Around this time of year I start to plan (well at least think about) next year’s plantings. The spring bulbs and bedding plants are ordered and will soon be delivered, and I have made up my mind about which plants we grew this year that we won’t be giving space to next year. For instance, a new antirrhinum called Night and Day which was stunning in June, quickly succumbed to rust by the end of July so its days and nights are numbered .

I try to remember to save seed of some of the annuals we grow, if only to cut down a bit on the seed cost which easily reaches £250 a year. The seed is collected when ripe on a dry day and stored in paper bags in a sealed tin and kept cool. I generally don’t sow much in the autumn but some herbaceous plants germinate better when the seed is fresh.

I also take cuttings of the tender stuff that would not overwinter outside, or from plants that have got too large to house under glass . The conservatory beds are only wide enough to take a 10 litre pot which means in practice most plants in there are only 2 years old. I take soft nodal cuttings  (this just means cut below where the leaf comes out from the stem) and root them individually in small pots of half potting compost, half vermiculite . Because of a lack of space I restrict the numbers I grow to those plants not easily found in garden centres, so I don’t bother with fuchsias and some geraniums. This is a bit of a far cry from my first job in horticulture working in a local authority parks nursery where we used to take 8000 geranium cuttings, and with this came the first bit of practical advice on taking cuttings that I still use today. Cut a small length of hosepipe down the centre so that it can cover your thumb and retain your fingerprints when using a sharp knife. The second bit of practical advice given I have never used, mainly because was to do with rolling your own cigarettes and keeping an extra one behind your ear for later.

7 September 2014