Thursday, November 3, 2016

Hedge Now to Prevent Winter Losses: Cuttings to propagate tender perennials

By Stephanie Rukowicz

Stephanie Rukowicz

The winter climate in Philadelphia has been quite variable over the past 10 years. In the past 7 that we've lived at our current residence, two consecutive Winters were so cold that the Springs that followed saw my 60+ year old fig tree die back to the ground and the loss of my rosemary plants. This was soon after Philadelphia saw a one-half zone change. Here in South Philly, the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map has me in zone 7B.

Not one to bring in pots of tender perennials to overwinter, I take a different approach. As part of putting my garden to bed, I now take cuttings of many zone 7-8 plants and trees I would be sad to lose. If we end up having a typical mild winter, the worst that happens is I have more to plant or more to give away come Spring. Some cuttings can be easily propagated by taking cuttings and putting them in water, changing water every day (or when you can remember) until they root. This Mother Earth Living author even discovers how to use water for Bay Leaf cuttings with 100% propagation success rate (page 2 of 3 in article).

Barbecue Rosemary cuttings taken from my
community garden.
The sunniest window sills are typically crowded by early spring with cuttings, sweet potatoes, and seedlings, but for the last month of Fall and first month of Winter, rosemary and fig cuttings brighten my window when the view outside gets a little gray.

The above cuttings were taken in late October, when we were having unusually warm weather. I decided to take cuttings from a variety of rosemary unfamiliar to me until this spring: Barbecue. Named such for its sturdy stems, said to be strong enough to use as skewers for shish kabobs, infusing the food cooked on it with flavor of rosemary.

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