“Propagating Flowers for Summer”, by Marina Christopher

This talk very nearly didn’t take place due to the unusually heavy snowfall just before. Not least, because Marina lives and propagates at altitude in northern Hampshire, at the end of a long narrow lane, never visited by the gritters.

Thankfully the snow melted just in time and Marina was able to visit to explain her very own way of propagating plants, hands-on with live material rather than pretty pictures. She grows them by the thousands, often very unusual or specific to the demands of top garden designers … who look to Marina to supply for their Chelsea and Hampton Court creations. Praise indeed!

With years of experience behind her she uses her very own concoction of seed compost; a mixture of loam, peat free compost and grit. In fact lots of grit, to get a very sharply draining mix. If you decide to try this you will need the smallest gauge grit you can find. She lays the seed on top of the mix and covers it with more grit. This has the beneficial effect of letting in enough light to encourage germination and helping keep the seeds moist as they get started. Surprisingly the grit traps moisture/condensation and doesn’t dry out as compost would.

She sows her seeds in deep pots to encourage long roots. She doesn’t use seed trays or small pots which encourage the roots to swirl around the pot or shallow tray  and get tangled.  When ready to pot these on into their individual pots, she then reduces the roots by between about one third to a half to fit their new pots… with scissors or a knife !  This stimulates then to fill their new homes with thick roots.

When taking cuttings she advised us to cut the cutting through the node, and not beneath it, which is the traditional way. This is much more likely to stimulate the hormones there to start rooting.

Enthralled by this novel approach there were lots of questions to follow, and the discussions ensued all evening. Everyone agreed what a useful and thought provoking exposition of a new way of undertaking a basic horticultural task this was. ( So much so, the author didn’t take any notes, lest he missed something!).

So much so that we hope to make a visit to her nursery later in the year.