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Friday, November 6, 2009 TARANAKI DAILY NEWS

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GARDENING
While rhododendrons are generally difficult to strike from cuttings and need a full temperature-controlled propagation unit, the subtropical vireyas strike easily and can be done by any home gardener. The problem is keeping the plants alive later, not getting roots on them. Because vireyas grow year round, cuttings can be taken any time the plant has suitable material.

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Look for stems that are firm recent growth, but not woody. Flex the stem in your fingers. If it feels floppy, the growth is still too new and soft. If it snaps, it is getting closer, but still not quite ready. If it feels firm but flexible, it should be ideal. If it is woody and rigid, it is too old, though it may still root. It takes a few practice runs, but you will learn to feel when the stem is right for taking as a cutting. The one on the left in the photo has snapped and is too soft. The one in the middle is perfect and the one on the right is too woody. For ease of handling, a cutting should be around 12cm long. Sometimes the cutting is firm at the base but too soft at the top. You can trim off the top section in this case, as long as you still have leaves farther down.

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Growing vireya rhododendrons from cuttings: a step-by-step guide with Abbie and Mark Jury.

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Make a clean cut across the base with a sharp knife or secateurs. Using a sharp knife, cut a sliver off the bark for the bottom 2cm or so of the cutting on two sides. This is where the fresh roots will form, so you want wounds on both sides of the plant.

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Cut back the leaves to half size to stop the cutting from drying out quickly. Rooting hormone applied to the wounds you’ve made at the bottom of the cutting is optional, but will increase success rates if you have it.

Stick the cutting into potting mix, preferably with no fertiliser added. You can cover the pot with a loose, clear plastic bag or a cut-off plastic PET bottle to keep it warmer, but support the plastic bag on a wire hoop so it does not knock the cutting. Keep the potting mix damp but not saturated. You may see roots forming in about six weeks or so, but cuttings are best left undisturbed for three or four months. Do not keep lifting out the cutting to check progress. Be patient.

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What’s on today (6th Nov)
Guided Walks: 9am (for the less mobile) meet
at the Curator’s Office at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth & 3pm at Pukeiti in New Plymouth

Olin and Caro
It is only appropriate to keep with rhododendrons as our festival steams on, so it is two half-siblings this week. Olin O. Dobbs is the mysterious and unusual brother (he and his sister share Purple Splendour as a father) – spectacular conical trusses in the deepest blackberry colour, rivalling Blackberry Nip rose, but Olin does not fade out. Unfortunately, despite being much sought after when in flower because of the striking hue, Olin is difficult to propagate (basically, it needs to be grafted), so is nearly impossible to find on the market. He also prefers a colder climate and gets infested by thrips here, so does not look crash hot for the 50 weeks when not in flower. We don’t mind because we will trade all that for two or three weeks of blackberry splendour. Half-sister Caroline Allbrook is a pretty, pale lavender and a reliable performer every year here. Caro also distinguishes herself by holding well when picked, which is by no means true of all rhododendrons. She has a great flower truss, is easy to grow and should be reasonably available in the marketplace. She does look rather fine planted beside Olin in our carpark area, but you could use the burgundy foliage of loropetalum to contrast in the absence of Olin. For devotees, the seed parent of Olin is Mars and for Caro it is the species yakushimanum. – Abbie Jury

Jazz & Wine: 5.30pm at King’s Garden in Inglewood

Open Daily Du ring Festival Centre City, Le vel 3 FREE ENTRY

Landscape Design Proje ct

For a Festival Programme & tickets
Call 0800 RHODOFEST (0800 746 363) www.rhodo.co.nz
CORE FUNDERS

What’s on tomorrow (7th Nov)
Garden Speaker: Taming the Wilderness, 10am at
Tikorangi (The Jury Garden) in Waitara & All you ever wanted to know about Epiphyllums, 2pm at Rosedale in Bell Block

Farmers Market: 9am to 12noon at Hollards in Kaponga
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