Native Trees
and Shrubs

Native Trees and Shrubs


A sharp secateurs and a sharp knife

Jeyes Fluid for sterilising the knife or secateurs, after the work is done

Coarse horticultural sand. Play sand will do too. do not use builders' sand as it becomes hard.

Suitable seed and cutting compost (available in Garden Centres)

Lots of holly berries

An assortment of pots and containers for the berries (15 to 22 cm in diameter are ideal.) These should have holes in the bottom for good drainage.

Light-fast marker and plant labels.

Rooting powder (optional). Organic growers say it is unnecessary.

Different Trees and Seeds

The following plants are suitable for this type of propogation: hazel (corylus avellana), honeysuckle (lonicera periclymenum), wild rose (rosa rubiginosa, roas canina, roas arvensis), wild broom (cytisus scoparius) ivy (heldera helix), guelder rose (viburnum opulus), elder (sambucus nigra), yew (taxus baccata), holly (ilex aquifolium), hawthorn (crataegus monogyna), willow species, wild privet (lingustrum vulgare) and dogwood. Native privet (lingustrum vulgare) is very rare. However, it is often found in hedgerows as an introduced species. The native dogwood is rare also. It is only found in certain parts of Ireland, so ordinaryspecies may be used.


Hardwood cuttings: Hard and woody stems that have finished a year's growth. They are 20 to 30 cm long with lots of buds. They should be about pencil thickness.

Heel cuttings: A hardwood cutting of a side shoot. The shoot is pulled off the main stem with a piece of bark attached. The heel should be trimmed with asharp knife before the cutting is inserted in the trench.

Stratification: The process of subjecting seeds to severe cold, to induce them to break their dormancy.

How to propagate
Native Trees and Shrubs
from cuttings and Hollies from berries

This project is supported by the Department of the Environment Environmental Partnership Fund.

This activity is inexpensive and is suitable for fourth and fifth classes. It takes twelve months for completion of the exercise and so it is not suitable for Sixth class. By growing trees and shribs in this manner, chiuldren are introduced to one of the greatest joys of gardening, that is, seeing cuttings root successfully.

This is also an ideal time to stratify holly seeds. Berries are usually plentiful during this month. They will disappear rapidly, however, when frosty weather arrives as thrushes, fieldfares and redwings have a great fondness for them.

The process for Propagating Cuttings

In a lightly shaded part of a garden dig a trench, to the depth of a spade, with one vertical side. Add about 5 cm of coarse sand along the bottom of the trench. Make two cuts in each cutting with the secateurs. The first cut is a sloping one, above a bud or a pair of buds, near the top of the cutting. The second cut is made below a node or leaf joint. This should leave the cutting about 23 cm in length. A tiny sliver of bark is then cut away from the base of each cutting. This helps the rooting.

Remove the leaves from about 2/3 of the bottom part of cuttings. Dip the cutting in hormone powder (if using it). Insert cuttings in the trench, against the vertical wall, about 15 cm apart with about 2/3 of the cutting underground. Label the cuttings. Replace the soil bit by bit, treading on each layer. Water well.

Cuttings can also be inserted around the edge of a 13 cm deep pot, if no ground space is available. They should be treated as above. Heel cuttings can also be taken. The leaves of evergreens such as holly, should be halved to prevent too much loss of moisture. Yews strike best, if the cuttings are inserted around the rim of a pot filled with equal amounts of sand and peat or a peat substitute.
The 25cm long cuttings should then be covered with a plastic bag (the shopping variety is ideal) and left outside in a cool shady place. They will have nice roots by the following summer.

After Care of Trench Cuttings

  • 1.
    Cuttings are left in situ for twelve months. They will have rooted by then and can be lifted and transferred to pots, filled with potting compost, or transferred to a nursery bed or to their permanent location.
  • 2.
    Severe frost can loosen cutings greatly during the winter and cause them to dry out and die. Therefore, the trench should be inspected after frost and the soil around the cuttings should be firmed down gently by foot.
  • 3.
    The area around the trench should be kept weed-free and watered in summer, if the weather is very dry.

After Care of Berries

  • 1.
    Holly seeds need to be exposed to the cold of two winters, before they will germinate. Inspect the burial spots in March of the second year, following sowing.
  • 2.
    If seeds are sprouting, remove them gently with some sand clinging to them. Insert them in small pots of potting compost or cellular trays with the same medium.
  • 3.
    As they grow bigger, transfer them to larger pots. Plant them out in their permanent positions when they are about 30 cm high.

The Stratification Process

Collect holly berries from trees in November. If this is not possible, save the berries of Christmas sprigs and use them.
Remove the flesh of the berry. This can be a tedious business for adults, but children will take to the task with relish. Have a basin of water and a towel nearby for cleaning sticky hands. (Holly seeds often germinate successfully, even with the flesh on.) Place some drainage material, such as chippings or small stones, at the bottom of the flower pots.
Cover the drainage material with sharp sand or play sand to about halfway in the pot. Place a layer of seed on the sand. Cover this with more sand to just below the rim.
Alternatively, mix the sand and seed together. The ratio should be about 4 parts sand to 1 part seed. (In the last century coal ash was used instead of sand. It is just as effective).
Water well and label with the date and the name of the plant. Leave the pots outside throughout the winter in a north-facing situation. The sand must always remain moist, so it is a good idea to cover the pots with glass or plastic. In summer, bury the pots in the ground so they don't dry out. Make sure to mark the burial spot. Marking is unnecessary, if you can be assured that the sand will remain moist.
Demonstration of taking cuttings by Mr. Pat Dunford and pupils of sixth class, Scoil Treasa, Donore Avenue, Dublin.
ext:Patrick Madden
Illustrations:Eileen Fleming
Editor / Photographs:Marian Rollins
Web Page Design:Taran Pyper 2013

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