, dip the base of cuttings in hormone rooting liquid or powder.
Cuttings can be inserted around the edge of a flower pot. Studies show that amateur gardeners are very successful when using earthenware (clay) pots.
Insert the cuttings deeply so that only an inch of stem is showing above the surface of the compost.
A John Innes seed compost or Universal compost is used in the pots, but 20 per cent extra potting sand is mixed with the compost.
As the cuttings are about to be inserted, half an inch of sharp or potting sand is scattered over the surface of the pot. Insert the cuttings really firmly and water afterwards.
Pots are placed in a deep box with a sheet of glass over the top and a sheet of newspaper over the glass to provide shade.
Keep the box in the shade and away from cats and the cuttings will root in three to four weeks. However, daphne, rhododendron an azaleas may not root until spring.
Be patient and always keep the pots moist.
Once rooted, place each one into a three-inch diameter pot.
Nip out the tips so the cuttings will be short and bushy.
Rhododendrons were always grafted, but if cuttings are taken right now they root very well.
It isn’t possible to take them as heeled cuttings, but you can do it with cuttings five inches long.
Remove all leaves, apart from the top pair and tip, and make the final cut just below the bottom leaf joint which, as you know, is called a node.
TIP OF THE WEEK
If your water butt is empty, now’s the time to clean it. Put a piece of nylon stocking over the end of the down pipe to stop debris entering. Cover the top of the butt to prevent mosquitoes laying eggs on the surface of the water.