Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.
I have been told that I can take hardwood cuttings of shrubs in my garden at this time of year. How easy is it to do this?
There are many plants that can be propagated from hardwood cuttings, including ribes, forsythia, weigela, cornus, roses and buddleja. Cuttings can be taken any time from leaf fall to late spring - ie, when the plant is dormant - and will need to be from deciduous plants. Using sharp secateurs, cut sections of one-year-old, woody stems to a length of around 20cm, with the cut at the base just below a bud, and the cut at the top just above a bud at an angle. Dip the base of the cutting in a rooting hormone powder to aid rooting. Find a small, sunny area of soil in the garden where the cuttings can be left safely out of the way until next autumn. Prepare a 10cm, v-shaped trench, and sprinkle grit in the bottom to ensure good drainage. Push the cuttings into the trench so that only the top third of each cutting is exposed - spacing each cutting about 10cm apart - and by next autumn, you should have rooted cuttings ready to transplant. Finally, pin black plastic sheeting around the cuttings. This will not only prevent weeds from germinating, but will also help to retain moisture and absorb the sun's heat, promoting root growth.
How do you store a canna over the winter when the plant has died back to the root?
In cool but frost-free areas, cannas can be left in the ground and covered with straw or bracken for protection during winter. Otherwise, after the first frost has blackened the canna's leaves, cut down the foliage to within 5-8cm of the ground and carefully dig up the plants with a fork. Cannas can be stored in a frost-free place in orange boxes (or similar) filled with old potting soil or dry bark chippings (but don't forget to label them). When storing cannas over winter, it is important not to let the tubers dry out: sprinkle with water occasionally to maintain humidity; this will also help to keep them plump. If any of the tubers rot, throw them out.