One task I was eager to undertake this week was the taking of hardwood cuttings. During the winter months, a gardener may become accustomed to the removal of dead or dying plants and this is why I relished in the job of creating new plants from old through this simple yet effective method of propagation.
Cornus, commonly known as dogwoods, are a widely ranging genus and many of its species propagate well from this method. Cornus alba ‘Sibirica Variegata’, Cornus canadensis and Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii’ are the varieties we hope to increase stock of for use in the East Garden. Cornus alba ‘Sibirica Variegata’ is a multifaceted upright shrub grown for its eye-catching variegation whilst in leaf and its striking brilliant red winter stems. Cornus canadensis or creeping dogwood is a little different. This has a smaller growing habit which is perfect for the edge of a border as it remains compact. It produces a mass of simple delicate white flowers in spring followed by red berries. Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii’ bears unusual pitch black winter stems that contrast well with other colourful stemmed Cornus.
There are varying techniques for taking hardwood cuttings. We grow them in the ground in the kitchen garden; this method is best used for robust trees and shrubs. To begin, 80cm shoots were cut of one year old growth.
Then the ground was broken up and a trench dug. Often grit is incorporated in heavier soils to reduce waterlogging which could rot the cutting however the soil is adequately well drained. The cuttings were cut at the base to below a bud and then gently inserted into the bottom of the trench with 10cm between each.
The trench was the backfilled and each cultivar labelled. Hopefully next autumn these will be lifted and re planted or potted for future use around the garden at Gravetye.
To maximise the chance of survival they should be watered once the ground begins to warm in spring and any competition from weeds should be removed.
Words by Sam, photographs by Martin