My green-thumbed friend Fiona tells me that taking cuttings is easy and that the time of year you should do it depends on the type of plant:
- Do softwood cuttings in spring or early summer, when the plant is growing fast
- Do semi-hardwood cuttings in mid-summer, after flowering
- Do hardwood cuttings in mid-winter when the plants are dormant
It’s also free so if you’ll be growing plants for people for Christmas and you can identify some plants in your garden that would grow well from cuttings and please the recipients, schedule an appropriate time into your calendar to make it happen.
Christmas Eve 1970: In the kitchen was a long row of preserving jars filled with apricots. Nanna had three apricot trees in the backyard that produced huge quantities of excellent fruit and this year the peak of the crop coincided with Christmas. So while other people had spent Christmas Eve with last minute cooking and wrapping and setting up, Nanna and Auntie Betty had been bottling fallout-shelter volumes of apricots. Nanna said that she was going to enjoy looking at the rows of produce… on Boxing Day, but today she was still a little resentful – as was Auntie Betty’s son Brian whose birthday it was and, although he was used to his birthday being eclipsed by Christmas Eve, he was decidedly unimpressed at having to share his mother’s attentions with stone fruit.
 Mind you, it’s not the taking of the cuttings I have problems with (and particularly not if it happens by a friend pressing a pot plant into my hand); it’s encouraging them to actually grow into something.
 I should have mentioned this earlier but I’m not much of a gardener so I didn’t think of it. Sorry about that!
 And if you can’t tell a hardwood from a softwood, don’t do cuttings at all.
 Unless you use rooting hormones but they’re not too expensive.
 With care: my cousin Bronwyn once scooped up some pretty mauve flowers from a creek she passed and transferred them to her own pond where they thrived… until a neighbour spotted them and sent in the environmental department’s SWAT team to blast them to Kingdom Come: they were water hyacinths which are a notorious noxious weed and a major threat to both native wildlife and agriculture. Ashamed and embarrassed, Bronwyn has confined her pond decoration to frog statues ever since.
 My mother always said that, if push came to shove, she’d head home to the Mallee to brazen out the Apocalypse because Nanna’s jam supplies alone could see the whole family through a nuclear winter.