Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 9, 1972
Lecture 2, Part 2.7
An Introduction to Alan Chadwick's Lectures and a Glossary of Terms
The full text of this lecture segment
Contents of this Segment:
Cuttings and strikes; Buds as quasi independent organisms; Sexual and asexual propagation; Soil medium for cuttings and strikes; Timing for cuttings best at equinox; Annuals and perennials; Carnations; Nothing static in nature; 1971 and 1972 were very different from each other.
Villa Montalvo Lecture Series
Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 2,
Propagation, Part 7
The difference between a strike and a cutting.
A strike is almost faultless; a cutting, you will only get a certain percentage of. A strike is much more dominant and will always make a better plant. The reason for this is that wherever a leaf joins a stem you get the possibility of a bud growth. That bud growth, you must think of as an entirely individual matter. Everybody thinks of a branch or a bud as just part of the whole thing. It’s not. Within the center of that bud, and from the base of that bud, going into the center of the stalk of the plant or the tree, is like the molar root of a tooth. And it is a small embryo matter just similar to a seed. Indeed a bud is the next life possibility to that of what a seed is.
This is a matter which is very, very much overlooked. That if you take the briar root, a two year briar root of a rose, that is a wild rose, so to speak, and you cut off that briar and you take one bud from a rose bush that you happen to like, just the bud with that molar tooth, and you insert it into that briar and close the skin upon that bud, the whole of that bush forever will be what that bud is. And the whole rose, and every rose that blooms, will be what that rose that you like is.
You will now see what an enormous propensity a bud is. That it’s a whole embryonic life matter in itself contained in that little molar and crown matter of what the bud is. Therefore you will see how and why it is that we can make strikes and cuttings. Now the difference between the strike and the cutting is simply this: That a strike is taken with what is called a heel. It is pulled away from a stem, whereby you take a young shoot with an older piece of heel or skin. And this invariably roots better and not only roots better because of the skin, but because in the base of that is the whole molar tooth of what the bud is or was. And that that will throw out roots and will develop a plant in total continuance of what the parent is.
Thus, whenever you have a plant which has a particular liking for you, the only way in which you can propagate this plant and have more of it, is by taking bud matter, strikes and cuttings, whereby you will resuscitate exactly what the parent is. And that from seed you will always get the birth of a new soul into the world. It will be a variation on a theme of. But the moment you take a strike or a cutting or bud or graft, you will have a complete and utter resuscitation of the parent.
The strike is torn as a new shoot with an older piece of skin, and this will root perfectly and quickly. It must be struck in sharp sand or grit or vermiculite—something sharp and clean that causes quick root growth. After it has started to root, it should not be left in the striking bed any longer than possible because it will start to run into weak growth. Not having minerals and fertilities of soil you will get a weakness of growth. Therefore the moment it has started to root, it should be planted out into a nursery, or a pot, or a bed.
A cutting is an exact cut below the leaf position. In other words, you are cutting below the bud where it joins inside the leaf joint. And that this is the position that will root. No stalk, where there is not a leaf, has a presentiment of making root or a bud growth. It is only where a leaf joins a stalk that you can get this growth of cutting or strike. And that a cutting should be cut at an angle so as to produce the largest area of rooting possibility.
They should both be struck in the same matter: sharp grit or sand or vermiculite, and kept at a just temperature to induce growth. The time of taking these is the two equinoxes. The spring equinox before, and the fall equinox after; before the spring equinox and after the fall equinox. You should not normally take cuttings and strikes at other times. Why? For the simple reason that at all times the cycles are operating, and the whole law of growth is in mathematical performance of these cycles. That you can indeed take cuttings and strikes more or less when you like. But that you won’t get the reactive growth of the plant in the right way if you do follow you own decisive thinking of laws.
You understand that with annuals you can take strikes, of course. But normally you resuscitate all annuals from seed, generally speaking, simply because they all come acutely alike, but are all a variation of a theme. But when it comes to perennials and other plants... Let us take the carnation. If you have a bed of enfant d’ Nice or Reviera giants or Alwoodii, or any of those which are not origin, that is the plumaris, which is known really as the pink. Some of those are very nearly origins. Indeed the little chinensis is an origin, and you can grow them from seed. But not one of them is alike. But suddenly when you have sown the seed of other carnations, amongst a hundred you will suddenly see five which are much more beautiful, that have a wonderful scent of clove or cinnamon, and that give you a profusion of bloom, and that appeal to you much more.
Whereby you will call one of them by your husband’s name, another by the wife’s name, and perhaps three of them by children’s names. And you will want the world to enjoy these particularly beautiful carnations. Now, if you take the seed from them, even though you isolate them, you will get reversion, parental reversion. Going back through centuries and areas of culture where they have been intermarried, will all resuscitate and come up from the seed. You can’t know what you’re going to get. You may, possibly, get a percentage of what you are after. On the contrary, you might get none.
So, to be sure, and in order to have a catalogue that you could send out to people and say, “This carnation is vermillion with a white edge like a picotee and it has a beautiful scent of cinnamon, and it blooms for nine months of the year.” In order to be able to say that acutely, you’ve got to know exactly what you’ve got in your plant. And the way in which you can do it is by taking cuttings or strikes of that particular carnation which you have liked, which you have grown from seed. And therefore, from one plant you make take a hundred or two hundred plants. I have at the moment three beds of a thousand each, all of an Alwoodii magenta carnation.
And I happened, when I first came to Santa Cruz, to find a dear lady in Santa Cruz who had one Alwoodii magenta carnation in her garden. And I said, “But that’s a beauty. Could I have a cutting?” She gave me one cutting. I struck that cutting. It made a plant. I took fifty plants. I then took five hundred, and now I take five thousand, all from one carnation. And every one of those carnations which blooms—and they run in the hundreds of thousands monthly—every one of them is identical to that carnation that was in that lady’s garden.
The only variation that can come into that is an ecological one of change of climate or soil, or ecological matter, which can bring about a slight infusion of change. And does, of course, bring about slight infusions of changes all the time. Nothing in the whole world is static. The whole ecology of nature is changing always. The cycles of which we have spoken are not a repetition. Not one of them is a repetition of another one. It is birth of new, always. Nothing is static, and nothing is again. The year of 1971, every month of the year of 1971, was not in any way related alike to every month of 1972. There wasn’t one. The whole weather is different, the growth is different, certain seeds have grown, some seeds haven’t grown at all. “Oh, but this year, have you noticed?” “Yes, of course.” And what about the birds, and the butterflies? They all change.
So, we must get back to duty, to the strikes. Now this is important...