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A Gardening Life – March 14

I was speaking at Blithewold yesterday and had the pleasure of connecting with Gail Read, their Gardens Manager. She invited me to stop by the Blithewold greenhouses after my talk. On a cloudy March day, who could say no to a fellow plant person and a greenhouse?

Being surrounded by green, growing plants, especially things like Ponderosa Lemons that northeast gardeners can’t normally grow, is guaranteed to lift spirits. It’s no wonder that Blithewold volunteers look for every opportunity to be in these houses in the winter and early spring.

Gail showed me the various areas where she had seeds and cuttings started and just seeing them filled me with a combination of appreciation and envy. I understood and related to this activity because it’s how I save plants from year to year and make more of those varieties I love. I was jealous of her ability to propagate in such lovely greenhouse surroundings. I want a light-filled growing house like this!

This experience reminded me of the novel I’m currently trying to sell. Retitled The Artful Pizza, it’s a story about the power we have to make changes and move forward in our lives. But as the characters in the novel prove, this ability for transformation isn’t always full steam ahead. We experience setbacks and challenges even as we steadily work toward a life filled with meaning and delight.

As I put my efforts into propagating what I want to grow, there are times of affirmation. There are also setbacks and experiences of pure envy. Steps forward and steps back. Moments of paralyzing jealously and times of proliferation.

A greenhouse to die for. What every plant person wants, right?

Cuttings at Blithewold root in pearlite with an automatic mister. Sigh. It's a good thing that we have such ideal situations to strive for, but we have to work to tame our envy while we attempt to move forward...

Sharing the Wealth
Taking Cuttings – tips for making lots more plants

  • You can take some cuttings in the fall and grow small plants over the winter, or bring larger plants inside and take cuttings in February or March.
  • Cut pieces about four to six inches long off of the plants you want to propagate. Make sure that each piece includes at least one leaf node that you’ll place below the soil line. A leaf node is where the leaves attach to the stem. This is the area where roots most frequently develop. When taking a cutting, make the cut below a leaf node, remove those leaves, and make sure that this node is covered by the rooting medium.
  • Use damp seed starting mix, pearlite or vermiculite for rooting cuttings.
  • Home gardeners are helped by coating the stem of cuttings with rooting hormone. Dust or roll the stem in the rooting powder or gel along the entire length that will be making contact with the soil or rooting medium. This stimulates roots and protects the cutting from rot as those roots develop.
  • Place the cuttings in a bright place but out of direct sunlight. Keep the rooting medium damp. When you see the cuttings “perk up” and start to grow, this means that roots have developed. Pot them into regular potting soil at this point.
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