by Charlene Burgi
My cousin Ron stopped by a few weeks ago. I love it when we get together as our conversations always seem to drift into the world of gardening. I become childlike in his presence, wanting to sponge up all he has to share and delight in his knowledge in areas of expertise that I lack.
Ron worked for many years as a gardener at Filoli Gardens in Woodside. He had the privilege of maintaining some rare and exotic plants on the estate. He learned the art of propagating and embraced the finer techniques of gardening during his employment. He has since taken his talents to other large estates in the area. His wisdom coupled with experience has benefited those gardens where the soils meet his trowel, where he continues to pursue and install the unique and sometimes rare plants not often found in the average garden.
During this last week’s visit, Ron brought my mom some beautiful old-fashioned roses. She has not been well and Ron wisely chose just the right variety for her bouquet. The fragrance was indescribably sweet. Some of the roses came from a rosebush that was over 100 years old. Ron discovered the lovely pink rosebush in an abandoned part of the estate where he presently works. The old rose had managed to survive the hardship of fending for itself. Ron recognized its age and tenacity. He began a program of nurturing the plant by starting a pruning and feeding schedule and reshaped and trained it into a plant of beauty. My admiration for this centurion rose (and my penchant for being a plant hound) oozed forth in a request for a slip. I had to have a plant with this kind of history and longevity for my garden—even in slip form. Ron said he could make that happen, knowing that June was the perfect time of the year to take semi-mature wood cuttings of this found prize.
The professional gardener knows that late June is the ideal time to take cuttings from shrubs. It is the time to expand our plant population by propagating favorites in our garden or by begging for a slip from friends and neighbors’ coveted species. It is as easy as choosing a plant with semi-hard wood such as rose, spirea, hydrangea, azalea and others that fall into this category.
First, cut the new wood about three inches long. Remove the lower leaves on the stem and leave a few leaves on top. Cut the remaining leaves in half so the strength of the plant goes into producing roots instead of maintaining leaf growth. Then, dip the cut end of the stem into a rooting hormone powder and stick several cuttings in a pot filled with moist growing medium. Place the container in a location protected from sun and wind. Cover the cuttings loosely with plastic to keep the growing medium moist and humidity high. In several weeks, check for new roots by gently lifting the plant out of the rooting medium. When sufficiently rooted, transplant cuttings to individual pots. Keep these new babies protected from wind and sun and gradually adapt plants to normal growing conditions.
Let me know how you succeed with this experiment. What type of planting medium did you try? What would you do differently, or what tips can you share with other readers?