GARDENING: Geraniums on trial

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I’VE had the pleasure of having more than 100 geraniums – pelargoniums to be correct - to squeeze into my garden in pots this summer.

They’ve been part of a trial to see which performed best - home-grown cuttings, seeds, plug plants and specialist named varieties.

In May, they were at vastly different stages.

The plug plants were clear leaders at planting-out time, supplied by Plant Me Now (www.plantmenow.co.uk). I ordered six varieties: zonals Bullseye Scarlet; Bullseye Light Pink; New Century White; New Century Violet and ivy-leaved Supreme Blanche Roche and the new Precision Burgundy Red.

They’ve performed best of all, despite this month’s wet weather, which often makes flower heads rot. Particularly good were the ivy-leaved varieties - lots of blooms. Best if you want a massed bedding effect.

The specialist varieties, from The Vernon Geranium Nursery (www.geraniumsuk.com), were a mix of named varieties, including the lovely Vancouver Centennial. The plantlets took longer to get going, but once they did flower, every one’s a beauty. More expensive, but lovely if you want a few choice blooms to fill a few pots. First in the queue to be overwintered.

The cuttings were from my own stock, so cost me nothing. These plants filled out my old recycling boxes (they’ll be replaced by tulips in autumn). If you already have plants, this is the cheapest way to do it.

Finally, I grew Dobies F1 Black Magic Mixed ((£3.35, 10 seeds), a mix of scarlet, rose, apple blossom and salmon flowers, with almost black foliage and a lime green edging.

You have to have some knowledge of growing from seed, and a heated propagator - mine were sown in January. It’s worth growing them for the foliage alone. If you like a challenge, give them a go.

Price-wise, cuttings cost nothing (if you already have plants); seeds – 67p per plant; plugs – £1-£1.30 per plant; specialist varieties – £3.99 per plant (prices vary with variety).

One thing is for sure – I’m going to struggle to find space to overwinter them all.