Posts Tagged ‘Cuttings’

Kohl Rabi Plants

I think of April as the ’emerald month’ because it’s the time of the year where everything is bursting into growth in anticipation of delivering the most amazing display in the coming months. It’s the sheer number of different shades of green from the deep green of the evergreen clematis Armandii to the lime green of the Acer’s.

It’s at this time of the year we’re preparing for the busy period ahead which basically revolves around striking this years softwood cuttings from mid May through to the end of June.


Last years softwood cuttings under mist

If you want success with cuttings then there are two things to remember.

  1.  Use a free draining medium like sharp sand or a combination of sharp sand and compost.
  2. Keep the cuttings moist under some form of mist system.

One of our readers wrote the other day and said “don’t you have to have lots of money to start your own plant business?

My answer is absolutely not! We’re starting small to limit the financial risk and we’re only prepared to invest what we’re prepared to lose which is as little as possible!

Honestly you really don’t need to spend lots of money to get started and in the coming weeks and months we’re going to show you how you can get started with very little investment.

Talking of clematis Armandii ours has just finished flowering.



Of all the flowering clematis I think Armandii has the most intoxicating scent and it’s an evergreen so will give you a glossy green backdrop in the winter.  Throw in to the mix a plant that’s really easy to propagate and you have almost the perfect plant!

This cutting was taken in June 2012 and two years on has grown into a wonderful plant. armundii

At the moment we’re busy potting up last years rooted cuttings which have gone through the winter pretty much unscathed and produced some serious roots.

It’s our third year and we’ll be potting our two year old plants up ready for selling in the summer.

We’ve learnt loads over the last 3 years about raising and selling plants, but most of all we’ve realised customers buy with their eyes. By that I mean they want plants with flowers and preferably with a scent. There are of course the old stand by’s like evergreens,  box hedging, the conifers etc … but in the main people want colour and as much of it as you can give them!

Tip for anyone starting out growing plants for profit … Seek out one or two unusual varieties of a plant species and make your customers aware you stock the plants, or if you don’t now you will in the future. Most important of all make sure the plants you raise and sell are not protected by Plant Breeders Rights.

Other stuff we’ve been up to in April.

We’ve changed the layout of the bottom plot this year to make way for the new outbuilding which has meant we’ve had to shift the cutting bed and the compost heaps. Also created a dedicated work area adjacent to the polytunnel as it felt more central to nursery.

I’ve also been top dressing my borders and beds with a good mulch of compost. My neighbour swears by it and every year she buys eight bags of conditioner and adds it to the surface of the soil. She doesn’t dig it in but instead let’s the worms drag it down over the course of the year.  You’d never believe her garden was on chalk as the soil has turned into this gorgeous friable soil AND growing very nice rhododendrons. On chalk yes!

The Acer’s are waking up and putting on some good growth now.


I bought these as small 10 inch plants on EBay in early 2013  for £6 each and just a year they are starting to look like great little plants.

Just as soon as any sign of frost has passed they can moved from the polytunnel to sheltered position outside.

Also spotted our old friend the Goldfinch on the feeders this week.

A welcome visitor to the garden.

A welcome visitor to the garden.

Really busy time now for us with all that’s going on in the garden but will try and post again soon.

As always please feel free to drop us a comment with any questions.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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10 Pictures To Restore Your Faith In The English Weather

We’ve had a lot of emails around the subject of plant breeders rights and if it’s possible to start your own little plant nursery without running into problems.

A brief explanation of Plant Breeders Rights or PBR
PBR is essentially a pay to grow scheme, which originated with a number of wheat breeders back in the 50’s. Much like today the originators of the scheme wanted to protect their investment in producing new varieties.

More recently in June 1997 the Labour Minister of State for Agriculture introduced a new Plant Varieties Act to MP’s which essentially strengthened the position of the breeders and introduced many more varieties of plants under the protection of the scheme.

The problem was and still is today proving the breeder owns the rights to the plant. Among the objections raised is if a plant came from the original variety potentially over a 100 years ago by definition any ‘right’ to propagate that plant can’t be proved, can it?

Either way PBR is here to stay (for the moment anyway) and we small growers need a plan if we’re to pursue our passion for growing and selling plants.

Is it still possible for small growers to propagate plants for a profit?
PBR is difficult territory to say the least but I think there is a way forward.

A large proportion of the modern cultivars are covered under PBR, so probably best to steer clear of those if you’re propagating your own for sale. Check the label and look for the PBR logo and the PBR registration id. If they’re not on the label then you’re going to have to do a little more research. The CPVO web site is as good a place to start as any.

I think the safest route is to seek out plants that are not covered by copyright, patent or plant breeders right and start building a collection from there.

There are so many wonderful old varieties out there that people love to grow and more than enough for the small plant growers to kick start a little plant nursery business.

If you really want to grow and sell the modern cultivars then you can always try and track down the owner of the registration and negotiate a license fee, or perhaps work out terms around legitimately taking cuttings for resale. All I would say is I’ve tried it and it’s not easy!

Where do TRG stand on this subject?

I’m pretty clear on where I stand with regards to PBR. I don’t preoccupy myself with it as I don’t believe the people who buy my plants really care where the plants come from, they’re more interested in what they look like, if they have a scent and will they grow in my soil!

I appreciate PBR is there to protect the plant breeders investment, but I don’t like the idea of the small growers like you and me being deterred from making a few extra pounds to support our hobby. If the big growers want to grow and sell PBR protected plants then that’s ok … I just not going to raise them (knowingly) myself. There is too much fun to had elsewhere.

That’s fine but I’m worried out being made to look like a criminal? 

I know of no one that has been fined for selling PBR protected plants … at least not the small growers like you and me. PBR remains a grey area and peppered with inconsistencies, but it’s here and here to stay so my advice? If you’re unsure about a plant’s origin then don’t put it up for sale, other than perhaps from a table at your local charity event or bring and buy sale.

Will PBR put TRG off selling plants in the future?

PBR will not put me off pursuing my passion. My advice to anyone else worried about PBR is, don’t get distracted by it too much or you’ll never get started!

Seek out those plants that are not protected (at least for now) and grow as many of them as you can so we can keep them out there for us all to enjoy.

We sell traditional old cultivars in our back garden nursery, which is fine as there are hundreds of varieties to choose from most of which are real beauties! We’re also looking at becoming a registered reseller for certain varieties, but it’s early days and selling the unprotected cultivars is our preferred route for now. We also include a little logo on our plant labels which we hope will come to represent plants that are free of PBR in the future and provide others like us with plants they can confidently start growing for their own stock.

As we seek out more varieties we’ll share them with our readers and periodically publish a list of known PBR exempt plants which we hope might prove useful to other like minded souls.

If you’d like to know more about PBR protected plants there are some excellent posts out there. – The proprietor has much to share around PBR. – Interesting read. – particulary we’ll prepared post.

Don’t forget the clocks go forward this weekend!

Happy days.

Best wishes,


John And Tania The Rural Gardeners



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How To Set Up A Mist System

Quite a few of our readers have been in touch and asked for some information about how to build a simple mist system for raising cuttings.

I have to say if you plan to raise your own cuttings perhaps for your own little nursery venture you can increase your chances of success twenty fold by installing some form of mist system.

Essentially what you’re trying to do is create a moist atmosphere around the cuttings to stop them expiring through the leaves and ultimately drying out and dying.

A mist system doesn’t have to cost the earth and can be as simple as fitting a misting head on the end of a regular hose … but If you want a system that requires a little less management from you you’re going to need:

  1. A hose to deliver the water to the cuttings. I use commercial black polyethylene pipe which you can buy from any good wholesale garden supplier.
  2. Mist nozzles and rods – how many is dependent on the size of your cutting area. I think every two feet is about right, but of course that depends on the spread of the nozzle.
  3. A Timer to regulate the flow of water. I bought mine on eBay for £15 and is powered by a couple of small 9 volt batteries. There are a few on the market but look out for one that has adjustments for both duration and frequency. Also make sure it has an override option in case you need to attach a second hose.

Although you will have to invest some cash while you set up, look at it as an investment in the future. Anyway, when you hold your first plant sale you’ll recoup the investment many times over!

Choosing a timer


There are some pretty fancy timers on the market but for our small venture I thought we’d start small . The one in the picture was bought on EBay for £15. It’s done well and it’s just finished its second year and still works just fine. Just remember to remove the battery’s at the end of the season or you’ll come back to leaking or corroding battery’s.

They operate on fairly simple principle.  There is a dial for adjusting the hourly rate, and a dial for adjusting the length of time the water will flow.

I set mine to come on every hour for 1 minute, at least until the cuttings are showing signs of growth. When the cuttings are showing obvious signs of growth I adjust the timer to come on every two hours for a minute and finally every three hours. I have a second timer on the outside tap at the house set up to shut the water supply off at the end of each day. (No point in spraying the cuttings after sunset)

As soon as the cuttings are growing away I stop misting altogether and water from a regular watering can.

Setting up your mist system

Measure how much hose you need to reach your cuttings and add another couple of feet for spare.  Plug a stopper at one end of the hose and fix the other end to the timer.

Fitting the mist rods

You can buy mist rods from most good garden wholesalers.This is a close up of where the rods fix to the hose.

How To Set Up A Mist System

The nozzles have a sharp end which you push into the hose until they can’t go in any further. If you use heavy duty black hose you’ll need to break the surface with a nail or sharp object. Just don’t be too heavy handed or you won’t get a decent seal.


The mist head is usually sold with the upright and fits onto the mist rod.

In the picture below you’ll notice I’ve added a split hose connector to the timer. This is because we only have a single tap in the nursery so on occasions we need to divert the supply to a second hose for the polytunnel.  You can also see where the black hose is fixed to the connector with a small jubilee clip to produce a good water tight seal.


The nozzles we use are fairly flexible and can fly all over the place if you don’t fix them down in some way. Easiest thing to do is fix a length of timber in the ground or to the side of your cutting box and tie the mist rod to the timber. Looks a bit rough and ready … but it does the job just fine.

How To Set Up Your Own Low Cost Mist System For Softwood Cuttings

This isn’t a great picture but you can just about see the hose and mist rods on the front of the cutting bench. I’ve fixed the hose to the bench using 15mm plastic pipe connectors.


If you’re planning on installing your own mist set up I would definitely recommend growing your cuttings in sharp sand to ensure good drainage. I use a basic box construction filled with builders sharp sand and nothing else.

These are some of my cuttings from earlier this year and I have to say pretty much all of them have grown into good size plants which is why I’m such a great advocate of growing softwood cuttings under mist.


John is planning to produce a short video explaining step by step how you can build your own basic mist system so don’t worry if any of this doesn’t make complete sense as it may be better explained in a video.

I hope you found this useful and if you have any questions about setting up your own mist system do feel free to drop me a note at and we’ll try to help if we can.

Best wishes,


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Wahoooooo! … It’s finally finished!

I’m actually ready to share my first free gardening eBook with the world. I’m calling it my ‘Introduction To Frugal Gardening’.

Download Your Free Copy

It’s basically a collection of suggestions, strategies and money saving tips that I’ve pulled together from the last few years.

At 25 pages it’s crammed full of useful information for anyone looking to create their own garden paradise, without spending a small fortune along the way!

It did take a fair bit of work to prepare and may not be perfect first time round, but I would really value any feedback you’re prepared to offer as I want to write more stuff so others may benefit.

If you’d prefer not to then that also fine, in which case please enjoy the  content with our best wishes.

Oh, and we’ve also been recording a few videos over the weekend you might be interested in.

Part 1 explains in some detail how to take softwood cuttings, and how you improve your chances of success.

Part 2 introduces the idea of a sand box.


Hope you enjoy the read!

Best wishes,


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Penstemon cuttings planted in sharp sand In today’s post I’m going to focus on propagating plants from stem cuttings.

I’ve been growing plants from cuttings for a few years now and have learned you don’t need magic powers, rather a little bit of knowledge and a lot of patience … oh and a little bit of luck.

Raising your own plants from cuttings is a simple way of growing new plants in the exact image of the parent plant. If you haven’t tried it before then I urge you to have a go!

It’s great fun and a really great way to produce loads of plants for your garden, and all for FREE!

At Blackbirds we’re growing a range of softwood and hardwood cuttings for our new Back Garden Nursery, most of which we hope will come from stock plants. We use a number of techniques including cuttings, division, from seed and layering which I’ll write about over the coming weeks and months.

If you’re considering growing your own plants from cuttings you should read this first!

If you’re thinking of growing plants from cuttings then you need to research something called Plant Breeders Rights.

Basically it’s a law that was introduced to protect the rights of plant breeders … a sort of patent for plants if you like. Essentially it made it illegal to propagate certain plants for profit … but the good news is there are loads of varieties that were around before Plant Breeders Rights were introduced that you can propagate.

My advice is:

1. Always read the label on any plant that you buy. It will clearly state if the plant is subject to Plant Breeders Rights.
2. Look for the older varieties and you should have no problems with propagating them.
3. Propagate these older varieties so other growers can access these unprotected varieties.

The more ‘protected plants’ that are introduced to the market the more demand there will be for the unprotected varieties.

I can’t claim to have discovered anything new here, as the methods I use have been used by gardeners for years, but I’ve developed a system that works for me, which I’d like to share with you.


Softwood cuttings

Tend to be taken from new growth, typically cut from the Spring onwards, sometimes known as tender cuttings. They tend to root faster than hardwood but are prone to wilt and die if you don’t adhere to a few basic principles that I’ll run through in a moment.

Semi hardwood cuttings

Taken towards the end of the current growing season, ideally taken from the current seasons growth.

You can propagate both evergreen and deciduous plants from semi hardwood cuttings. The only snag with deciduous is you can’t tell if they’ve developed roots until they sprout new leaves the following Spring.

Hardwood cuttings

Taken at any time during the growing season using stems grown in the last 2 years. Anything older will struggle to root and the resulting plant won’t grow away as well as the semi hardwood version.

When you’re looking for plants to use as cutting material try to select healthy, strong looking plants with plenty of new growth. It’s the new growth that makes the best cutting material.

If this is your first attempt at growing cuttings Buxus (Box) is a great plant to start with, as they nearly always root and they can make great little hedges for your kitchen garden!

Box and Penstemon plants bought at my local garden centre

I paid £3.75 for this Buxus and £4.80 for the Penstemon, which I thought was a pretty good deal, considering I should get 5 and 10 new plants from each plant.

Although it’s not critical I’d recommend using rooting compound to encourage the cutting to develop roots. I tend to use an organic liquid compound, for no reason other than it’s nearly always works for me. Also you’ll need a plant pot or a seed tray filled with a mix of 50 / 50 potting compost and vermiculite, or sharp sand.

As I plan to raise several hundred plants for our Back Garden Nursery at Blackbirds I’m going use mostly sharp sand as there is a plentiful supply at the local builders merchant, and it works out a lot cheaper.

This part is REALLY IMPORTANT as it will increase your chances of success ten fold!

I nearly always collect my cutting material early in the morning when the plant is bursting with energy. Not an exact science I know but it does seem to make a difference.

I make sure I have everything lined up ready to go as there’s nothing worse than having to stop half way through while I try to find something. I also try to get the cuttings into the compost as soon as possible after it has been cut from the plant as it will continue to transpire moisture through the leaves and start to wilt, as it has no source of moisture.

Although it’s not critical I find it helps if you ‘tear’ semi hardwood cuttings from the stem of the plant leaving the cutting with a slight ‘heal’. I don’t know why, but it just seems improve your chances of success.

You’re going to need about 4-6 inches of stem above the heal, so snip off the rest of the cutting with a sharp knife.

Propagating from cuttings - Box Cuttings

Box cuttings ready for planting

Propagating from cuttings - Penstemons


Penstemon’s will nearly always root with a small heal, or alternatively you can make a straight cut across the stem, just below a leaf node. For regular softwood cuttings like Geraniums and Coleus I make a clean cut below a leaf node, strip most of the leaves away and plant in either sharp sand or a 50/50 compost/vermiculite mix.

You can use seed trays, plastic pots, clay plots, or a purpose built cutting table for your cuttings, but remember, they hate sitting in wet compost, so ensure you have ample vermiculite or sharp sand in your compost mix.

Plunge the cutting into the rooting compound, dib a small hole with a pencil or a small dibber, and firm your cutting gently into the compost mix.

Box cuttings sitting in Organic rooting compound

Box cuttings sitting in liquid rooting compound before planting

Water the cuttings in and leave them on a windowsill, or a greenhouse. It will help the cuttings if you can keep them away from direct sunlight for a while or they will be inclined to wilt. Don’t worry if they do as most cuttings wilt immediately after planting. Just give them a light spray with water and they should perk up in no time.

On average softwood cuttings take around 3-4 weeks to root, but this is dependent to a large extent on the growing temperature.

Propagating from cuttings - Rosemary Cuttings

Three week old Rosemary cuttings ready for potting on

These are some Rosemary cuttings that I took just over 3 weeks ago and already you can see they have developed a good root system. The next stage is to plant them up into individual 3″pots. I like to use clay pots for my herbs as they really don’t like moisture and the clay will soak up any surplus water.

Propagating from cuttings - Rosemary plants

Potting on 3 week old Rosemary cuttings

You can treat your semi hardwood cuttings in exactly the same way as your softwood cuttings and they will root, but I like to use a  trench. I dig a trench about a spades depth in a sheltered part of the garden and line the bottom with sharp sand.  Then I select a decent sized stem from the plant and cut several cuttings approximately 5-6 inches long.

Not really sure if it makes that much difference but I also damage the base of the cutting slightly by scraping the bark away with a knife. It’s been proven that a plant will try to repair any damage by growing a callous over the wound and then send out roots. I can’t prove it either way, but it does seem to work.

Then I lay the cuttings upright in a row at the bottom of the trench and back fill with soil. Water them well in and pretty much forget about them until the following Spring.

If you’ve been successful you should start to see signs of new life on the stems around the end of March, middle of April.

Next time …

I’ll be looking at our first batch of cuttings  and planting some of them up ready for growing on. I’ll also be running over the plans for our Back Garden Nursery and starting work on clearing the plot.

If you’d like to leave a comment, please do so.

Best wishes,


In today’s post I want to focus on propagating with cuttings.

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