Sandy's Garden ... Backs to the Wall

The front of our house is dominated by two large floor-to-ceiling windows flanking a grey brick wall.

Sunday, 26th September 2021, 10:24 am

Now the windows are triple-glazed and wholly draught-proof, the room warms up nicely and retains heat pretty well.

It is the brick panel between them which is of interest.

Grey brick is not the most appealing of surfaces.

Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson

That is why there are four plastic potholders strategically attached to this wall specifically to hold pots of long-flowering, brightly-coloured, cheerful flowers.

And what better to plant in the pots in very early summer than ivy-leaved geraniums?

So we did.

I had some initial concerns, for our young plants seemed straggly with shoots which seemed too thin – but they perked up quickly in their new homes and were soon looking better proportioned, with stems and shoots which seemed more than adequate to support the foliage and developing buds.

I thought I had an answer to an issue which had bugged us in past years – the need to water the pots every day.

I discovered a shallow ceramic dish from one of the supermarkets held a 5” pot as if it had been designed for that purpose.

Now I have reservoirs which let the soil in the pot drain but prevent it from drying out for two or three days.

I am delighted to report my lop-sided ivy-leaved geraniums have provided a gorgeous splash of colour all summer long.

Now, the first autumnal wind has destroyed my cunning scheme.

I should, of course, have removed the pots from their somewhat perilous position before the onset of the wind. But I didn’t – and rose one morning last week to find two of the four pot-and-reservoir combinations lying on the stone slabs of the footway, pots and plants alike broken.

Ah well, the plants were elderly and due to be consigned to the garden waste bin in the near future in any event.

I don’t try to overwinter geraniums; it’s altogether easier … and cheaper … not to bother ensuring that the temperature in the greenhouse seldom if ever falls below freezing,not to have to guarantee that the plants do not dry out completely yet are never allowed to become waterlogged and not to have to be constantly vigilant to spot the very first signs of whitefly or any other pestilence.

It’s simpler to buy new young plants come early summer. But what we call ‘geraniums’ can be overwintered in central Scotland provided they are provided with conditions which replicate those of South Africa, whence they originally came.

To be botanically correct, we should call the plants ‘ivy-leaved pelargoniums’ (Pelargonium peltatum), pelargonium coming from the Greek ‘pelargos’ meaning ‘stork’ because of the storksbill-like seedhead; while peltatum indicates that the leaves are ‘peltate’ – and the Free Dictionary tells me that peltate means ‘having a flat, circular structure attached to a stalk near the centre rather than at or near the margin’.

We call them geraniums because, although they were called pelargoniums in the early eighteenth century.

The plant taxonomist Carl Linnaeus didn’t recognise the classification Pelargonium and grouped them in the genus Geranium. His error was corrected after 40 years – but we use the ‘wrong’ name to this day