Well, it’s woody. and it’s hard. it’s hardwood.
On a deciduous shrub a hardwood cutting is taken when the stem has put on its growth for the year. It’s not green and floppy like it would have been in the spring or even in the summer when it would have begun to put on a bit of solidity. The stem will still bend so not totally woody. Best time to take cuttings like this is in October or immediately after the leaves have fallen – that may not be October these days given the mild weather we’ve been having. My recently acquired bible (Creative Propagation – A Grower’s Guide) says mid-October to mid-November but it was written in the 80s. Any later than that, the shrub is going dormant and not throbbing with potential to put on roots. Better to wait till february or even march when the buds are about to spring forth and strike cuttings then. Having said all that, all my recent cuttings action took place in late November and even early December. We’ll see..
Professional nurseries have stock plants that they prune hard in the spring to ensure just the right sort of growth for cuttings later in the year. That’s a bit more advanced preparation than I can handle but a similar effect can be got by pruning, say, a third of the branches back hard. Either way, this year’s growth is what you’re after.
Downside of hardwood cuttings is that they need a relatively long time to root (months not weeks), but on the plus side, you can just leave ’em to it, they don’t need any molly-coddling. This is because all the fuel the cutting needs to survive the winter root-less is in the woody stem, A softwood cutting still needs to generate energy through roots (which it doesn’t have yet) and through photosynthesis via the remaining leaves, which it will struggle to do because it doesn’t have any roots to supply the leaves. The job of softwood cuttings is keeping them alive long enough to put on some roots. They are in intensive care for the duration. Hardwood much less hassle but does require more patience.