One of the best things about gardening is learning new stuff, and over the last month or so I've learned a little bit more about growing my favourite herb, thyme, from cuttings.
Lovely things, thyme leaves. One of my favourite cooking herbs. Two friends have asked me for some thyme grown from my own healthy little bush, and so I thought I'd take that chance to experiment with different ways of growing it. The two options I guessed might work would be to either dig up a clump, with roots, and grow that on in a pot. The other would be to take numerous cuttings, and hope that enough of them would strike. Here's the results, today on May 24, after having taken the clumps and cuttings on March 28.
On the left, the little batch of cuttings, and on the right, the little clump. Both patients doing well.
To take the cuttings I chose older, harder, woody stems (ie, not the soft tips) and took heaps of them, poking them into light seed-raising mix (ie, sandy potting mix) to make a mini forest. Then I made a wire frame from a coathanger, gave everything a really good misting with a sprayer and popped a freezer bag over the top. As well as doing thyme I also took cuttings of rosemary (doing fine now) and sage (total dud).
After they spent about four weeks in a brightly lit but shaded spot under my covered pergola, I tugged on one or two thyme cuttings and discovered they had formed roots. So I removed the plastic tent and have let them grow on, progressively giving them a bit more sunshine each week by moving the pots into a better spot. They also received a light feed of seaweed solution to help them get growing. This little pot is doing really well now, and all it needs is a bow tied around it to make it a nice gift.
Back in late March this is the unimpressive appearance of the dug-up clump. All the action here is under the soil. There's quite a good batch of roots down there, but not that much action above-ground. This went straight out onto the path, across the way from the mother lode of thyme which has been thriving here for years. The little pot has been watered more often than I'd usually water thyme, and I've given it a few seaweed treatments, too.
While it's not quite as spectacular as the little forest of cuttings, it's just as healthy and happy, so it will settle in well to its new home, too. It'll need a new, bigger, wider pot very soon if it doesn't go in the ground.
Here's the 'Mother Lode' this morning, a wonderfully healthy, easy-care plant. About two-thirds of the plant is on the paving, the other third in the soil adjacent to the path. That seems to be the trick with thyme. Plant it next to paths or rocks and let it grow towards the sun, across the hot, dry paths/rocks. I hardly ever water it or feed it. But I do use it all the time in cooking, so that regular trimming helps to keep it dense. So, my tip, if you don't use thyme that often in cooking, but like the idea of growing some for occasional use, is to pretend that you really do use it all the time, and just gratuitously cut off a bit here and there every couple of days. Right now, the time isn't in flower, but it's nice when it does come into bloom, so I thought I'd finish off talking about thyme when it's at its prettiest.
The flowers are pink, dainty and very tiny. They're lovely in that secret-world way of the many pretty, tiny things that a lot of people don't notice simply because they're small.
The appealing thing about growing stuff from cuttings, or by dividing clumps, is that you're making an exact copy of the parent plant – or, as the tabloid newspapers would call it if they ever found out about gardeners' amazing science secrets, a "clone". I've been lucky with my thyme, sage and rosemary plants in particular, as each seems to be a remarkably fragrant, healthy and vigorous thing. So I figure that Charles Darwin would approve of my desire to transplant those excellent genes into as many other gardens as possible, seeing the fittest herbs surviving and thriving.