Friday, 12 September 2014

The Incredible Bulk

It is the time of year for hearty soups, comforting crumbles and the warm glow of smugness which comes from a newly propagated plant. I love stodgier, bulkier food as much as I love bulking up plant numbers in the borders, so without further ado I will grab the tools required: 2 spoons (one dessert; one soup) and a sharp knife and scurry headlong into autumn.



First under the knife is always lavender. I am currently planting out new borders with the grandchildren of the Old English lavender plants I introduced to the garden over a decade ago. I propagate lavender every autumn because not a year goes by without the garden screaming out for a new plant or sixteen. Lavandula x intermedia and Lavandula angustifolia clipped into shape just after flowering can look great for years, but I garden with wildlife in mind so even if just one new flower spike is thrown up in early autumn, the plant will remain unshorn. Anyone who has ever neglected lavender will know that it soon becomes woody and falls apart if it isn't clipped and if you have a wayward lawnmower which hungrily devours mammoth chunks out of the side of the shrub, you will be familiar with the astonishing speed at which fleshy young plants can age. 




It is a similar tale of woe for Salvia officinalis in our garden. I wouldn’t be without Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens' in the mixed borders as it makes such a fab ever-purple foil to other plants. Consequently I grow a lot of sage and if I were to pick them all on a regular basis to keep them looking young and beautiful, we would have sage for breakfast, lunch, supper and all those little snacks in-between. Fortunately I don't feel any inclination to replace my usual chocolate snacks with anything sage-based, since sage isn't great at holding itself together when we let it flower. Bees love the blooms (as do I), so I prefer to enjoy the beautiful flowers and propagate replacement plants to wait in the wings for that moment when their predecessors fall unceremoniously apart. All of which gets me rather neatly out of eating industrial quantities of sage.

Sage as a backdrop to Nepeta
Although Agastache 'Summer Sunset' looks too washed-out for my taste, it has its uses, particularly where a full-on orange might be too much. Its scent is astonishingly moreish and every time I see this plant I can't resist a quick squeeze of its leaves. Agastache can be short-lived at the best of times and I suspect that my over-exuberant leaf crushing tendencies are doing little to further its existence in my garden, so I will be grabbing a few cuttings this week as an insurance policy. I only hope that I can keep my hands to myself for long enough to allow the new plants to root.  



There is plenty of information on the internet about how to propagate plants and there seems little point in adding to those voices apart from to say that I just pop Lavandula x intermedia cuttings in gritty compost in a pot in September or October and leave them to it. One year I got sidetracked and left the pots by the plants I had just taken the cuttings from and forgot about them. They did rather well. I suppose if the parent plant was happy there, why shouldn't their babies enjoy the site too?  



If you have never taken a cutting from a plant before, try it! It is a slightly addictive habit which can have excellent results and Lavandula x intermedia and Salvia officinalis are pretty straightforward and a great place to start. After all that constructive dibbling, you can reward yourself with a spot of brambling and a blackberry crumble doused with custard. Isn’t early autumn perfect?

35 comments:

  1. All those autumn jobs are looming now isn't it? Already planing here but that will stretch from now till October. Hearty and chunky soups....we got all winter for that :)

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    1. Since posting this, summer has returned, so the soups have been sidelined in favour of barbecues. The crumble remains - those blackberries won't stay around forever and they are marvellously sweet this year.

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  2. Sounds like my Sunday to come. A final clipping for the lavender & soup followed my apple crumble. Two spoons & a pair of secateurs for me.

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  3. I also do a lot of cuttings. Somehow my Salvia officinalis very rarely bloom. I have two of them in full sun (the second a division of the first). They are very healthy and lush but do not bloom. Perhaps there are varieties that do not bloom much and this is one of them.

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    1. It sounds as if your plants have lovely soil with plenty of nitrogen. I treat my sage pretty meanly. That said, a bit of potassium might kick-start your flowers.

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  4. Lovely post I have raspberry's to tie in and to make a proper thing for my grapes to climb up and over have a blessed weekend

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    1. Thank you, Linda. Grapes definitely need a lot of support. You have just reminded me that I have to sort something out for one of our grape vines. Thanks!

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  5. Noooooooooooo, I haven't had enough winter yet. I, too, love the "hearty soups, comforting crumbles and the warm glow (of a fire)".

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    1. Ah yes - a log fire and a glass of mulled wine. Now I'm feeling festive.

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  6. A single lavender plant has survived against all the odds in my wet Devon garden the year. Cuttings are in the plan!

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    1. Yay! And you have had a lot of rain in Devon this year. That plant must be a keeper!

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  7. Sage have made me crazy, I don't know how many time I sowed and grew it on my garden. But nothing remain. Would you like to share me your tips?
    Happy gardening and have a nice weekend!

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    1. I would try to get hold of some cuttings from someone else's sage, or start with one plant of your own and take cuttings from it. I have never tried to grow culinary sage from seed as cuttings are so straightforward. Good luck!

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  8. I love lavender Sarah, and I agree with you, I hate to chop anything back when there are a few flowers left for the last insects to feast on.

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    1. The lavender is having a prolific second flush of flowers this autumn, so I am certainly going to be looking at some sad falling apart plants next year, but it's worth it as the plants are buzzing with pollinators.

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  9. I put off planting Agastache for a long time because I heard it smells like Licorice, which I hate. But after planting it and smelling it, I fell in love! The scent is truly amazing. Lavender is on my list of plants to plant in the garden at some point. I'll have to try propagating by cuttings then!

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    1. Imagine all the years you might have been enjoying its wonderful scent! It has crossed my mind to pop some in any border I dislike weeding, irrespective of whether the Agastache will thrive there as the scent would encourage me to weed those borders more frequently. If that worked, I might apply the Agastache to other tedious chores.... one in the dishwasher... one in the tax return file...

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  10. Good to read that I'm not the only one who leaves the lavender unpruned if there are late flowers on the plant! In our old garden we used to get goldfinches feeding on the lavender seeds in winter too... another excuse to delay pruning!

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    1. Excellent. I will look out for the finches this year!

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  11. Mmm, autumn crumbles are so good! I had never thought to try sage cuttings - good idea. I took some rosemary cuttings last year and they were a great success, and the lavender cuttings I took in August seem to have rooted too. My lavenders are all getting woody and need to be replaced one by one.

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    1. Ah yes, they will root well in August - I just never get round to taking cuttings until September. Isn't it satisfying to be able to replace the woody lavender with plants you raise yourself?

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  12. I wholeheartedly approve of your Autumna preparations, we've been making fruit pies, and now that my new compost has arrived, I too will be taking liberal cuttings of lavendar, penstemon, agastache, salvia, and anything else I can think of. It has taken me a while to get confident with cuttings, but I do love free plants, and a neighbour is currently trying to re-plant an entire garden, I like the idea of being able to offer her little lavendar and salvia plants next Spring! Enjoy wielding both spoon and knife!

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    1. You are clearly an excellent neighbour!

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  13. I love the way we all develop routines which come part of the rituals of the seasons. It is very satisfying to be prompted into certain actions by the changes around us. I wish I could grow lavender but it sulks, then dies a long, lingering death every time ! I am taking Penstemon and rose cuttings, as you can never have too many of either ...

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    1. You are so right about our seasonal rituals. Penstemon make good cuttings. I took some last year and I was very happy with the outcome. I had forgotten about that - at least there's still time to take some this year. Thanks for the reminder!

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  14. It is that time of year........
    I grow from seed and occasionally take cuttings. I must motivate myself, to get snipping at the lavender rosemary and salvias.

    I have eaten too many crumbles and autumn hasn't really begun.
    It is one of my favourite desserts especially when the produce is picked from the garden. Trouble is at my age it goes straight to the waist so I will have to restrain myself :) Maybe not...........

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    1. Cheryl, find yourself a clay pan and dig it out. It does wonders for your crumble eating abilities, both in terms of hunger and your waistline. I hate digging out the clay and flints here; it is incredibly boring, but it does have its advantages! I'm not too sure what I'll do when I've dug it all out. Then again, I'm not too sure if I'll ever dig it all out.

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  15. Hi Sarah, I find that I'm quite hit-and-miss with cuttings, some plants I find easy to propagate and some quite a bit harder. Practice makes perfect I guess. We're finding that instead of taking cuttings of lavender, the gravel drive is a perfect medium for germinating lavender and thyme seeds. So far I've picked up 24 lavender plants from the drive that have self-seeded. I'm not ready for autumn yet though, the nights are still above 10C.

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    1. Hi Sunil, what an excellent case of no-effort propagation! Self-seeders are always welcome here - we get plenty of Astrantia and Cerinthe major, but we've never had a lavender or a thyme plant. That might change as I planted some lavender and thyme into gravel this year - fingers crossed!

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  16. There's lots of autumn jobs here waiting to get done, as well as produce waiting to be made in to something stodgy. I'm without lavender at the moment as my plants became so woody that I pulled them out. I should really have taken cuttings first but I'll remember in future.

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  17. My rosemary plants by the patio are huge and very aged. Today I was thinking I will have to replace them soon. I had not thought of taking cuttings, but if it works for lavender, surely it will work for rosemary. Wish me luck!

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  18. I will be taking cuttings from my erysimum plant - I was watching it today - absolutely covered in butterflies and bees and practically non-stop flowering all year. As for crumbles - bring it on!

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  19. Perfect indeed. I've taken some cuttings from a white lavender (a stoechas variety) I bought cheaply recently. They look good so far, I'm really hoping they've rooted (and that they survive the winter).

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  20. Thanks for reminding me that I need to make cuttings of my lavender soon, it’s cuttings time in my garden too. The easiest to take cuttings from is fuchsias, I will be taking lots of them soon, even though I probably have too many already!

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