Friday, 2 October 2015

Pot Luck Lunch at Rini & Frans Rubbens in Cotignac - 29 September 2015 and Propagation by Mavis McQuade

Rini & Frans Rubbens were our hosts for this 'pot luck lunch', our usual way of starting the autumn season for the garden group.

View from the terrace

Rini and Sue

The house and gardens are impressive, with a huge terrace, big enough to hold 27 members. A waterfall completes the picture.

Their gardener is an expert on pruning olive trees into 'clouds'. 

Rini makes mosaics sculptures, her own and sculptures of other artists are everywhere in the garden as well as inside the house.

  Rini's mosaic - The Twins

As usual Jacqueline Hodkinson sorted out the dishes everyone should bring.  Quite an impressive sight seeing several quiches, salads, chicken dish, terrine, cheeses and desserts displayed on the kitchen table.


Mavis McQuade gave us a talk on how to propagate.  She is quite an expert on it, her garden is full of small pots with cuttings in them.


Making new plants for little cost is very satisfying either from ones own plants or from friends gardens or from the wild.  Never go anywhere without a plastic bag in ones pocket!

However one does need patience.  It does not always work and it takes time for a little side shoot to turn into a good sized shrub.  It makes one realise why plants can be quite expensive to buy.

There are several ways to propagate:

Firstly by seed:

Vegetive propagation - this includes increasing plants by cuttings, division, layering, budding and grafting:






Today I thought I would go over on how to take stem cuttings as there is still time before the plants prepare for the winter.

There are 3 types of stem cuttings:
  1. Soft or tip cuttings - these are done in spring or early summer using only the young soft growth at the end of a new stem, usually of perennial flowers and small shrub such as Salvia, Geraniums, Fuchsias and Caryopteris.  These are the quickest to root.
  2. The second one, semi-ripe cuttings taken from current season growth that has started to harden off a little and are taken in late summer to early autumn so can still be made now. They are made by taking a heel cutting or a node cutting which I will explain in a moment.  These cuttings root more slowly and need more protection.
  3. The third type of cuttings are hardwood cuttings. These cuttings afford the simplest means of propagation and are taken from October to March whilst the plants are leafless and in a dormant state and are inserted into open ground and may take 12 months to root. They need less protection other than good drainage.
Here are just a few things to remember when doing cuttings:
  1. Always take cuttings from a healthy stock plant.  If the plant is weak or has a disease or deficiency this will be passed on to its offspring and chances of survival and health are lessened.
  2. Choose the right potting compost suitable for 'boutures' - this can be bought in garden centres or Agro-Coop. It is best mixed with 50% grit, coarse sand, perlite or vermiculite. Hard to come by here. The soil should be moist.
  3. Try to take cuttings early morning when the stems are full of water.
  4. Place cuttings straight away in a plastic bag and pot up quickly. If I do not have time I often leave the cuttings overnight in a glass of water.
  5. Use clean, sharp-edged secateurs or knife.
  6. Best to take non-flowering stems though, bud tips can be removed.
The size of the cutting is governed by the size of the plant. Small plants usually 10-15 cm, shrubs 15-20 cm. Besides compost, secateurs/knife, pots you will need a clear plastic bag and rubber band to go over the pot, and also some hormone rooting power. 

How to take a node cutting:

Take the stem you have a chosen and make a clean cut directly below the lowest pair of leaves. Remove these leaves and the next 2 pairs of leaves. When the cuttings are in the pot no leaves should touch the soil because they will go mouldy.

Dip the cut stem in rooting powder or liquid hormone rooting.

With a dibber or pencil make a small hole between the soil and the edge of the pot your have filled with compost and put in the cutting firming the moist soil around it.  Depending on the size of the pot several cuttings can go in one pot.

Place a name label in the pot.  Spray with water lightly and place in a propagator or failing this cover with a clear plastic bag held on by a rubber band.

Heel cuttings are the same procedure except the chosen stem is gently torn from the main stem and the resulting heel is lightly trimmed and the above method of potting followed.  This method is used more for shrubs and conifers, heathers, rosemary etc.

heel cutting

The pots need to be kept warm and light but out of direct sunshine. For the first 3 to 4 weeks the bag should be taken off the pots every couple of days for an hour or so to let fresh air circulate around the plant.

Potting on:

After a few weeks when the cuttings show new leaves or are firm when gently tugged they are ready for potting on into individual pots.  From then on one should nip out the tips of new growth to encourage the plant to bush out.

Do not let the pots dry out, they should be kept moist but not soaking.

They will be ready for planting in spring.

Do not be disheartened at failures - not all of there cuttings  will take.  Keep trying.  I find Salvias and Rosemaries are usually very successful.


Photos - Michèle Power and Web

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