Saturday, June 11, 2011

Arbutus Cuttings

What follows are notes intended in part for myself that will record what actions were taken.  If successful, I would like to be able to do it again.  If unsuccessful, then perhaps the cause of the problem can be determined.  Arbutus cuttings were taken the day after thunderstorms.  Maximum moisture in the plant cells should be the case following heavy rain.  Cuttings that take found moisture.  What better way to start than with a full tank?  Except for the four dark green specimens at the right, new growth supplied cutting material.  New cells are more likely to change function and I need the cells at the cut site to change to root and crown cells.  The four old cuttings represent mistakes on my part.  That is a comment on my learning curve.

New Arbutus growth springs from the tip of last year's growth and the spent flowers.  A new main stem winds above the ground with leaf stems branching from it.  Sever the main stem at its point of origin.  The first leaf stem was removed with a crescent shaped piece of the main stem attached.  A dip in water was followed by a dusting in rooting hormone.  The cutting was then placed in an opened hole in the rooting medium.  The rooting compound must remain on the newly cut surface.  Placing the stem in a fully opened hole avoids wiping off the compound on the soil.  On this day a second leaf stem was removed with the arc of main stem attached.  The leaf at the tip of the main stem went in with newly cut main stem.

Leaf size decreased as I approached the tip of the main stem.  Tiny leaves were at the end of the main stem.  Since new cells are more likely to change function than old cells, I expect the tiny leaved cuttings to root and form new plants.  Larger older leaves may be less likely to take.  The four old dark green cuttings from last year's growth are expected to die.

The soil used is my own mixture. A commercial seed/cutting mix was my starting point. Discs of tree bark were part of the mix and I screened them out. Litter under a white pine tree and clumps of growing moss with its root mass intact were also forced through the fine screen and added to the commercial mix. Some vermiculite straight from the bag completed the mixture. I do not measure but my best guess is three parts commercial mix, two parts forest floor litter and one part vermiculite would repeat my mix. My mix was placed in a cell tray and the whole mess was moistened. It matured for several days before it received the cuttings.

Clean sharp garden pruners cut the main stems from the donor plants. A hobby knife with a new blade cut the leaf stems from the main stems. A block of soft pine lumber provided a work surface. A small container of water, a small container of rooting hormone and a toothpick for making planting holes completes the list of necessary tools.

A clear plastic dome covers the tray of cuttings.  The tray is near a basement window where it receives a generous dose of indirect light.  Now we wait.  The cuttings will receive a glance every time I exit or enter the basement.  I will try to complete my inspections without lifting the clear cover.  So far so good.

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