Action plan: Nigel Colborn’s essential jobs for your garden this week

  • Nigel Colborn tells us that the best time is right now to start root cuttings 
  • According to him, shoots will start appearing in spring of next year. Some may not appear until later.
  • Also answers a reader’s question about Begonia boliviensis Firecracker


It is time to start root cuttings. This is a quick and simple way to propagate plants. It’s particularly useful for those plants who are hard to lift and split.

Tap roots such as the anchusa can be easily lifted from sections of the root.

Digging up an old plant is the first thing you should do. You should remove as much soil from the plant as possible. Wash the soil away if the roots appear to be very thin. Take out the thicker, larger roots.

Cut the lower edge slantwise with thick roots. You can also make a vertical cut at the top. You will then know the best way to plant them.

UK-based gardening expert Nigel Colborn, says now is the time for taking root cuttings

Nigel Colborn, a UK gardening expert says it is time to take root cuttings

It is possible to replant the donor, and not dump it.

Next, fill your plant pots or deep seed trays with new potting soil. To ensure that the cuttings reach the compost’s tops, push them vertically. Easy to grow plants that have thick roots. These can be cut into shorter lengths and laid on the sides. Then cover them with compost.

Hardy plants should be kept in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame. To save root cuttings of tender plants, you will need to heat the bottom. The compost should be kept moist but not waterlogged. Pots should drain easily.

Spring next year will see the first signs of shoots. Some might take some time. Other will emerge as soon as days get longer.


If outside temperature drops to or below 2c, it is very unlikely that an unheated greenhouse will remain above zero. To keep your tender plants healthy, a heater (pictured is recommended). At night, make sure vents and doors are closed. You will need horticultural fabric to lay over young or immature cuttings.


Garlic can be planted at this time if the soil is stable. Cold weather is necessary for plump garlic bulbs. For heavy soil, it is possible to plant the cloves into cell-trays. Then you can leave these in an open frame during winter. Make sure your garlic harvests are dry and kept cool. Mold can be caused by excessive humidity. 


Nigel says Rosa 'Scharlachglut' needs space and the stems are viciously armed with thorns

Nigel claims Rosa ‘Scharlachglut’ Rosa needs space. The stems are brutally armed in thorns

It’s a silly month to feature a climbing rose in November. But, this beauty holds double the value. These vivid scarlet-colored flowers will be a lasting summer memory. From my office window I have a beautiful view of orange-red rosehips. They are carried on shortish stalks and in large clusters. They are easy to arrange and cut in large vase. They are single-flowering scarlet varieties that have large, showy petals with golden yellow stamens. The variety requires plenty of space as it is an aggressive, high-flowering climber. Stems can be armed viciously with thorns. You will need to have courage and use strong gloves made of leather.


From Begonia boliviensis Firecracker, I was able to raise young plants. These plants should be kept warm during winter.

Penelope Jones, via email. 

You can expect your plants to grow small tubers. If they are kept dry, they can become shrivelled and eventually die. Too much moisture can cause them to turn brown. I keep several types of boliviensis plants and allow them to overwinter in their greenhouse pots. Slowly, the topgrowth will die.

Place the pots in an unattended greenhouse. Make sure the medium is not too dry.

Turn out the containers next spring and carefully remove the tubers. Plant them again in new compost. Keep them free from frost.