Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Propagating Gardenia

Shortly after moving into our house in 2011, I was talking with my sister about how much I like gardenias. She said, "You know they are suppose to be easy to root from cuttings, don't you?" She proceeded to tell me that she learned that fact from a gentlemen in the town where she works, Mr. Vip. He sometimes brought blooms from his gardenias to the office so they could enjoy the wonderful fragrance.  He had told her that the bloom stems would root very quickly, and the next time I saw her, she gave me a couple of the most recent stems he had brought by. Sure enough, they were already beginning to show a few tiny roots. I left them in the water for awhile and when I thought the roots looked viable, I planted them in my garden.

Beyond saying that this is surely a Gardenia jasminoides,  I don't know what variety of gardenia it is.  Because it has been in Mr. Vip's garden a long time,  it must be a good one for our area. 

Gardenias  are not always reliably hardy in our zone 7, and the new varieties on the market that purport to be hardy (for instance 'Frostproof') have not been around long enough to prove themselves. They also tend to be smaller plants and many of us would like to have the more traditional, larger shrub. The bloom of Mr. Vip's gardenia reminds me a lot of 'August Beauty', one of the large varieties of gardenias that can be found in this area but is recommended for zone 8 and above. I asked my sister to email Mr. Vip and ask him about the parent plant, in particular, whether he knew what variety it was. 

I suspected that this was an old gardenia plant, and Mr. Vip confirmed my suspicion. He told us that his plant was at least 38 years old and that he thought it might be of the 'Vipperdenia' family. (I love a gardener's humor. I guess that makes my cutting 'Vipperdenia x Edwardenia'.) He related how he rooted the first cutting entirely by accident by leaving a spent bloom too long in the water. He said:
 "I took a flower or two to my store, Lewis Western Auto, and put them in my office window.  Being the more than average male, I did not discard them when the blooms fell.  But a month or so later, I decided that I should toss them.  When I looked into that "Red Solo Cup", I saw white roots running everywhere.   Later, I planted them and shared my experience with the Vipperdenia variety Gardenia with many friends."

So thank you Mr. Vip for what I'm sure will become a favorite plant in my garden. I really love the fragrance of gardenias, and I really love plants that come with a story.

P.S. I know that some gardenias don't have fragrance, but I don't believe those plants are worthy to be called gardenias. They are perfectly fine, attractive shrubs with pretty blooms--just not gardenias.

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