By Debby Looney, gardening expert
Perennials come into their own during summer time, as do lupins, scabious, geraniums and countless other well-known flowers. However, one of the most versatile and beloved perennials has to be the hardy geranium.
I think everyone should have at least one variety somewhere and if your conditions are less than ideal, there should be many in your garden! Almost all varieties available are fully hardy and tolerate all soil types except completely waterlogged soil. Most do as well in shade as a sunny spot and are the least fussy plants I have grown.
They flower in shades of white, pink, mauve, blue and purple, and provide colour from May to October. One of the earliest varieties to flower is G. phaeum, a hardy plant which is has masses of purple, maroon, violet or white flowers from April onwards.
The foliage grows to about 15cm, but the flowers reach about 50cm tall and are of an upright habit. G. sanguineum is the next to make an appearance in my garden. It is a low growing spreading habit and is covered in pink cup-shaped flowers all summer. The leaves are toothed, and flowers range from pale pink to cerise. G. Ann Folkard is a favourite - it has a lax habit producing long shoots with golden leaves.
It has an abundance of magenta flowers with almost black centres and veins from May until frost. It covers a large area and is ideal for keeping weeds down. Another favourite would be Johnson’s Blue, often said to be the bluest and longest flowering of the geraniums. It has a fairly upright habit, and if this is what your space needs, don’t be tempted into buying Jolly Bee, Rozanne or Heidi.
Though these are all beautiful plants with blue flowers, they are all low growing and need a lot of horizontal space! An evergreen variety is G. cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’, a low growing geranium with bright green foliage and pink flowers. G. machorrizum stays green in my garden over winter, with the added bonus of scarlet leaves in the autumn.
G. renardii has soft, hairy foliage, an upright habit and white flowers with dark veins. It is quite unusual but absolutely lovely! G. cinereum is a dwarf variety which is ideal for alpine gardens, and G. x oxonianum is probably one of the oldest, most common varieties we have - ‘Wargrave Pink’ often growing in hedgerows near old cottages. One of the largest varieties is G. maderense, or the Madeira geranium, which grows to almost a meter tall when in flower. Unfortunately it is a biennial, and I advise anyone who has this stunning plant to collect the seeds.
There really are geraniums for every situation and are ideal when trying to cover a bank or a large crockery. They grow well under trees and are not too badly affected by sap. If the seed is collected they will germinate easily, though the clumps can also be divided in autumn or spring. Lastly, a good reason to incorporate geraniums into your garden is that they provide a veritable feast for pollinators!
Daffodils are possibly the easiest bulbs to grow
By Debby Looney, gardening expert With autumn comes the promise of spring. In other words, once September is here, we have the joy of planning, colour coordinating and choosing the bulbs which are going to bring us out of the long winter months and into the bright new beginnings of the gardening year. Suffice to […]
By Debby Looney, gardening expert
With autumn comes the promise of spring. In other words, once September is here, we have the joy of planning, colour coordinating and choosing the bulbs which are going to bring us out of the long winter months and into the bright new beginnings of the gardening year.
Suffice to say, I love bulbs. I also marvel at them each year, how such a dry, shrivelled little item can produce such blooms. I must admit, when I buy bulbs, I promise them as well as myself, that I will not spend money again next year, that this is the last time I will plant bulbs, that I now have the most beautiful choice there is, and so on. However, once the season starts, and I am faced with the photos on the boxes, not to mention the choice my ‘inbox’ receives, there I am buying again. There are always some pots or new areas that need filling!
Daffodils are one of the largest groups of bulbs and possibly the easiest to grow. They are split into 13 divisions – but no, I will not detail each one, that would be tedious! The proper Latin name for daffodil is Narcissus, named after the Greek mythological Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection, and who, on realising this love could not be returned, melted away and turned into a flower. The most common divisions are; trumpet, which would include the common yellow daff, large and small cupped, and the pheasant eye daffs would be an example of the smaller cupped division. Tazetta are the daffs which produce more than three flowers per stem, such as paperwhites. Bulbocodiums have dominant coronas, while jonquils are generally small with five to seven flowers per stem.
How to plant them
When planting daffs, or any bulbs, make sure to plant them the right way up! The pointier side goes up – now, this might seem like common sense, but first timers and children are not always too sure. Plant the bulb down three times its own depth with a little compost or grit in the bottom of the hole. A teaspoon of bonemeal can be added in the bottom also, but make sure the bulb does not touch it. All bulbs prefer well drained soil, though daffodils do put up with fairly wet conditions.
Some great varieties to try are: ‘Avalon’, a large cupped variety with big lemon yellow flowers. The corona is paler and fades to white with age. ‘Golden Ducat’, an old and reliable double yellow daff, ‘Pink Paradise’, one of my favourites, a double daff, which is white with pink. It is also scented. ‘Merlin’ is white, with a small, bright orandge corona – it spreads well. ‘Minnow’ is a very popular dwarf daff with three pale yellow flowers to each stem, growing to about 20cm. ‘Tete-a-tete’ also remains a popular dwarf variety, it naturalises well. ‘Rip van Winkle’ is another small variety with spikey double flowers. It will not tolerate wet! ‘Thalia’ is a beautifully scented, delicate looking white variety bearing two flowers on each stem. ‘Mount Hood’ is probably the most popular and reliable large trumpeted white daffodil available.
It is well worth looking out for unusual varieties – I certainly think it is worth paying a bit extra for something different, but do put them in pots, or a special spot, where you can appreciate them!
Summer’s over, it’s time to focus on fitness
By Brian Foley from Activate Fitness For a lot of people, the summer months are a perfect time to loosen the reins a bit when it comes to fitness and nutrition, and that’s OK. With summer coming to an end, a lot of people now face a key inflection point; do you take inventory of […]
By Brian Foley from Activate Fitness
For a lot of people, the summer months are a perfect time to loosen the reins a bit when it comes to fitness and nutrition, and that’s OK.
With summer coming to an end, a lot of people now face a key inflection point;
do you take inventory of where you are in relation to your goals and double down on making progress starting today, or do you keep all things the same and just cruise into the fast-approaching Christmas, inevitably just putting your goals on hold until it comes time to set those New Year’s resolutions for 2022?
I’ve written plenty about the psychology of “Monday, January 1 etc.”, check out our blog on www.activate.ie for why we think January 1 isn’t sustainable.
It can be tough to hear but we’re almost at the final quarter of 2021. The year will wrap up soon and it’s up to you to decide how you’re going to end it.
I love the idea of compounding habits, the author James Clear (Atomic Habits) calls habits the “compound interest of self-improvement”. So let’s take a 1% improvement each day between here and Christmas.
“1%? It will take me forever to reach my goal if I just improve by 1% each day”, but that’s exactly where you are going to fail. We often look for the new shiny novelty and quick fix that promises 40% in six weeks, but we typically get nowhere near that type of return in nowhere near that timeframe. But if we focus on the process and make small incremental changes daily, that’s where the magic occurs.
One small improvement each day this autumn means you will be flying high in whatever you choose to be doing by Christmas.
Here’s a simple example:
Day 1 – Add vegetables to a meal you previously didn’t
Day 2 – Move more and get in some intentional exercise, like a walk for example.
Day 3 – Drink 2 litres of water
Day 4 – Write down your thoughts for the day and list things you were thankful for
Day 5 – Add a source of protein to a meal that previously didn’t have protein
Day 6 – Go for a longer walk than Day 2.
Day 7 – Prioritise sleep aiming to get at least 7 hours.
Think what types of habits you will accrue by day one hundred. None of the above are earth shattering huge changes, just small incremental habitual changes that keep adding on top of each other. And if we manage to stack small habitual improvement on top of small habitual improvement we get big changes that cause an overall improvement in our lives. None of the above mean you need to live like a hermit or just eat chicken and broccoli, but they do mean you have to commit to the longer term changes and give up the fads and be consistent in your thoughts and actions.
We often think the chains that hold us back are physical, where nine times out of 10 they are mental and we need to see these constraints for what they are.
As a colleague of mine @angela_kerrisk posted on social media over the weekend:
“In life, we can have results or reasons. If you are not getting the results you want, your reasons are the lies that you keep telling yourself.”
Your move. Let’s go!
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