Act now to ensure healthy future displays

Variegated geranium bonus flowers. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Variegated geranium bonus flowers. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Cold, wet and rain drove us to the greenhouse last week for a longer session than the twice-daily check.

It’s not just the seasonal plants that need attention – tomatoes, grapevine, cucumbers, peppers – there are potted perennials for year-round attraction, and what happens now can impact on later displays.

Geraniums, such as the zonal pelargonium that we’ve nursed through winter with moderate warmth and minimum water, have probably stood in the same compost for a whole year and given their all.

If you have not already done so, now’s the time to refresh, tapping them from the pot, teasing away spent compost and replenishing with new.

They should even fit back into the same sized pot if the job’s done well.

Scented-leaf geraniums were re-potted at the beginning of May.

Unlike the others, they were not pruned last autumn, the rich green leaves left for winter display, and have responded with a brilliant show of bloom.

Once that’s over their main stems will be reduced to the lowest visible shoots to regenerate growth.

Taking stem cuttings is the simplest way of raising young stock of favourites. This is possible year-round if soft shoots are present, but from July to September they root quickest for me.

A new generation of fuchsias has been transferred from propagating box to first pots. This includes the hardy shrubby type magellanica, and named cultivars of those grown indoors.

Tom West has variegated foliage and is not reliably hardy, but having admired it on the show bench in all its glory a few years ago, the single cutting I was given has ensured we’ll never be without it.

Variegated Swingtime is another irresistible fuchsia, which brings a sigh of relief when it belatedly awakens from winter sleep. An old plant saved last year has stood on the unheated greenhouse bench with fleece nearby, and survived. The gnarled stems are irrelevant, it’s the young shoots emerging from them that represent the future.

Red hot chilli pepper Bhut Jolokia is the other plant that’s been slow to respond to warmer days and increasing daylight. Some chillies can be coaxed into a second year, now it’s entering a third.

This cultivar held the world record for hotness, a million SHUs as measured on the Scoville scale just four years ago. It has recently been overtaken by others and there appears to be a group of four hot shots on the market. We have just taken delivery of the other three.

The packaging in which Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Scorpion and Dorset Naga arrived carried a warning advising that gloves be worn when handling the plants and hands should be washed afterwards – sound advice, I thought.

Watch this space.