Late autumn cuttings in mixed compost to overwinter under cover

Cuttings to create a memory

Autumn seems somewhat late to be trying to catch the moment and take cuttings. Spurred on by a house on the market it seemed a good time to try and keep some mementos of the garden by taking cuttings.

Things I have enjoyed and would like but don’t already have one of my own are a beautiful deep purple spring/summer flowering clematis - possibly Etoile violette, and a lovely white camellia. My camellias are bright pink and about 8-10’ tall but somewhat swamped in the last few years by a clematis montana. The montana is a good doer but gets everywhere. (Why is it that the clematis on a north facing border spill over onto the shady side rather than heading down the sunny side of the street?)

So cuttings. Not something I do regularly although I am an opportunist if something has already rooted. Up till now I have taken some blackcurrant cuttings - they layer easily with branches producing roots as they touch the ground. Rosemary using heel cuttings as this bush can be affected in a hard winter. Over-run with  strawberry runners, some succulents whose leaves drop off at a touch and then seem to root happily. I also have a couple of lilacs from a neighbour that have done their second season and fuchsias and geraniums that came about because ‘a bit broke off’ so I stuck it in a jar of water. Looked at like this I have done quite a bit of the easy stuff but now will it work when I want it to…?

I headed for an online search - a lot of information and basically the same style of process with a few variations. While also going with the principle of it may not be the right time but I can still give it a go…I also have a better framework for future cuttings

Season Type Use with e.g.

  • Spring and early summer Softwood cuttings Aubrieta, osteospermum, pelargonium
  • Late spring to midsummer Greenwood cuttings Ceanothus, forsythia, berry fruits
  • Late summer/early autumn Semi-ripe cuttings Sambucus, Rosemary, Sage
  • Mid autumn to late  winter Hardwood cuttings Ceanothus, forsythia, berry fruits
  • Dormant season (ditto) Root cuttings Perennials with fleshy roots
  • Autumn Layering of deciduous Bendable outside shoots -goose berry fruits 
  • Spring Layering of evergreens Camellia, rhododendron, 
  • Early growing season/All year Leaf cuttings streptocarpus, begonia rex, kalanchoe, sedums

Sometimes it’s worth experimenting and having a go especially when needs must - whatever the plant!

General principles

  • Cut nonflowering stems in the early morning while the plant cells are full of water
  • Use clean pots and clean and sharp knife to cut to length and trim the leaves
  • Use a mix of 50% compost to 50% grit or perlite. Moisten well and drain.
  • Cut into lengths and trim. Check appropriate method for your plant
  • If you have some, use a rooting hormone, tapping off any excess
  • Indent or make a hole where the cutting is to go - so you don’t damage the stem when inserted in the pot
  • Cover the pot with a plastic bag to retain moisture
  • Inspect regularly for dying or mouldy leaves or stems and remove. This airates the plants and allows you to check moisture levels of the compost.
  • Outdoors protect from winter frost and wet using a fleece or cloche.
  • Once rooted - be patient for some cuttings this may be more than the growing season, pot on and if necessary harden off.

My Cuttings

A few notes I made for specific cuttings: These are not exhaustive but go with the general guide.

As always check the details for your specific plant.

Ideally on semi ripe wood - some say spring-early summer, others late summer to mid autumn. Fingers crossed that my cuttings taken in late October survive. To make, cut above a node and then 3-4“ below the first cut. Susceptible to wilt so need clean tools and pots etc.

Camellia - 
Semi-ripe, hardwood and other ways to propagate, done in mid to late summer or autumn to late winter meaning I may stand a chance of them taking - need to be patient with these ones. 
Choose a non-flowering stem. Apparently it does better if some bark is removed from the stem to encourage rooting.

Hardwood cuttings, so a good time of year to take cuttings from late autumn to midwinter.
Non-flowering stem used for pencil thick 20-30cm stems. Can be left in a cool greenhouse or coldframe.

Sambucus - purple lace?
Ideally taken in early summer from softwood cuttings. If only I’d realised when I cut it back earlier this year!
Then realised hardwood cuttings taken in winter are a possibility that’s still available to me - better get my secateurs out.

There are two - a lovely yellow hybrid tea and pink Roseraie delaie
Again hardwood cuttings taken in late summer to autumn -so have just about made it. Alternatively early to mid-spring I could take softwood cuttings if I need to have another go.

Other propagation methods

Splitting by either digging up the whole plant and splitting with a spade or appropriate tool  or remove some of the plantlets round the edge and pot up.

Kaffir lily 
If I can get the small bulblets  from between the decorative slabs!

As I don’t know how long before the house sells I could try some layering of the chaenomeles - a deep red and a blush pink one. It’s a chance - if I can find time to take it.

It’s even inspired me to look at my own wind blown ceanothus and my chilean guava. The next problem - what to do with new plants in my already well stocked and somewhat overgrown garden?

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