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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Short cuttings work best to propagate star jasmine

A ventilated plastic “humidity tent” arranged over the cuttings is useful during the rooting period.

Dear Helen: I have a star jasmine plant that has grown and flowered in the same large pot for around 20 years. In view of the plant’s age, I think I should have a young replacement plant or two on hand. Can I propagate it from cuttings? My plant grows free-form, not on a support structure. Is it supposed to be grown as a vine?


Star jasmine (Confederate jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides) is a versatile evergreen plant that will climb if there is a support structure for it. If not, the plant can become a ground cover or a spreading bush.

I produced the plant I have from cuttings taken off a friend’s star jasmine. Rooting is most likely to be successful on cuttings taken in summer, using new (this spring’s) growth that has begun to harden a little.

Short cuttings, just six to eight cm long, work best, with the bottom cut made immediately below a leaf node. Remove all but the topmost leaves and insert the cuttings into holes made in a lightweight, all-purpose potting mix in a shallow pot. Firm the cuttings in gently, and place the pot in a site protected from direct sun. Keep the potting mix just modestly moist. A ventilated plastic “humidity tent” arranged over the cuttings is useful during the rooting period.

Dear Helen: I’ve been given a plant that looks like a tuft of wide-bladed grass. The name I’ve been given for it is Liriope. What sort of site and soil does this plant need? Will it bloom? How do you pronounce the name?


Liriope (lily-turf) is a ground cover that forms dense clumps of evergreen leaves. It’s a tough, heat and drought tolerant plant that will grow in sun or shade, though it is most likely to bloom well in at least some sun. The flowers, in different shades of blue depending on the variety, appear on short spikes in late summer.

Though Liriope is not a fussy plant, it will benefit from a moist, humus rich soil. One “must” for Liriope is a soil that drains quickly of excess moisture.

Opinions vary on pronunciation. The one I come across most often in references is Li-RYE-oh-pee.

Dear Helen: Your recent writing about composting has been timely for me and my wife, because very little decomposition is happening in our big green composting bin. I see your own approach is to use open-air heaps. Should we retire the green plastic bin?


I’ve never used an enclosed composter, but I understand they are useful for turning kitchen fruit and vegetable trimmings into compost. And they exclude rodents.

I suspect that, even if they are vented, enclosed composters would need regular aerating. Most organisms that work to break down compostable materials need air, moderate warmth and moisture levels, and a balance of soft, green (nitrogen-rich) and firmer, brown (carbon-rich) materials.

My line-up of open enclosures, separated by openwork concrete bricks, are easy to manage and they work well. I’ve avoided the problems close neighbours have had with rats by digging kitchen vegetable and fruit waste directly into deep holes in the garden, where the materials decompose quickly without attracting rats and flies.


Floral art. The Mid Island Floral Art Club will feature an Ikebana demonstration and workshop at their meeting on Thursday, June 9, at 2 p.m. in St. Stephen’s Church, 150 Village Way in Qualicum Beach. Guest fee $6.

Summer show. The View Royal Garden Club will hold a Summer Garden Show on Saturday, June 11, 1 to 3 p.m. in Wheeley Hall, behind Esquimalt United Church, 500 Admirals Rd. Admission $5 includes refreshments and door prize tickets.

Denman tour. The Denman Island Home and Garden Tour is back, Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Featured among the 13 properties on the tour are the home and garden of writer Des Kennedy and his partner Sandy. Tickets at $25 can be purchased at

Nanaimo area tour. Altrusa, an international non-profit, is holding their seventh Annual Garden Tour of six gardens in and around Nanaimo on Sunday, June 12, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The tour is a fundraiser to support women, children and literacy in Nanaimo. Tickets at $20 are at Green Thumb and Little Tree Nurseries, Turley’s Florist and K.C.’s Boutique.