I I begin a long farewell: by the end of the year, I will have left this garden and I will start again on Welsh soil. I dream of having a garden that wraps around a house, but in truth I think I gain every four meters, including several in the shade. Still, it’s a blank canvas to paint on, and when I’m not heartbroken to leave my fruit trees behind, I stand in my garden and make plans for what should come with me. .
I don’t want to leave this garden with big holes where I’ve pulled out established plants, so I’m taking cuttings. I have taken hardwood cuttings from all the berries, vines and figs before.
But now that spring is in full swing, it’s time for resinous cuttings of perennials: herbs like rosemary, sage, lavender and savory, and deciduous shrubs like hydrangea, buddleia, kerria or the sambucus.
As the name suggests, a softwood cutting is taken from tender new growth, ready to take root. If successful, softwood cuttings can be repotted in mid-summer and have a sufficiently extensive root system to survive the winter.
Softwood cuttings are taken from the tips of new shoots on non-flowering shoots from a parent plant. Such new growth will lose moisture very quickly, so care should be taken to avoid wilting.
Cut early in the day, when plants are turgid. If you have a lot of cuttings to take, drop them in a clear plastic bag as you go, this will prevent loss of valuable moisture.
Cuttings can be stored in the fridge for a few hours, but ideally you want to go from taking the cutting to repotting as quickly as possible. The cutting should be about 10cm long, taken from above a bud on the mother plant.
Then, using a sharp, clean knife, cut the cutting just below the node: this is the point just below the leaf joint where there is the most hormone. Remove any bottom set of leaves so you end up with a cutting between 5cm and 10cm long, with one or two sets of leaves. Now pinch off the growing tip.
Ideally, specimens should be potted in compost from seeds or cuttings; if you don’t have one, add at least 25% gravel to a peat-free multi-purpose. Insert the cutting with the first pair of leaves just above the potting soil.
Label the pot, water it from above, and keep it in a warm place, but out of direct sunlight. You can cover the jar with a clear plastic bag to keep things moist.
Remove the bag at least twice a week for about 10 minutes to ventilate the new plant. Keep the compost moist until the cuttings are well rooted, usually after four weeks.