Tuesday, 15 November 2016

unconventional cuttings

The kitchen window is turning into a plant hospital.  The Systems Administrator has noticed, and asked yesterday What's that, staring at the latest occupant with furrowed brow.  I asked whether the SA minded my having them there and the SA said No, not at all.  I could understand the SA's puzzlement, since it was a singularly unprepossessing and unpromising looking specimen.

It started with a couple of cuttings of Fuchsia boliviana.  This was one of the substitutes from Other Fellow Fuchsias, a frost tender upright bush capable of scrambling to prodigious heights according to their website.  It grew rapidly with huge furry leaves and sent up a second stem.  I hadn't planned on growing it, but became rather fond of it and started looking forward to the red tubular flowers.  Fuchsia flowers in their native lands are pollinated by humming birds, you know.

Unfortunately I took the website's advice that it would need a big pot too literally, too early, and moved it on to a seven inch pot or thereabouts over the summer.  When we got back from holiday the big furry leaves were drooping, a sign easily interpreted as meaning that the plant is short of water, but that can also signal root death from overwatering.  I can't blame the housesitters.  They did a jolly good job overall, faced with an array of plants with wildly different requirements capable of catching a professional nursery assistant out from time to time.  I nearly killed another of the fuchsias myself earlier in the year, but managed to save it by drying it out and keeping it on the dry side for a couple of months while it recovered.  I tried to do the same with F. boliviana, but to no avail, and I was soon able to lift both stems out of the pot, the roots having rotted entirely.

I left them propped up in the corner of the conservatory where it had been growing through a jasmine, until such a time as I should be down there with a compost bucket.  When I came to clear away the corpse some time later I noticed that the stem tips and the last couple of sets of leaves were still green and firm.  Nothing venture, nothing gain.  I cut them off, put them in a pot of compost and covered them with a plastic bag.  Mid October would not be my first choice of time to attempt to propagate a tender species fuchsia, especially after the source of cutting material had been languishing with no roots for several weeks, and I didn't fancy their chances in the greenhouse, so I put them on the kitchen window sill where the Aga would maintain a fairly steady and not too low temperature.

They remained green and perky, and the tips have even grown, though whether there is any activity at the bottom end of the cutting where it counts is a moot point.  I was annoyed to discover the other evening that they were being attacked by tiny aphids.  I sponged off as many as I could with a piece of damp kitchen towel, and today sprayed them with insecticide.  I am fairly sure that using pesticides on cuttings is not recommended, and as fuchsias weren't specifically mentioned on the label there's the risk that they may not like it, but it didn't seem sensible to leave them infested with sap sucking insects either.  A leaf fell off the smaller of the two today, which doesn't bode well.  We shall see.  If neither takes I might even buy another next year if Other Fellow Fuchsias have any more, as I have got quite keen on the idea of growing it by now.

The second casualty was the orange flowered Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata from Dibleys.  I went into the conservatory yesterday to check the watering (which does not want to be done too often at this time of the year, when a bit of benign neglect can come in handy) and found the collapsed remains of the plant on the floor next to its pot.  Puzzled and irritated, since I was fairly sure I had not overwatered it, I prodded a finger into the pot and unearthed a vine weevil grub.  Ah.  And likewise bother.  I went to fetch a bucket to clear away the remains, consoling myself with the thought that Dibleys did still list it, the last time I looked at their website, but as I was about to chop up the lower portions of stem to fit them more neatly into the bucket I noticed some strange, knobbly offshoots.  Outgrowths that looked remarkably like nascent roots.

The good old bizzy lizzy is of course a kind of impatiens.  They haven't been offered much in garden centres in recent years because they started suffering from their own special kind of downy mildew, but I grew them when I was a kid.  My mother was most obliging about letting me keep them on the kitchen counter, and cuttings rooted so easily you could do them in a bottle of water. I wondered if Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata would be similarly obliging.  Rather than use a milk bottle I stuck the likeliest looking piece in a pot of compost where it made a weird looking leafless cutting, two pinkish green fleshy stems reaching forwards like snail's horns.  I didn't put it in a plastic bag since I was afraid of something so juicy rotting to mush, and it didn't have any leaves to lose moisture anyway, but I did put it on the kitchen window sill because I thought that it too might enjoy the heat of the Aga more than the dank air of a frost free greenhouse.

Which is where the Systems Administrator noticed it.  It is very lucky I did not marry somebody houseproud, as I should have driven them quite mad or else to the divorce courts a long time ago.  I will let you know in due course if either specimen roots.

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