Gardening Tips

Jazz up your geraniums – Gardening tips for July


Cold pelting rain to stifling, breathless heat within a day – honestly, if our gardens are not confused by now, then I certainly am!  Still, that’s what we love about our changeable climate.  Isn’t it?!  

When we are not talking about the weather, there are still gardening jobs to be done – we must cut back hardy geraniums, tidy up hellebores, repair lawn edges and take some easy cuttings for starters…

Most of those pretty May and June flowerers will be over now and looking lanky and messy. Even if there are a few flowers still hanging on, they will appreciate a decent cutback now. 

 I’m thinking of plants like hardy geraniums, monkshoods (Aconitum), Oriental poppies, Pulmonaria etc. which can honestly be dealt with pretty drastically after their main season is over. Cut everything down to the ground, water it really well (include some tomato feed in the water) and you will be rewarded with fresh new leaves in a few weeks and may even get the bonus, especially with geraniums, of more flowers in late summer. Wear gloves if you are dealing with Aconitum, though, which is very poisonous.

Hardy geraniums get lanky and tired-looking – chop them right back now

I have a stand of Helleborus foetidus, our easy-to-grow native hellebore, which makes a delightful show of cream flowers in spring.  But these have now started to turn brown and are spoiling the look of the handsome evergreen leaves. So I shall cut those thick flower-stalks down (it will stop them seeding all over the place too!) and then we can all appreciate that beautiful finely-dissected foliage till next spring.

Helleborus foetidus – handsome leaves make a lovely evergreen stand after you’ve taken off the flower stems

The irises have been delighting us through May and June, and once they’ve finished their display, they really benefit from a bit of love and care every 2-4 years.

Dig up the rhizomes (the fancy name for horizontal underground stems), snap off the oldest, gnarliest bits and throw them away, leaving the youngest bit of rhizome with some leaves and roots on it. Then trim down those rather scraggy leaves to about half, making a neat fan. Trim any long roots and plant the rhizome very shallowly back into the soil, with the rhizome on the sunny south side of the leaf fan, so that it can be properly baked through the summer. All that’s needed then is a good drink of water, and they can be left to grow on happily.

Lift and divide iris corms

When Laura and I visited Caroline in her Highland home back in April, I showed her how to take a cutting of her favourite dahlia. (a link to the video of this and other tasks is at the bottom).  She must have cared for it just right, because it has grown very well – hurray! (and a touch of relief, on my part too, obvs) but it has reminded me that early July is a perfect time to take some cuttings of other plants. 

Caroline has done a brilliant job with this dahlia cutting!

July is a great time to take a mass of cuttings which are known as ‘semi-ripe’ because the material you use will have hard wood at its base formed during the current season, but the tip will still be soft.  I actually think that these are much easier that softwood cuttings, simply because they don’t demand so much attention!

There are just heaps of things that can be propagated by semi-ripe cuttings: climbers such as Passion flower, Solanum and Trachelospermum; evergreen shrubs such as Hebe, Fatsia, Viburnum, Berberis, Camellia, Ceonothus etc.; hedging like yew, laurel and privet (how about propagating your own native hedge?!); woody herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme; even trees like Magnolia grandiflora, holly and conifers. Honestly, it’s worth having a go with anything! Try it even if you have NEVER taken a cutting before in your life!

Making a new hedge using cuttings – a piece of cake!

1. In the morning, when plants are turgid (full of sap), cut below a leaf with a sharp knife or secateurs, giving you a stem 4-6″ long. Put all your cuttings straightaway into a plastic bag to stop them wilting, and plant them into compost within 12 hours.

Take cuttings 4-6″ long cuttings – this is a rosemary – and try not to let them wilt before you pot them up

2. Take the bottom leaves off your cutting and cut any big leaves in half to reduce transpiration.  Nip out the growing tip if it is very soft. I don’t bother with hormone rooting powder any more, but if you want to, dip the bottom of the cutting in the powder until it’s well-covered.

Neatly cut the lower leaves off your chosen shoot, and nip out the soft tip (or flower-bud)

3.  Tuck your cuttings into pots of free-draining gritty compost, water them, label them, and put the pots into the greenhouse or on a warm, bright windowsill out of direct sunlight and covered with a clear plastic bag.

Make a tiny little propagator with a clear plastic bag

Or if you don’t want to worry about pots and plastic bags etc. and have a square foot of soil somewhere, just prepare some cuttings as above, and stick ’em in the ground – you have nothing to lose! You can take these cuttings right up to mid-autumn, so please do have a go – it’s immensely satisfying when they root!

Rooted cuttings of Euonymus, Abelia and myrtle – for the sake of half an hour’s work!
  • You may find that, despite your best efforts, some of your border plants have flopped onto the lawn in front of them, and killed or damaged the grass at the edge. Cut the plants back or prop them up, then take out a square of the affected turf, lift it and turn it round so the damaged edge is now in the middle. You now have a new sharp grass edge to your flower bed again. Fill the damaged area with fresh compost mixed with grass seed, and water it well.
Spread some grass-seed onto the bare patches once you’ve turned the damaged turf around
  • Try to be vigilant about aphids, blackfly etc. and squirt them off with a jet of water before they do too much harm. If you have as many birds in the garden as we do, greenfly never become much of a problem – I just stroke off any colonies with my fingers mostly. I’ve been leafing through a book on Garden Lore this week and found that another cure for aphids is steeping half a pound of the best tobacco in a gallon of hot water then painting the cold liquid on to the infested leaves.  Crikey!  I wonder what would happen if you used sub-standard tobacco?!🤣
Jet aphids off with a spray of water, or stroke them off with your hand
  • Keep taking the sideshoots off tomatoes growing on a single stem – I’m doing it practically twice a day at the moment!
  • Laura reminds me that if you are growing lemons, now is the time to give them a good feed designed for citrus plants and to check for any pests or diseases on them before they become a major problem.  She has made a super-helpful video on this subject – the link is below.
  • After a slow start, my greenhouse cucumbers are growing nicely now – they’re getting a liquid fertiliser every fortnight or so, and I am pinching out any male flowers that develop – they’re the ones without a swelling behind the flower – because they are likely to make the fruit developing behind the female flowers taste bitter.  My Garden Lore book says that cucumbers are best planted by a young naked man (000h, errrr!) because these plants are associated with virility.  Couldn’t find one of those handy, but my cucumbers seem to be doing okay planted by this old lady. 
The cucumbers are growing well despite the lack of naked young men to plant them……….

Here is the link to Laura’s video on looking after lemon trees.

And this is the link to the video of Laura and I showing Caroline various gardening techniques, including how to take cuttings from dahlias.

Aeoniums demand very little attention, and they are a ‘must have’ for Louise Sims, especially this one which is one of her Great Plants this Month….

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

2 replies on “Jazz up your geraniums – Gardening tips for July”

Your Garden Lore book sounds wonderful.
I have taken hydrangea cuttings in the past by just sticking bits in a corner of the veg plot. If they grow for me, they’ll grow for anyone!

That’s exactly how I feel about taking cuttings, Janie! It almost feels criminal not to try this with all sorts of plants, when they are such a price in the retail centres these days! Yes, the Garden Lore book is fascinating but a shocking time-occupier when you should be outside weeding hedges or turning compost-heaps or something….. best to leave it on the coffee-table for when you come in from a long hard day in the garden and have earned an hour’s R and R…….. all the best, Elaine

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