Hardwood cuttings and greenhouse clear out

You can tell a gardener’s character from the state of the greenhouse. Is everything neat, clean and tidy, with lots of properly labelled seed trays? Or is there a clutter of half-used compost bags, broken flower pots and unhappy pot plants? You can tell the bracket I fall into:Despite what the picture suggests, I’m quite pleased with my greenhouse, which I designed to suit my needs. It fits neatly into an angle of the house, with a door leading into it from the kitchen. It is traditional glass and wood construction, except for the roof, which is a kind of perspex sandwich. For much of the year, it is used to provide some colour to cheer me up over the morning coffee. When the garden is grey and bleak. It is full of pots containing pelargonium, agapanthus, petunia (why are only the dark purple ones scented?), pansies, polyanthus, scented geraniums and amaryllis (although the amaryllis all got frosted in the extreme conditions of last winter).The greenhouse is unheated, and with the first frosts approaching, it is now time to move the pots into the house, dislodge the spiders and clear the decks.The staging is cedar, which does not rot. Underneath, the floor slopes to a central drain, meaning that I can water, and  forget about the surplus. To the left of the door is a tap with one of those crinkly hoses attached which can reach anywhere that is in need of dousing. There is also a jasminum officionale in a pot, which threatens to take over the whole place – but is just a little too tender to grow outside. Now that the pot plants have gone, cuttings will take their place over winter.Rather than mess around with ten-year-old hormone powder, I largely confine myself to taking hardwood or semi-soft cuttings of plants that happily root themselves outdoors in any event. Dogwoods (cornus), and brambles (rubus) are obvious candidates, although the red-stemmed Cornus alba ‘Westonbirt’  seen here is less accommodating than its relatives. I need more Rubus ‘Tridel’ – which is the loveliest of the ornamental brambles, so I have stuck in a few of those. Philadelphus usually responds well too – though not from semi-soft cuttings. Vigorous climbing roses on their own roots often come away from cuttings, and I have taken a few from ‘New Dawn’ and my very favourite – ‘Albertine’. They will all sit here over winter (largely to stop the rabbits eating them) and I shall see what happens in Spring.The Acer palmatum dissectum on the ruin is now at its very best, and for a few days will act as a lighthouse for the whole garden. If you look closely, the vivid orange is in truth a subtle combination of red, yellow and green.Acers don’t do well on clay, and this one is only good because it is sitting in a gap between two stones which is entirely filled with ericiaceous compost. For many years, we used to have an Acer palmatum atropurpureum which turned a glorious colour in AutumnThis picture was taken in 2006. In 2008 the tree just gave up the ghost and died. Such is often the fate of acers in this part of the world. What do you do when the centrepiece of your garden is gone? I replaced as much of the soil as I could – in case it was a fungal disease, waited two years – and replanted. But I won’t see it looking like this again…..maybe someone else will, though.

Update 22/06/12

The hardwood cuttings haven’t done too badly. All three of the ‘New Dawn’ have taken and two of ‘Albertine’. So that’s five roses I shall have to find space for. None of the philadelphus or the Westonbirt dogwood consented to grow, but I have one rubus ‘Tridel’ to plant out in spring, a couple of common yellow brooms and some jasmine officionalis – which I shall give away, as I have no space for it.  Here are the cuttings, all ready to over-winter in their pots:


17 thoughts on “Hardwood cuttings and greenhouse clear out

  1. “But I won’t see it looking like this again…..maybe someone else will, though.”

    From your writing I thought you were “middle aged”, I hope you do see it!

    I have a few acers – not acres, worse luck – on a clay soil in Bearsden, they thrive despite heavy clay. I didn’t know they were averse to clay.


    Worried in suburbia.


    • Well, middle-aged is a matter of taste….but acers are slow-growing creatures here. I can’t speak for Bearsden, Steve, but you only need to go on a trip a bit further west to see that Acers do rather better out there, where they have peaty loam rather than clay. Anyway – I wouldn’t worry. If Acers do well for you, make the most of them.

  2. I enjoyed the peek at your greenhouse Kininvie– I was wondering about it, just the other day. I grow the jasmine vine, and a varigated version, outside on the pickett fence. The maples of every sort thrive here in clay, like they do for worried Steve. I think there must be some other variable. Mostly they are uncontrolled in their reproduction and must be dug up everywhere. I moved an azalea and a lily today, just so you know…

    • Well all I can say is they don’t like the nasty yellow clay here. Nor the frost. Nor the wind (which is probably the real killer). OK, the big acers do fairly well – It’s the small ones that don’t. I’m pleased for your azalea.

  3. You make better use of your greenhouse than I do of mine that’s for sure. I tend to use it for bringing on annual plants and Begonias in early Spring and then for storing container grown plants over the winter which may benefit from the protection. That last picture of yours looks fantastic, more like a country estate than a regular garden. I must say Acers grow extremely well in our garden with never any sign of damage, you would almost think that this was unlikely considering the climate in the north east. Alistair

  4. How sad are your ‘last words’… hope they’re not really the last though!
    I watched on the internet for the bramble you mentioned: it is very very nice, I like it. I’ve seen a kind of a double flowered form around here, but it’s not the same elegance of the simple one.
    What to say about acer? I suggest try harder but don’t be stubborn. Put something you can enjoy rather than something fussy to take care of and which someone else will enjoy… This is called hedonism but who cares?

    Your greenhouse is beautiful. I like the way you can look at the garden from a lower angle and I’ve always desired a glass greenhouse but in Italy it’s too hot to have one, in summer it would be a torture for plants and gardeners.

    • Hello Alberto – the last words weren’t meant to be sad at all, just a recognition of the fact that we don’t garden just for ourselves, but for those who come after us as well. Where would we be if our ancestors had left us no gardens to enjoy? If you spend a lot of time with trees, as I do, you come to recognise, I think, that individual mortality does not matter a lot….

      If you can grow rubus Tridel, I thoroughly recommend it. It has a good arching habit and holds its flowers on thin stems – would look very good in your garden.

  5. A lovely use of your greenhouse all year. I’ll bet it helps having it up at the house. I have to go to the other end of the garden! Our acers are turning lovely shades at the moment but you’re right about the wind. The more tender ones get cut back by the cold northerlies

  6. Hello Libby. I’ll tell you what was around the corner today – a massive flood. The pond has completely overflowed and all the primulas and meconopsis are under about three feet of water. I just hope it will be like the Nile floods and add lots of fertility to the soil…

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