While staying with my grandmother over the bank holiday weekend, she kindly took me round her garden and told me the names of almost every plant, quite remarkable for a 92-year-old woman who is practically blind. ‘Gardening gets in to your blood,’ she remarked. My grandmother has a fund of gardening knowledge, and could describe the management of most plants, shrubs and trees without thinking.
I praised a salmon-pink geranium she had growing at the front of the house and my grandmother told me it had flowered all winter, and agreed to show me how to take a cutting that I could then take back to Edinburgh with me. I was very pleased about this for several reasons, not least that one of my favourite childhood books, The Little White Pony, featured a great deal of salmon-pink geraniums. I love that soft, hazy sunset hue and geraniums in general, and I also very much like the idea of taking cuttings, the idea that your favourite plants can divide and grow and be given away as gifts or multiplied around the garden so easily. If only one could do that with shoes.
My grandmother found on the mature geranium plant a smallish woody offshoot with about three leaves on it. She broke this off and left it on the draining board to dry out for a few hours. Geraniums like to be a little dry, she said. (I thought with horror about the big geranium back home that I’ve been madly and ignorantly watering.)
She then told me to take a small pot and fill it with damp potting compost, then to stick the wee geranium offshoot straight in. And that’s it. No propagating or putting bags over or any other funny business. Just stick it on the windowsill, she said, and in about six weeks pot it on, ie. put it in a larger pot. Geraniums like sunshine and will happily live on a windowsill, in a porch or conservatory, or outside.
My grandmother lives in Derbyshire, almost 300 miles south of Edinburgh. It’s interesting what a few degrees less longitude will make to a garden. Hers is practically in summer mode, with irises and peonies (my favourite) ready to burst in to flower any day now whereas my own irises and peonies are still all leaf and no buds. She has bluebells everywhere (‘they’ve taken over’) and plenty of other gorgeous things like late tulips, forget-me-not, and blossoming fruit trees