This Weeks Guest Blogger is Soham Kacker, a Horticulturist and Member of the Young Propagators Society

A Passion for Propagation

I’ve always found there to be an element of wonder and curiosity in sowing seeds and waiting for them to germinate; or taking a cutting and watching it seem to shrivel before it unexpectedly bursts into new growth; or grafting two stems together to observe them slowly fuse together. The ability of plants to regenerate, renew and reproduce is placed front and centre in the techniques of propagation – which seem to lie firmly in the overlap between art and science.

Seeds from tropical trees I propagated while working at the city forest

From the first time I began growing things, I became fascinated with the minute details of these techniques – and how each plant needed a slightly different approach informed by an understanding of its preferences, natural habits and characteristics. I started with the basics: softwood cuttings of houseplants like coleus; growing annual flowers and salad greens from seeds; dividing bunches of daylilies in my garden… Gradually, the more I read, practiced and spoke to more experienced growers, I learnt more complex techniques – air layering the citrus trees in my yard; grafting mulberry saplings (my favourite fruit as a child) in early spring; and germinating many species of tropical trees from seeds which each needed unique care.

Tropical tree seeds (Cassia fistula) a few weeks after germination

In high school, I sought out opportunities where I could broaden my skills and knowledge while practicing on many different plants. I volunteered in the nursery at my local city forest helping to grow native trees and shrubs for habitat-restoration efforts, and apprenticed at the Auroville Botanical Gardens in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu where I learned how to grow collections of exotic plants. My love for propagation only grew (pun intended?) and with each new experience – be it a success or failure – I acquired a deeper understanding and appreciation of the plants I worked with.

Calculating seed viability by tests on damp paper towels

The wonderful thing about propagation is that there’s something in it for everyone. Whether you are a beginner or someone with years of experience, there is always room for more experimentation and growth. The Young Propagators Society was founded to unite people who are similarly interested – so that they could discuss, interact and learn from each other. The steadily growing self-published zine (distributed both in paper form and online) combines tips and tricks, interviews, articles and art – all with the common background of propagation. The recently launched YPS website allows members to share and communicate more directly, and aims to promote a global and inter-generational flow of scientific knowledge and horticultural skill. I have been able to ask other growers about the methods they use, the materials they employ, and the results they observe – and I have gained much from these exchanges. The YPS has also encouraged me to share my experiences with a passionate and nurturing community, and has ensured that we – as gardeners – continue to grow.

Nursery beds at the nursery at the Auroville Botanical Gardens

You can look up the YPS website here:

Instagram: @youngpropagatorssociety.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Georgie Newbery an Artisan Florist and Flower Farmer

Here at Common Farm Flowers in Somerset, our ethos is clear: look after the invertebrates, and the rest of the food chain will look after itself. It may look as though we grow flowers to make a living… Well, we do! But we choose to make a living growing flowers because that way, so long as we grow flowers with an eye to the invertebrates who will profit from the flowers we sow, then our whole environment will be enriched.

And having been invited to write a post for The Gardening with Disabilities Trust I wonder if I can encourage you to do the same.

Whether you garden a large space or a small pot, you can always sow a seed with the environment in mind and there are lots of ways you can do it.

1 make sure the compost you use is peat free: peat based composts are created using peat cut from fast disappearing peat bogs which, undisturbed, act as huge carbon sequestering sinks. There are lots of alternatives to using peat based composts. Always ask for peat free when visiting the garden centre or ordering online as the more the customers ask the more suppliers will know that the demand is there for peat free compost.

2 make sure that the flowers you sow are bee and pollinator friendly and haven’t been dipped in herbicide or fungicide. You can usually tell seed which has been treated with poison because it’ll will be an unnatural colour – a strange green, or unnatural looking yellow. It should say on the seed packet when seed has been treated. Always check. Equally varieties which are advertised as ‘pollen free,’ or ‘hayfever friendly,’ will be no good for your environment. They may not make you sneeze, but they will not give anything to your local invertebrate population who may go hungry as a result.

3 sow varieties which are easy for your flying friends to feed from, so flat face flowers, not so heavy with petals that only those air born creatures with incredibly long proboscis can access the pollen or nectar. A flat faced flower, with easy landing stages (petals,) and wide areas of pollen for collecting will please your flying friends no end, as well as pleasing you. You could choose an easy mix of repeat flowering annuals to sow in a pot or a bed, and both your vases and your invertebrates will be full.

Five faves: Ammi majus for lace
Cosmos for a daisy shape
Chinese forget me not – the bees LOVE them
Sweet peas for scent
And last but not least nigella because the birds too will be happy if you let them set seed for the birds to eat as the seed scatters.

Georgie Newbery is a flower farmer and florist based between Bruton and Wincanton in Somerset. Join her online or at the farm for one of her popular workshops, or follow her on youtube for lots more gardening tips and tricks.