Don’t waste chances to increase your stock

Work is under way in the garden to create more plants as June is the ideal time to consider hardy perennial shrubs. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Work is under way in the garden to create more plants as June is the ideal time to consider hardy perennial shrubs. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

One of the joys of gardening is turning up at a fund-raising function with a tray full of young potted plants in your hands.

It might be a village hall coffee morning, church fete or the annual Warkworth Flower Show, recently attended. What makes the act of giving special is that the plants offered did not cost a penny. They were all propagated from existing garden specimens and packets of seeds gifted by magazines.

Stem cuttings are going begging almost every month of the year, so are you missing the opportunity to increase the stock of existing plants in your garden?

June is the ideal time to start looking at hardy perennial shrubs that have just finished flowering and are in process of developing new growth. If you leave this, it will ripen over summer and be online to bloom again next year.

There’s no need to rob the plant. Just take a few from each one and look upon it as a possible garden replacement or plant stall candidate.

Forsythia, viburnum, osmanthus, jasmine and weigela are almost begging to be propagated every day at present, and I’m trying hard to oblige.

In the greenhouse, shoots are still sprouting from last year’s dahlia tubers, and we rooted more than enough young chrysanthemums throughout March.

April saw the arrival of a fuchsia collection in plug form. They were immediately potted-up and into growth. The tips removed to encourage a bush formation were not wasted – they rooted quickly in the propagating box and are now in pots themselves.

Penstemons stirring into growth in the garden have also been generous in offering soft shoots. There seems no end to the stock-increasing opportunities.

June, July and August are the busiest months for taking softwood stem cuttings of shrubs. They go into a one square-metre raised bed outdoors, containing a gritty compost, with a plastic cover to retain moisture.

As with all soft-stemmed cuttings grown indoors or out, select healthy, finger-length, non-flowering shoots. They’re best taken early in the morning before the sun has a chance to dehydrate them, but whether floppy or not, it’s a good idea to immerse them in a bowl of water for an hour or two so they’re fully charged.

‘Dressing’ the cuttings before consigning them to the rooting medium is a simple, but effective process. It amounts to ensuring the basal cut is just below a leaf joint because that’s where rooting initiates, also the removal of all leaves save a topmost cluster of two pairs. This is to reduce transpiration until roots form.