River Wissey Lovell Fuller

May Gardening

May 2016

Summer's on its way, and it’s a busy time for the garden! As spring bulbs fade and herbaceous borders grow filled with the promise of colour to come. Temperatures are rising but there can still be a last minute frost to catch us all out, so keep an eye on the local weather forecast and protect tender plants accordingly. The plant of the month for May is the Pelargonium (pronounced pe-lar-GO-nee-um). Commonly known as geraniums, pelargoniums are a large group of tender plants from South Africa, used as bedding or houseplants. Although pelargoniums are often called geraniums, this is not correct, as true geraniums are hardy native herbaceous plants known as cranesbills. The confusion arises because both are members of the family Geraniaceae. Until 1732 Pelargonium’s and Geraniums where thought to be the same plant because their seed capsule is remarkably similar to our native cranesbill, however botanists soon found differences between the two plants and Pelargonium’s where reclassified, their name translating from Latin to ‘Storks bill’. Yet the original (incorrect) classification persists, and nurseries and garden centres continue to label Pelargonium’s as Geraniums, as this is what most people recognise the plants as. Pelargonium’s come in both upright and trailing varieties, and are a staple plant for containers, hanging baskets and summer bedding displays. Most pelargonium cultivars are divided into 5 groups. Regal, Angel, Ivy-leaved, zonal and scented-leaved. Ivy-leaved pelargoniums are trailing varieties whereas the other types are all upright. Most Pelargonium’s prefer full sun, although Regal and scented-leaved cultivars prefer to be lightly shaded from the midday sun. When growing Pelargonium’s its useful to remember their natural habitat is dry and rocky, they hate being wet and will suffer from mould, blackleg and rust so replicate their natural conditions by watering sparingly, perhaps just twice a week during the heat of summer. Generally, the harder a pelargonium is treated, the better, because it starts to flower only when its roots become constricted, so keep them in small pots and grow in any good general purpose compost or loam based compost. Pelargoniums are usually grown as annuals, but with a little care, they can be carried through the winter. The most reliable method for keeping a large number of plants is to take softwood cuttings in late summer and grow the cuttings indoors on a warm windowsill. Here are my other top tips for May: • Earth up potatoes and promptly plant any still remaining • Check for nesting birds before clipping hedges • Watch out for red lily beetles, and treat accordingly • Lift and divide overcrowded clumps of daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs. • Collect rainwater and investigate ways to recycle water for irrigation • Regularly hoe off weeds • Open greenhouse vents and doors on warm days

Whatever May brings I hope you get a chance to step out into the sunshine and enjoy the season as you tackle this months gardening jobs. Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800 www.p-rgardensupplies.co.uk

Copyright remains with independent content providers where specified, including but not limited to Village Pump contributors. All rights reserved.