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Geraniums grow well under trees

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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!

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Photos from Kerry Ladies Football team homecoming at Fitzgerald Stadium on Monday night

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Danny Healy-Ray, Patrick Connor-Scarteen, Minister of education Norma Foley and Francis Flynn pictured at the Kerry Ladies homecoming on Monday. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Kerry Ladies Senior Football managers Declan Quill and Darragh Long pictured with Elaine Kinsella Radio Kerry at the Fitzgerald stadium on Monday. Photo: Tatyana McGogh
Kerry Ladies Homecoming. Photo : Tatyana McGough
Kerry Ladies Homecoming. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Kerry Ladies Homecoming. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Faces in the crowd. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Faces in the Crowd. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Cllr Donal Grady and John Francis Flynn at the Kerry Ladies homecoming. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Kayleigh Cronin (2nd from left) pictured with her teammates at the Kerry Senior Ladies Homecoming at the Fitzgerald Stadium on Monday. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Selina Looney Kerry Ladies Chairperson (front centre) pictured with Kerry players at the Kerry Senior Ladies Homecoming at the Fitzgerald Stadium on Monday. Photo: Tatyana McGough
31 July 2022; Kerry supporters during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Final match between Kerry and Meath at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
31 July 2022; Kerry supporters during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Final match between Kerry and Meath at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
31 July 2022; Kerry supporters during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Final match between Kerry and Meath at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Photos from Kerry Ladies Football team homecoming at Fitzgerald Stadium on Monday night
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Keep indoor plants out of full sun

By Debby Looney, gardening expert I was sitting in the dining room looking out at the garden through sheets of rain, when something caught my eye; a dead plant. I […]

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert

I was sitting in the dining room looking out at the garden through sheets of rain, when something caught my eye; a dead plant.

I shifted my focus, looked around me, and observed quite a few plants close to the point of no return! Indoor plants are easy to forget about, especially when the weather is fine. It is hard to believe but several spider plants, an orchid and a Saintpaulia ended up on a certain compost heap this week.

Houseplants do not need a huge amount of care during the summer months, but there are a few things we must not forget! For example, the most obvious is watering. This is the main growing season for houseplants, so watering is essential as is adding some fertiliser. I use specific feeds for my plants, as the balance of nutrients needed can vary hugely depending on the type. As you can imagine, a large, leafy plant will have different requirements to, say, a cactus, or a gerbera. Most plants prefer to dry out slightly between watering, though not as much as I had let them dry out.

Most indoor plants prefer to be out of full sun as they scorch easily. In particular, leafy plants are susceptible to this. Cacti and succulents are ideal for south facing windows during the summer months. Move any leafy plants to a spot away from south facing windows where they can enjoy a more stable temperature and a slightly shaded light.

Often when plants are under stress, both indoors or outdoors, they become prone to disease, a bit like ourselves. For example, plants which dry out frequently are a prime target for whitefly. They often go unnoticed until there is an infestation, at which point you will see woolly cocoon like clusters, as well as clouds of tiny white flies. Blackfly and greenfly are also common pests indoors. The best course of action, after prevention, is to spray the plant at regular intervals with a pesticide. As it is indoors, I would strongly recommend the use of organic spray, or even soapy water. Alternatively, use a pesticide which can be watered onto the soil, such as ‘bugclear ultra’, as this will have a systemic effect.

This time of year is also suitable for repotting your houseplants, if not done in spring, as they will still get a few months of benefit and strong growth. I mix my own compost as I generally have quite a few to repot. I mix four parts good quality compost, one part sharp sand, one part perlite and one part vermiculite by volume. When repotting cacti and succulents I reduce the compost to two parts, and when repotting orchids, I substitute the vermiculite and perlite with two parts fine bark mulch. I never use homemade compost, as I find there are a lot of insects and ‘other creatures’ in it which is fine used outdoors, but I don’t want to invite too much wildlife inside! It is possible to sterilise homemade compost by steaming it, but this is quite an operation, one which I have never undertaken. Alternatively, there are specialist composts available for every type of houseplant. When repotting, use a pot which is about two sizes bigger, unless the plant is a very vigorous one.

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