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Flower Power: Bringing flowers in from the cold

August was unseasonably cool and mainly cloudy with north easterly winds, which are unusual during the summer months.  September began with the same cloudy conditions and then temperatures soared for several days bringing very hot weather – and a last taste of summer, writes Jackie Power….

The equinox fell on 22nd September giving days and nights of equal length – signalling the shift into autumn.

Growing conditions were challenging throughout the year; early spring was dry and warm, followed by colder temperatures then heavy rains. With such variable weather there has been a noticeable increase in plant disease; slugs, snails and vine weevils have done a great deal of damage to plants. But despite difficult growing conditions some plants have done well such as the climbing wild roses (Rosa canina), herbs; and apple crops have been prolific.

September is always a busy month – beds and borders need tidying/clearing; spring flowering bulbs can be planted (Daffodils, Crocus, Snake’s-head fritillary). With care the summer annuals in hanging baskets should keep going until the colder weather arrives. Make sure to deadhead, remove plants past their best, feed and water.

And as the season begins to change, houseplants that have spent time outside can be brought back indoors; think about adding new plants to your collection. The Scented Pelargoniums (Geraniums) are a wonderful choice – they come in many varieties, most have highly aromatic leaves, some are particularly fragrant. The range of scents is dazzling – soft spicey, hazelnut, rose, citrus (orange and lemon) ginger, even strawberry-like. The blooms and foliage can be used to flavour drinks (always check the labels/instructions on the scented Pelargoniums to ensure they are for culinary use ). Two or three scented Pelargoniums on a sunny window ledge indoors will lift the spirits as days get shorter and winter weather arrives.

Geranium ‘Gemstone’ is an attractive variety; in addition to the fragrant foliage, it has two- tone pink flowers. One of the best Pelargoniums is ‘Attar of Roses’ – rightly popular due to the distinctive rose-scented foliage. It also produces delicate pink flowers during summer. As well as being decorative the leaves can be added to fruit drinks or cocktails. The dried leaves can be added to pot pourri.

One other to mention is Geranium ‘Mabel Grey’; it is one of the larger varieties with striking foliage that has a sharp citrus lemon scent and attractive mauve flowers in summer. A favourite Pelargonium amongst so many choices because of its vibrant aroma.  ‘Mabel Grey’ can grow into a large specimen and so needs a bit of space in a cool and light position indoors.

In the summer months scented Pelargoniums can live outside (until the end of September) in window boxes, on the balcony or in the garden; but they are tender and need to be moved indoors or to a frost-free place in winter with good light levels.


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