Cruella (my wife) has flown off to our English house to visit our idiot son; but I must admit it has all been a bit traumatic. The problem was that ever since the cat died she has not been able to balance her broom properly. Normally the cat would sit at the back providing appropriate ballast and balance. But since Cruella, in her grief, mummified her, she just can’t get the weight right and our late cat keeps falling off the back. The end result is that she had to do a series of trial flights up and down the lawn before leaving which resulted in multiple mishaps as she toppled forward and over the handle. I was really worried that some real damage would be done, but thankfully all the plants are ok.
16th November. Things I have been doing lately:
Taking hardwood cuttings. Continuing the theme of how to get plants for free, it is time to take as many hardwood cuttings as possible. I am sure you are used to taking softwood cuttings in the Spring. Well, it is more or less the same technique, but the cuttings will be from wood that has hardened off rather than the nice green whippy stems you take in Spring. I have taken three types of hardwood cuttings this week.
Myrtle. The Myrtle bush is one of my favourites as it is very hardy, needs little water and trys to flower all year. I have an excellent specimen beside the path that leads to my potting area. I wanted to take some cuttings as friends often admire this plant and it will give me an opportunity to pass it on. The photo below shows my Myrtle still in flower.
When taking hardwood cuttings you have to find a non flowering stem and using your knife (never secateurs as they can crush) cut it about six inches long. Whilst you do not have to rush hardwood cuttings straight into a plastic bag to stop them drying out – as you do with soft wood cuttings. You should still try and get them potted up as soon as possible. Strip off all the leaves from your stem apart from a few at the top and then pop up to 4 cuttings around the edge of a six inch pot. The first photo below shows my cuttings ready for potting, whilst the second shows them happily bedded down for Winter. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Roses. Are ideal for hardwood cuttings, so if you have a favourite rose, then why not try and replicate it now. With roses you need to take the cuttings from this years growth, which means the stem should be green and not brown. You need to cut a stem that is about as thick as a pencil and which has no sign of disease. The photos below show my choice of stem and the eventual cuttings. Click on each photo for a larger view.
With rose cuttings you need to cut off all the leaves which will leave you with a bare twig. I know it sounds stupid but you must not mix up the top and bottom of the cuttings as roses do not grow upside down; though they may possibly pop out in Australia! Other good tips are to slightly nick the leaf nodes on the stem with a knife to encourage them all to root. Also, cut the bottom of the stem at a 45 degree angle to give you more rooting potential. When you are ready pop them into a 6/8inch pot and leave them at the back of the potting bench well out of the sun. If all goes well you can pot them on individually in late spring, and then, plant them out next autumn (God willing). The photo below shows my cuttings ready for planting followed by them bedding down for the winter. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Mulberry. The last hardwood cutting I have been taking this week has been Mulberry. Now Mulberry is a tree and I shouldn’t really take cuttings this time of year as the sap has stopped rising and the leaves are falling. However, a nice old Spanish lady who admires my tree has asked for a cutting for her daughter. I have told her it may not take and asked if she could wait till the spring, but it appears time is of the essence, so I am at least trying.
Same routine as before find your best non flowering stem, cut it about 6 inches long, trim it back and then pot it up. I think the Mulberry will do better in a very free draining compost, so I have mixed in lots of Perlite. The photos below show the cuttings process, the compost mix and the eventual pot. One last thing before we leave hardwood cuttings; make sure that you label all your pots as one hardwood cutting looks much like another. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Taking seeds from Fountain Grass. Lots of gardens in Spain have Fountain Grass and it is a fantastic showy plant. I have a lovely specimen which I have had for about 10 years and it never fails to impress. Just cut it back hard in January and it will start growing almost immediately, and by Summer will be back to its stunning best. The photo below shows my grass.
If you want to propagate your fountain grass then you have two options. You can take seed now just by running your cupped hand up any stalk that has promising looking seeds. Another option is to wait till January, and after the plant has been cut back, you can lift it and divide it. I am going to do both if necessary. I have taken a selection of seeds and sown them in free draining compost with Perlite added. I have then lightly covered them with soil. I await the outcome, but if all else fails, then it is dig and divide time. The photos below show the seed collection and sowing process. Click on each photo for a larger view.
The last of the Chillis. This sounds a bit like an eskimo version of the “last of the Mohicans”. But no, nothing so prosaic, my two Chilli plants are now exhausted and are ready for the compost bin. I have to say they have been a great hit, especially with Cruella who loved the fact that they looked like drops of blood. But all good things come to an end. Over the past month I have kept one fully ripe Chilli hanging on the plant so that it fully matures and its seeds ripen. So whilst the rest of the plant goes on the compost this little Chilli will be father/mother to a whole new generation. By the way don’t forget to say thank you to your plant as you place it gently in the compost.
To harvest Chilli seeds you just need one good ripe Chilli. Cut the top and bottom off, and then with a sharp knife split the Chilli lengthwise. Over a plate tease out the seeds, removing as much detritus as possible. Then take you plate and put it somewhere in full sun for about an hour. You are best to do this on a window sill indoors otherwise the dried seeds will blow away. Once the seeds are nicely dried out place the seeds in an envelope in a cool dark place till you are ready to plant out next spring.
The first photo below shows my old Chilli ready for the great compost bin. The second photo shows my seed Chilli together with the last of its unripe brethren. The final photo shows my seeds ready for drying off. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Hand weeding around bulbs. Some people pay a fortune for psychotherapy, others attend Mindfulness classes, still others lie on psychiatrists couches telling them about their dreams, whilst a pitiful few take psychotropic drugs. Whereas, if you follow my advice you just need to do a bit of close concentration hand weeding. Now I know Cruella isn’t here, but I can just hear her saying … ”you are just soooo boring”. But we will see who gets the last laugh when I start advertising my classes. Close hand-weeding is positively therapeutic as you concentrate and focus on a simple but beneficial task. Anyway, enough of my money making schemes.
A problem we gardeners face this time of year is that just as bulbs are starting to pop through the soil, so are perennial grass weeds. Now if you are not careful, it is easy to carelessly hoe off the tops of all your bulbs which can ruin your whole early spring flowering. So, the answer is to set aside your hoe, cast aside your gardening gloves, get down on your knees … and pray! No I’m only kidding I am sure you pray anyway. But at the moment get down on your knees and get your hands into the soil and remove the blades of grass by hand weeding. Although blades of grass and bulb shoots may superficially look the same, if you feel them with your ungloved hand you will see that bulb shoots are rounded whilst grass blades are; well blades. This easy distinction means that you can pluck out the grass blades weekly, until such time as the growing bulbs will shade them out.
The first photo below shows my zen and the art of hand-weeding technique, whilst the second shows the fruits of my labour. If you are interested I am thinking of holding weekly classes. All together now Ohm, Ohm. Click on each photo for a larger view.