1st October 2009
This method of propagation requires no specialist equipment and can be carried out in the garden without protection or heat. Although it takes a full season for the cuttings to root the wait is worth it because the results are spectacular. After 12 months the plants will be large and ready for planting out or potting up.
The cuttings are taken in the late autumn and winter and are most often used to propagate deciduous shrubs and trees.
The cuttings selected should be from fully ripened branches. Choose stems of the current year’s growth that are firm and have hardened. Make the bottom cut straight across immediately below a node or leaf joint. The top sloping cut should be made above a bud and angled away from it to run water away from the bud. The length of the cutting should be 20-30 cm (8-12 inches) long. Where there has been sufficient growth it will be possible to make two or more hardwood cuttings from each branch.
Plants such as roses and gooseberries will be easier to handle if their thorns or spines are removed. Where stems are uniformly thick and the buds are not obvious then, without the sloping cut to denote the top of the cutting, it would be possible to insert them upside down resulting in 100 per cent failure.
I have always rooted hardy plants outside in a sheltered part of the garden. Dig a trench 15 cm deep making one side vertical. If your soil is heavy then spread a 2.5 cm layer of coarse grit or sand in the base of the trench to assist drainage.
Space the cuttings vertically, 15 cm apart in a line along the side of the trench with the base in contact with the grit. Backfill the trench and firm the topsoil around the cuttings. Take care not to damage the portion of the cutting that is above the ground.
Evergreen conifers can be rooted in the same way but their foliage is easily damaged by wind and frost.
Finally use a fork or a rake to loosen the surface of the soil and apply a deep mulch of bark or compost to deter weeds.
Where there are rows of hardwood cuttings lined out in open ground then lay landscape fabric between the rows and cover it with bark or gravel mulch which will reduce the area where weeds can grow.
During the summer the cuttings will produce side shoots and, depending on species, the rooted plants will be bushy, 45-60 cm high with side shoots.
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