Tag Archive: pelargonium


Relax, it's summer...picture by Merv French

Relax, it’s summer…picture by Merv French

August can be a bit of a ‘graveyard’ month – few things are looking good in the garden as the first flushes of growth on many plants have died or been pruned away and there’s not much (yet) to replace them. It can be one of the hottest, driest months in the UK, too, making watering essential – and this could be a problem if you’re on holiday and don’t have friends or neighbours (or an automatic watering system) to do it for you. So this month’s tips are mainly about harvesting, maintaining colour and interest, pruning and propagating new plants – and of course, watering!

1. Prune now for next year’s fruit and flowers

To encourage flowering or fruiting shoots, prune early flowering shrubs if not already done so and also trim back the new straggly stems of Wisteria to about 5 or 6 buds above the joint with the main stem – this will encourage energy to go into forming new flowering spurs. Do the same for fan or other trained fruit like plums, cherries a etc. Cut out the old fruiting stems of summer raspberries to encourage the new stems to grow and tie these in as you go to stop them rocking around too much. Sever, lift and pot up strawberry runners if you want to replace old plants or expand your strawberry bed. Trim back your lavender once it has finished flowering, to stop it growing leggy (but just the tops- don’t cut into old, woody stems).

2. Cut out the dead or diseased

Dead head and ‘dead leaf’ perennials and annuals to prolong flowering as long as possible and keep plants looking tidy. Cut back herbs (Chives, Chervil, Fennel, Marjoram etc.) to encourage a new flush of tasty leaves that you can harvest before the first frost. Dry or freeze your herbs to use in the kitchen later on or sow some in pots that you can bring inside later in the year.  Look out for symptoms of Clematis Wilt such as wilting leaves and black discolouration on the leaves and stems of your Clematis. Cut out any infected plant material and dispose of it in your household waste.

Clematis wilt

Clematis wilt

3. Water when necessary

Containers, hanging baskets and new plants in particular need a regular water and some will need to be fed too. Ideally use stored rainwater or ‘grey water’ (recycled from household washing, but only that without soap and detergents etc.). Keep ponds, bog gardens and water features topped up. Particularly thirsty plants include:

  • Phlox

  • Aster

  • Persicaria

  • Aconitum

  • Helenium

  • Monarda

4. Mulch

To conserve moisture in the soil around plants use a mulch of organic material. An easy option is grass clippings –  put these on a plastic sheet and leave for a day in the sunshine. Turn the pile of clippings and leave for another day, or until they have turned brown. Spread the mulch round each plant, but avoid covering the crown as you might encourage it to rot. As mulch attracts slugs avoid those plants that these pests enjoy – Hostas, Delphiniums etc. Check that any mulch applied earlier hasn’t decomposed and add more as needed. Ideally, spread a mid-season layer of compost or manure – this will act to conserve moisture and feed the plants too.

Harvest Sweet corn this month

Harvest Sweet corn this month

5. Harvest home

Pick vegetables such as Sweet Corn. Pinch out the top of tomato plants to concentrate the growth into the fruit that has already formed. Aim to leave 5 or 6 trusses of fruit per plant. If you’re going away ask a neighbour / friend to pick your flowers, salad and veg to prevent everything running to seed in your absence.

6. Last chance saloon 

In the early part of the month sow your last veg for autumn/ winter harvesting (e.g chard or spinach). You can also sow salad leaves under cover in warmer areas. And sow green manures in ground that is going to be left vacant for a few months so as to help maintain nutrient levels and to keep weeds down.

7. Think seeds

Gather seeds from plants you want to propagate in this way and store them/ seed heads in paper bags if it’s not yet ripe. And why not allow some self seeding in some areas? Mow wild flower meadows to allow seeds to spread for next year.

Divide Bearded irises to give the divisions time to establish

Divide Bearded irises to give the divisions time to establish

8. Divide to multiply 

If the weather and soil conditions allow, start dividing perennials, perhaps beginning with bearded Irises. Either replant the divisions in the garden or pot them up for later sales/swaps/gifts.

9. Cut to grow 

Take cuttings, an excellent way of increasing your woody and semi-woody plants like fuchsias and pelargoniums. Choose a healthy shoot and cut the top six inches, then remove all but the topmost leaves. For insurance, dip in a little rooting powder and place in moist compost. Keep them in a cold greenhouse from September and plant them in their positions next spring, when there is not much chance of heavy frost.

August is a good time for taking Fuchsia cuttings

August is a good time for taking Fuchsia cuttings

10. Enjoy and inspect

Spend a good amount of time in the garden enjoying it – asleep, with friends or just admiring what you and mother nature have created! And while you’re at it make notes / take photos of your borders etc. to identify any problem areas that need sorting out for next year; overcrowded groups of plants, gaps, areas lacking colour or interest, weak looking plants etc. And it’s also important to record good plant combinations you might want to repeat – or just take pictures of those good looking areas for the record.

Old School Gardener

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As flowers go over be sure to deadhead regularly where appropriate to encourage longer flowering on into the Autumn and generally prevent the garden from looking frazzled and messy.

Collect seed pods for those plants that you’re planning to re-seed, and those that you don’t want to reseed themselves.

Prune back your pleached fruit trees, leaving 3 or 4 leaves on each sideshoot.  If any of your other fruit trees need pruning, do this immediately after you have harvested.

Trim back your lavender once it has finished flowering, to stop it growing leggy.

Although weeds will be growing more slowly than in the spring, it’s an idea to continue to hoe the soil to keep them down. This should be done in warm, dry conditions to ensure any weed seedlings left on the surface dehydrate and die.

If you’re going away ask a neighbour / willing family member to pick your flowers, salad and veg to prevent everything running to seed in your absence.

Now is the time to look at your borders and note any gaps / congestion that you’ll want to rectify later in the season when everything has gone over, ahead of next year. And start your shopping list for Autumn bulbs.

And of course, at this time of year, watering is key. Keep on top of this daily, making sure you water in the morning or late afternoon-evening to prevent the heat evaporating all the water before it reaches the plant roots.

Grow Your Own

Flowers
Support your dahlias, lilies and gladioli with stakes and flower rings to ensure the weight of their beautiful flower doesn’t cause their stems to break.

Chrysanths will benefit from being pinched or sheared back, encouraging more growth and flowers.

Keep picking your cut flowers to encourage more blooms and a longer flowering season.

Towards the end of August you can start planning next year’s colour by sowing your hardy annuals.

Grow Your Own

Veg and Salad

Plant out your leeks and brassicas if you haven’t already, and you can also squeeze in a final sowing of spinach and chard in the first couple of weeks of August.

Sow salad leaves under cover, or out in the open if in warmer parts of the UK.


Herbs 
Sow Basil,  Marjoram, Borage, Chervil, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Parsley in pots outside, to make moving them indoors as easy as possible in the late autumn

Fruit
Transplant strawberry runners to a new position.

Ensure that your fruit crops aren’t pinched by the birds by covering with netting, ensuring the netting stands well clear of the fruit.

Harvesting Food – What you could be picking and eating this time next year, or – if you’re an old hand – already are 

– See more at: http://www.sarahraven.com/august-in-the-garden#sthash.xPIdXOO2.dpuf

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A few weeks ago I posted a brief article about how I’d converted an old wooden bicycle rack (saved from the bonfire, as it was being disposed of by the local Primary School) into a sort of vertical plant stand cum ‘Plant Theatre’.

The old Bike Rack before it's makeover
The old Bike Rack before it’s makeover

I decided that the first display would be of  a range of Pelargoniums. Having bought a number of small terracotta pots, and used a mix of old and new plants, I set it up and nurtured my new ‘creation’. Well here’s how it’s looking at the end of June – most plants are now in flower and providing an eyecatching, vertical splash of colour in the courtyard here at Old School Garden. What do you think?

The finished 'Theatre'
The finished ‘Theatre’

I must now start thinking about what to do for a spring display, next year. I’ll try to over winter the pelargoniums and use them again in the summer.  For spring, perhaps I’ll tryt o get hold of a range of that plant that typifies ‘Plant Theatres’, the Primula auricula.

A Primula auricula- something for the 'Theatre' in Spring 2015?
A Primula auricula- something for the ‘Theatre’ in Spring 2015?

Old School Gardener

ChrysanthemumsI’ve received a question from a Nottinghamshire gardener about different kinds of cutting. Mr. R.Hood asks:

‘What is the difference between softwood and greenwood cuttings? I’ve read that chrysanthemums are propagated from greenwood.’

Well, Mr. Hood, the difference comes down to something quite smallsoftwood cuttings are taken from the first flush of new growth in spring, whereas greenwood cuttings are taken slightly later, when the wood at the base of the cutting is a little firmer – these cuttings do not root quite as quickly.  Greenwood cuttings are easier to handle than softwood, and they are less prone to wilting. Therefore, greenwood cuttings should be used to propagate plants that root readily, like Delphiniums, Pelargoniums and indeed Chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemum cuttings could not be easier and for every mother or grandmother plant, you can produce at least 10 of a new generation. For an easy guide on how look at this article.

Softwood cutting

Softwood cutting

And while we’re talking about propagating new plants from cuttings how about evergreen plants?

Cuttings from these plants are usually taken from ‘ripe or semi ripe wood’ (i.e. when stems are firmer and buds have developed) in early summer and autumn and rooted  in a cold frame. They can be anything from 50 -150cm long, depending on the size of the plant, and preferably with a ‘heel’ of older wood where the cutting stem has been pulled away from the main stem. You then strip off the lower leaves, and if there is no heel, make a wound about 13mm long at the base of the cutting. Apply a hormone rooting powder to the base of the cutting (just a light dusting) and insert the cutting to half their length in soil – you can probably put a number around the edge and in the centre of a pot. To help reduce water loss from the remaining leaf/leaves, cut these in half.

Semi ripe cutting

Semi ripe cutting

The pot should then be placed in a cold frame (you can also root the cuttings directly into the soil in a cold frame , but make sure it has been forked over and manured/composted a week or two beforehand).  Water them well and close the frame completely. Inspect and water them regularly and harden them off during the summer to prepare them for planting out the following autumn.

You can create your own 'mini cold frame' by using plastic covers or bags over pot-planted cuttings

You can create your own ‘mini cold frame’ by using plastic covers or bags over pot-planted cuttings

Another technique, if you don’t have a cold frame, is to put a plastic cover, or bag secured with an elastic band over the top of the pot – this helps to prevent the cuttings drying out, by maintaining a naturally humid atmosphere. These effectively become ‘mini cold frames’ themselves.

It seems you can grow some evergreen cuttings by placing them into a cut potato! - this one is Wisteria.

It seems you can grow shrub cuttings by placing them into a cut potato! – this one is Wisteria, see the link for further info

Further information:

Softwood and Greenwood cuttings – RHS

Semi ripe cuttings- RHS

Propagating shrubs in a potato

Old School Gardener

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Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'

Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’

Geraniums comprise over 400 species of annual, biennial and perennial plants commonly known as ‘Cranesbills’. They originate from around the globe.The perennials are very useful as border plants, with beautiful flowers. They are easy to grow, long lasting and are useful ground cover. Underplanted with spring bulbs, their leaves are good at hiding untidy bulb foliage after flowering. They also give new life to a border otherwise left bare when the spring bulbs are over.

They don’t like waterlogged soil and so in the wild you find them all habitats except boggy ones. They are a diverse group, varying in both hardiness and their growing needs. G. malviflorum is unusual in that it makes top -growth through the winter, flowers in spring and disappears until winter!

Geranium pratense (Meadow Cranesbill)

Geranium pratense (Meadow Cranesbill)

Geranium platypetalum

Geranium platypetalum

Geranium dissectum

Geranium dissectum

Most Geranium flowers are saucer-shaped, but can be flat or star like. They can come in umbels, panicles or cymes. They range in colour from white to dark plum through an array of pinks, blues and purples. Leaves are grouped around the base and the stem and are often deeply divided and toothed, and some are evergreen.

Many species are floppy or scramble and most need some sort of support to make them look reasonable. They all need shearing over the autumn/winter to encourage new basal growth, and some species, if sheared immediately after flowering will put on a second flush of leaves and flowers. Propagate by taking semi-ripe cuttings in summer, by seed, or by division in autumn or spring.

Geranium sanguineum showing 'bill' which aids seed dispersal

Geranium sanguineum showing ‘bill’ which aids seed dispersal

Most are drought tolerant and all are low in allergens. Some, such as G. nodosum and G. procurrens root when their stems touch the soil and G. thunbergii self seeds to a considerable extent, so should be deadheaded before the seeds form, if you want to restrict its spread.

Pelargoniums are often given the common name ‘Geranium’- both genuses are members of the Geraniaceae family. both were originally part of one family as defined by the botanist Linnaeus.

Geranium maculatum

Geranium maculatum

Geranium maderense

Geranium maderense

Further information:

10 AGM Hardy Geraniums for the garden- RHS

‘Geraniums- my hardy heroes’ – article by Bunny Guinness

Geraniums for shady places

National Collection of Geraniums- Cambridge Botanic Garden

Geranium phaeum - from Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885

Geranium phaeum – from Thomé ‘Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz’ 1885

Old School Gardener

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