Life With Ferris: Addicted To Plant Propagating

Monday, January 25, 2021 - by Ferris Robinson

I do not have a green thumb. I struggle to keep plants alive in my house. Sansevieria, aka Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, is touted as impossible to kill. I’ve slaughtered a multitude of them, unintentionally, I promise.

But as challenged as I am in the plant department, my interest in propagating them is 100 fold. It’s my neighbor’s fault. Marcia told me she’d propagated all of her oak leaf hydrangea herself. As a matter of fact, she’s propagated lots of the plants in her gorgeous yard, which is a knock-out, magazine-worthy piece of property. She said her husband asked why she didn’t just buy the shrubs instead of working so hard to make them root, but she just shrugged and said, “It’s so much more fun.”

I’m with her. Sure, I could go to the nursery and buy healthy, mature plants that are guaranteed to flourish. But what’s the fun in that? (You don’t have to answer.)

Thanks to Marcia, I’m addicted to plant propagation. I belong to a Facebook group called “I Love Plant Propagation” and I hound UGA horticulture major Molly for instruction on hardwood, softwood and semi-hardwood propagating. My friends roll their eyes when I ask if I can take clippings of their hydrangea or winterberry. As Gracie says when I ask to snip her prized shrub, “Do I have a choice?”

I concentrate on propagating native plants that are rock stars for wildlife, and hope everything I plant is stripped bare after being gobbled up by a hungry critter of some sort. I’ve got tiny beautyberry sprigs and calycanthus seeds and sweet spire babies all tucked in and I’m keeping a close watch.

So far nothing’s really grown, and I say that quite cheerfully. I regularly toss out dead twigs that are covered in rooting hormone and pluck out cuttings that have turned to slime from the container where they are supposed to turn to plants. 

But this new hobby keeps me out of mischief for the most part – I’ve had worse obsessions. My husband has mixed feelings. I’ve completely taken over the workbench in the garage he built specifically for himself, and he warns me NOT to plant things willy-nilly, demanding I check with my mother before digging. He calls the garage “the factory,” and blows a shrill whistle when it’s time for me to cook dinner.

Right now, there are dozens of little rhododendron cuttings, and a few of Gracie’s winterberry twigs, lots of Hazel’s and Angie’s hydrangea and some of Mefran’s magnolia, all tucked away in safe spots over the winter. And I’m working on more because Molly says the winter is a good time to take cuttings since everything is dormant.

I’m not dormant. The factory is operating at full capacity. (If you have winterberry in your yard, guard it.)

* * *

Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator series. “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com and you can download a free pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.



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