This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Staking, Cuttings and New Daylilies

Aconitum napellus

Gardeners in most parts of the northern hemisphere are busy with their spring cultivations, and there is no part of the garden that requires more immediate attention than the herbaceous border or the mixed border where perennials are growing. I am always astounded at the speed with which perennials like the Monkshood, Aconitum napellus, the various large flowered delphiniums, and Russell lupins grow once they realise that spring has arrived. It seems like what were tiny knuckle-like green buds just pushing through the soil one weekend, by the next weekend are 15cm (6ins) tall shoots. So if you are only able to garden at weekends, take note, for growth can be rapid at this time of the year and can easily outsmart you.

It is important for all hardy perennial plants of this kind to be staked early. Even when only 15cm (6ins) high it is not too early to stake most plants. It is true that if you put a simple staking system in place at that time that it looks a little ugly, but if the plants are permitted to grow through and with the stakes, then they are so much better later on. No struggling to tie them into a position so that they look natural again when the wind has blown them over. It is so disappointing when wind or rain have flattened an unstaked plant, especially if it is has gone unnoticed and the leaves and side shoots have started to turn towards the light. Despite everything you learn in biology class at school about plants being positively phototropic and growing towards the light, in the garden they appear to do this selectively, a shoot that has lain on the soil for a day or so, once staked, no longer responding and growing as you would like.

At the same time that staking takes place the emerging shoots of perennials can be thinned. It is a great temptation to leave those burgeoning shoots in their great profusion, but in the longer term it is much better to thin them out before they grow more than 15cm (6ins) high. You may have ten or a dozen shoots emerging from a single delphinium crown, but if they are not thinned out to three or five that are equally spaced, the quality of the blooms will be very poor. Sadly many gardeners do not realise the full potential of their plants because they have never thinned the shoots in the early stages of growth, and have therefore not experienced the difference that it can make to flowering. They are nervous about cutting excess shoots out on the one hand, and on the other it seems a shame to waste what appears to be great potential in the growth. No need to waste the shoots that are removed. Make stem cuttings and root them individually in small pots in a sandy compost in a cold frame. Hollow cuttings are unlikely to root, but those that are solid in section will make great young plants quite quickly.

Will it root from cuttings?*

While on the subject of cuttings, it is useful to know which plants are likely to root from cuttings, and which will definitely not. It is a question which I am often asked. "Can I root it from cuttings?" With a little knowledge you can walk around any garden, whether you know the names of the plants or not, and have a good idea as to whether a plant will root. Useful if you were thinking of asking for a cutting! So many gardeners try to root cuttings from plants that will not root. The rule I am about to relate is true for probably 98% of flowering plants. In nature there are always exceptions and so if you think you have caught me out - they are probably the exceptions!

There are several observations to make. The first one you can make at most seasons of the year. Look at the foliage. If the leaves have their veins in a net-like arrangement you should be able to root them from cuttings. If the leaves are parallel-veined, then in almost every case they will not root, especially if in combination with the other characteristics that I will note. Look at the flowers - this only refers to single flowers, not artificially distorted double and multiplex kinds. If the petals are in multiples of 4s, 5s or more, then they are likely to grow from cuttings. If in multiples of 3 ie. 6, 9, 12 then they will not. Now I know 6 is more than 5 and so there may be some confusion there, so add the flower characteristic to the leaf veining to provide an answer. Plants with flowers that have 6 petals and net-veined leaves will root, those with 6 petals and parallel veins will not.

Finally, if you know what the seedlings of the plant look like you have additional back-up. Seedlings with a single seed leaf produce plants that will not root from cuttings. Paired or multiple seed leaves indicate a plant that can be grown from cuttings. Of course this is a very broad brush rule and just because a plant can be theoretically rooted from a cutting does not mean that it will be easy. In many cases seed is easier, and with annual plants cuttings are not a sensible proposition anyway. However the rule is a useful guide.

To review:
Plants that will produce cuttings that root - leaves net-veined, petals in 4s, 5s or more and seedlings with paired or multiple seed leaves.

Plants that do not root from cutting - parallel-veined leaves, petals in multiples of 3s and single-leafed seedlings.

Hemerocallis ‘Nina Verhaert’

My attention has just been drawn to the new Daylily or Hemerocallis introductions of Gunda Abijan at Ledgewood Gardens, Deland, Florida, United States. This season sees the release of 13 new introductions amongst them the startling ‘Nina Verhaert’, a remarkable hybrid with bright red blossoms surrounded by white teeth on the petals and sepals, and a large lacquered green throat. Other introductions include ‘Winter Wolf’ a cream blossom with lavender blue highlights and blue veining. ‘Alien Invader’ has an almost luminescent green throat and petals of pale lavender and violet, while ‘Candlelit Night’ is heavily ruffled, gold edged, apricot peach. For further details of all the new releases, which are available world-wide, visit Ledgewood Gardens click here.

Happy Gardening



*Answer to caption question - yes!

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Photos: Wikipedia Monkshood
Ledgewood Gardens Daylily

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