Time to take action on your favourite shrubs

Take your camellia cuttings.
Take your camellia cuttings.
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This is a good time to take cuttings of favourite shrubs.

When taken at this time of year, even the most difficult species have the best chance of rooting and quite often we have a special one with sentimental value.

I was thinking about Daphnes in particular. These winter-flowering fragrant gems can get old all of a sudden.

They appear to lack vigour and, despite feeding, we see that a lot of the wood becomes bare with tiny rosettes of leaves at the tips which indicates the plant is on its way to shrub heaven.

Most shrubs, including all Daphnes, are best propagated by pulling off side shoots from the main stem.

These are called heeled cuttings. They need to be about three to four inches long and the heel is attained by gently but firmly pulling the shoot downwards.

There will be a slither of skin and in the centre there is a heart-shaped area of wood. Roots will form around the edge of this.

A sharp knife or razor blade is used to cut off the excess skin and all the leaves are removed except for one pair at the top and the tiny ones in the tip.

The cuttings can be dipped into hormone rooting powder, or a liquid type. This doesn’t guarantee success but gives beginners a bit more confidence.

Cuttings are dibbed into compost consisting of 75 per cent sharp sand or potting sand with 25 per cent peat mixed well and three cuttings are inserted round the edge of a four-and-a-half inch pot. Lots of gardeners prefer clay pots – I do!

Cuttings are watered and a deep wooden box with a sheet of glass over the top in a shady place will provide an excellent environment for rooting cuttings. No heat or greenhouse is required. Keep the compost moist.

Daphnes take a long time to root. If taken now the cuttings will probably root in September or October and they are best left in the original pot until spring when each one is potted into a three-inch diameter pot.

Once this is filled with roots, the tips are removed from the top in order to produce a bushy plant.

Have a look at the shrubs in your garden. Are they as good as when you planted them in 1950? Take some heeled cuttings.

What about that wonderful camellia, azalea, forsythia, flowering currant and flame of the forest which you have tried to root time and time again, but maybe the cuttings all shrivelled up?

Do it now for a greater chance of the thrill of success.