Goshen News, Goshen, IN

November 16, 2012

DIRT ON GARDENING: Want to save your favorite plant? There is a way

By TOM YODER
COLUMNIST

GOSHEN — Did you have a favorite plant this year or in a past year that you just couldn’t get enough of? This often is the case and we hate to give it up at season end. It had perfect blooms with magnificent foliage and thrived and expanded better than all the other plants.

We all have our favorites and try each year to expand on the particular beauty of a specimen, but sometimes there is that one you just marvel at.

Sure, you can wait until the following year in hopes to find that same plant, or you can take cuttings and carry them through the winter months so that when spring arrives you’ll be prepared to transplant them into your favorite pot, urn or garden.



While perennials can survive in freezing weather by mulching them heavily, annuals and plants that are out of our planting zones (zones 5 and 5 1/2) unfortunately must be removed to the indoors in order for them to survive.

Normally by year’s end most of our annuals and perennials have grown much too large to be moved. That leaves us to the next best thing — making cuttings.

Now I’m not at all suggesting you make cuttings of all your annuals and perennials, only a “special” plant or two that you hate to give up. It’s relatively easy to do and offers you a wintertime project to keep your thumb green.

Some initial precautions will gain you the best results. A sterile razor works best to take an angled cut 3 to 4 inches from the tips of tendrils. Remove the bottom leaves by pinching or snapping them off and leaving three or four leaves. Plunge the stem into a planting medium that consists of finely ground peat, perlite and sand, or purchase a product meant for this purpose. Then water generously and cover with clear plastic, creating a tent by placing sticks in the medium to keep it off the growing plants. Make certain there is adequate drainage in the container.



Once rooting takes place (normally 15 to 20 days, depending on what you’re rooting), remove the plastic covering to expose rooted plants to normal atmosphere.

When the plants develop a sizeable root structure remove them to individual pots of a size that enables them to get somewhat root-bound. Believe it or not, a plant will do better with a concentrated root structure. If planted in too large a pot, roots just get stringy and plants suffer.

Taking cuttings aren’t restricted to just flowering plants or vines. This may also be done with any “woody” shrub or ornamental, keeping in mind time involved to accomplish a project of this type. This may best be left to nurserymen because it sometimes take several years to develop any sizeable plant and may even require grafting, which is yet another subject.

 

Experimentation is in a gardener’s makeup. I guess that is why new “stuff” is coming on the market every year. The largest growers and developers are constantly hybridizing and searching for yet another prize winner to tantalize us with.

A grower in Middlebury by the name of Walter Welch, who lived on a small farm at the western edge of “Witmer Hill” (Wayne Street), grew and very successfully hybridized Irises.

He developed the first dwarf Iris in 1950 and created many new colors and strains. He was well known in the horticultural society winning the coveted American Iris Societies Caparne Award with his entry “Primus” (1950), followed by seven more for the same award — “April Morn” (1954), “Blazon” (1955), “Sparkling Eyes” (1956), “Veri Gay” (1958), “Cherry Spot” (1960), “Fashion Lady” (1964), and “Atomic Blue” (1965). I was always amazed at his dedication and work ethic.