Snipping in the sun

Keep an eye out for the phantom snippers - Pat Duke

Pat Duke

One of the joys of visiting gardens open to the public is spotting unlikely felons stealing plants by furtively taking cuttings.

They are relatively easy to spot as the giveaway is that the more experienced of them operate in pairs. One is the lookout, while the gimlet eyed one does the deed. The lookout usually carries a sandwich box containing secateurs or a discreet penknife whilst saying hello to everyone.

I know this is the niche end of organised crime but its intriguing for the unlikely characters involved. Many of the alleged perpetrators seem to be long-retired older ladies, which only adds to the amusement.

Whilst it’s technically theft, I’m sure permission would be given most of the time as us gardeners are good like that. Being thrifty and helpful is part of the charm. Most gardeners are so helpful, they’d probably do it for you and give advice on aftercare.

This time of year is perfect for taking cuttings and it could not be easier. Starting with shrubs is the most straightforward way, as they are putting on a few inches of growth now. A ‘cutting’ is basically any part of a plant that is cut and treated in a way to grow a new plant. Anything with a hardwood stem seems to take much easier than soft stemmed plants.

Having said that, geraniums and pelargoniums are notoriously easy. You might want to plan a new hedgerow or fill a gap somewhere else in the garden and taking cuttings is cost effective and rewarding. Taking it from a friend’s garden will give you something else to talk about apart from ‘this heat’.

Remove a side shoot about 6 inches/15cm long and with a very sharp knife, trim the base. Remove the lower few leaves, then place them around the edge of a plant pot at an angle. Some people even put a lolly stick as a stake but I find, if they are left undisturbed and watered gently, this is a bit too much. Adding sand to the compost will help but again isn’t essential.

Try this with buddleiah, euonymous, hydrangea, spirea or cysts and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well they do in two weeks.

Now that the potatoes have been harvested and stored or polished up for the village show, there will be gaps in the veg patch. These need to be filled with the dark arts commonly known as ‘winter veg’.

Start sowing winter cabbage and winter lettuce. Start them off in a tray or in the old potato or carrot beds. Those sown indoors will be ready for going outside in September. Savoy varieties like Savoy King or Ice Queen won’t let you down.

Hardy lettuce such as Artic King and Valdor seem to relish the frost and are as hardy as a Brussel sprout and likely to be eaten by children.

Put in some winter spinach too and this will be mature by late October. You can use radish seeds to mark where the spinach is, which, by the time it can hold its own, you can eat the radish (French Breakfast) as a spicy addition to salads, but never for breakfast.

Make efforts to keep pigeons off the broccoli by either netting it or putting a decoy bird of prey nearby. You’ll have to keep moving it as they work it out after a few days. I also find anything that moves in the wind stuck to a bamboo cane works as well.

Weed in between all growing veg, especially climbing beans, and water directly on to the roots sparingly until the rain returns as soon as the school holidays start.

Take time to soak up the sunshine whilst thinking about how fortunate we are to be in the garden and not at work.