This month is as good a time as any for taking soft tip cuttings of plants like lavender (many grey-leaved shrubs seem to like the same treatment at this time of year) which are apt to look past their best when they reach the age of four or five.
It’s not a particularly difficult job, but always take more cuttings than you need because you’ll rarely achieve a 100 per cent success rate. If by some miracle every cutting strikes, you can pass them on to friends and neighbours to prove just how good a gardener you are.
Soft tip cuttings are just that – the end couple of inches of the soft stems. Take off the lower leaves and then dip the cuttings into a hormone rooting powder, which will encourage the faster development of roots.
Then pop the cuttings into pots of decent compost, water them and put them somewhere sheltered and shaded – not too hot, no direct sun, not too cold and out of the worst weather.
With luck, the cuttings should strike within a matter of weeks and you’ll have a wealth of perfectly-formed mini clones of your adult lavenders. Grow them on in pots until they are ready to go outdoors permanently.
Lavender plants cost; quality lavender plants tend to cost a bit more. That’s why it pays to take cuttings and propagate your own plants.
But there’s no point doing all the hard work unless you give these youngsters the best start to their new lives.Lavandula is a native of the hot, dry Mediterranean foothills – it appreciates a limey soil but it will grow almost anywhere in full sun. It needs the heat to perform well.
There are numerous varieties of lavender, from the old English favourite, L officinalis, with its bushy stems and grey-green leaves, to L stoechas, the French lavender, with intense purple flowers.
There are even pink-flowering forms such as ‘Loddon Pink’.
Lavender is all things to all people. It has been used as a sedative to ease headaches, to counter insomnia, to aid digestion, to relieve rheumatism, to ease burns and once it was even used to embalm corpses.
And the dried flowers can be placed among clothes to deter moths, pressed into service in pot pourri, soap and perfumes.