Wednesday, 5 July 2017

experiments in making more

The best time to take a cutting, they say, is when somebody offers it to you.  This morning I experimentally dug up some pieces of rose from a friend's garden at about as wrong a time of year as you can get.  The sad thing is she offered me some bits of rose if I cared to dig them out last year, and I never got around to doing anything about it all winter.  Now she is due to move house in the next fortnight, which concentrated the mind.  Agreeing that the people who were buying her house would not miss a bit of the rose, I had nothing to lose but an hour of my time and several litres of compost.

It is a very pretty rose, with neat, smallish leaves, and small pink flowers.  They are single, but larger and more frilled than a hedgerow wild dog rose.  Its overall character put me in mind of the old Scotch roses when I saw it flowering last year.  Apart from being charming, in an understated, half wild way, I was very impressed at how well it was doing in a difficult site.  It was running all around the base of a smallish oak while some stems had climbed into the tree.  Clearly it had the potential for height, given support.  The soil in my friend's garden is probably not quite as light as the soil in our front garden, but still poor, sandy stuff, and any rose that could not just survive but spread in that earth under the crown of a tree had to be a very good doer.

My friend did not know its name, and I thought she meant that she had lost it or forgotten it, or been given the rose without a name attached.  Today she clarified that she had not planted it: the birds had brought it.  She took a little convincing that in that case it did not have a name.  An expert might be able to hazard a guess as to its parentage, in broad terms, but her rose was unique.

The first piece came up very easily , and I did not need to resort to the pick axe I had brought just in case, as well as a sharp spade and a garden fork.  I shoved it quickly into an old poultry food bag to keep the roots moist, though the soil was almost as dry as dust.  My friend reappeared with a flower pot, asking if I could dig her a piece too.  I asked if she had any compost, and when she said she had run out I asked if she would rather I try to root some for her, rather than leave her looking after the pot in the middle of moving.  I dug up a third piece because her daughter wanted some, and a fourth for luck.  I reduced the length of the shoots immediately, and cut them down further when I potted them.

I managed to get a lot of root.  The smallest piece needed a five litre pot and the largest barely crammed into a ten.  I watered them all generously, thinking that was probably more water than the roots had seen for weeks, and stood them outside the greenhouse where they would get some shade.  Their leaves were still perky when I went to water the tomatoes after tea.  We will see how we do.  If even one pot survives I daresay I can make some more from it somehow.  It seems to be a rose with a powerful will to live, so I am moderately hopeful.

Addendum  Two of the three fig branches that I cut off the parent plant before noticing that they were beginning to form roots where they touched the paving have survived being potted up, and are sending out new leaves and bright green little shoots.  On that basis if you had a fig and wanted to propagate it so that your friends and relations could have one too, I should say that layering would be very likely to work.  I was talking to somebody at lunch at the weekend who had planted what their local garden centre sold them as a fig, only to discover when it produced a large pink flower that it was a magnolia.  At least if a friend gives you a rooted branch of their own tree you know you are getting a fig.  Ours is 'Brown Turkey', and fruits extremely well given the right weather.  We do have it growing in what is virtually rubble, and I warned my new acquaintance that in rich Suffolk clay she might get a lot of splendid leaves but not necessarily any figs.

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