Arne's journal

Propagation: Gardeners' Magic

There is something about the spring light that triggers an automatic reaction in a gardener to sow seeds and propagate plants. There have been days this week, when the wind drops, and you can actually feel the warmth of the sun, and know that the soil will be warming up too. Thoughts race forward to the summer and my mind fills with images of plants that I know I need to start sowing soon.

Until now at Allt-y-bela I've had no real space for sowing and raising my own plants, and I've missed the magic of seeing pots of cuttings and trays of young seedlings with all their promise of riches to come. So this year I have set up a couple of cold frames with soil warming cables at their bases, and am awaiting delivery of a small greenhouse. There are plans for a more elaborate greenhouse for the future, (always so many plans!), but for now I can, at last, propagate some of the difficult to get hold of, rarer plants I want to grow and sow seed of things I want to plant out in abundance.

Poised for propagation action, I've invited a friend, and brilliant nursery woman, Marina Christopher, to come to Allt-y-bela and run a propagation workshop for us and a small group of people. She gave a very inspiring short talk on the subject here last year, and we are really looking forward to her returning to give us a full day on the topic. 

What I particularly like about the way Marina talks about raising plants, is that she shares her own experiences with such clarity. Her scientific background and a naturally curious and questioning personality has led her to develop many techniques that are entirely her own, often subtly different from propagation techniques you might find in a book. For me these skills are most definitely best learnt or refreshed directly from an expert, in person, where all the senses can be involved; watching and listening, touching and feeling and having a hands on experience and the chance to question things along the way.

Meanwhile I'm starting to plan which annuals I'll raise for companion planting and cutting flowers in the kitchen garden, and the rarities that I want to ask Marina how I can increase. There are many websites and catalogues full of wonderful choices, but I particularly love the selection from Chiltern Seeds and their adage 'grow something new from seed' is very hard to resist when you look through the exquisite photos, mainly by Sabina Ruber. They have a very broad offering of unusual and tempting plants, many of which I plan to grow at Allt-y-bela. We have a few places left on the workshop with Marina on 31st March, so do get in touch and come along, whether you are set up with a large greenhouse for mass propagation, or like me, you have only a small area of glass, or even windowsills to raise precious plants.

Words: Arne Maynard

Photos: William Collinson and Sabina Ruber (courtesy of Chiltern Seeds)

To find out more about the Plant Propagation workshop on Tuesday 31 March at Allt-y-bela, click here.

For more information about Chiltern Seeds and their wide selection of seeds visit www.chilternseeds.co.uk

Seed_trays_greenhouse_photo_William_CollinsonCentaurea_americana_'Aloha-Blanca'_photo_Chiltern_SeedsCentaurea_americana_'Aloha-Blanca'_underside_photo_Chiltern_SeedsDelphinium_consolida_'White-King'_photo_Chiltern_SeedsLathyrus_odoratus_'Jilly'_photo_Chiltern_SeedsNicotiana_mutabilis_photo_Chiltern_SeedsScabiosa_stellata_'Sternkugel'_seedhead_photo_Chiltern_SeedsZinnia_'Queen-Red-Lime'_photo_Chiltern_SeedsGardeners_hands_seed_trays_photo_William_Collinson