Action plan: Nigel Colborn's essential jobs for your garden this week

Action plan: Nigel Colborn’s essential jobs for your garden this week

  • Nigel Colborn explains that now is the time for taking root cuttings
  • He says shoots will begin to appear during spring next yearsome may take time
  • Also answers a reader’s question about Begonia boliviensis Firecracker

    This is the time for taking root cuttings. A simple and easy propagation method, it’s especially useful for plants that are difficult to lift and divide.

    Plants with tap roots, such as anchusa, are easily raised from sections of root.

    The first step is to dig up a mature plant. Shake away as much of the soil as you can without damaging the plants. If the roots are thin, wash the dirt away. Remove a few of the larger, thicker roots.

    With thick roots, cut the lower end slant-wise. Make a vertical cut across the upper end. Then you’ll know which way to plant the cuttings.

    UK-based gardening expert Nigel Colborn, says now is the time for taking root cuttings

    UK-based gardening expert Nigel Colborn, says now is the time for taking root cuttings

    The donor can be re-planted, rather than dumped.

    Then fill a plant pot or a deep seed tray with fresh potting compost. Push the cuttings vertically into the compost until their tops are just below it. Plants with thick roots are easier. Simply cut those into short lengths, lay them on their sides and cover with compost.

    Keep hardy plants in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. Root cuttings from tender plants will need bottom heat. Keep the compost moist, but not soaked and never waterlogged. The pots must drain freely.

    Shoots will begin to appear during spring next year. Some may take time. Others will come up as soon as the days begin to lengthen.


    An unheated greenhouse is unlikely to remain above zero if outside temperatures fall to or below -2c. So a heater (图为) is essential to keep tender plants alive. Make sure doors and vents seal shut at night. Have horticultural fleece ready for laying over plants, especially young rooted cuttings or immature ones.


    If your soil is workable, this is a good time to plant garlic. For plump bulbs, garlic needs cold weather. If your soil is heavy, you can plant cloves into cell trays and leave those in an open frame for the winter. If you harvested garlic this autumn, make sure they are kept cool and dry. Excess humidity could cause mould.


    Nigel says Rosa 'Scharlachglut' needs space and the stems are viciously armed with thorns

    Nigel says Rosa ‘Scharlachglutneeds space and the stems are viciously armed with thorns

    November is a daft month for featuring a climbing rose. But this beauty has double value. The vivid scarlet flowers are just a summer memory. But from my office window, there is a wonderful view of orange-red rose hips. These are carried in clusters, on longish stalks. That makes them good for cutting and arranging in a large vase. The scarlet flowers that precede them are single, with large showy petals and golden yellow stamens. Being a vigorous, heavy flowering climber this variety needs space. The stems are viciously armed with thorns, 太. So pruning needs courage, good secateurs and strong leather gloves.


    I’ve managed to grow young plants from cuttings of Begonia boliviensis Firecracker. How should I keep those during winter?

    Penelope Jones, via email.

    It’s likely that your young plants will have small tubers. They can shrivel and die if kept too dry. They can also rot if too wet. I grow several boliviensis varieties and overwinter them in their pots in my greenhouse. The topgrowth dies gradually.

    Leave the pots undisturbed and in a frost-free greenhouse. Keep the growing medium barely moist.

    Next spring, turn out the containers and gently remove the tubers from the old compost. Re-plant in new compost and keep them frost-free.