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Time for sharing

29 June 2012


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 concept.

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 of leaves.

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 recipient.

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.


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