Selecting suitable plant material

Often the most overlooked, but one of the most significant, phases is the consideration and choice of suitable material from which to propagate. It is well worth the extra time and effort to assess the available plant ; material critically so that the best selection : Is chosen, and new plants are not produced from inferior stock. Only the best forms and ┬╗flections of a plant should be earmarked for propagation, and they must always be from healthy stock, free from virus infections. Many plants, more especially the older and popular selections, will have deviated from the normal to some extent. Despite their i varietal name, they may differ quite con-f siderably and will exist in several clones, so bear this in mind when choosing plant material for propagation.

Another limitation that should be considered if propagating by vegetative methods Is th.it the capacity of the plant to regenerate j will be affected by the age of the cutting and its parent plant, as well as the age of the variety from which it is taken.

Plant material of the current year's growth will regenerate more readily than older material, and the highest rooting response will be found in a plant that is juvenile, i.e. immature and unable to produce flowers or fruit. As soon as a seed germinates and produces a juvenile plant, it begins to "age" and its capacity to regenerate starts to decline. Most plants subsequently enter a mature phase when their regenerative abilities continue to decline. Old plants and older varieties will exhibit very low levels of response. Pruning or forcing a plant will only recover a little of this capacity to regenerate. Thus the gardener must be prepared to accept that old and very old plants and varieties will be difficult to propagate. For example, a deciduous azalea, of the Exbury type, which was germinated from seed only about 40 years ago, will be much easier to propagate than a Ghent azalea, which would have been originated over 140 years ago. It is important to realize this distinction, and that all plants derived from one selected form must, physiologically, be the same age, regardless of when they were vegetatively propagated.

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Organic Gardeners Composting

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