I’m a vegetable gardener – and a busy one at that. This doesn’t mean I can live without flowers. On the contrary, I must have a little colour. It’s just that you can’t eat colour so I can’t afford to devote much time to cultivating it. Never the less, each year as spring arrives, I resurect my trusty old geraniums (and I mean ‘geraniums’ not ‘pelargoniums’ which are considered annuals). These trusty old friends never fail to deliver a bit of a show right when I’m up to my neck hoeing up spuds or harvesting courgettes. Too busy to attend to them in any way, they somehow keep on keeping on.
Because they’re frost tender, I plant them in pots and haul them into the glasshouse at the end of autumn. Sometimes, I take cuttings, leave them to dry out for a day or so (which is just as well as some vegetable requiring attention usually distracts me), and then pot them up to take root over the winter. Come spring, out come the old faithfuls again. They are unceremoniusly plonked onto the deck to provide colour, and left to fend for themselves.
Geraniums are such obliging potted plants, and yet I know if I treated them kindly, they could be so much more showy. That’s why, this year, for the first time, I decided to find out just how to pamper them. When I looked into the subject, I was surprised mine had survived as long as they had!
Geraniums, whether in pots or in the garden, require a good, well-drained potting mix made up of equal amounts of soil, peat and perlite (perlite is a glassy, volcanic rock which you buy from the garden centre). How did my poor old specimens manage when I had them in regular garden soil which retained far too much moisture every time it rained? Much to my astonishment (I thought geraniums liked to be dry most of the time), these plants need a daily watering in dry weather. And it’s best to water around the base of the stem rather than overhead which can lead to disease (there goes my practice of emptying the teapot on top of them!) . As for feeding them (feeding potted flowers – whatever next!), they enjoy a drink of liquid fertilizer every month of the their active growing period. And they should be watered immediately after it’s applied. If fertilizing results in too much growth and not enough flower, cut back on it.
When it comes to sun, geraniums require a minimum of four hours sunlight although six to eight hours (which mine get) is preferable. Once they’re flowering, it’s a good idea to dead-head spent blooms to promote more flowers. Despite thinking my geraniums could live happily ever after in the same pot I first planted them who knows how many years ago, it seems they actually appreciate being repotted once they outgrow their living quarters, and wilting between waterings is an indication that re-potting time is nigh. The time to take cuttings for propogation is autumn (phew, at least I got that right!).
I like geraniums and, this year, I’m going to pamper mine as they deserve. No matter how much time it takes, I’m determined to give them the same degree of attention I give my carrots, spinach and rhubarb. There’s to be no going back on my new resolution but, having said that, if anyone out there knows of any edible varieties of geranium, I’d be very pleased to hear from you!