Published on 01/12/06

From berries to cuttings, experts talk plants

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Bodie Pennisi and Paul Thomas promise purple hands, and it won’t be due to the cold.

Those attending the “Plant Propagation from A to Z” seminar on Jan. 25 in Athens can expect hands-on fun, and that includes smashing berries for their seeds. The class may get messy, but attendees will go home with useable skills, seeds and trays of plant cuttings.

“The purpose of this workshop is to give the average person who really loves plants the know-how to replicate them, to make more of them,” said Thomas, an associate professor of floriculture and Cooperative Extension specialist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The workshop, coordinated by Pennisi, will be held from 8:25 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the Classic Center in downtown Athens and covers the basics from seed to cuttings. Thomas started the class in 1993 with 300 attendees, and Pennisi has successfully enlarged the scope of the program over the last five years.

“We fill the room every session,” said Pennisi, a UGA Extension floriculture specialist. “People really enjoy this workshop and we have a great time sharing what we know.”

The speakers will start the workshop by boiling down the finer points of using seeds. Every type of seed is different and has different needs. Lettuce seeds, for example, can’t be buried, Thomas said. For lettuce to germinate, the seeds must be placed on top of the soil to get an adequate amount of sunlight and moisture. Light triggers their germination.

A significant feature of the program is the great variety of plants the attendees will take home.

“We run around the campus and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia looking for native seeds,” Thomas said. “We also bring in unusual tropical and herbaceous materials. We cover the entire gamut.”

The fundamental principles of plant propagation will also be covered at the workshop. Methods and techniques in rooting perennials and woody plants and how to set up a successful propagation program will be taught, too.

Workshop activities also include hands-on seed and woody plant propagation. Thomas said the group will cut up oranges, smash rotten fruit and smear berries to collect seeds and then learn the proper way to take a plant cutting.

“We have them leave with several dozen cuttings to root out at home,” he said. “It doesn’t end with this class. We give them one heck of a homework job. They find out what it’s really like to be a horticulturalist.”

Other workshop speakers from the University of Georgia include horticulture greenhouse manager Pam Lewis.

For more information on the workshop, call (706) 632-0100.

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Stephanie Schupska is the communications coordinator with the University of Georgia Honors College.