I think almost all the guides/tutorials that I write up end up being pretty informal, a little bit different from the absolutes that feature so heavily on he internet. I hope that in reading any of these posts you’ve never made to feel that if you’re not successful, or you don’t meet with the same results, that you’ve failed. The world is a big, scary place, dear reader, no one person can surmise any experience that features within it completely. I’ve seen countless guides to gardening that will lead to heart-break because they feature facts, but make-believe that rigid adherence to the guide will always yield perfect results. That’s all too often true of any guide on the internet. That’s never true. Life is all too often a dice roll and we never know how many dice. So, take this as a talk, from one gardener to others, or perhaps perspective gardeners. Go out there with this in mind and do it your way. When you’ve learned something new come back and tell Jack, I’m always happy to learn too.
I think I often lack the effervescent note that the internet seems to love and adore, I’m just jaded and too serious at times. You take me as you find me, but take my philosophy, if such a grand word can apply to something like this, and then judge my words. What is it? I go by the adage: “You tell, but do you do?”. You know the story, you’re listening to someone making claims, plans, constructing castles in the sky, but earnest, eager to learn as you are you neglect to question. You end up feeling a failure because you’ve failed to match this person. You’ve also failed to be sure they actually know what they’re talking about. I love to learn, dear reader. I still take the precaution of making sure they aren’t just talk, that might sound arrogant, but I tell you that the tellers are far in excess of the doers. If they do do, no snickering, then you’ve lost nothing by being certain, if not then you’ve saved yourself hassle and headaches. So, is this apropos of anything? Yep. I’m only telling you what I know, what I’ve learned, no embellishments. Maybe we even can have fun talking about it, eh, dear reader? I’m no savant, but by listening to those who do I’ve learned quite a bit.
Don’t coddle! Until they’ve rooted and started to grow they’re of no use. Thrown them somewhere and let them live or die. It’ll just aggrieve you if you really think each one will grow and take all the care you can to make it so. Get a long flat planter and shove them down, making sure to mark them, unlike Jack and then just forget for a while. On the reverse you should treat them as any other transplant when they do take root. Feed them well, sugar-water them when moving to prevent root-shock. You can pull them to see if they’re rooted, gently mind or you can stick a trowel under and lift the soil.
There’s no time-line or order to these. This is pure anecdote, it’s up to you to find the useful nuggets contained within and to discard the useless, maundering shell. The photos are random to. Apparently Jack is a real jerk sometimes. The first step, the most important skill needed is of course patience! Those roses and lavender are at least six months old, probably more. I should take more notes, well I am now at least. I’ve kept them over Winter in the greenhouse. Watched with dismay as so may cuttings died around them and as they did nothing of note. I have shown the other rose that just recently bloomed. That one came up in a spurt, a huge root-ball hiding beneath. You don’t need a lot of space for cuttings, but do be prepared to leave them in one place for quite a time.
You need more than you think. I can’t tell you how many cuttings I’ve carefully planted over time, dear reader. Each one is sure to be a success, right? Naw. I learned that the hard way as I watched cuttings that had started die, while I did all I could to save them I angrily shoved others down beside them and more and more again. Eventually I got lucky. See, the thing is is that luck is a huge factor. You just have to put enough down, tightly packed as you can manage safely and hope for the best. I have found the smaller the cutting the more successful, but that might not be true. I do think that the less it has to sustain it the faster it’ll either root or die, but that’s just guesswork and assumption on my part.
You also have to decide on hard or soft cuttings. Hard is usually found in Autumn, you’ll know them by the brown bark on the stems. The soft is green and limp. I find hard works best, they don’t break so easily and you can cut and strip them without much care. I cut them at an angle to expose the most of the soft interior to the rooting powder. You have to try as I say. Be weary of plants that are too tough. I tried these beautiful old roses that have been established for years, they’ve never been cut back so they have a hard bark and I think it prevents a lot of new growth. Also worth remembering that all these are clones! The sad part of that is that we keep breeding these flowers so rigidly that they’re often sterile. Still, pretty, pretty clones.
So what can you propagate by cutting? I find that if the plant branches out you can usually take cutting. You have to look at the stem and see where it diverges into a three pronged shape, the stem carrying on upwards and the other two at angles. Growth nodes I think they’re called. Not a given, but it never hurts to snip a bit and try. I usually try to get it a bit below this split, then I take off the top and plant both parts. Deflower if there are flower heads, but you’re better getting them before or after flowering. I have heard that cutting the leaves in half helps, but I never seemed to find any success with that. Maybe you will. I think the idea is to stop the leaves taking energy to sustain themselves and instead letting them sustain the plant as they wither. All the while hoping it roots. Rooting powders can help, but I don’t always find them necessary. With basil cuttings I found it grew fine if I put enough down and didn’t leave too many leaves.
Pinch your tops. No, let go of your jumper, I meant plant tops. I’ve heard this a lot, but rarely practised it. I will after watching my lavender bush out lovely after I removed a few inches from the long, spindly tops. Same with my basil. Let it grow and it’ll get leggy and useless. Cut the tops and it’ll flourish. I had to remove the rose from my cutting as it was threatening to break the stem and a few days after it had strengthened and thickened up brilliantly. It can happen that cuttings will thicken out themselves too, I’ve seen that a few times, but this works on so many plants. Tomatoes and chillies too.
So, there you go. I’ve impart a little of what I’ve scrounged together in my two and a half years, or so, of gardening and I have no idea what I’ll say in another few years. I hope I’ll have learned even more. Whether I’ll still be taking cutting is anyone’s guess. Perhaps I will, perhaps I’ll have moved onto something even better. I have been eyeing rose-grafting, but that remains in the future for now. I’m not messing with my roses for now. Maybe you’ll give it a try and think of Jack, perhaps you already have and will share in the comments. Either way I’ll see you later, dear reader.