( ALGS )



Plant Propagation

November 2009

This month’s talk on plant propagation was given by a very enthusiastic gardener, Neil Holmes-Smith. He trained at Edinburgh Botanical Garden and has been in the profession for 34 years.

He started the talk surrounded by numerous boxes and bags containing a number of very large plants which were used to demonstrate the various methods of plant propagation. This falls into 5 main categories which are, cuttings (Soft, Semi ripe and ripe or sometime called soft or hard wood), grafting, division, layering and of course natures usual way, seed. With seed the resulting plant most probably will be different to the parent due to cross pollination and the only way to produce an exact copy of the parent plant is to propagate using one of the other four methods.

The first demonstration Neil gave was on cuttings and he explained the different techniques that can be used and some of the science behind them.

Cuttings both Soft and Hard wood, soft wood cuttings are taken in the spring when the plant is active and starting to grow whereas hard wood cuttings are taken using the mature one year old wood from around autumn when the plant is dormant and can be taken up to when the plant starts to shoot in the spring. The hard wood cutting will have a store of carbohydrates under the bark ready for next spring and it is this that sustains the cutting until it establishes its own root system. The cutting should be about the thickness of a pencil and about 20cm long with a straight cut under a bud at the base and a slanted cut at the top above a bud to show which way up it should be planted because it will not grow if planted upside down. The cutting should be planted with two thirds in the ground in a straight sided trench with grit at the base to help with drainage and left for at least a year to establish.

Grafting is a way of using a bud from one plant and inserting it under the bark of a different host plant. The joint with the bud is then tightly wrapped and fuses with the host plant. The bud will grow having all the properties of its parents with the root stock of the host.

Division is a way to get more plants from clump forming perennials by cutting the root into smaller sections, this will also help to tidy up a plant where the centre has died off and all the new growth is around the edges. The crown is dug up and cut or chopped into smaller clumps. Neil demonstrated this using a variety of implements ranging from a kitchen knife to an axe to cut it up, or the use of two forks back to back teasing the root ball apart.

Layering utilises one of natures own propagation methods by pegging down a long stem and allowing it to form roots at one of the bud nodes. After the roots are established the new plant can then be severed from the parent and replanted elsewhere.


The very informative talk ended with Neil hosting a question and answer session then offering the cuttings and divided plant to the audience.


Two of our members who are really enjoying the talk

Our next meeting is on 17th December and is our Christmas meeting with light refreshments and a demonstration on Wood Turning.
There is a raffle and a Bar. Visitors are welcome £1:00