by Jamie Cable
ONE OF the satisfying aspects of being a gardener is the
opportunity for sharing that it creates. Plants beget plants,
whether by self-seeding or by the action of the gardener. I nurture
new plants because I can, rather than because I need them, and this
leads to surplus stock.
Years ago, I ran a community garden in the heart of Portsmouth.
The industrious volunteers produced thousands of young plants that
not only restocked the garden but were given away to local
residents. It was satisfying to hear about the successes that
people had had with growing on the plants. One visitor described
the project as being like a stone dropped in a pool - the
effects reached far beyond the boundaries of the garden.
Of course, it is also lovely to receive a plant from a friend,
and, usually, it remains inextricably linked with that person. A
garden can become a wonderful reservoir of memories.
At the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as a diploma student, I found
that mutual horticultural generosity operates on a global scale.
During imperial times, British plant-collectors travelled all over
the world. We largely owe the fantastic variety of garden plants to
them, but there is a sense that we should give something back to
those parts of the world that were plundered.
This can occur, for instance, by reintroducing endangered plant
species to their native habitats, or by supporting ethnic
communities in sustainable practices. Plant material from the Kew
Herbarium is donated to botanic gardens and scientific institutions
all over the world, for education and research purposes. All plant
material is catalogued on a computer database, and any receipts or
donations are noted. I remember looking up "olive" on the database,
and was amused to see that the main recipients were clerics all
over the country. Presumably, these samples were used as visual
aids to underline a scriptural reference, or a Christian
Now is a good time of year to take cuttings of many garden
plants. For beginners, I recommend trying it with tender
perennials such as osteospermums and fuchsias. Cut healthy,
non-flowering shoots from the parent plant, and, using a sharp
knife, trim to about 7.5 cm (3 in.) long, cutting just below a pair
Dip the cuttings into rooting powder, and insert into a small
pot containing a 50:50 mixture of moist multipurpose compost and
perlite. Cover with a plastic bag, and leave on a north-facing
window sill, or in a shady spot outside. Success with these may
lead you to survey your garden for other subjects.
There are many propagation aids available which can enhance
rooting. ROOT!T offers a postal propagator that contains five
natural rooting sponges in which you strike your cuttings on a
windowsill before completing the address label of the lucky
Finally, there is the Greenhouse Sensation Hydropod. This
home-assembled, hissing, misting machine has delighted my inner
child this season, and rooting has been rapid, giving me plenty to
donate to the summer fair.