Thursday, February 12, 2015

Geraniums to the rescue

Gardeners are not alone when it comes to carefully-thought-out plans not quite following the script, but at least when things go wrong for we growers of plants, we can at least plant something else and things can still work out OK. That's what is starting to happen here, and it's good old geraniums to the rescue!

In our case, my brilliant plan was to see our row of four Gardenia magnifica plants rising up 1.5 to 2m (5-6 feet) tall, almost covering our boring off-white steel fence with their glossy green foliage and fragrant white flowers. Nice plan! The trouble is that they are struggling rather badly. The tallest is just 1m tall, and the others are lagging behind. Don't worry, I'm working on it...

Here's the problem, and the solution (well,
the solution under way). Those gardenias'
assignment was to fill the space that is
now occupied by bare white steel fencing.
Hopefully a bit of soil pH measuring and
adjusting, then whammo with the chicken poo
and the Seasol and water should get those
gardenias growing in autumn, but in the meantime....

... Pammy and I agreed that hanging baskets spilling
over with foliage and flowers seemed a nice idea. As we are
a little bit old-fashioned in some ways, ivy geraniums
were our pick to do the job of filling the void colourfully.
These are the sort that like to climb, spill or trail.

Part B of our gap-filling job happened down at ground level, with geraniums to the rescue again. Instead of looking at the scrawny gardenias, visitors say "my, your old-fashioned red geraniums are doing well!" (and of course they say nothing about our boring, scrawny gardenias). And these classic old-style red geraniums are doing well.

These red geraniums are sold as 'Big Red' and they cost too much
for me (almost $20 a pop) to buy the five plants we needed, so I
bought  just two and have taken cuttings from them. Geraniums
strike from cuttings so incredibly easily, and so their babies are
 growing along very well now, some sending up their first little
 flower spikes already. And that, folks, is a saving of 60 bucks
for this penny-pinching semi-retired gardener!

There's something about rich red geraniums which make them
my favourite old-fashioned geranium colour combo. I think it's
that tone of red in combination with that tone of green. Love it!

And if you're wondering about those hanging baskets (for Australian readers) they are 'Tuscan' hanging basket planters by Yates, bought from (you guessed it) Bunnings. For the last two decades I have used wire-framed hanging baskets lined with coir, and while they look nice they do deteriorate fast and their soils do dry out fast and they are rather a lot of hard work. I'm trying plastic for the first time and I suspect they will work fine, will soon disappear from view behind a veil of green ivy geranium leaves and quietly go about their business rather well. They also have a "water well" in the base of the pots for the roots to drink from (once they grow that deep).

As for growing geraniums here in Sydney, the first year is always the best one. They really do prefer a less humid climate (they love Adelaide, with its Mediterranean-style climate), and in Sydney you will often strike problems during prolonged wet or wet and humid periods. That's when air circulation around the plants and good soil drainage are the critical factors in keeping geraniums healthy and happy, apart of course from receiving plenty of sunshine all day long.

PS: and if you want to tell me that these geraniums are actually pelargoniums, and not geraniums, go on, I know somebody reading this posting is dying to!


Jem @ Lost in Utensils said...

Ah...we plan and then life happens! A beautiful and cheery visual rescue Jamie.

Diana Studer said...

yup, pelargoniums.
I inherited both the red shrubby one and a selection of ivy geraniums in our new False Bay garden.
In turn we have a garstigly green wall that I aim to cover with a spekboom hedge. Knee high so far ...

Jamie said...

New word for me, Spekboom! Just Googled it, and now I know what you mean. I remember visiting a succulent garden with a long driveway lined with "Spekboom" (jade) hedges. Superb