• Stacks Image 887

    Caption Text

  • Stacks Image 888

    Caption Text

  • Stacks Image 889

    Caption Text

  • Stacks Image 901

    Caption Text

  • Stacks Image 902

    Caption Text

  • Stacks Image 903

    Caption Text

  • Stacks Image 904

    Caption Text

  • Stacks Image 905

    Caption Text

  • Stacks Image 906

    Caption Text

  • Stacks Image 907

    Caption Text

  • Stacks Image 908

    Caption Text

Stacks Image 144


Right now is the perfect imd to start making hardwood cuttings of your favourite shrubs, trees and climbers.

cut off the long unflowered shoots from plants like Cornus, Sambucus, Rambler Roses and Salix. take note of which end of the shoot was growing from the part of the plant that was nearest the root, as this end will always be inserted into the soil and its easy to mix up which end is which when you are dealing with a lot of  leafless twigs.

Cut each shoot into length about 9 inches long from just beneath a bud (node) to just above a bud. It is a good idea to cut a slanted cut beneath the bud on the end of the cutting that was nearest the root. This way you can tell which end will be inserted into the growing medium.

gather together your cuttings of one type, tie them up with string and label them clearly.

Next dig a trench in some bare soil somewhere and insert the cuttings about 6 inches deep into the soil and back fill.

The cuttings will root out over winter and be ready to lift as brand new plants next Autumn. 

You can make hardwood cuttings of Philadelphus (Mock Orange), Wygelia, Deutzia, Kholwitzia, Cornus (stem DogWoods, Salix (Willows), Roses, Sambucus (Elder) and many more exciting shrubs.

Look forward to learning old gardening skills anew this winter at Great Park Farm, with me on my latest seasonal horticultural masterclasses and workshops. 

My Autumn Masterclasses and Workshops, start of this horticultural year of with the right stuff and master your garden now.

Get ahead for next year and sow some biennials .

It isn’t too late to sow seed of popular biennials, these charming plants are very useful in filling a gap in the border, as Dianthus barbatus ,Sweet Williams, do as well as being great cut flowers and smelling fantastic also. Or for raising as companion plants for mid spring displays like the Myosotis ‘Spring Symphony Blue, ’ Forget-Me-Nots, will be used to complement my pink and white tulip trial, in the Rococo border next spring. Or for creating features in themselves such as I would use a stand of Digitalis ,Foxgloves, or an impressive and architectural showstopper as Onapordum acanthum commands respect for its silvery downed yet hypodermic like, sharp leaves in great balconies of foliage topped out with thistle flowers in Mid-Summer.

Prepare a seed tray of a good quality seed compost and thinly sow the seed over the surface of the compost and sieve a litre more over to just cover the seed, except for digitalis which needs light to germinate the seed.

Label the seed tray and water it well, until water flows from the drainage holes in the bottom. Then cover with cling film or put it inside a plastic bag to conserve moisture.

Leave it somewhere warm and bright and remove form the bag and water liberally when the seedlings have all germinated.

Alternatively sow the seed directly where you would like the plants to flower next year, you can still transplant the seedlings or young plants from the seed tray and the open ground to their desired positions in October or early November.

You will often see bundles of Erysimum cheiri ,Wall Flowers, in many different cultivars  sold in October , highly priced for not that many, where as a packet of 400 seed cost a fraction and gives you so many more, so sow away and plant up a border for you to enjoy next spring.

Grow an exotic and amazing climbing lily, these Gloriosa rothschildiana or Glory Lily are really easy to grow and its not too late to start one off now yourself.

I bought my tuber from Hampton Court Flower Show a few weeks ago and I’ve potted it ‘bud end up’ in a deep 3lt pot full of John Innes No.3 and well rotted farm yard manure mixed together for a heavy feeding plant. To add more longevity to the compost I also added a sprinkling of Miracle Grow 12 month slow release fertiliser pellets in accordance with the instructions on the  packet.

In about 10 weeks time I’ll have a beautiful flowering plant. To help the climbing nature of the plant , I’ve inserted branches of Betula pendula ,Birch, so that the clinging tips of the leaves can get a better grip.

Every year the tuber you plant will produce two other tubers which can be potted separately if you like and each time the tubers will grow in length.

Allow the Glory lily to dry out about a month after it finishes flowering and store the pot in a frost free glass house. When the temperature rises naturally in spring the Glory Lily will start to grow again naturally and you can start to water it again for another flowering season. 

Greenwood cuttings.

Previously I have showed you how to prepare a container with cutting compost for rooting cuttings in. Here I am now taking Greenwood cuttings from a Buddleja. 

Greenwood cuttings are literally the green shoots from plants which haven’t yet hardened to the same degree as Semiripe and Hardwood cuttings, though are more firm than softwood cuttings.

I have a Buddleja davidii ‘Pink Delight’ which is a beautiful plant but only really manageable for a maximum of five years, beyond this time the plants become too leggy and woody yo be attractive. I want to propagate it to replace it in the autumn after it flowers this summer. Also, it has become unstable in the ground with all the winter winds in December, so replacing it with a young healthy and stable plant rather than use unsightly staking to rectify the root rock, is a much better idea.

when taking cuttings you will need:-

Siutable cutting material, fortunately the way Buddlejas are pruned hard in the winter to flower from the new shoots in the summer is perfect for preparing cutting material from these new shoots.

Plastic or Polythene bags, for keeping your cuttings in during collection or storing in the refrigerator.

Labels and a waterproof label writing pen, I favour a Sharpie!

A large clean and clear work surface with a wipe clean top would be ideal, Im using a tomato tray above as it has a large lip to keep compost from spilling over .

Secateurs, My favourites are Felco no2 of course!

A cutting Knife, the sharper the better, cutting knives are freely available the one above was a cheap one from my local B&Q, though it has a stainless steel blade it comes fully sharp but looses the edge quickly and doesn’t sharpen easily again, whereas a Tina Knife has a soft steel blade and is also easily blunted, it is much easier to resharpen to razor precision. (Buy a Tina, you won’t regret it)

A heated mat propagator, My heat mats are brilliant for providing that essential ingredient to propagation , basal heat. a gentle warmth to rouse those dormant cells into producing roots all over the place.


1. Remove a suitable stem with plenty of young shots on it from the top of the plant , or where the growth is most typical, try and avoid any flowering shoots as these don’t root so easily. Cut the stem out with your secateurs and place in your plastic bag.

2. When you’ve collected all your cutting material, if you do not intend to use the material straight away, place in a refrigerator in the salad crisper until needed. Though don’t leave longer than a week.

3.Otherwise, using your cutting knife, remove a shoot from the main stem. Cut at the base of the shoot just below a leaf petiole, this section is called a node and contain a bud which has the potential t produce shoots and also to produce roots.

4.Trim of the lower leaf petioles neatly as possible so that there is no excess tissue to rot away and inhibit rooting. By removing the leaves , you also reduce transpiration, the plants method of loosing moisture through its leaves and you give the cutting a better chance to reserve water and energy to root instead.

5.I like to remove the tip of the cutting also, so that the side shoots can develop and produce a bushier more aesthetically pleasing plant later on.

6. Repeat this process with as many shots as you need/like until you have the desired amount.

7.Fetch your pre prepared pot of cutting compost and insert around the side of the pot, into the compost so that the stems are pushed in down to the top most leaves, this gives the most chance to the nodes to root from more areas on the cutting.

8.Write out a label as shown above with the name of the plant, how many cuttings have been taken , the date and who has taken the cuttings. Insert the label into the back of the pot, between the compost and the side of the pot and push it down as far as it will go, so that it cannot get accidentally flicked out. 

9. Water well until you can see the water dripping out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, this ensures that all the compost int he pot is wet right through.

10.Place the pot onto the heated mat , at a temperature from 18-25 degrees centigrade is best and quickly helps the cuttings to root.

Your cuttings will root out within a few weeks and will need potting up separately after that also. 

Preparation is the key with gardening in every case, much like when cooking, 99% prep 1%cook! 

Here I’m showing how you should prepare any container for rooting cuttings in. you will need:-

A suitable seed and cutting compost mix, or make your own using one part multipurpose to one part Vermiculite or perlite. Wet the Perlite before using as the dust from dry Perlite is irritant to your lungs.

A variety of different sized containers, pans, trays and pots with drainage holes.

Disposable latex gloves, for handling the compost. Compost tends to dry your hands out.

A striking board, a long baton with a straight edge.

A large clean and clear work surface.

1.Fluff up the seed and cutting compost, I use Sinclair Modular seed compost above, by rubbing it between your hands. Make sure there are no clumps left, this will make it easier for the roots to penetrate the compost and also volumises the compost meaning you use less compost overall and makes the process more economic.

2.Donning your latex disposable gloves and using your hands like shovels, heap as much compost as you can gently into the pot, completely overfilling the pot.

3.Grasp the pot by the rim and raise it a good few inches above the work surface. Bring the pot down sharply upon the work surface , this will consolidate the compost within the pot, evening out any air pockets and allowing the compost to sit level in the pot.

4.Next take your striking board  and in a gentle sawing action , back and forth, begin to saw from the centre of the pot, resting the striking boards straight edge level along the surface of the rim. Come from centre to the right hand side , then back to the centre and to the left hand side. The longer and slower your sawing action, the better the finish you will leave the level of the compost.

5. Your container is now ready to be used for rooting cuttings.

Red Spider Mite !!! AHHHH, again this year on all the overwintering plants in the conservatory. Like some sort of biblical plague they have systematically swept over the Brugmansia sapping its life blood . 

The answer comes in Biological Control, careful research into  the natural predators of Red Spider Mite has revealed that  a similar mite actually eats them, so we introduced 200 adult Phytoseiulus persimilis and hopefully over the course of the next three weeks they will eat all the Red Spider Mite. 

I won’t have used any harmful chemicals and I won’t be jeopardising the environment on a chemical level or a biological one as the Phytoseiulus won’t eat  anything  else thats beneficial, they simple eat each other when the food runs out.

so neat. 

Defenders Ltd. Occupation Road, Wye, Ashford, Kent TN25 5EN

www.defenders.co.uk  help@defenders.co.uk

Preparations are underway for harvesting material for making plant supports this winter. Last year bundles of Silver Birch were collected from trees and hauled up from the woods to make functional and aesthetic plant supports for all manner of different plants. 

This year we will be doing the same and sharing the knowledge of how to create these supports and structures on the 7th and 8th of February at Great Park Farm Catsfield. 

To book your place on the Functional and Aesthetic Plant Supports Masterclass please go to www.josephford.co.uk

I look forward to seeing you there. 

“wow, how expensive are Tulip bulbs”?

The answer is, very. This irks me somewhat, as modern cultivars aren’t very good at flowering a second year. For all their fancy and decadent beauty you’d think you’d be getting a plant that was a lot more reliable. For instance the Penstemon ‘Fujiyama’ I bought in a 9cm pot this spring was £1.95 and has continued to flower right through the summer and will flower again next year reliably and for years to come. Compare this to one bulb of Tulip acuminata I bought for $4.50, which may flower next spring (fingers crossed) and if it does then probably won’t even survive till next year….

This is of course an extreme case , though my point ,that you don’t get much for your money when being tulips, hopefully hits home.

I was so disappointed by this I have made it my mission to compile a list of cultivars which are reliably perennial. By that I mean they will re flower  for at least 5 years without diminishing in quality.

I will then plant them suitably deep , at least 10’ , so that the bulbs are subjected to cool summer temperatures and can focus all of their energy into flowering, rather than be warmed by high summer temperatures at shallower depths and respond by producing lots of vegetative bulblets , which detract all the plants energy away from flowering.

In the above pictures you can see how I’ve created the trial area.

I have made life easy for myself and stolen a corner of the raised vegetable beds, so that i don’t have to excavate a deep trench in uncultivated soil. So after i had made a trench of suitable depth and length, I placed the bulbs in the bottom of the trench in cultivar groups and filled the soil back in , labelling carefully where each group of bulbs was so I can  monitor their performance over the next 5 years.

Tulips used.

China Town, Rococo, La Belle Epoue, Angelique, Libretto Parrot, Greenland, Madonna, Green Star, Green River, Greenwave, Formosa, Exotic Emperor, Spring green, Purissima, Webers Parrot, Super Parrot, Maureen Double, Little Girl, Air, Oratorio, Fur Elise, Artist, Golden Artist, Toronto, Proffessor Rontgen, Texas Gold, Rai, Parrot Lady, Tangerine Beauty, Virichic, Flaming Spring Green.

Older Posts

Custom Post Images

Stacks Image 138