How to make your garden grow: take cuttings now – Brian Kidd

Take cuttings now of cornus alba Sibirica, the Siberian dogwood.
Take cuttings now of cornus alba Sibirica, the Siberian dogwood.
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When I was a student apprentice I worked with several experts who were very successful in rooting plants from cuttings. One of these gems was Bill Hedges, the head gardener at Leigh Park Gardens, now called The Staunton Country Park. Many of you will know what a wonderful place this is, especially if there are children in your life.

Anyway, Bill Hedges (yes, that really was his name!) was able to root broom handles, he was that talented.

Do you like propagating plants? Lots of people like to do this and this is a good time to take hard wood cuttings.

Have you a wonderful forsythia, climbing rose, camellia, daphne or good rhododendron? Would you love to get one of these to root so you can give it to your best friend? If you follow this advice you’ll have a good chance of getting cuttings of these to root. Autumn cuttings are called hard wood cuttings and  can be taken right now.

The wood to be propagated needs to be about the thickness of a pencil and 10-12in long. Examples are forsythia, rambling roses and cornus.

Here’s the secret. Take off all the leaves except the top frill. Make a clean cut just below a node (leaf joint) and insert the cuttings into the soil after using a top dressing of about a quarter of an inch of sharp sand over the soil’s surface.

The cuttings need to be inserted deeply, so deep that only two inches sticks out above the surface. If you live in a flat, insert the cuttings into a 10in-diameter pot.

Camellia cuttings need not be 10-12in long. They root better if they are about six-eight inches long. Instead of cutting below a node, as described for all the others, simply pull off a side shoot so it has a ‘heel’. You will see the heel has a slither of bark. Look at the back of the heel and you’ll see the central part has a heart-shaped woody part.

Using a sharp knife, cut off the excess skin back to that woody heart, remove all the leaves apart from the top pair and the tip and insert the cuttings so the leaves are just above the compost’s surface. Soak the pot in rain water.

Daphne cuttings need to be five inches long but use the same method of rooting as for camellias.

A polythene bag is then placed over the pot and cuttings ensuring the leaves don't touch the polythene. Three short split canes can be used to form a kind of tent.

Camellia cuttings are best rooted in a cold greenhouse or if you have a plant propagator, this would be even better but it is not essential. A single sheet of paper over the pots will ensure they won't shrivel in the sun or simply place the pots in the shade, underneath staging in the greenhouse is ideal

What about root hormone rooting powder? Use it if it makes you feel better.

Keep the cuttings moist and once they root, this will happen in early spring. Pot each one in a three-inch diameter pot and plant them where you want them to grow – or perhaps you have a friend who would like one?​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


Have you got a couple of parsley and thyme plants? They can be grown on a window ledge, balcony or in a small space in the garden. Remember what home-made stuffing tastes like? Dare I say it... Christmas isn't far away.