Posts Tagged ‘Propagation’

Putting the Dahlias to bed

The relatively warm weather through November and the start of December has meant that the Dahlias have kept going longer than might otherwise have been expected; the first frost was only experienced at the end of the first week of December, the Dahlias blackening under the touch of icy fingers.

Dahlia after the frost

Dahlia tubers will continue to grow until the first frost, after which the choice is either to lift or to mulch.  This year we will lift and store the Dahlias; though planted in a raised bed, this part of the garden can suffer severe flooding during the winter months so the risk in leaving them in the ground is not worth taking as they will likely rot.

Dahlias cut back and ready to be lifted

Use a fork to gently loosen the soil around the tuber and lift the clump, tapping off the soil.  Place the tubers upside down in a crate to allow the water to drain fully from the hollow stems, and leave in this position for about week.  Ensure that they are not left somewhere where rodents can get to them and that they are not left anywhere frosty.

Can you tell what it is? Tubers galore!

After a week place them a box or crate and cover in old compost, coir or vermiculite, keeping the crowns uncovered.  They must be dry but not left to dry out completely, so check the once every few weeks and give them a light watering if ncecessary.  Store them in the dark, again in a frost and rodent free place.

Having dried them, and before packing them away for the wtiner, you can divide the tubers or they can be left in a clumo to divide in the spring.

When done properly, digging and dividing will keep your dahlias returning year after year.  Dahlias left in the ground will create a massive tuber clump underground that will send up many weak, unproductive stalks that have small blooms. Eventually these won’t come back at all.

Dividing Dahlias
Tap and brush all the soil off the dahlia clump. When dividing dahlias, the first thing to do is to remove all broken tubers, remove the original ‘mother’ tuber and remove any tubers that are rotten. You can divide now or keep the cleaned-up clump in tact and divide in the spring. In the spring, the eyes are easier to see. It’s very important to get a piece of the swollen part that is attached to last years’ stem and from which the eyes will emerge.  If your tuber does not have an eye, it will not sprout. Choose only strong, firm tubers. Weak tubers that show signs of rot, shriveling or decay should be tossed and not used in the garden.

Cut surfaces should be allowed to dry thoroughly before they are planted in the garden or stored for the winter. Lay out to dry for 3-5 days in a place that will not freeze, then store for the winter.

In the Spring

Another advantage of lifting Dahlias is that they can be potted up in early spring and with a little heat and protection forced into producing new shoots that can be taken for cuttings.  These should root very quickly if cut off from the junction of the tuber when they are about 7cm (3in) long; do this every year and you’ll have a vast store of Dahlias to brighten your garden late into the year.

If using this approach, the cuttings should be ready to plant out in about July, whilst the parent plant should can go outside in mid-May, or once the risk of frost has passed.  If you choose not to take cuttings in this way then the overwintered tuber can be planted out in early April in good rich soil and at a depth of about 15cm (6in).

The result will hopefully be this:

Dahlia 'Rip City'


Survival of the fittest

Having a few different varieties of Salvia in the garden, and not entirely confident that they will be hardy enough to see through the winter should it be similar to the last, I have taken cuttings from all of them in the hope that should the parent plant succumb to an ill wind, I will at least (I hope, reaching for wood to touch as I write) have plenty of small plants to bring on and plant out next year.

So here are the little ones, potted in a mixture of quite fibrous compost with plenty of perlite and topped off with potting grit to help keep the moisture in:

Saliva and Eupatorium maculatum cuttings

I also came across some Eupatorium maculatum ‘Purple Bush’ at a local nursery that were on sale so I had to buy a couple (according to the label they were from Piet Oudolf’s nursery).  They are fine looking plants already so I am hoping that by getting them settled in the ground now they will perform well next year.  I also decided that it wouldn’t hurt to take a few cuttings from these in the hope that I can dot them elsewhere in the garden.

A really lovely colour flower but the photo doesn't do it justice

Bargain plants and propagation

I was in the local garden centre at the weekend and wandered over to the clearance section as I often do.  There I spotted a number of Veronica ‘Inspire Blue’; they were good bushy plants with lots of green foliage, blue spires and plenty of evidence of new growth.  But there was no price on them other than the original price of £7.99.

In the distance I spotted a member of staff so took a plant over to him and asked what the discount was meant to be.  He gave me a quizzical look and then pronounced that as he was adding a 75% discount to some other things then he’d do the same for the Veronica; so I took three plants at a total cost of just £6.

The story doesn’t end there, however.  On getting my new purchases home and giving them a good drink I decided that three plants wasn’t enough, so I set about dividing them.  I now have twelve plants each in two litre pots which I will bring on and plant out next year (much to my wife’s delight as she can use the flowers in her small jam jar arrangements).  So, to conclude, that is twelve plants at 50p each.  I do love a bargain!

Veronic 'Inspire Blue' - 12 plants from 3 at just 50p each!

Raised beds, borders, and green seed

As the daylight hours are getting longer I have the opportunity of doing a spot of gardening once I arrive home from work.  Today I had the added bonus of leaving work early and so was able to spend a good couple of hours tackling a job that I started at the weekend: building another raised bed. 

We have 6 large beds and 2 small beds and these are used exclusively by my wife, Katherine (some of you may know her as Florist in the Forest) to grow cut flowers.  At the moment it seems like we can’t build enough beds, or build them fast enough, to ensure that we have the necessary space to plant all of the plants that are growing in pots and seed trays but that will soon need planting out.

Building another raised bed; all the turf lifted by sundown.

Now that the turf is lifted, the next job will be to rotavate the soil, add some more topsoil and compost (this will either be mushroom compost that has been sitting around for quite some time or well rotted horse manure) then get the actual boards in place. 

I’ve also lifted some paving from an area next to the house in order to extend the size of the border that we have there.  I think that Katherine is eyeing up this area for more cut flowers but I am determined to retain this patch for purely ornamental purposes.  The earth here is very compact and is going to require plenty of work and added nutrients before it is fit for planting.

Having lifted a number of paving slabs, I'm looking forward to cultivating the soil and getting in some new plants

We have plenty of primula vulgaris in the garden, and I intend to propagate from this by sowing green seed.  As ever, Carol Klein is the lady to turn to for advice on propagation and green seed should be sown as follows: 

1 Fill a seed tray with good seed compost and firm down.

2 Take off a whole seed pod, starting with the fattest at the base of the flower stem.

3 Carefully open the seed pod from the top using fingernails or a sharp knife.

4 Peel back the capsule covering to expose the green seeds and gently scrape off the seeds on to the surface of the compost.

5 Distribute the seed evenly over the surface. This is sometimes tricky because the seed is sticky.

6 Cover the surface of the compost with sharp grit.

7 Place the tray in a container of shallow water until the surface of the grit becomes wet, then remove and put outside in a shady place.

There are accompanying images which can be viewed by accessing the article (printed way back in 2002) via the Telegraph gardening section.

For me this simple Primrose is the best of them all; I’m not a fan of the various gaudy colours available at garden centres. This Primrose, nestled against the base of a tree trunk, is beauty without ostentation; quite wonderful.

The beautiful primula vulgaris


Finally, and this goes out especially to Dave, Alliums. How do they compare?

Just waiting for those umbels!

So this weekend will be one of hard labour I think; but it will all be worth it come the summer.

Propagation – growing my own garden

This year I intend to propagate as much as possible. I have dabbled with propagation in previous years but only ever on a minor scale. Three years ago I took a cutting from one of my favourite roses, Geoff Hamilton, and this has since grown into a sturdy little bush. This year I’m hoping that it will really take off and be another lovely addition to a garden in which there will always be room for another rose.

Last autumn I collected seeds from a variety of Delphinium and from Digitalis purpurea ‘Camelot Cream’. I sowed the seeds immediately and then placed them in a cold frame. The result is a good number of small plants that are growing well. I’ll probably pot these on and then plant them out later in the year once they are better established.

These few small experiments in propagation have really given my the desire to do more (there have been failures, such as a honeysuckle cutting I took last year that didn’t survive the winter, but these only spur me on to make sure I get it right next time). It is so satisfying to see the seeds or cuttings that you’ve tended to coming on and bringing new life into the garden. It is also great to be able to share plants with other people where you have an excess (and hopefully get something new back in return!).

So this year (I hope) is the year that I really get to grips with propagation. Wish me luck!

Monty Don and Carol Klein

I’m looking forward to the return of Gardener’s World in March, especially with Monty Don back in the driving seat and presenting from his own garden.  Some people complain that he is too much of a veg man, but if you’ve read anything he has written you’d know that this isn’t the case.

I’ve also been enjoying Carol Klein’s Life in a Cottage Garden on the BBC; her enthusiasm is infectious and her knowledge, especially of propagation, is boundless. When it’s not yet possible to get into the garden and do much beyong clearing, pruning and sowing the odd seeds, it is enchanting to watch the progress of the seasons through Carol’s garden and revel in it along with her.

I’ve picked up plenty of tips from the programme and have succumbed so far as to buy the accompanying book, a wonderful read and similar to Monty’s Ivington Diaries (an equally enjoyable and thought provoking read).

I hope the BBC realise and value the gem that they have in Carol Klein and give her the scope and freedom to express herself and share her knowledge in future programmes.

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