Fall and spring are good times to think about making babies. And we’re talking about propagating plants for your own garden or to re-gift to friends and family.
Propagation is such a technical and intimidating term. Sometimes, it’s appropriate for the machinations of creating new plants. One example is the technique of “layering” stems of a living plant; the stems later put down roots and can be separated from the parent plant to become a new baby from the garden. Not too complex really, but some memory and delayed gratification is required. Another example recalls the story of a friend who used an electric toothbrush to stimulate reproduction of his squash. Similarly, a bit complicated, if not slightly provocative.
No, today we will keep it simple. Here are just a few examples of making babies in the garden:
This low-maintenance perennial shrub puts up gorgeous globe-like blooms the size of Tilley Hats. It enjoys sunshine but can tolerate some shade too. We have some white-blooming and a couple of pink-blooming varieties. The blooms create a nice counterpoint to the shrub’s huge green leaves, and can be brought inside for a stunning bouquet, fresh or dried. Making Hydrangea babies: The Hydrangea roots spread vigorously. I’ve found they benefit from a mulch of large rocks, twisting and turning around the rocks to see moisture and provide a solid base for the shrub. In fall or spring, dig up some roots, with stems attached, on the side of the shrub’s root ball. Trim most of the leaves off the stems and place in a pot, well watered, until you have decided on a new site to transplant. Use some compost for a nutritional head-start when you replant.
Red Bergamot (Bee’s Balm):
Like Hydrangea, this perennial flower spreads vigorously by roots. My parents-in-law Ann and Claus acquired some on a walk around Horseshoe Lake. They were dazzled by the red blooms and complimented the gardener, an older gent with a massive garden on Reynolds Road. He promptly offered them some. Now the gift has been given again, as Ann encouraged me to take a couple of plants from Claus’s veggie garden this summer. They had provided chaotic colour at one end of the garden, north of Claus’s orderly rows of beans, kohlrabi, peas and other veggies. Bergamot also has herbal/medicinal qualities. Making Bergamot babies: Dig up some root with stems and leaves in fall or spring, place in a pot and keep well watered until you find a new spot to plant. The leaves may die back a bit, but the plant will put out new leaves once it recovers. Once planted, stick a plastic marker next to the new plant to remember the location. With some TLC, your baby Bergamot will put on a nice scarlet and aromatic show next year.
I found a stem of this plant growing as a volunteer in my Thorncliffe Park Community Garden plot, but I have also propagated it by digging up part of a vine from its root. A native Ontario species, it produces sweet small purple grapes in fall. These were key to Ontario’s wine industry before fancier varieties came along. You can also eat the leaves, steamed or baked, I believe, as we have had visitors making off with bags full of grape leaves. Making Concord Grape babies: Keep an eye for a baby plant or dig up part of the root of an existing vine. Keep it well watered until you find a new location to plant the baby. In future, enjoy a sweet late summer grape-snack or make grape juice or jelly!