Gardening: Cuttings: Weekend work

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The Independent Online
TREES and shrubs normally propagated by grafting (cherries, lilacs, crab apples and medlars) may start throwing up suckers from the rootstock. As with roses, these interlopers often grow more strongly than the graft and must be dealt with quickly. Above ground, cut off suckers flush with the trunk. Below ground, take them back as far as possible to the root system before severing them.

Several traditional cottage-garden plants - sweet williams, wallflowers and forget-me-nots - are biennials and can be sown now, in rows outside. Scatter the seed as thinly as you can, in drills well soaked with water. Thompson and Morgan has an old-fashioned strain of sweet william called 'Auricula Eyed Mixed' (99p). Seeds should be up within the month. When they are easy to handle, transplant the young plants to fresh ground, setting them at least 6in apart in rows, and grow them on until autumn, when they can be set in their final flowering positions. They look good with old-fashioned Alba roses such as 'Celeste' or 'Great Maiden's Blush'.

Garden pinks can be propagated now, by taking 3in cuttings of shoots that are not flowering and pushing them in round the edge of a pot of damp, sandy compost. I added several pinks to troughs this season. 'Whatfield Magenta' has been a particular success, flowering itself silly with rich-scented flowers. So, earlier on, was 'La Bourbrille Alba', a delicate froth of tiny white flowers above a neat base of grey leaves.

Whitefly is a plague in greenhouses, as always. Toads are the ecological answer. If you can persuade a toad to take up residence under the staging, you need never suffer insect attacks again.

Currants and raspberries should be netted against squirrels and birds. Blackbirds are the worst: they seem oblivious to humming lines, shiny sparklers or any other deterrent.

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