Book review: Propagate


Paul Anderton and Robin Daly

Hardie Grant

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

Two Dirty Boys, as the green-thumbed Paul Anderton and Robin Daly are known on social media, have put together this, their second gardening guide.

Having read it, I’m disappointed that I never got to read the first, Regrown: How to Grow Fruit, Herbs and Vegetables from Kitchen Scraps.

Online videos and tutorials abound about how to regrow from kitchen scraps and how to propagate houseplants, but what most of the short punchy, time-lapse videos don’t show is all the work that goes into finally getting it right.

There is a heck of a lot more to successful gardening than the 20 seconds or less videos are able to convey, and that’s why books such as these are so useful.

There is no scandal in Propagate, just loads of useful advice, based on years of trial and error and information gleaned from an online community of gardeners.

The book has an attractive, albeit unorthodox, slick design.

It’s split into three sections, easy, medium, and hard, which are prefaced by a general-advice section about helping cuttings to thrive.

Propagation is not just as simple as grabbing a bit of plant and sticking it in any available ground.

This book will tell you where and when to cut, what propagation medium is best, and what soil type or climate the plant needs to thrive.

I was particularly excited to find a propagation guide for lavender, which for reasons unknown, has become my nemesis in recent years.

Every lavender plant I have been blessed with has unfathomably up and died, while all around me my neighbours’ have thrived. With this book in tow, I intend to get a cutting in late summer, as the book suggests, and try again – fingers, toes and eyes crossed.

What I especially liked about this book was that it also talked about other aspects of the plant – its overall care, its origins and even superstitions surrounding it, if there were any.

There are two plants in the book that are considered “money” plants and one of them is indigenous to South Africa.

These favoured plants are thought to be lucky, and the superstition says they bring prosperity to the homes where they are grown. We could all do with a little bit of that, especially my suicidal lavender.