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See a sample issue of The Irish Garden!

June 2012

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Easy propagation

Rachel Darlington gets a production line going

Two years ago I set about dealing with the ditch that fronts our garden. It is about four feet high and ninety feet long. We had had it cleared and covered as a stopgap but the plan was to propagate persicaria from an existing mass planting and save a small fortune.

If you're looking for an idea on what to plant on a difficult slope, then I recommend Persicaria affinis, an easy plant, pretty pink in summer and from October the russet display is spectacular. That July I tore off a wheelbarrow-full of plant material from existing stock to use in propagation. Unlike many other more fussy plants, persicaria is simplicity itself to propagate, needing almost only to be inserted the correct way up into compost for it to strike. I set to work.

But before long I realised what an enormous job I had taken on. As it was warm, the cuttings needed to be dealt with promptly and it seemed a never-ending task on my own. It was time to resort to age-old draft measures so I press-ganged my three sons into helping.

They took it rather well really and soon I had a production line going. I filled the pots with compost, my eldest cut the lengths of plant material and the two little fellows stuck them into the pots of compost, two cuttings per pot.

All was going well and we even got a few songs and silly stories going to egg us along. But then the hard questions started: "How long do we have to do this?" I could tell that my answers weren't really cutting the mustard. The whinge level rose until it was affecting everyone's spirits and then things came to a dramatic head when my middle son announced he wasn't doing this any more and walked away. Now, you might think that this drawback would have put an end to any cooperation but it did not. My eldest was quite reasonable and willing to help and I had psychology on my side when it came to the youngest.

I find that my youngest two operate a good cop/bad cop system. When one is being bad, the other is invariably good and vice versa. They seem to somehow operate this system without so much as a spoken word, each falling naturally into his role. So when my middle son left, I knew my youngest could be relied on to rise to the challenge of being a good boy.

By about dinner time, we had finished. The net result was 279 pots of cuttings and three very tired gardeners. We entered the house on a high from our achievement. Even he who had gone off in a sulk was sorry not to be able to share in the glory.



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