In my opinion, there are three basic types of gardener. I will accede that there are dozens of sub-sets within the categories but it’s sunny outside and we don’t have all day, so I’m going for crude generalisations. The activities hereunder are not strictly limited, as some first class gardeners are not strangers to cold drinks on the lawn and some dabblers have been deadheading since April.
Achillea millefolium var. gigantea (giant yarrow)
1. Softwood cuttings. This is for the hard core, who will want to beetle about their plot shortly after dawn, clutching sharp scissors, polythene bags and a notepad. Take some floppy new growth from shoots without a flower for nodal cuttings of rosemary, lavender, Euphorbia (spurge), Hydrangea, Cotinus for example. Take basal cuttings for Cynara cardunculus (cardoon, artichoke), Chrysanthemum, Delphinium, Lupinus, and Salvia etc. Your specimen will start to die, the moment that you take it from its parent. You need to persuade it to strike quickly before it can croak, so wrap it in polythene, and then hustle to the potting shed. Carefully rip off its lower leaves, to give the cutting less greenery to support while it chooses life or death. With a dibber, thrust several cuttings per pot into well draining soil; I use seed compost mixed with extra vermiculite. Label, water well and then cover the pot loosely with a plastic bag. Take off the wrapping periodically for ventilation, or your specimen will rot like last month’s lettuce in the bottom of the fridge of good intentions. An occasional light spray of water will help with rooting. If it strikes, pot it on; harden it off, then plant with pride. If it moulders, festers or otherwise decays, hoick it out quickly. Rooting hormone powder may help with difficult cases. If you succeed with Cotinus where I have failed, I’m not sure that I like you anymore. Try Facebook Friendly Gardeners for more ideas and information.
Dew soaked Cotinus coggygria (smoke bush)
2. Deadheading. Secondary class. Take out a pair of manicure scissors not belonging to you or use your especially sharpened thumbnail. Snip off all of the spent blooms that you clap your eyes on, unless you hope for seeds. This will encourage further blossom, or will prevent the plant from wasting energy on unwanted effort. Roses should be cut back to a bud with secateurs, to provoke further flowering. If not remontant, you can prune until you feel faint and your rose will not re-bud until next year. Maintain vigilance against snails, slugs, sawfly and their ilk. Watch them annihilate your precious plantings and cultivate uncaring, or take action by picking them off or using biological control. Don’t use chemicals or you will be personally responsible for the ruin of the ecosystem; poisoned creepy crawlies will kill creatures that snack off their corpses.
Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’ & Knautia macedonica
3. Dilettantes. Covers many practising horticulturists. Make sure that the family knows which plants you actually care about. Spend the minimum effort necessary in ensuring that these specimens are protected from lawn tennis divas, future football heroes and the just plain destructive. Place your deck chair in clear view, put the newspaper over your face and dish out a malevolent growl, whenever an agent of obliteration makes the pages flutter with their passing. Should you require a handsome member of the opposite sex to fan you with a palm leaf, make certain that they take it from someone else’s garden. If you live in the north of England, do not expect them to wear a loin cloth on duty. Up here, we wear trolleys.