Hard woods


A plant is sometimes needed that has a single stem, or "leg", at the bottom and many stems, or branches, farther up the plant. To grow a plant with this characteristic, a hardwood cutting needs to be longer than the normal 6 in and have more than 1 in exposed above the ground. However, a longer cutting may encourage further buds to develop lower down the stem, so losing the desired single stem. . „

To prevent any branching down the stem, cut out all but the top three buds at "leaf-fall". Cut out the buds shallowly but completely with a sharp knife; ensure no latent buds or part-buds remain. It is simpler to disbud in this way than to cut out stems at a later date.

Gooseberry and red-currant bushes are normally propagated from 10-14 in hardwood cuttings that have been disbudded. The bush will then have a single stem at the bottom, which will allow free air circulation around the bush, thus reducing the possibility of mildew attacks.

Soft- or hollow-pith stems

For many woody plants, such as forsythia, it is not possible to propagate hardwood cuttings by the method described on pages 70-1 because they have a soft or hollow pith. If this is exposed, it very often provides a site for rots and diseases, which will then kill the cuttings.

There are two ways of overcoming this problem: either make the hardwood cutting exactly 6 in long and then seal the base of the cutting with candle wax, or make the basal cut below a leaf-bud joint. Cuttings treated by either of these methods should root just as prolifically as cuttings with a solid pith.

Melt some candle (paraffin) wax until it is liquid. Touch the base of a 6 in cutting in the wax so that a drop of wax attaches, cools and sets quickly, so sealing the cut. Do not overheat the wax and so damage the plant.

To produce rose rootstocks take an 8 in hardwood cutting and remove all but the top two buds from plants such as Rosa laxa and Rosa multiflora 'Simplex'. This method will avoid rootstock suckers.

Seal the areas that have been disbudded to prevent rotting and disease. It is possible to leave them to callus over naturally, but unless this is done under fairly humid conditions there is always the danger that the cuttings may desiccate.

It is better, therefore, to paint the disbudded areas with candle wax or more satisfactorily with a proprietary pruning paint such as Arbrex.

Treat the cuttings with rooting hormone. Plant the rootstock and label it. For roses, leave the two top buds exposed and sufficient stem above the soil level for any buds to be grafted on later in the season.

Gooseberry and red-currant cuttings should be planted with their third top bud within 2 in of the soil surface. At the end of the growing season lift the cuttings and replant with much more of the stem exposed.

This is a very satisfactory method of sealing these cuttings, but take care not to damage the wax seal when the cuttings are bundled, heeled in and planted.

The alternative method is to make the basal cut at a node, that is immediately below a leaf joint, where the pith is generally solid. Make the basal cut at the node nearest to the normal 6 in cutting length. Plants such as kerria very often have long spaces between nodes, and cuttings may then become as much as 8-9 in long.

It is often recommended that plants with a soft pith should be cut with a knife, as this tends to cause less damage than secateurs, which may crush the cutting. Provided, however, that a sharp pair of scissor-type secateurs is used, it is rare for extensive damage to occur and secateurs are, therefore, quite satisfactory.

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three buds on a cutting at "leaf-fall".

2 Ensure no latent buds or part-buds remain on the cutting.

3 Paint the disbudded areas with wax or a pruning paint.

Sealing an internodal cut

Making a nodal cut

Sealing an internodal cut

Making a nodal cut

1 Take a cutting exactly 6 in long. Melt some candle wax until it is liquid.

2 Dip the base of the cutting in the wax to seal it.

Make a cut just below the leaf joint that is 6 in or -more from the stem top.

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