THE garden at this time of year often plays host to tender plants that are in full swing and building up to a late summer crescendo. The term tender plant applies to what you’d most commonly refer to as a bedding plant that dies at the end of the season. Many of these plants in principle are perennial but because of our colder winters and reduced daylight hours they cannot survive. Examples include hanging basket plants such as silver and gold helichrysum, bedding geraniums or silver-leaved Plectranthus, maybe one of the many tender Salvias such as S. 'Hot Lips' or S. 'Icing Sugar' if you’re determined to keep these plants going then you need two things for it to work. Firstly, somewhere to overwinter small plants that is frost free and reasonably well-lit and secondly, good strong cuttings made from your tender plants that are robust enough to get through the winter. That is key to the process and now is the time to take those cuttings. If you can get them to successfully root and become established to form small, stocky plants then those will have the best possible chance of overwintering under cover in something of a form of stasis before weather conditions start to warm up once again the spring.

When you take a cutting of a tender perennial remove a non-flowering healthy, disease free shoot using a clean pair of secateurs or scissors. It’s hard to apply a completely universal technique to every tender perennial out there but if you aim for something 8-10cm in length and depending on the size of the leaf it may be worth reducing the leaf area before inserting the cutting into a gritty peat free compost. If you do this in the next fortnight you should get them to root by early September. The process can often be improved by using a rooting hormone powder or liquid which will speed up rooting. Once rooted, keep them frost free and undercover until the spring. The ideal scenario is a frost free area in a greenhouse or failing that a windowsill indoors.

Next week: ornamental trees for the smallest gardens