Brian Kidd says now is the time to take a razor blade to your geraniums

Now's the ideal time to increase your stock of pelargoniums.
Now's the ideal time to increase your stock of pelargoniums.
Triteleias - perfect for dry shade under a hedge

BRIAN KIDD: A swathe of colour for deep shade underneath a hedge

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In the past few evenings I have donned latex gloves to cover my nimble fingers to give caterpillars a good squeeze because they are shredding leaves on my Brussels sprouts.

A few years ago I simply covered the leaves with Derris dust and as the caterpillars ate the leaves the dust would kill them. But as Derris has been withdrawn we have to use fingers and thumbs. Latex gloves make this job bearable.

Now for something you may find more appealing...

Geraniums (pelargoniums) were wonderful this summer because they enjoyed the hot sun in July. If you are like us you will have favourite varieties from which you would like to take cuttings.

This is the ideal time to get them to root. They do it quickly and are far less likely to rot at the base. This disease is a fungal one called Black Leg. Sounds awful and it is. There’s no cure.

Take cuttings from the parent plant carefully, using sharp secateurs. Cuts are made just above a leaf joint (node) to ensure spores will not travel down the cut stem causing the parent to rot.

The cuttings to be propagated need to be about four to five inches long. Remove all the leaves by bending them down so they snap off the stem. Leave only the top two leaves and the tip. All the tiny green scales on the stems are removed with a sharp knife. If they are not removed, they often rot and cause the stem to die.

The most important cut is the final one which consists of cutting the base of the cutting. It needs to be done with a very sharp knife or razor blade and should be about an eighth of an inch below the lowest node, making a sharp cut straight across the stem.

The compost should be very sandy. Any universal compost or John Innes seed compost may be used, but add 50 per cent extra sharp sand or potting sand and mix well.

Three cuttings are normally inserted around the edge of a 5in diameter pot so the foliage doesn’t touch. After filling the pots, scatter more sand over the surface so when the cuttings are inserted, sand will fall into the hole made by the dibber.

The cuttings must be inserted firmly. When I was an apprentice our head gardener would take hold of a cutting and lift the pot off the bench. If the pot fell off you had to insert the cuttings all over again. The pots were watered after this test.

The pots of cuttings will root best in a greenhouse covered with a sheet of newspaper, not in a plant propagator as they don’t like a humid atmosphere. They should root in three weeks. Once they are rooted, remove the tips to ensure the cutting will be bushy. Now each cutting is planted into a 3in diameter pot to over-winter in a frost-free greenhouse.

You may have noticed I’ve not mentioned rooting powder. I normally tell people to use it if it makes them feel more confident.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Try to buy some colchicum bulbs for the grandchildren.

Put one in an egg cup on their bedroom windowsill and in a short while beautiful water lily-like flowers will appear.

Afterwards plant them in the garden where they will naturalise producing lovely blooms each autumn.