Taking cuttings is usually a high-maintenance activity. It requires quick work followed by careful nurturing to coax out new, life-sustaining roots before the cutting runs out of juice and wilts. Phew.
But hardwood cuttings are not like this. This is because they are taken in winter when growth has hardened and is almost in hibernation rather than during the quick, warm months when life is surging and growth is soft and vulnerable.
Plant metabolism is close to standstill now, and this means we don’t have to race hardwood cuttings from plant to plastic bag to compost to keep them alive. Results are also correspondingly leisurely, but this is the slow, steady and easy end of plant propagation. Such cuttings are a great means of increasing your stock of roses, deciduous shrubs and climbers if you have spaces to fill or people you would like to give them to as gifts.
A good place to start though is with the faster-growing deciduous shrubs – cornus, willow, weigela, kerria, philadelphus and forsythia for instance – which are among the easiest to root this way. You can also increase black, red and white currants, gooseberries, figs and mulberries by acting now.
How to take hardwood cuttings
Select healthy shoots that have grown during the year, but are now firm and woody.
Each cutting should be between 8-12 in (20-30cm) long. You should cut just below a leaf joint at the base and just above one at the tip.
Choose a tucked-away spot outside, make a narrow trench in the soil with a spade, then line the base of the trench with sharp sand or horticultural grit for drainage.
Dip the cut end into hormone rooting powder and drop your cuttings into the trench until they are two thirds below ground, and then firm in the soil around them.
Space each cutting 4-6in apart, water thoroughly and then forget about them, except to give them a dribble of water in dry weather.
Next autumn, with the bare minimum of fuss, you will have little rooted plants ready to dig up, pot up and give away, or plant out in their destined spot.
The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2018 by Lia Leendertz (Unbound, £9.99). To order your copy for £7.99 plus p&p call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk