Weekend Work: May is a good month for taking cuttings

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The Independent Online

What to do

Direct-sown annual flowers are always a bit chancy – there are so many creatures determined to wreck the seedlings – but poppy seed usually works (try 'Dawn Chorus' Mr Fothergill £1.75). Try scattering it among bearded iris or to fill in around dying tulips. Godetias sown this way also come quickly into bloom. 'Charivari' (Mr Fothergill £1.99), has cup-shaped flowers 20-25cm tall in shades of pink, rose, coral, peach and white.

Seedlings of annual flowers sown outside like this need to be thinned before plants begin to crowd each other. But before you start worrying about thinning you need to get the seeds to germinate.

May is a good month for taking cuttings, particularly of fuchsia. Occasionally you will find a new shoot with three leaves of the same size. These provide the best material for cuttings. Nip off these shoots and push them gently into trays of light, sandy compost where they will root quite quickly.

Newly planted fruit trees should not be allowed to fruit in their first season. Gently pick off any fruitlets that have set after the blossom falls. The same principle applies to new strawberry plants, which should have all flowers taken off in their first year.

Hanging baskets can be planted up with tender bedding plants and kept inside a greenhouse or conservatory until the end of the month. By then all threat of frost should have gone and plants will have started to establish themselves.

What to buy

The most heavily used paperback in our house is 'The Plant Finder' (Dorling Kindersley £15.99) with details of where to find 70,000 plants, contact info for 640 different nurseries and featuring 3,800 new plants; 170 of them are new daylilies. There's no accounting for taste.