For days the leaves have been softly and silently falling and everywhere there is the growing sense of gentle, gradual decay. At the allotment some of the apples are still glowing on the trees, only outshone by the yellow of the quinces, but the air is scented by the fermenting, ciderishness of the fallers all slowly rotting on the ground. The nights are arriving unexpectedly early and despite the last few Indian summer days, there is a chill in the air. It’s strange that all of this feels energy renewing and satisfying.
Yes, the developing plot is an overgrown, tumbling, toppling mess, but there is the rest of Autumn and Winter to sort that out. Not so with the allotment where yet another inspection is looming next weekend. But despite this my attention has been stolen by propagation. Three courses in one year and lots of extra knowledge to synthesise. The first at Green and Gorgeous in March perhaps set an impossibly high bar. Just one highlight of many: all nine dahlia basal cuttings taken there developed into beautiful, productive plants – flowering before the ones I had left in the ground. Now I have the knowledge to do this again on my own plants next Spring and, of course, to produce more dahlias than I could possibly use, but how lovely.
The second course was in September with Derry Watkins at her home next to her excellent nursery, Special Plants. Set up first with the most delicious cake I’ve ever tasted, we had a intensive day learning some of the tricks of her trade. Here, under her very watchful eye, we learned to take cuttings precisely with the right tools – razor blades and Stanley knives – and what to do with them afterwards. In the afternoon, we were given free time to take cuttings from the plants in her beautiful garden. Now in my greenhouse, I have a selection of healthy rooted cuttings.Last Friday the third and final course with Rosy Hardy at Hardy’s Cottage Plants was two intense hours of learning. Lots of my fixed ideas were debunked in a fast-moving and information-packed morning. Who knew that seedlings should be pricked out so small, with barely a true leaf showing – definitely not me. Also a surprise was how small tip cuttings should be. I won’t be bothering with hormone rooting powder from now on either and on Derry and Rosy’s advice penstemon cuttings will be taken by the end of August. Perhaps this is why this early Autumn has felt so especially life affirming – it’s not just the harvest: it’s also the greenhouse shelves with all their promise of what is to come next year.