This year I've been experimenting with my chrysanthemums. I have some little yellow ones which I've been growing for years now. Every year I leave the old plants till early spring, and then take cuttings from the new growth. That's what all the books tell you to do, saying that the old plants will never produce such good blooms in subsequent years. Was it true? This year I decided to try it out.
If you click here, you'll find the posts I wrote in March (when I took the cuttings) and May (when they'd taken and it was time to "stop" all them in order to convince them to put out side shoots). But I've reproduced the photos to show you the main stages. I took cuttings, but didn't throw the old plants away. Instead I planted the cuttings in the same container, in between the older ones.
Why? well firstly to fill the gaps left by a couple that had died over the winter. But also to ensure that the soil, water, light and fertiliser conditions were identical for both sets of plants. As any primary school child will tell you, an experiment is only a "fair test" if one variable, and one only had been changed. In this case the variable was old plants vs cuttings. Everything else was identical.
Back in May, the new plants looked pretty puny in comparison with the old. But by the time autumn arrived, I could only remember which was which by going back to the spring photos to check.
By October they were covered in buds. Whichever won, it was going to be a good year. And, when the buds opened, it was immediately clear that...
... there was no difference at all. Both sets of plants are full of flowers, the flowers are all of the same size, and I can see no difference of any kind.
So will I be taking cuttings next year? Yes, certainly. But to increase the number of plants I have, not to replace the old ones. From now on, my chrysanths can go on for as long as they feel like it...