Memory grows from seeds and cuttings

July 07, 1996|By Nancy Brachey | Nancy Brachey,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

An ordinary sweet pea, an ancient peony, an elegant blue iris. Sometimes the favorite plant in a garden isn't the prettiest, the newest, the flashiest. But it is loaded with memories because it came from the garden of someone you care about.

While visiting family and friends this summer, you may see a day lily or a dahlia, an azalea or a poppy that is simply beautiful.

If you take a bit of it home, you will also have something of your friends and families. That's because people are inseparable from their gardens.

Bringing plants home is not simply a matter of digging up entire plants and leaving your favorite aunt or best friend with nothing. You need to know basic propagation techniques.

Seeds are easy to collect. Look for brown pods that developed out of the flowers that appeared earlier. Gather the pods by cutting them off the plant with pruning shears or scissors.

Don't open them in the garden, or most of the seeds will spill onto the ground. Take your pods to a quiet spot, then spread some newspaper or white paper and pop them to remove the seeds.

Store them in a paper envelope, marked with the name of the plant and the date the seeds were gathered. Keep the seeds in a cool, dry place until planting time this fall or next spring.

Most herbaceous perennials, including daisies, day lilies, true geraniums, hardy sunflowers, hostas and peonies, may be propagated by digging and dividing.

Dig the clump, shake off loose soil and look at the base of the plant at the soil line. There you will see a group of close-knit plants.

Each will make a new plant identical to the parent once you separate them. Because you want roots of these divisions to remain moist, keep some soil attached to the roots and store them in small bags. Replant as soon as possible.

If your target perennial is a tall-bearded iris, which produces fat, horizontal roots called rhizomes at the soil line, work a trowel between the rhizomes to separate them, then gently dig up one, roots and all, without disturbing the parent clump. Replant soon.

Many old-fashioned shrubs, including shrub roses, spirea, hydrangea and azaleas, can be propagated by cuttings you will root in small pots for eventual planting in your garden. A rooting hormone will aid the process.

Make your cuttings about 3 inches long, and use clean shears that have been disinfected with household bleach.

The cut end should be semi-mature wood located just below the soft green wood at the tip of a branch. This green wood could rot before rooting; more mature hardwood won't root readily.

Plant the cuttings immediately, so they don't dry out.

Pub Date: 7/07/96

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