I recently took part in a jovial Gardener’s Question Time for the charity Perennial, organised by Sue Bedwell. Thank you to all who came. It was a frightening affair, particularly as I had never heard of the first plant, an oxalis with a name that sounded like Coca-Cola. My deficient hearing, a result of being born very prematurely, is the cause of much family mirth. On discussing cars, the son I never had (my daughter’s partner) suggested I should buy a Golf. I emailed him when I got the car and the teasing young man replied: “I said take up golf, not buy a Golf.”

One question I could hear concerned a blackened Viburnum tinus. This evergreen produces clusters of pink and white flowers in March and it’s not very hardy. The lady was unsure whether to cut it back or leave it. I sympathise: every gardener is now pondering the fate of their semi-dead plants, after a savage December, and wondering what to do.

I am a naturally impatient person: perhaps that’s why I arrived in the maternity ward early. Or perhaps it’s a female trait. But I have already consigned a brown rosemary, a battered santolina and several phlomis to the green bin as I can’t bear to look at them any longer. However, I am a plantaholic who welcomes a gap. I see it as an opportunity.

Walter Sawyer, the superintendent of Oxford Parks, also saw it as a ruthless opportunity to move on, and great play was made of the fact that his wife was in the audience. I hasten to say that he is devoted to Celia. However, Bob Brown, the famous nurseryman and owner of Cotswold Garden Flowers at Badsey in Evesham, suggested giving it a chance and standing back. Somewhere out there is one very confused lady gardener.

Most of my sick bay plants are (or were) either silver aromatics with a Mediterranean provenance, or South American beauties. So I am strutting restlessly round the garden like a cock pheasant who has survived the guns but needs for a mate. Except that I am looking for signs of dying plants and any battered ones are either being scrapped or cut back hard. The moral is to take cuttings every summer from new semi-ripe growth. Don’t do it in September: the cuttings will not have time to root well enough before winter sets in and things root poorly once the temperatures drop. Do it in June, July or August for every silver plant, salvia and penstemon you have. Look for pliable new growth that has started to firm a little and trim it below the leaf joints. Remove or reduce any over-large leaves, to prevent transpiration, and any flowers.

Taking cuttings is not onerous if you follow this method. Fill half-size seed trays with damp horticultural sand at the beginning of summer and place them out of sunlight. Keep the sand moist and away from cats!

Then, whenever you have cutting material, you will have a ready place to put them without having to stop and fill up a pot. Have some labels and a pencil nearby and then, when winter sees off your old plant, there will be young ones to replace it. Pot the cuttings in gritty compost once they root. If you still have cuttings in trays at the end of August, leave them there until the following spring.