Lockdown has increased our interest in both the craft of gardening and the notion of making do with what we have about us to create, repair and grow.
When garden centres weren't open, we purchased seeds online to ensure we had plants... either to eat or to enhance our environments.
So many new gardeners have, through these strangest of times, discovered the thrill of nurturing a plant into life. It's probably the ultimate creative satisfaction - and, of course, it can save you a lot of money as well.
We start off with seeds, but now is the time for our new budding gardeners to take the next step... let's take some cuttings!
With a new garden, this can be the most economical way to get started. By cuttings, I mean taking a piece off one plant and rooting it in a growing medium such as compost, which results in a new young plant.
These can be taken throughout the year - fresh softwood cuttings in spring, greenwood at the moment, semi-ripe during late summer, and hardwood cuttings (such as dogwoods) during the winter.
You don't even need your own mother-stock to start off - gardeners like to share, so if your family, friends or neighbours have plants you admire, why not ask them if you can take some cuttings? Always ask permission first, though (see tip, above)!
So, what can you be cutting right now? Greenwood cuttings are taken from the tips of leafy stems: they will be quite soft but not as soft as sappy spring growth. Among the many suitable plants for propagation in this way are gooseberries, delphinium, gypsophila, chrysanthemum, pelargonium, vines, fuchsia, lavatera, helianthemum, ceanothus (main photo), philadelphus and forsythia.
Your main difficulty is keeping the stem alive once you have lopped it off from its parent. So the best way to do this is early in the morning when the plant is full of water. Choose a healthy-looking specimen, without any visible signs of pests or diseases, and select a non-flowering shoot. Using a secateurs, cut about four to five inches off, just beneath a bud or leaf node, and immediately place the cutting in water or a plastic bag to minimise water loss.
You'll want to get these planted up as soon as possible after cutting. Plants lose water through their leaves so trim leaves from the base - you only need leaves at the tip. Remember to use clean secateurs: you are creating an open wound in the plant, so you don't want any dirt to get in.
If you choose, you can dip the base of the cutting in rooting powder or gel - this is a hormonal powder which may stimulate and increase the quality of the roots. Rooting powders have different strengths; for these cuttings, you will need to use softwood strength. Ideally, the powder will contain a small amount of fungicide as well (if not, get this separately). Some people swear that honey does just as good a job.
Fill pots or trays with cuttings compost and firm the compost down so there are no air pockets. Now insert the cuttings, water with a watering can with a fine rose and cover with polythene to prevent water loss.
Your cuttings will need adequate light to start developing roots but don't put them somewhere too hot where the leaves will be scorched or the plants will dry out. If you overwater, you run the risk of saturating the plant and rotting it - but don't let it dry out too much either.
After about three to eight weeks, the stem will have developed its own root system and become a fully independent plant. You can repot these individually now and allow them to grow on.
If you're really successful at this, you may find you have more plants than you need. Someone somewhere will be delighted to receive them and so, the circle of plant giving continues...
In gardens open to the public, respect any signs asking you not to take cuttings. Head gardeners have found choice shrubs completely stripped of foliage by stealthy gardeners with a pair of scissors and a plastic bag!