In the Cottage Greenhouse … DIY Plant Markers and Propagating Hydrangea

It was a delightful day for working in the cottage greenhouse.
Breezes from the north swept past the greenhouse door and I could see the lake winking at me while I worked at my garden desk.

I love hydrangeas and each spring I look forward to the gorgeous purple-blue blooms that fill our bushes. However, between the weather and furry folks, my hydrangea hedge has dwindled down to one lone bush. When I looked on-line to order more hydrangea’s, the nursery selections were limited and costly. With both those incentives, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to propagate some hydrangea cuttings from my Mophead Hydrangea … something I’ve wanted and meant to do every summer. It was a delightful day for working in the cottage greenhouse. Breezes from the north swept past the greenhouse door and I could see the lake winking at me while I worked at my garden desk.

Before beginning my propagation project I ordered a set of peat pot trays, though I could have used a pot or any other container for my cuttings, provided they had good drainage. My seedling trays came with a set of bedding plant markers. I was disappointed when I opened my package and saw the plant markers were made of plastic and were stark white. I had envisioned something a little more “earthy” and rustic for my first greenhouse project. Undaunted, I went out in the yard, gathered up some twigs, and whittled my own set of charming plant markers!

These plant markers made from twigs are just what I had envisioned, they are so rustic and winsome … AND so simple and fun to make! The only thing you’ll need for this project is twigs, a pocket knife for whittling, and a permanent marker. Are you ready? (: …. Go outside and pick up some twigs that are all about the same length and diameter, and that are reasonably straight (though some crooks and knot holes in your twigs add character!) Then sit down and begin whittling away the bark at the wider end of your stick. Carve enough bark away on your twig to expose the smooth wood underneath. You’ll only want to whittle away enough of the rough bark so you can easily write the names of the plants or seeds on your twig marker for identification. In the little red pail below, are ALL of the twig plant markers I made. I wrote Hydrangea and Morning Glory on 2 of them and I left the other markers with empty “nameplates” for future projects. Before I made these plant markers, I had never whittled anything in my life. I found the task mesmerizing and had to stop myself from carving away too much of the twig! P.S. – See the white plastic marker that came with the seedling trays that I placed next to my twig plant markers! (:

PROPAGATING HYDRANGEAS … SUPPLIES NEEDED:

  1. seedling trays or other container w/good drainage
  2. Potting Mix (I used Miracle Gro)
  3. pruners
  4. container of water
  5. rooting hormone (I used Garden Safe Rooting Hormone)
  6. Sharp stick or pencil

The best time to take “cuttings” from a hydrangea is around the first day of summer. The first day of summer is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and is also known as Summer Solstice … and this year Summer Solstice is today, June 20th! Around this time is when the leaves of the hydrangea are lush and green and it’s also the fastest time for the hydrangea to begin generating roots. Starting your hydrangea cutting’s at this time allows enough time for the cuttings (also known as strikes) to develop root systems before the hydrangea’s go dormant in the fall. Look for new, tender green limbs, known as “soft wood” on your hydrangea, as opposed to the brown, rigid woody sticks known as “old growth.” Cut 3″- 5″ stems, making the cut right below a leaf node (leaf nodes are horizontal segments on the stem where the leaves grow out) and include 3 leaf nodes in the stem you cut.

Carry a cup or container of water with you as you make your cuttings and place your hydrangea cuttings in the water so they won’t become taxed or wilted.

After you have as many cuttings as you want, trim your cuttings, taking off all the leaves except for the top 2. If your leaves are very small, you can leave them whole. However, if you are propagating large leaf hydrangea varieties, cut these leaves to about 1/4 of their original size so the cutting won’t be strained trying to supply water to the large leaf. Return your cuttings to the water after cutting the leaves. Fill your seedling trays or other container with potting mix and use a pencil (I used the the sharp end of my new whittled twig plant markers!) to poke a hole into the potting mix … 1 hole for each of your cutting’s, then dampen your potting mix before inserting your hydrangea cuttings.

Dip each wet hydrangea stem into the rooting hormone and insert cutting, coated with rooting hormone into your prepared potting mix. At least one set of leaf nodes, preferably 2, need to be covered in the potting mix since the nodes and stem are where the new roots will begin growing.

Gently push the potting mix around the cutting to hold it firmly in place, and continue until all cuttings are planted, then water thoroughly until the water flows freely from the drainage hole. If you use peat pots or trays like I did, I watered my cuttings until the sides of the tray were sodden. Keep your cuttings in a bright, warm place, but out of direct sunlight, and make sure your potting mix is moist at all times.

Don’t disturb your hydrangea strikes and continue to let them grow in your container or trays, making sure they are kept moist; I watered mine once each day. In 4 weeks your hydrangea cuttings, or strikes, should have produced new roots. At this time you can transfer your hydrangea’s to a bigger container. When you feel like your new hydrangea plants have become strong enough, or they have outgrown their container, they can be planted in your yard. This method of propagation works for all varieties of hydrangeas. I planted 10 hydrangea cuttings which hopefully will grow into 10 more Mophead Hydrangea bushes for our yard. Did you know a 1 gallon plant of Endless Summer Mophead Hydrangeas cost $29.99 on Amazon?!!! Go get on your garden gloves! (:

I love puttering around in my cottage greenhouse and below I have included some pictures of some of the knick-knacks I’ve added for some greenhouse charm. This wrought iron chair under my garden desk ~ is 1 of 4 that belongs with a beautiful glass topped garden table that my grandmother always had on her covered front porch. My mother gave the cherished table set to me and Richard sweetly sanded it and gave it a new coat of white paint. Now, I keep the table inside and use it in my music/craft room. I have dear memories of my grandmother and me sitting on her porch as she worked with her plants, sitting in this very chair! ❤

An Angel Wing Begonia looks beautiful tucked in a planter until I have the time to transplant it to an antique washtub outside my Potting Shed. See the sweet antique planter with the little bear sitting on top of the log? I love to find and collect these whimsical planters when we go antiqu’ing, and I have them in all kinds of unexpected places, not only in the greenhouse!

A grapevine wrapped pencil cup holds carved colored pencils and a chunky votive burns citronella and vanilla candles when I’m in the greenhouse. Here’s another one of my antique planters … a sweet little birdhouse with a red roof and a little birdie perched by the front door.

An old handmade wheelbarrow holds a spool of jute and scissors ready for tying up plants and other garden projects.

I love this tiny little flower vase with the kissing birds and I love to tuck tiny flowers inside. The colors of the birds and the coral-orange of the impatien’s bloom match perfectly with the box of wildflower seeds.

This is the canvas I told you about in my post “Charcuterie Charm” (click here to see) that my dear friend, Patricia made from the picture I sent her of the metal table I covered with broken pieces of blue and white pottery. Patricia told me she had this canvas made for me to hang in my greenhouse. I love it (and the giver) ❤ Doesn’t it make a great backdrop for my folksy handmade windmill with adjoining planter that holds an Asparagus Fern?

This miniature bistro table belonged to our daughter when she was little. ❤ The tabletop was always set with her Beatrix Potter tea set, ready for impromptu Teddy Bear Tea Party’s. I couldn’t think of parting with it, or the memories of sweet days gone by. Now, I love seeing it on my garden desk with a nest propped on one of the bistro chairs, a little bird keeping watch from the feathery fronds of a Plumosa Asparagus Fern, and another planter topped with little frogs, and filled with carved colored pencils.

Hope you enjoyed your day … your Summer Solstice, and the beginning of summer! Look who obligingly walked right into the picture below as I was taking our beautiful sunset. A Great Blue Heron we’ve fondly named Whiskers. He comes to our backyard buffet every evening, looking for dinner!

From my cottage to yours ~ Trenda

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Autumn from the back deck … by Trenda

cropped-piccollage177597.pngIt’s been a beautiful week and as I went out on the back deck today, there was a coolness in the air that suddenly made me wish I had my sweater … a few golden leaves were floating, drifting on the lake … and autumn tinges could be seen, peeking from the trees.  The bright, golden sunlight, particular to this time of year, made the blue of the sky and the blue of the lake an intense background against the last green’s of the season. <!–more–>

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Our Beauty Berry Bush (aptly named!) is almost glowing in autumn and can be seen from our upper deck and was given to us, by a dear neighbor.  Our son planted it for me (in just the right spot!) next to our bonfire pit and near the lake, so we all enjoy it’s autumn brilliance while having wiener roasts and toasting marshmallows. It’s looks like a beautiful banquet spread and splayed out for the birds, with berries in a gorgeous shade of purple!  PicCollage.png

Right beneath our upper deck is a bed of hydrangea bushes, which bloom in early summer.  Now, in autumn they are putting on their “second act” and the “mopheads” have dried and the papery blossoms have transformed from all shades of blue, to a muted green; the blossoms are now perfect for clipping and “will be appearing” in autumn arrangements or tucked among fir boughs for their “final act.”

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My husband played in a golf tournament today and as the day slipped by and the outside beckoned, I decided to surprise him with an Autumn Afternoon Tea, on the deck. For our “tea party” I whipped up some Apple Cider Muffins with a Walnut Streusel Topping and brewed some spiced tea. The muffins were as delicious as they sound and I simply opened a ready-mix package of Martha White’s Apple Cider Muffin Mix, added some milk, and made them … “according to directions.”

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However, before putting the muffins in the oven I made a batch of streusel topping … a mixture of butter, flour, brown sugar, and walnuts and generously topped each muffin, instantly transforming my “mix” muffins into gourmet muffins, with very little trouble.  I’ve included the directions to my Brown Sugar and Walnut Streusel below.

Brown Sugar and Walnut Streusel

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/3 cup cup flour

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup butter (melted)

Combine brown sugar, flour, nuts and melted butter in a mixing bowl.  Top each muffin with a generous spoonful of streusel, keeping the amount added, below the top rim of the muffin pan.

Tip: This recipe makes more streusel than needed for 1 batch of muffins and I always put the remainder in a labeled Ziploc bag and keep it in my freezer … ready to add to any muffins or coffee cakes I make!

Then I had the fun of “decorating” the table outside for our Autumn Tea and began by spreading a dark green tablecloth, covered with pictures of seed packets and produce, over the table.  For the centerpiece, I filled a Marcrest antique pitcher that my mother gave me, with yellow broom weed.  Nestled below the pitcher I placed a little iron urn filled with millet and a wee little bird, who’s having his fill of bird seed!  I put the Apple Cider muffins on an autumn-colored plate decorated with leaves and topped the plate with one of my cloche’s … I love to collect! and to ward off any unwanted guests.  Incidentally, have you ever noticed how everything looks more delectable under a glass dome? (:                         I used a wire basket to hold our napkins and an old log planter that is one of my favorite antique finds that I use here in our cottage lake house … to hold sweeteners.                                                                                                                                                      By the way, my husband loved our Autumn Afternoon Tea and the muffins! (:

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This is the “twilight view” off our deck … same angle as those early morning pictures I took which were “bathed” in golden sunlight and in a background of blue sky and blue lake.  This evening, the setting sun has beautifully tinged the sky in shades of pink … the water, shades of purple.

piccollage “Splendor of ended day, floating and filling me!”  ~ Walt Whitman

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Thank you so much for spending some time with me today!  I’d love to hear from you and I am truly delighted, reading what you have to say.  Please leave a comment, below.

From my cottage to yours ~  Trenda