I have flirted with geraniums for several decades but never achieved the full satisfaction of a great display. Now I have a new plan to dedicate an area in the garden, dare I call it a zone? to some of these colourful plants. To give me an incentive to dedicate time and effort I have given it a name Pelargonia as I thought Geraniumistan was going to confuse the issue with cranesbill geranium or hardy geraniums.
As you can see from the search link I have blogged on 67 occasions about pelargoniums and geraniums over the Gardeners Tips years.
Frost Tender Pelargoniums
After several good years I got careless one weekend and lost some good growth and suffered several set backs after an air frost. A similar event took place 6 years ago and that was at the beginning of June.
Remember if your pelargonium stems get frosted then the plant will die and not recover!
In the North of England there can be frosts late in May and early June. In Scotland and on high ground keep your thermometer handy whenever frost is threatened.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â My flikr selection -hover & press the arrow
Zonal geraniums are more accurately called ‘Pelargoniums’. The zonal is named for the distinct bands of colour around the leaf. On the example below 3 distinct shades are obvious even in a black and white image. These distinctive colours and patterns are quite sought after and some varieties are grown for the leaf shade alone.
Pelargonium House Plants
If you are worried about frost, geraniums make fine house plants. They can be kept in flower throughout the year and the flowers can be picked for a small vase. If you time it right when several ‘pips’ are showing full colour they can last a couple of weeks as the other pips keep opening.
Regular weekly feeding of high potash feed with an occasional nitrogen booster will grow a substantial specimen.
Pinch out the growing tip in April and June to get bushy plants with more flowers.
Compose your photo shot with care to get the image you want and only that image. In this photo the moss and drainpipe do not add anything to the desired result so they need to be cropped out for the next image where ‘Carols’ bucket takes center stage. If the original has been taken with high resolution the cropped image will not suffer. The spade could have been aligned better to show the handle.
Know your cameras capabilities and take several shots until you find an image you like. Be self-critical of your work and regular practice will help to get better results next time
Despite standing on the low wall to look down on the garden only the crazy paving benefited and I should consign this to the compost (I mean the recycle bin). The aim was to have a foreground that didn’t compromise the key middle ground and then a background that didn’t distract. Shame that this photo failed on all aims with the neighboring houses standing out and catching the eye and the key middle ground achieving nothing much.
Collected Californian poppy Eschscholzia pods and seeds
January Review ofÂ Seeds in my Seed Bank
Many gardeners me included have collections of seeds from last year and prior. This is a summary of how I started 2020
Alliums of many varieties not kept separate – all destined forÂ my daughters newish garden as requested.
Some kept in a plastic box without being fully dried off. They don’t look too healthy so ditched them on compost heap where they could have gone much sooner.
Some well dried off and now labeled.
Set up a metal box for all bought and some dried seed
Best seeds were runner beans – will use largest for this year.Â There were more than I will need to get a reasonable number of plants.
Several packets of annuals bought in the autumn sale – particularly those that can be expected not to have aged. I planned to be sowing in spring and am now very grateful for the stock as I can’t go out and buy more.
Empty packets of various autumn sown seeds Calendula, sweet pea, wallflower, etc
Saved seed from those plants I want to repeat, livingstone daisy, salvia, lupin, cosmos,
Specials to try to cultivate yellow tree peony, pieris and collected shrub berries from nature walks.
Salad leaf mixture, 6 varieties of tomato, climbing beans, broad beans etc.
Save in envelopes for better dry storage. Make sure they don’t have open corners I used school dinner-money envelopes and they leaked
Keep seeds separate and label with name and date
If seeds decanted from the original proprietary packet keep the bit of instructions, name etc.
Don’t use plastic bags in future they sweat and help cause rot-dry off seed before storing.
Take care with the usually good sweet pea seeds this year they all had maggots in them.
‘A good big one is better than a smaller one’ is an old yet valid quote and also applies to the size of a planting hole. Give room for the roots to spread. Brake up the bottom and sides of the hole, mix in some slow release fertiliser and puddle in (lots of water in and around the plant. Firm down the soil and offer support with a stake.
A good big one quote should not be taken to extreme for new shrubs and trees. The larger the plant the more susceptible it will be to drought and wind damage. Over time most smaller plants will catch up and have suffered fewer ‘checks’. On large forced shrubs the root systems may not be strong enough to cope with a large head of leaf, fruit or flower.
I prefer autumn as a time to plant when the soil will provide a warm home for new roots and rain will help with watering.
Water new plants regularly and thoroughly. A slight depression around the plant will create a saucer effect. In dry situations they may need help for 12 months or more. Do not risk new plants dying from drought.
Protecting the Newly Planted
Young trees need the support of a stake or cane. Wind rock can damage the tender roots and growth will be damaged by prevailing wind. Stake on the windward side and tie with soft string at least one third up the stem.
Errect a wind break if the garden is exposed.
Protect from animal damage with a plastic stem protector and slug pellets.
Plant in groups rather in singles to get some mutual protection.
Mulch to protect the soil temperature and moisture content.
Keep weeds under control.
Planting out pot grown plants
Before planting out give all new plants in pots a good soaking. Beware it can be hard to get water to soak into the centerÂ You do not want to find the plant dying with a dry root ball in a few seasons time.
Pot bound plants are those with the root twisting around inside the pot and most of the nutrient and compost consumed. Roots may be forcing their way out of the bottom of the pot or making plastic pots distort. They will struggle to get out of this vicious spiral/circle when planted out. The best solution is to tease out the roots on the edge of the root ball. If it is too tightly wound then break out any remaining composts and spread all the roots as best you can.
Garden centers are businesses and some get up to dubious tricks. Small and immature plants that haveÂ recently been repotted into larger pots to make them seem more valuable (for that read pricey). Before buying support the plant and invert the pot to see if the root ball crumbles.
I put some mycorrhisal root growth aid in the hole to encourage roots to grow away from the root ball.
Bare rooted trees and shrubs are often the best way to plant fruit trees, hedges and roses.
A windbreak can make a big difference to a garden creating safety and an improved micro climate. After we reduced a large conifer by half many plants got flattened by the wind which was now able to flow over the shorter windbreak.
Top Windbreak Tips
Hedges, gorse and natural planting will help break-up the flow of wind. Banked up soil with a hedge on top often features in large windswept gardens.
Solid barriers such as walls can create eddies and vortex effects that cause more damage than they protect.Â This was forcefully demonstrated to me with lost greenhouse window panes after a big blow.
Plan a first line of defence to break the winds full force followed by a second line. Design both together to be complementary. I prefer natural breaks of trees as the prime windbreak but for ground level protection I use smaller shrubs.
In really wind areas windbreak trees will grow lower or be stunted so bear this in mind when planning the number and proximity of plants needed.
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, oh I do like to garden by the sea -Tiddely om pom pom. Seaside gardening has its challenges and it has it’s rewards as my west coast brother-in-law knows. (At the age of 82 he is thinking of giving up his gardening business to concentrate on his own relatively new garden).
The Filey Seaside Gardener
Seaside Gardening Challenges
To garden by the seaside you face virtually all the challenges inland gardeners face and then some.
The first to single out is the salty air borne on winds that have blown over the sea to deposit there munificence on your prized plants. Salt is not a natural fertiliser! Salt is not a natural plant killer although you may come to think that it is so if you plant the wrong plants.
In the UK you may expect westerly windsÂ around half of our coastline. However there are additional strong winds that blow on-shore on a regular basis to the detriment in the East, North and South gardens. Seaside wind is desiccating and abrasive as we know from personal wind chill effects.
Sand dunes, beaches and sand castles amuse the children but sandy soil is a garden staple that adds to the challenges. Such soil has little humous, hold little water or goodness and is desiccated so lacking in nutrients.
Geological and geographic features need to be contended with including the possibility of a high water table, limey seashell based soil or pebbles and rocks. The worst issue of the moment is soil erosion on the East coast where your cliff top garden or allotment may crumble into the sea.
The Filey Fisherman’s Friend
Seaside Gardening Rewards
Defeating the challenges or holding them to a scoring draw is reward in it’s self (or so I’m told).
Â Others common plants will do far better at the seaside than one expects. Hydrangea macrophylla can do well despite the lack orf water as do annual plants chosen for public gardens by tourist minded local authorities. See our selection ofÂ Perennials for the seaside from gardeners tips 2012. Careful plant selection could even introduce some new species to even the most avid gardener.
There are far more detailed selections in the book ‘The Seaside Gardener’ by Richard Mortimer
There can be special rewards from the introduction of wind breaks. Walls add height to a flat landscape providing scope for climbers or crevice plants. Selective planting of trees and shrubs will be rewarded by breaking the flow of the wind and possibly directing it up and over your patch.
The proximity of the sea can provide some winter warmth to keep the worst of the frost at bay. On the other hand you may suffer from a sea fret that prevents you from seeing your garden.
Low growing locally successful wild plants will do even better with your tender care.
Yesterday I effectively got suckered twice. It was all over 99 pence so in truth I have lost little and may yet gain but that is in the lap of Priapus the god of vegetable gardening.
Tomato Growing Plan for 2020
I start each year with clear plan and often good intentions and this year my aim is to harvest more tomatoes from 10 plants grown in my green house.
Gardeners Delight is intended as my main variety with Moneymaker as an auxiliary. I intended to buy plants, when the weather and I are ready, which will save time, space and reduce the chance of germination failure. But I have been suckered into buying and sowing a double dose of seedlings already.
I have several half packets of last years still viable seeds but am very determined not to sow and grow them. (San Marzano, Marmande and Tigerella)
The main success last year was growing cherry tomatoes in pots on the top of staging once other spring seedlings had been planted out. So I am looking for red and yellow types of suitable bush varieties. Thompson & Morgan had a trial price of 99p on a packet of Sweet Baby and I was suckered by the name and price but failed to read the back of the packet that informs me that cordon plants will grow to 2 meters high even with pinching out.
On the plus side with self isolation for us wrinklys I will have time to nurture some outdoor tomatoes this year after I have dug up more lawn to make the space. Add this to the fact that our local garden center is 99p better off I should worry.
Thompson & Morgan Redemption
22nd March 2020 only 4 days after this original post T&M have partially redeemed themselves in my eyes. In today’s Daily Telegraph newspaper there is a plant offer for ‘six cherry tomato plants for Â£4.99; 3 ‘Bite Size and 3 ‘Tumbling Tom Red’. Whilst one is cordon the tumbler is determinate and just what I wanted. As I can’t go out during the corona virus restrictionsÂ I will buy the mail order. It will cost more than a packet of seed but a lot of effort will be saved.
The only moan is now paying an additional Â£4.95 P&P. Still I can order online to save postage which increases tomorrow.
The year 2020 is set to be memorable for far too many reasons. At the moment I will only stick to comments about plant and garden viruses but note we ‘caught a cold’ on the wet winter.
Jobs New to My Garden
I have hadÂ new roof felting and tiles on my bungalow that has some garden on all four sides of the house. The job yesterday was to go around the beds and edges to collect the bits left or blown on to the garden from the, mainly tidy, roofers. I was surprised at the amount of brash, jib and detritus that had collected under plants and all around the garden, not all the roofers doing. I will repeat the clear up exercise as part of an annual spring clean.
The second new garden job was also roofing related or more specifically scaffolding. Despite being a bungalow the house is built into a slope and the eaves are as high in places as a tall two story house. At pinch points around the house the scaffold poles had to be grounded on parts of the lawn ( a wet lawn as you can imagine). Where the grass was covered by a steel plate as support the yellowing of the grass returned to normal after a couple of weeks. The problem was where the exit from the scaffold was on to one patch of grass that became compacted and very muddy. I have spiked and forked the area and over-sown with some grass seed in the hope it will recover but muddyness is in the lap of the rainmakers.
Strulch was at the heart of my next new gardening job in what I now call ‘restrulching’. Last year I used a lot of Strulch to top off my ornamental plant pots particularly those that contained a new collection of patio roses. This was a success reducing maintenance and improving appearance. Now after pruning the roses I wanted to feed and top dress them. Where the old strulching was deep enough there was a mat of material that would survive at least another year but I broke it up to add blood fish and bone fertiliser then reapplied fresh Strulch.
In 2008 a google search for sunflowers would have found gardeners tips in the top 3 results. Now it would be luck to be found in the top 3 million. We are number 115th for the more specific ‘sunflowers gardeners tips’ as Tips for Easy Sunflowers from 2015.
So why are the mighty fallen?
We have not kept up with search engine etiquette, metrics and optimisation techniques preferring to have our fun with with 2000+ somewhat random posts.
There are a great number of tipster sites and commercial businesses whose need forÂ traffic drives them to focus and stylise there offerings.
Google algorithms and analytics are far superior to those of 10 years ago.’
We were not mighty and do not claim mightyness yet but we hope to keep sowing, growing and gardening.
Rabbits do not eat Cyclamen at least not if they are stone replicas rabbits.
In front of the cyclamen I have just plantedÂ 100 Chionodoxa lucillia alba to provide spring sparkle and (rabbit food)!
The home made tufa pot has a plastic pot sunken in the center. I can replace this potted Auricula with another pot of the same size when necessary. The gravel improves drainage and the tufa looks natural now the moss has colonised the pot.
This form of cyclamen is one of my autumn favourites. The corm is now 4″ in diameter and you can see how many flowers one bulb can produce.