Propagating plants: a great way to fill out a garden on a budget
I wrote recently about how I'm trying to jazz up my own interest in gardening.
I've always gardened halfheartedly, sometimes keeping up with the weeds only to lapse into excuses and then frustration when they take over.
But as I fill out the flower beds in my yard with perennials (the beds were there when when I moved in but the previous homeowner must have gardened mostly with annuals), I find adding new plants gives me incentive to keep up with the weeds.
Many plants have come from my mom, mother-in-law or friendly coworkers.
I feel like whenever I actually buy plants, they die. That, paired with the fact that I'm not 100 percent sold on gardening as a hobby, I'm not really into spending a lot of cash on plants. I'd rather buy things like a new storm door or ceiling fan.
But here's the cool thing about plants - you can use existing plants to make more. It's like magic and is technically called propagation. I learned all about it when I took horticulture in high school, but have been refreshing my memory lately as I try to turn myself into a bona fide gardner.
My it's-like-magic theory came about this spring. Last fall, I dug up and divided seven sections of roots from my existing peony plants. Every single section came up as a new plant in a flowerbed that had previously been mostly weeds and out-of-control grasses.
Since then, I've divided and transplanted a pink yarrow, some daylilies and some ribbon grass from other parts of my yard to this formerly weedy area. After I move them, I just make sure I water them well for an entire week. They don't seem to need much maintenance after that. They're not anything too showy or special, but they look way better than a formerly unkept, full-of-honeysuckle mess.
I've also been experimenting with rooting plant cuttings in water. I love any kind of sedum plant, which is great, because if you pick a stem off these plants and stick it in a vase of water on a windowsill for a week or so, roots will grow. You can then plant it and start over with more clippings.
That strategy also works with vinca, spotted dead nettle (strange name, way cool-looking plant), basil and English ivy. I've heard you can do it with rosemary, too - I want to try that but haven't had a chance yet. (I believe the picture features sedum cauticolum, but don't quote me on that. It was in my garden when I bought the house.)
I've also read recently that you can propagate lavender in the spring just before it flowers. I took some cuttings last week as it started budding. I stripped the leaves off the bottom portions of the stems and put them in a pot with a mix of compost and peat moss (we bought the latter to make hypertufa but haven't had the chance yet). I'm not sure if they'll root, but won't it be cool if they do?
Maybe, just maybe, this gardening-as-a-hobby thing will work out for me, after all.