Author Archives: Chloe McLachlan

A guide to taking successful cuttings

Cutting is the most popular propagation technique for a huge number of plants and is reliable and relatively simple once you have got the hang of it following our simple guide. Cuttings can be taken throughout the year of different types of plants, this month is the right time to be taking softwood cuttings from late-flowering shrubs, namely Hibiscus and Hydrangeas.

Types of cuttings

The terminology surrounding cuttings can be very confusing, to simplify it ther are generally three types of cutting;

  1. Softwood cuttings;these are taken in spring. They are the soft growth of new stems, sideshoots or shoot tips. The ideal size for a softwood cutting is up to 4 or five leaves and a length of about 10cm.
  2. Semi-ripe cuttings; these are taken between midsummer and late autumn; within this time new stems will have got longer and stronger, they are thus firmer and more mature than softwood cuttings. The ideal size for these cuttings is slightly longer than before, between `0 and 15cm, this length must also have at least an inch of firm wood at the base.
  3. Hardwood cuttings; these are taken in late autumn and the beginning of winter. They are one-year old stems that will be woody by this time. The ideal length here is much longer; usually around 25cm but for some trees it can be up to almost a metre.

Taking the cutting general tips

  • Take cuttings early in the day when the plants still have plenty of water
  • Keep them in a polythene bag to prevent moisture loss
  • Take them from younger and healthier plants for the most successful rooting
  • Take non-flowering shoots from lower branches for heightened rooting

Methods of taking cuttings

The way the cutting is removed can affect its rooting ability. These are the most common methods;

  1. Nodal;this involves making a cutting at the bottom of a stem just below the node (a leaf joint) where there are a lot of hormones.
  2. Internodal;this is a cutting made between twio nodes (leaf joints)
  3. Heel;this is the best method for evergreens and thin stemmed shrubs. A heel cutting is made by carefully pulling a ripening shoot from the thicker stem so that some of the parent stem stays on the new shoot. The ‘heel’ from the parent plant means that more moisture is retained along with nutrients that help with the rooting.
  4. Wounding;this is not a method of cutting but instead a way to encourage successful rooting and can be done to any of the above cuttings. ‘wounding’ the cutting is the removal of some bark from one side of the base of the cutting. A larger surface area of the stem is thus exposed meaning that more moisture and rooting stimulants can be absorbed.


Now that you have taken a cutting, you must put it in a suitable environment to promote root development. Here is our simply guide to the next steps;

  1. Remove the lower leaves from the cutting
  2. Dip the cutting in hormone rooting powder (see in store)
  3. In a container of compost make a hole for the cutting and place the cutting into the compost so that the first pair of leaves are just above the compost.
  4. Label the pot clearly, to avoid any confusion later, and when you took the cutting to track its progress.
  5. If you have a heated propagator then you will next use that, however a warm window sill will be sufficient. If you are using a windowsill, cover the container with a plastic bag to prevent wilting. If you are using this method it is important to allow the cutting two 10 minutes of ventilation each week.
  6. The cuttings should be in light, but not direct and hot sunlight. A fleece can be used in order to soften the light.
  7. Make sure that the compost is moist throughout the rooting period.
  8. Most cuttings will take between 6 and 10 weeks to root successfully
  9. After your cuttings have successfully rooted they should be hardened off for around 10-14 days whilst gradually increasing ventilation and then individually potted.

Young Plant in Sunlight, Growing plant, Plant seedling

Trailing petunias look great in a hanging basket.

A hanging basket how-to

A hanging basket how-to

Hanging baskets are a fail-safe way to bring bursts of colour to an otherwise dull wall, or a perfect way to incorporate flowers and greenery when you are pushed for space. With the help of a greenhouse, April is the best time to start planting a hanging basket so that it has reached full flower by the summer months for an optimal display. If you won’t be able to use a greenhouse, it may be best to hold off with your hanging basket until early summer, when you can then refer back to our simple guide!

  1. Chose your basket; we have a huge range of baskets in store, which range in shape, size, lining and price; ranging from as low as £2.70 for our simple 12” wire baskets with no lining. We also have window baskets which can be constructed in a similar way.
  2. Chose your plants (read ahead to get a feel for the right kind of plants), buy them and make sure that they are well watered before planting.
  3. Unhook the basket’s chain and line the basket. Lining is a personal preference; we have some amazing natural linings in store made from recycled plant fibres, alternatively a thick layer of moss would also work. Make sure the lining fits the basket nicely and cut off any material above the rim of the basket.
  4. Place a saucer at the bottom of the basket after lining all over; this will help to retain moisture.
  5. Before filling the basket with compost, if you have chosen a solid lining make sure to slash some holes /slits appropriately around the basket in order to push the trailing plants through to cover the sides of the basket (if the basket is deep enough you may be able to fit two layers of these). Once you have done this you can half fill the basket with compost (until the compost is level with the first set of slits, we recommend using John Innes no 2 which can be purchased from both of our stores.
  6. Next is to plant the trailing plants. These should be planted from the inside outwards to protect the roots, settling them so that the root ball is laying on top of the compost and the foliage is outside of the basket. Fior the trailing plants we recommend helichrysums.
  7. Once all of the slits have been filled, tease out the roots of the plants and add more compost to work around the roots, almost filling the basket. More trailing plants can be planted around the rim of the basket; maybe try geraniums or lobelias.
  8. Now that preparation for the sides of the basket is complete, you can move onto the centre. What you plant here is completely optional depending on the style and colours you are aiming for. Whichever flowers you chose, you should angle them outwards to create the effect of layering.
  9. Make sure any gaps left over are filled with compost.
  10. Water your basket thoroughly and stand it in your greenhouse to grow. Without a greenhouse either hold off, or ensure that you bring it under cover each evening to protect from frost.

If you are more of a perfectionist, looking for a special hanging basket or if creating your own hanging basket is out of your means, then we have a bespoke hanging basket service here in which we will create your perfect hanging basket from scratch, including your favourite flowers and colours.

New range of Tropical Fish

Exciting news, we have a whole new range of Tropical Fish at our Clyst St Mary Aquatics Centre, available from 12th April 2019.


Aquarium Fish

Moonlight Gourami

Neon tetra

Tiger Oscar

Albino Rainbow Shark

Odessa Barb

Harlequin Rasbora

Flag cichlid (Curviceps)

Red Snakeskin Male Guppy

Blue Neon Male Guppy

Red Top Platy

Coral Red Wag Platy

Cherry Shrimp

Siamese Flying Fox (Siamensis)


Pond Fish

Gold Sterlet 15-20cm

Goldfish 5-7cm

Koi A (English bred) 10-12cm

Ghost Koi (English bred) 10-12cm


All our livestock are quarantined for a minimum of 7 days prior to sale. If there are any fish of interest to you, please call (01392 876281) to check stock and avoid any disappointment before making a special trip. On occasion, livestock may be held in quarantine longer than 7 days if they do not meet our strict quality control criteria.

Read more about our aquatic department here.

Gardening Jobs for April – Trees, shrubs and flowers


  • Prune bedding roses if you have not already done so; a tough pruning is good for them in the long run. Feed them generously after doing so.
  • Prune hydrangeas by first dead-heading them and then cutting out any dead branches. Prune the remaining stems back to the first healthy pair of buds nearest to the dead blooms.
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as Winter Jasmine, do so by pruning roughly a third of their growth and then feeding
  • Apply a rose fertiliser and a high potash feed to flowering shrubs
  • Divide any perennials that need it; this is only necessary once every 3-5 years. An indicator that it is necessary is when they become woody or there is significantly less growth in the centre. For best results uproot the plant and split it into a few sections with equal amounts of root. Then get rid of the woody part; usually the centre. Replant in well fertilised ground, mulch and water well.
  • Weed borders thoroughly and then mulch
  • Pot-marigolds and sunflowers can be directly sown
  • Look out for early aphids, remove by squashing first and if the problem continues look into other methods


  • Prune shrubby herbs such as sage and thyme to keep them compact
  • Sow basil and coriander and plant out parsley plants if you managed to sow them earlier this year. Mesh over these to protect them from insects and frost.
  • Cut back lavender stalks to just below their old flowers
  • Directly sow vegetables such as cauliflower, peas, carrots, leeks, beetroots and radishes, being sure to protect these from any forecasted frost.
  • If any frost is expected, prepare young or small fruit trees with a fleece
  • Spray fruit with a protective fungicide and a systemic to help prevent pest and diseases
  • Plant second-early potato tubers at the beginning of April or main crop varieties at the end, read more about planting potatoes in our last year’s blog (
  • Tidy up last year’s strawberry bed; remove any flowers
  • Feed berries with a high-nitrogen feed; ask in store for our staff to point out our best ones
  • Sow tomatoes if you want to try growing them from seed this year. Once seedlings show their first true leaves they can be planted individually into pots. They should be planted deeply with their first leaves resting just above the compost.


  • Feed the lawn and treat weeds and any moss that may have appeared
  • Do not feed if the grass is too wet; scorched grass may result
  • Repair lawn bald spots; minor damage can be combated by breaking up the surface with a fork and then adding seed
  • Larger areas of damage may require new turf to be laid

New range of Tropical Fish

Exciting news, we have a whole new range of Tropical Fish at our Clyst St Mary Aquatics Centre, available from 4th April 2019.


Aquarium Fish


Dickfeld Julie

Albino Bichir

Asst Female Guppy

Bolivian Ram

Albino Cory

Bristlenose catfish

Gold Bristlenose catfish

Cherry Barb

Pearl Gourami

Neon Tetra

Ember Tetra

Banded Kuhli Loach

Rummynose Tetra

Male short Tailed Dragon Betta

Threadfin Rainbow fish

Pentazona Barb

Calico Oranda

Black Moor

Asst Pearlscale

Red Cap Oranda

Zebra china sucker

Borneo Sucker


Pond fish

Shubunkin 5-7cm

Wakin Goldfish

All our livestock are quarantined for a minimum of 7 days prior to sale. If there are any fish of interest to you, please call (01392 876281) to check stock and avoid any disappointment before making a special trip. On occasion, livestock may be held in quarantine longer than 7 days if they do not meet our strict quality control criteria.

Read more about our aquatic department here.

Using Roses Alongside Other Shrubs In Pots

Using Roses Alongside Other Shrubs in Pots

Roses and small shrubs such as Skimmia Japonica and Euonymus Fortunei together form very attractive centre pieces in outdoor containers. Edge them with variegated ivies and ornamental cabbages or tumbling geraniums to fall or drift over the pot.

Pale pink and small bright pink roses and geranium

New range of Tropical Fish

Exciting news, we have a whole new range of Tropical Fish at our Clyst St Mary Aquatics Centre, available from 29th March 2019.



Bumble bee Platy

Opaline Gourami

Dwarf Gourami MALE

Dwarf Gourami FEMALE

Golden Barb

Bolivian Ram

Asst Angelfish

Zebra Loach

Red Spot Gold Severum

Silver Marbled Molly

Neon Tetra

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

Golden White Cloud Mountain Minnow

Male Super Delta Metallic Betta

Male Super Delta Dumbo Ear Betta

Cardinal Tetra

Japonica Shrimp

Black Choco Shrimp

Zebra Snails

Pigeon Blood Discus

Red Turquoise Discus

Yellow Marlboro Discus

Red Marlboro Discus



5-7 cm Goldfish

10-12cm Shubunkin


All our livestock are quarantined for a minimum of 7 days prior to sale. If there are any fish of interest to you, please call (01392 876281) to check stock and avoid any disappointment before making a special trip. On occasion, livestock may be held in quarantine longer than 7 days if they do not meet our strict quality control criteria.

Read more about our aquatic department here.

How To Plant Out Sweet Peas

How To Plant Out Sweet Peas

Seedlings started in the late Autumn or in January under glass will be ready to plant outside now or in the coming couple of weeks.

You’ll need to train tall varieties against canes, (just like runner beans) so buy a bundle of ten 2.4m (8 feet) bamboos and a securing ring or some ties to hold everything together. A lot of people like to stick some hazel sticks in the ground too so as the young plants have something to hold on to as they stretch ever upwards.

Find a sunny part of the garden and arrange your bamboos in a circle to make a wigwam shape or alternatively set them up 30cm (12 inches) apart in a straight double row.

If you don’t have any hazel, you may want to throw some pea and bean netting to the canes to form a continuous mesh; the plants tendrils will naturally cling to this, however, if you want to have the very best blooms and win your local garden show prizes, you will need to grow them up the bamboos as cordons, just as the exhibitors do.

Plant one sweet pea plant at the bottom of each cane.


Never grow the main shoot up the canes as they quickly run out of steam and become ‘blind’. Instead, tie in the strongest side-shoot from each plant to each cane and remove all the others. If there are no side-shoots, pinch out the growing tip to encourage them and then keep the best one for training,

As the stems grow, pinch out the side-shoots so as to direct all of the plants energy into the flowers and once they have formed, cut them regularly, not just for their sweet scent but because leaving them to set seed will stop them from forming.



Growing Roses In Containers

Growing Roses In Containers 

If you are a lover of roses and can’t wait to see them all in flower, why not get a head start now? Ground cover roses, patio roses and all of our miniatures are perfect for pots and containers.

Ideally roses should be bought in threes to make a “huge wow” in a big tub, but single plants can also look beautiful in 30cm (12 inch) pots. The important thing is to consider the depth. The plants need a good root run. We recommend you allow 25cm (10 inches) for the smallest varieties and up to 40cm (16 inches) for ground cover roses.

We recommend you use a soil based compost such as John Innes No 2 or ask a member of the St Bridget’s team what else we have in stock for you.

Your roses need to be pruned hard. Never be nervous. Cut the thicker shoots back to 4 buds and the thinner ones to two, always cutting to just above a bud that faces outwards. You can then stand the plants in a sunny cold frame until April or put them straight into a cool greenhouse or conservatory where they’ll grow a little taller than normal and essentially, flower several weeks earlier!

Water them regularly but avoid letting them get waterlogged and after 6 weeks give them a feed and then repeat (feed) every fortnight.



April Focus on Pots & Containers

Pots & Containers, part 2

In our earlier blog we said we would give you more design ideas on getting the best from your pots & containers. Here are our first two planting suggestions. Today we are focusing on herbs. Each of the options will enjoy a sunny, sheltered spot…


Planter Idea 1 

Culinary Herbs – Mixed Pot of approximately 30 – 35cm diameter 

Oregano (origanum vulgate) 9cm,

Lemon Thyme (thymus citriodorus) 9cm,

Sweet Basil (ocimum basilicum) 9cm,

Dark Leaved Basil (purpurascens basilicum) 9cm,

Hyssop (hyssopus officinalis) 9cm and

Sage (salvia officinalis) 9cm.

These six beautiful herbs will offer you flowers to attract the bees, a lovely aroma and essentially each can be used to compliment your cooking.

Other Requirements: grit for base of pot, compost to go on top, sprinkle of slow release organic fertiliser, water.

Planter Idea 2

Medicinal Herbs – Mixed Pot 35 – 40cm diameter

Wormwood (artemisia absinthium) 9cm

Tansy (tanacetum vulgate) 9cm

Golden Feverfew (tanacetum parthenium ‘aureum’)

Hyssop (hyssopus officinalis)

This display of 4 varieties will be a little taller than the culinary option; it will reach up to 50cm. Again, it will offer, flowers and aroma…

Both of our Exeter garden centres have a large variety of herbs available. To avoid disappointment we suggest calling ahead to check we have the variety you are looking for. When you visit don’t forget to pick up your grit and compost.

Tansy (tanacetum vulgate) 9cm