August 26, 2011

The Cut Flower Series: Flowers for free!

Last friday I listed different plant and seed suppliers, but there are of course ways you can bulk up your stock of garden flowers for free. By propagation. Which sounds vaguely scary and scientific and necessitating greenhouses and dibbers and Mr Titchmarch style know-how. Whilst, of course, there are many books and websites that will explain much better than I how to do the more technical forms of propagation  - by taking root or leaf cuttings for example - I want to simply remind of you of two completely straightforward  methods, easy enough for kids to do but really effective and quick,  requiring no more than a trowel and spade.

Collecting seed.
This is the perfect time of year to collect seed from the flowers you already have in your garden. Go and look really close and you will see that amongst the browning petals or seedpods, squillions of little seeds are growing. Just wait until they are nice and brown/black and dry, and they will be perfect for collecting. They need to be collected before the first frost.

Avoid collecting when they are still green or rain damp, just hold your horses until they are really dry and black. Then simply scatter straight into the ground, as nature would (casting a little compost over the top for good measure),  exactly where you want them to grow next spring. If you do this, I would advise watering the ground first to stop the seed blowing away, and avoiding them being washed in all directions which is what always seems to happen if you water afterwards. Alternatively, pop them in paper bags or envelopes, label and plant out next year when the frosts are over. Don't bung in plastic bags or containers they will just sweat and rot. Yuck. Until  spring just keep them in a dry, cool environment away from mice. Plants that produce easy-to-collect seed and propagate well like this in my garden are: poppies, bupleurum, nigella, ammi, marigolds, sunflowers and hollyhocks. I'd love to hear what has worked well for you in your gardens? For more detailed advice, click here.

The other early autumn job that we can all do next month is dig up the well-established herbaceous perennial plants we want more of, being careful not to damage the roots as they come out of the ground, and then split them up with a sharp spade if need be, throwing away any dead woody material and immediately replant the sections for lots of lovely new plants next spring. Some plant roots will just tease apart, others need cutting. It seems brutal, but works a total treat, and many plants actually need it to stay perky over the years.

Plants that have worked really well for me, divided and re-divided over the years are:
hardy geraniums, knautia, echinacea, nepeta, alchemilla mollis, anemones.

There are some plants that hate disturbance so do leave roses and peonies well alone or  they will most likely pop their clogs. For more detailed advice on division of perennials and a video to show how it is done, check this BBC website or the very useful RHS site.

Have fun this last long weekend of summer. I plan to be at the seaside, watching my boys play cricket and attending my cousin's wedding party. Hoping the rain stays away. What are you up to? xxx


  1. Divide the Dianthus? Mine has grown in a crescent, dead in the middle, time to spread it around.

  2. I love dividing perennials - it seems so creative somehow and so thrifty! Found another good US seed company in case anyone is still looking and doesn't already know. It's Rebecca's Garden. I have ordered seeds from four places now, so am committed to making that new bed. Am hoping the rain from Hurricane Irene this weekend will give me workable soil!

  3. Webb, Thank you. I will take a look. Irene is heading this way Sunday
    The less direct the hit, the more likely the fun part will dominate the distressing....let's hope for a very nice ratio :-)

  4. We are just heading from winter to spring - no public holiday here - However, I'm busily moving the first batch of annuals from their pots in the (new) poly tunnel to their flowering positions = Much Excitement and anticipation!!!

  5. I've been doing a lot of dividing myself as some plants just did'nt flower this year, think I might of left them too long.. I did not know you could divide Lavender x

  6. A comment about the dianthus and lavender - both are more normally propagated by cuttings - lavender I have rather brutally sliced as small young plants without killing, and perennial dianthus needs some care because can tend towered a single big root - mine matt a bit along the ground and I have been able to pull apart and replant, chucking out dead wood from the middle. Truthfully they may not be the best examples and I will remove them from the post when I am reunited with my pc! Thanks for querying them and making me remember the details! X

  7. You really are a doll and so good for sharing. Hope the rain stayed away for ye! Sinead x

  8. Love that verbena shot, gorgeous. Hope you are having a fun packed beachy wedding weekend!

    Sarah x