Best time of year for it; nights are drawing in, nothing on the TV and the charms of crochet seem over-rated. My mother used to tell me that those who asked won’t get and those who don’t ask didn’t want. Despite this early introduction to the unfairness of the world, I have persevered with requesting plants for free and occasionally have been successful. From now until late winter is a good time to take hardwood cuttings, just after the leaves have fallen and before new buds burst open, so get your ass out into the garden with your secateurs clutched to your chest.
Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’ (ornamental vine)
This technique works for lots of deciduous shrubs including Buddleia (butterfly bush), Cornus (dogwood) Philadelphus (mock orange), Rosa, and Viburnum (not the stinky one that the beetles like, who wants more of that?) Climbers to try; Clematis, Vitis (grape vine) and Lonicera (honeysuckle). Fruits include gooseberries, fig and any of the currants. Take healthy stems from current year’s growth, making a straight cut at the bottom below a bud and a slanted incision at the top to differentiate, since upside down specimens will never, ever make roots. Put your bits of stick into separate bags with a label, to prevent later loss of temper.
Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ (elderberry)
Dig a slit trench in a quiet part of the garden, free of child traffic and far from where Tibbles, Fido or Killer goes to commune with nature. Pet poop from meat eaters can harbour disease, is unpleasant whenever it is encountered and sticks to anything it touches, as I can attest. The days of rabbit wrangling and hamster husbandry are behind me but I pay good money for well seasoned horse muck, which is still too much for rooting purposes. Put sand or grit in the bottom of the trench and stir it about in a desultory manner unless like me, your garden is basically inland beach. Trim each cutting to about 8 inches (20 cm), taking off any soft growth at the tip. Place them in the soil, two thirds underground, straight cut downwards, around 4 inches (10 cm) apart. Label the buggers now or you won’t know what your garden will be full of in ten years’ time; optimism is a big part of being green fingered.
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed)
Snuggle the earth around the stems, water well and settle in for a long linger; you will have a year before you may expect confirmation of success or failure and whichever awaits, you will have to keep a casual eye on progress to fend off drought, weeds or Rover’s keen attention. This time next year dig up your twigs with care, to avoid damaging the mass of roots. If the plant is still fragile, small and spreedy, then pot it up for further nurturing until it’s ready for the hurly burly of flower beds or borders. If it looks like a strapping specimen, get it in the ground before you relax your vigilance and you forget about it. This is a method which requires no specialist equipment and little arcane knowledge, just some patience and the chutzpah to give it a go. Take a chance and you might get lucky.