Time to cut.
Yes, now that my plants are finally growing I am whacking on them, otherwise known as taking cuttings. And as you may recall this is the Year of the Clematis, so those vines are the first to get it.
DISCLOSURE: I have never before in my whole life ever attempted to start clematis plants from cuttings.
So here I am writing about it, with zero experience, because it’s the time of year to take the cuttings and I didn’t want you to miss out on the drama, plus this whole effort is making me very nervous and I need support. (Perhaps you’ll try it too from peer pressure, just like in junior high.)
And now I am going to stop right here and totally appreciate the readers who might be real cutting experts out there, gardeners with razor sharp secateurs (those are scissors, I looked it up) and brand new jars of hormone powder and perhaps even with beautiful automatic heater/mister arrangements. But I don’t have any of those things so I will be using other things.
OK, moving on.
First you find a clematis with enough growth that it won’t be killed for the summer if you cut off a chunk.
I gathered from vast minutes of reading that you need a long enough piece of the vine that there is a sort of middle part, not just the little soft curly top bit. Then you sever it with whatever is playing the role of secateurs, in my case a pair of scissors.
Aren’t illustrations great? Just cut the vine to ribbons as shown above.
Next you dip the bottom end of the stem into hormone stuff, and it better be new, not some dumb hormone stuff you got three years ago when you were trying to propagate those lilacs. So, I dip the stem in my three-year-old hormone stuff…
I did get a little bit on me because I always get everything on me. (Once when I was painting a wall a total stranger told me I looked like a speckled chicken.)
Oh this is a great photo! It features my Tunnel Device for making a spacious hole in the soil — and if you think the Tunnel Device looks like a tiny upside-down paintbrush that just shows that you don’t know about these special tools. The TD creates a nice little hole in the soil so that you can slide in the cutting without whisking off all the hormone powder. (Note: yes I know the hormone powder is so old that it is probably useless but if you have no respect for ritual then there is just no helping you.)
I added some extra perlite to the potting soil so it will stay nice and moist because cuttings are seriously thwarted by drought.
You situate the little leaf node so it’s just peeky-peeky out of the soil and all the two-inch stem is down below.
Apparently roots can come barreling straight out of the stems of clematis cuttings, not like roses where the roots seem to like a nice leaf node from which to shyly sneak forth. (Some people do leave a leaf node on bottom of the clematis cuttings, but I belong to the no-node group until all the cuttings die, then I switch.)
As a final gesture to show this little cutting exactly who is boss around here, or possibly to limit moisture loss etc etc, you snip its poor remaining leaves in the heartless fashion as shown in Figure A-54. (Don’t go feeling bad about it, it’s good for them, just like brandy is good for you. Trust me on this.)
(My goodness it is fun to put in those blue arrows, you should try it.)
Then, because I don’t have a mister arrangement (I do have a Mr. O, so I don’t mean that kind of mister arrangement, I mean the fog kind), I put a plastic bag over the pot to keep it mega-moist.
And a bamboo barbecue skewer goes in one corner to hold the bag up. (I have these bamboo skewers left from when I tried to grill what people call “kabobs” on my barbecue grill which is since known as “the food incinerator.”) And you nip a hole in the top of the bag to let in some air.
After a while the bag will get all misty inside, and this makes the cutting feel better like maybe it isn’t going to die. Then you put the whole ensemble in a bright but not sunny place and don’t let it get hugely hot or you’ll end up with steamed cutting for supper.
Now here is a very hopeful picture. This is a clematis cutting from one week ago and it is looking pretty darn possibly not dead. VERY hopeful.
The experienced people say it can take five to eight weeks to root clematis cuttings, and that you should probably grow the new plants with care for a year before kicking them out into the garden. I also learned that many commercial clematis plants are grafted onto some sturdy rootstock, like maybe a redwood tree or a saguaro cactus, but honestly people should have some faith in Mother Nature and relax.
I may have created too many clematis cuttings.
But the blooms are so pretty. And surely the cuttings will grow.