Since I’ve done a bunch of these recently I thought I’d jot down what I’ve done.
I have not been too careful with tool hygiene on the basis that the hardwood cuttings are made of sterner stuff than tip or soft-wood cuttings. We’ll see if I come to regret that slap-dash approach in the spring!
I have taken stems about pencil-thickness, cut as close to the base as possible. I’ve cut them into lengths of varying length depending on how close the buds are. I look for 3-4 buds, usually 4 for luck. Cut just below but not through the lowest bud, and an inch or so above the top bud. Two buds get buried in the cutting mix, with one ideally just above the surface and the other wherever it ends up. In theory the roots will come from the bud/leaf nodes. By the magic of totipotency (look it up, I did), those buds will make roots instead of leaves or new stems because they are buried underground. Clever innit.
Lots of the advice involves making different shape cuts so you can tell which end is the top and which is the bottom. Just as easy to lay them out in front of you as you trim them, top farthest from you. That said, I read somewhere that it’s good to make the top cut on a slant so that rain water runs off it. I hedged my bets and did that anyway.
If you’ve got the space the usual advice is to dig a trench, add some manure or other compost, stick the cuttings in and fill in the trench, leave them to it. I haven’t got the space for that and have just stuck all the cuttings in pots, deeper the better. I’ve not used soil or compost and instead have used sand, essentially. RHS Horticultural Sand to be exact. In theory you can use sharp sand from the DIY store but that always looks like it needs a good wash to me. The idea of using sand is that it has a nice loose texture that the roots can spread into and it drains pretty well. That said it has to be gritty sand, too fine and there won’t be any air/oxygen at the roots and they’ll rot.If I’d had some actual grit i’d have added some to the sand to bulk it up a bit. Perlite or vermiculite would probably have done as well. I used a slim bamboo cane as a dibber to make a deep holes into which I jammed the cuttings. I’ve put them in pretty close, usually one variety per pot, 7 or 8 cuttings per pot, more sometimes – they’re quite friendly. I’ve used the deepest pots I could find knocking about, clematis pots just the job. In one case I’ve used a large pot and have 5 or 6 varieties in little clusters, all in the same pot. Again, we’ll see if that was a good idea in the spring. I didn’t clean the pots either. All that laziness would likely be fatal in a softwood cutting but I’m hoping I’ll get away with it.
They will be quite happy in the pots over the winter and will stand a bit of frost and even a covering of snow, I gather. I’ve got about half in pots outside, and about half in pots in an unheated greenhouse. No particular logic for which is which, I’m interested to see which set do better, or indeed if it makes any difference.
My plan is to wait till March or April and de-pot them (is that a thing?). At least some of them should have put roots on by then in which case I’ll pot them on. That’s when it’ll get tricky for space. Do the kids really need that trampoline?
I’ll be back.