Collecting and Propagating Plants and Keeping Records
Plant collecting can become a fascinating hobby, and one in which the whole family can participate. On holidays, and during walks in the country, look out for new or unusual plants, and keep a diary or notebook in which to record them. Plants can be exchanged with friends sometimes, too, for few gardens contain exactly the same.
Another way of collecting plants is to propagate those already grown. Perhaps the simplest form of propagation for a child is to make a collection of seeds from the garden, which will produce new flowers the following year. Gather the seed from plants when they have finished flowering, and put each variety into a different envelope, carefully labelled and dated. Some seeds, such as those of lupins, delphiniums, pinks, poppies and forget-me-nots, can be gathered one day and sown the next. Most seed, however, should be kept and sown the following spring.
Even some shrubs can easily be grown from seed. Sow a seed of broom (scoparius), for instance, and within two years the bush may be as tall as 4-1/2 ft., with lovely yellow flowers in early summer.
Plants are also propagated from cuttings, geraniums being perhaps the easiest subject for a child. Using a sharp knife, cut a side shoot from the stem of a healthy plant, preferably during the summer. Strip the shoot of its lower leaves and insert it into a bed of finein a sheltered part of the garden. The cutting will soon make roots, and should then be transplanted into the more nourishing soil of its permanent bed.
Stem cuttings taken from rosemary, lavender and willow are easily rooted in the same way.
Another important method of increasing plants is by division, which simply means that the root system of the plant is carefully split into two or more pieces and the separate parts replanted. This is usually done in the spring, when the plants are growing strongly. Bulbs are easily divided, and tulips, especially, increase very quickly; in two years one bulb may increase to as many as twenty or thirty. Plants with fibrous roots, such as Michaelmas daisies (Aster), are even simpler to divide.
A GARDENING DIARY
The best way to record the work done in the garden is to keep a diary. This will soon become something of a Nature calendar too, for the date of the first daffodil, the first cuckoo-call, a late frost, and other events, will vary from year to year.
It is most exciting to discover that one summer it was possible to pick the first beans two whole weeks earlier than the previous year. And if, for example, the diary contains a note of the fact that when the annuals were in flower last summer there was too much red in the border and not enough yellow, then this will act as a reminder to sow some different varieties this spring. Make a note, too, of any new ideas, or interesting plants seen when visiting other gardens, so that they can be tried out at home the following year.