Cuttings: Weekend work

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The Independent Online
JULY'S heat has made fast work of ripening seed. Some is best sown as soon as it is gathered. Aquilegias, for example, germinate well if sown now in pots or boxes of damp compost and left in shade. I had some good new aquilegias this season; crosses, I suspect, between shaggy 'Nora Barlow' and a deep-blue granny's bonnet. The result was a tight, double aquilegia, making bright blue ruffled buttons.

Primula seed is also best sown fresh, though it may baulk at the present hot conditions. Like pansies, it germinates best in cool conditions. Seed of astrantia, campanula, foxglove, hellebore, hollyhock, honesty and polemonium can all be sown freshly gathered, though not all will be ready yet. Seed of eccremocarpus, hanging in thickly clustered pods, is best saved until spring.

Garlic can be lifted as soon as the tops begin to wither, and onions turned down to help the bulbs ripen. It has been too hot and dry for radish and lettuce to germinate successfully, but earlier sowings of 'Fortune' (Suttons, 70p) and 'Lolla Rossa' (Johnsons, 90p) are still providing salads.

Summer pruning of espalier, fan and cordon-trained apple and pear trees needs to be tackled. Long, fresh shoots on the main branches should be cut back to three or four leaves above the dorsal cluster. Where spurs have got really nobbly, cut back shoots, leaving only one leaf.

Philadelphus and weigela may need thinning. Cut out about a third of the flower stems, as close to the base as possible. Spring- flowering ceanothus trained on a wall can be tidied up by trimming unwanted shoots and tying in the rest.

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