Songs from the potting bench – the cuttings chorus

Now is the time to start taking cuttings from around your garden. The plants are full and juicy with vibrant growth and the cuttings when they are taken are full of optimism with their whole life before them. This combination of vibrant growth and optimism engenders the cuttings chorus.

Once you have taken your cuttings then spend sometime with them at the end of each day. Linger by the potting bench and just listen. Gradually as your ears become attuned you will hear the first faint choruses of joyful songs as the cuttings begin to sing. Some of their favourites include “Walking on sunshine” and “lovely day”, but their all time favourite is “I love to go a wandering” I especially like it when they belt out the chorus

Val-deri,Val-dera,
Val-deri,
Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha 
Val-deri,Val-dera. 

This especially effective when the smaller plants take the soprano parts whilst the older cuttings come in with tenor and bass.

As the cuttings gradually become accustomed to my presence I sit on the potting bench and beat out the time to each song by drumming my feet and clapping my hands. This all goes on till the sun goes down when we all say our prayers before I bid them goodnight and promise to see them in the morning. On occasion Cruella (my wife) will come down and catch me, she of course can’t hear the cuttings singing and asks “why are you making such a noise?”. I never tell her even though she calls me an idiot – I fear she would do something terrible to the little cuttings if she knew they were happy. She has no soul; no I mean it she actually hasn’t.

Anyway let’s get on with making your own cuttings chorus.

27th April 2021. Things I have been doing lately:

🔪 Taking cuttings. By taking cuttings, you get copies of your favourite plants for free. You can either plant these out in your garden to increase or replace existing stock, or, you can give them away to friends and family as presents. Taking cuttings is easy, but I must warn you that not all will survive.

🏗 Preparation. Making appropriate preparations to take cuttings is very important. You should always take cuttings in the morning before noon as that is when the plants will be most hydrated. You will need a sharp knife. Never use secateurs as these will crush the stem. I use an Opinel knife which can be sharpened and always has a good edge. You will also need a plastic bag to place your cuttings in to stop them drying out. The photo below shows my trusty knife that I have used for over 30 years, together with a plastic bag stolen from the kitchen.

Next you need to prepare some pots ready to receive your cuttings. It is best to do this the night before you are going to take your cuttings as this means you will not be delayed whilst your cuttings are in danger of drying out. Try and use good compost mixed with Perlite. You should be aiming for a free draining mix that feels “crunchy” when you squeeze it. It is a good idea to leave your pots watering from the bottom overnight, you can then leave them to drain on the potting bench when you go to take your cuttings.

The first photo below shows my mixed compost ready in a trug. Whilst the second shows the filled pots soaking to absorb water overnight. Click on each photo for a larger view.

🌞 Preparation on the day. On the morning you are going to take your cuttings you need to do a little bit of preparation. You will need the following:

  • Some plastic bags
  • A selection of canes cut to about 9 inches
  • Hormone rooting powder/liquid is helpful but not essential
  • A dibber to make holes for your cuttings (a pencil will do)

🌿 Solanum cuttings. Solanum are lovely climbing plants which have a long flowering season and enjoy full sun or partial shade. When looking for a potential cutting look for a fresh (whippy) stem that is non flowering. Make a cut just below a leaf node to leave you with about 5 inches of stem. The photo below shows the ideal way.

Once you have the cuttings back at your potting bench, then you need to cut off all the leaves up the stem leaving just a few at the top. Dip the stem into some rooting liquid and then poke it deep into your prepared pot. I put three cuttings in each pot equally spaced around the edge. Cuttings do much better when they are planted close to the edge; don’t ask me why it’s magic.

Once you have all your cuttings in place stick one of your short canes in the middle of the pot and then cover it with a plastic bag which you will need to tape down in a couple of places. The plastic bag will keep the cuttings hydrated for the first week or so till they get some roots. Whilst the cane acts like the centre pole in a circus big top and keeps the bag up stopping it flopping on to the cuttings.

The first photo below shows the bits of equipment you will need. The second shows the cutting after its leaves have been trimmed. The final photo shows the cuttings in their very own big top. Click on each photo for a larger view.

🌸 Dianthus and Carnation cuttings. To take cuttings from Dianthus or Carnations you don’t actually cut. Look for good fresh looking non flowering stems and then instead of cutting pull sharply on the stem and the top two or three inches should come away. Now you need to peel away (don’t use a knife) the lower leaves till again you are left with a few leaves at the top. These can then be planted as before with three cuttings to a pot.

The photos below show the cutting prior to its stripping, and then after and ready for potting. Click on each photo for a larger view.

🌿 Trailing Lantana cuttings. I like trailing Lantana as it is a good ground cover plant and makes interesting islands in gravelled areas. Another important use for trailing Lantana which I mentioned in my last post, is to plant it close to bulbs. Then when the bulbs are finished you just allow the Lantana to creep over what would have been a bare space in your border.

Taking cuttings from Lantana is similar to the process for Solanum. Again you look for a good fresh looking, non flowering stem and cut below a leaf node. This time instead of cutting the lower leaves off with your knife, pinch them off with your thumbnail and forefinger. If you have failed to grow your thumbnails – as I requested you to in an earlier post – then you only have yourself to blame.

The photos below show the cutting prior to its stripping, and then the process of snipping off with your thumbnail. Click on each photo for a larger view.

🎼 Adding to your cuttings chorus. For the next month or so you should be out in your garden taking cuttings. By the end of Summer you should have a veritable choir singing their heads off each night and entertaining you. You will find that gradually their repertoire will increase till eventually they will be trying three part harmony and all the great songs from the musicals. Go ahead, give it a go. All together now…

Val-deri,Val-dera,
Val-deri,
Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha 
Val-deri,Val-dera. 

Author: spanishgarden

I live in both Spain and the UK and am a very keen gardener. I garden every day and enjoy sharing all the secrets that God allows us to discover in our gardens.

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