At the October 18 of 2009 CNPS propagation session, we prepared some Dicentra formosa stolon cuttings. (Stolons are underground stems - something I keep having to look up.) There were a lot left over, and I took them home and prepared about 8 gallon pots.
To prepare stolon cuttings, you make sure to include at least two leaf nodes, and you clip close to the nodes at either end so the meristematic tissues in the nodes can set their adaptable cells to building roots below and stems and leaves above.
We laid two cuttings per gallon pot horizontally and covered with about an inch of the growing medium, which was a bit richer than usual as I recall. We weren't sure how deep to put the cuttings and I still have not found that info so if someone knows please comment!
One of my cuttings sprouted within a month, and I was happy to get any success at all. I just left the rest hanging around, and nothing was happening at all. I don't know what made the difference - but another four in the cold frame have sprouted just this week - three months later! Never give up hope :-)
I had been ignoring the cold frame pretty much but decided to close it up to keep the torrential rains out. Maybe it kept them at the right temperature, and in moist conditions, or maybe they have a biological clock? I don't know.
Last week the propagation group met again, and a member had brought in a bunch of Western azalea, Rhododendron occidentale, for cuttings. They were growing natively at his Boulder Creek home. With the leftovers I made a tray of cuttings for myself. I would love to have some of this azalea - it is deer proof, and locally native. Also my daughter lives in Boulder Creek and it would be great to give her some plants.
Inspired by all the propagation work, I also I made a tray of cuttings of the ceanothus that grows on our property, Ceanothus papillus, Wartleaf Ceanothus. They are in Rat's office, along with the Holodiscus discolor cuttings that I potted on, of which about eight are now doing OK. Down quite a few, but I'm happy.
Yesterday I visited a neighbor to ask if the Ceanothus thyrsiflorus growing along the road on her property was native or planted. Native, she assured me, and showed me another one behind her house. "They used to grow all over here, they were everywhere thirty years ago," she said. "I don't know what happened to them all." She invited me to take cuttings and we mused about the fate of the ceanothus, and I took some pictures of her beside two huge trees that came down on her property in last week's storm. Fortunately the only damage was to her wood shed.
So I gathered and planted cuttings of Ceanothus thyrsiflorus, but when I was preparing the cuttings I noticed a lot had brown blotches on them. I cut most of it off, but am not happy. I might get more cuttings today from the roadside tree which looks a lot more healthy. I also made cuttings of Quercus agrifolia (from the little coast live oak that was downed in the storm - whose rings told me it was about 15 years old), and both "varieties" of manzanita, which I haven't yet identified - I'm calling them Arctostaphylos tomentosa crustacea "chubby bud"and Arctostaphylos tomentosa crustacea "droopy bud."
The droopybud ones have that extra long leaf thingy over the top of each flower (or is it a floret). I labeled each set of cuttings separately and will be overwhelmingly happy if I get results from both so I can compare the young plants. Jeffrey Caldwell told me that our manzanitas are at least several decades old. Some are looking really more dead than alive. If I can propagate them I'll be very relieved to have a way to perpetuate them, and share them with neighbors.
I also set some cuttings from a native rose that grows on our property. I'm not sure which kind it is - I am guessing it is Rosa californica but maybe it's Rosa gymnocarpa. I don't know how to tell as yet. I made an irrigation tubing framework for the cuttings and covered it with plastic, which is the method that seems to work.
I read that the mixture for arctostaphylos should be about 8:2 perlite:vermiculite. But I added a handful of peat moss too just because I couldn't help myself. Even though I read this on a CNPS forum (accessed 1/23/10):
Another thing about native shrub cuttings is that people often over-water or over mist them. If possible, wate[r] the cutting flat so that just the cutting medium gets wet. Continual water on the leaves of the cuttings can rot them. This is especially true of manzanitas, which are highly susceptible to fu[n]gal pathogens.OK, I'll do my best! I don't know why I added the peat. It just seems so - sterile. But then I realize that the cuttings don't need any nutrition while they are first putting out roots. That comes at the 4 inch pot stage once the roots are established.
The cuttings have overspilled from Rat's office, now full up, to the master bathroom. And in case you are wondering about the greenhouse - work goes on apace, though rain put a stop to work for a week there. Here's a sneak peek at the current state of affairs.