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Thrifty Gardening

Thrifty Gardening

Gardening is an area where there are many ways of saving money or reducing costs. A thrifty approach to gardening is not only possible it is highly desirable particularly in the early stages of gardening. It would be easy to buy the most expensive and decorative plants in the garden centre only to find that you didn’t know what you were letting yourself in for. The plant may die or fail in some other way because you didn’t understand its needs and the care required to look after it. So ask for advice.

Pelargonium grandiflorum

Extra Plants for Free

  1. Increase your own stock by collecting seeds from annuals and plants you like. Leave a few vegetables to ‘run to seed’ e.g. peas and beans are good examples – at the end of the season let them grow until the seed pod is mature then collect and separate to dry the beans or peas and sow them again in spring.
  2. Increase your own stock by taking cuttings. Don’t worry about the occasional failure but take enough cuttings to cover losses.
  3. Increase stock by dividing up large clumps of plants. Many plants like Iris need this division treatment to remain healthy.
  4. Local horticultural and gardening clubs, neighbours, church fairs, friends, and family are good sources of cuttings, seeds and cheap but healthy plants.
  5. Look in your own garden for self sown plants I had some great cowslips in the garden when I arrived probably from seeds dropped by birds.
  6. Seeds or cuttings collected from positions where they are not needed to maintain the environment. (That is not to encourage theft from gardens or damage to the environment but there are many occasions when an opportunity won’t cause any problem)

Save on Consumables and Equipment

  1. Water is costly when metered so mulch rather than water. Water key plants individually and deeply. Collect rainwater in a barrel.
  2. Make your own seed pots from old packaging, margarine tubs, yoghurt pots or paper towel roll ends.
  3. If you have several old marked labels clean then in a jar of bleach to be able to reuse.
  4. Use organic slug control methods which tend to be free or cheap.

Top Gardeners Tip
Grow what gives you pleasure but if you can eat it or use it instead of buying something, like a bunch of flowers or present then you will get double value & pleasure.

Taking Cuttings for Beginners

Taking Cuttings for Beginners


Rooting cuttings of your favourite plants can help you get more plants for free. Here are some simple tips for beginners to get you started.
If in doubt I push odd cuttings into soil in a corner and hope. It is surprising what will root and grow.

Types of Cutting

  • Soft wood cuttings are made from new shoots and tips that are soft and tender in spring. Dahlias, Chrysanthemums, Penstemon, Fuchsia, and Aubretia can be rooted this way
  • Semi-ripe cuttings are taken mainly in summer when the young shoots have just started to turn brown and harden at the base. Pelargoniums, Forsythia, flowering currant Escallonia are just some plants that will root with this method
  • Hard wood cuttings taken in autumn will take a bit longer to root but are used for roses, dogwood, black currants and many shrubs

General Tips

  • The day before taking cuttings give the host plant a good watering.
  • Choose strong healthy stems. Keep in a plastic bag whilst you collect other cuttings so they do not dry out.
  • Remove the lower leaves and trim to just below a leaf joint.
  • Place cuttings in a pot of cutting compost or soil with some sharp sand added.
  • Keep humid and add bottom heat where possible.
  • Adding grit to compost can stimulate roots

Tips for Soft Fleshed Plants eg. Pinks, Penstemon & Geraniums

  • When cuttings are rooted pinch out the growing tip to get a bushy plant.
  • Keep cuttings out of direct sunlight.
  • Cuttings should  be taken in spring and summer.
  • Cuttings should be 2″-5″ long depending on variety and available material.

Tips for Taking Hardwood Cuttings of Trees and Shrubs

  • Cuttings taken between July and October for semi-hardwood cuttings, and between September and March for hardwood cuttings produce the best results.
  • Cuttings take between two to twelve months to root well.
  • Hardy plants should be rooted in containers outdoors or in cold greenhouses.
  • Select  mature sections from the current growth at the base of the stem without  flowers, fruit or seed heads.
  • Cuttings can be 5-15″ long with at least two leaf joints attached.
  • How to take cuttings for big shrubs

Beginners Cutting Tips

  • These general tips are about stem cuttings but you can also take cuttings from leaves, roots, and buds for some plants. Check links to specific plants for special requirements. You can root some plants by placing the bottom of the cutting in water.
  • You can use a rooting hormone to encourage cuttings but I don’t and have tended to take more cuttings to compensate for failures.
  • A heated propagator will be useful if you intend taking a lot of cuttings.
  • Take enough cuttings so you do not have to worry if many of them fail to root. (But I bet you surprise yourself.)

Stevia cuttings after 18 days in water : bouturage de stevia après 18 jours

Gooseberry cuttings by net_efekt CC BY-NC 2.0
Stevia cuttings after 18 days in water : bouturage de stevia après 18 jours by hardworkinghippy CC BY-SA 2.0

Dahlia History and the Blue Dahlias

Dahlia History and the Blue Dahlias

Wish List

Today’s hybridisers are still seeking the true blue Dahlia. We would also like one with a scent and if it was frost hardy that would be a triple bonus but then again it may not be a Dahlia at all. If you want to name a variety you have selected and grown yourself the National Dahlia Society publish the rules for naming and the register of existing names is maintained by the RHS.

Dahlias a History

The National Dahlia Society publish a history of the Dahlia from which the excerpts below have been taken

Read More Read More

Free Roses

Free Roses


You can grow more Roses for free by taking cuttings but do not expect a 100% success rate. You should get more than 50% so just take more cuttings!

Roses from Cuttings

  • Select some healthy green canes that have become a bit woody in September.
  • Cut 8 inch lengths, just above a bud eye at the top and below a bud eye at the bottom. Remove lower leaves.
  • Fill plant pots with a mix of sharp sand and soil 2:1 and push in the cuttings half way.
  • Water and keep  in a sheltered spot until Autumn.
  • To over winter,  protect  the cuttings by burying the pots in a trench or keeping them in a lit, frost free environment.
  • In late April rooted cuttings can be transplanted. Do not let them bloom in the first year to build up some strength.
  • From a summer cutting that has not become woody remove lower leaves leaving a small part of the leaf stalk. Cut a cross in the base and hold it open with a grain of wheat to act as a natural hormone. Soak the stem in water overnight and plant in a soil & sand mix.

Roses By Layering

  • Ramblers and roses with very long stems can be layered in spring.
  • Choose a long stem that is growing close to the ground.
  • Leave it attached to the plant, lay it horizontally and remove the leaves where it touches the ground.
  • Carefully make an incision in the bark on the underside of the stem, cover with 2″ of soil and leave the tip of the stem exposed.
  • Peg the stem down with bent wire, water and leave until late Autumn or spring. When rooted it can be cut from the mother plant with secateurs.

This rose is available from

Plants from Thompson & Morgan not quite free.

Claude Monet Artists’ Rose. ‘This truly exquisite hybrid tea rose leaves you spellbound by its ever-changing colour combinations. Each bloom is a unique work of art, with layers of fragrance that form a pyramid. The first scent you smell is that of bergamot and lemon. Go back an hour later and discover rose, pear and vine-peach. If you cut the stem and put it in a vase, on the base notes of green almond, ivy and vanilla remain.’

Unfortunately it is not free at £11.99 but any cuttings from it will be.

Hebe Shrub from Cuttings

Hebe Shrub from Cuttings

This purple Hebe is flowering about 2’6″ high in a compact format. I would like to make a low hedge of Hebe (Veronica)  to breakup the outline of a large border and this variety amongst many others suits me well.

Hebe Cuttings

  • Now is a good time to take a series of cuttings to root this Autumn and be ready to transplant next spring.
  • You can pull off a 4inch shoot leaving a bit of a heel and pot it in sharp compost or soil with some sand added.
  • I cut with a knife  or take my cuttings with secateurs if I am busy.
  • Trim off the bottom leaves and try get a cutting with the wood just beginning to harden at the base as this summers green wood may not root as easily.
  • Take more cuttings than you need and if some fail it won’t be a problem. If you have too many plants you can always find a happy home for these flowering shrubs.
  • Theoretically you should use cuttings from unflowered branches but I find so much floral profusion that it is hardly worth seeking them out.
Wallflower Bowles Mauve

Wallflower Bowles Mauve


Bowles Mauve is a wallflower Erysimum linifolium that performs for several years unlike its strongly scented cousins. It is a short lived evergreen perennial that gets a bit leggy if not kept in check. The plant flowers all summer long and it seems as though it is flowering itself to death.

  • Take regular cuttings which are easy to root and grow on.
  • It grows 2 feet high and wide in most types of soil preferring alkaline to acid
  • Also try  other Perennial Wallflowers, Bowles Yellow or the shorter ‘Little Lilac Kiss’ from seed
  • Erysimum perofskianum Gold Shot as its name suggests has golden yellow flowers
  • Butterflies are attracted to this plant of the brassica family
  • As a member of the Cruciferae family the flowers grow from stems originating in the centre of the grey leaves and have 4 petals each in the shape of a cross.



Read also Everlasting Wallflowers