Monday 11 December 2017

Bright and early geum adds heat to summer

FLOWERS that appear relatively early in summer have a particular value as they fill the gap between late spring and high summer, and one of the best is geum. The colours of the cultivated kinds are mostly bright red or bright yellow, generally with double flowers.

Geum has the common name of 'avens' and there are two native species, wood avens and water avens, the latter having drooping flowers. The leaves have leaflets matching and a large leaflet segment at the top of the leaf. The water avens is grown in gardens as a hybrid called 'Leonard's Variety', a very beautiful form with upright stems and coppery pink flowers, slightly nodding, flowering from mid-summer.

'Coppertone' has brown flower stems and copper-apricot flowers with wavy petals. 'Lemon Drops' is yellow, drooping at first with brownish sepals behind the petals. These varieties are relatively new and are also hybrids with the native water avens. They like fertile soil that is on the moist side, but not particularly boggy or waterlogged.

The traditional border perennials of old are derived from a Chilean species. The most widely grown kind is 'Mrs J Bradshaw', with large semi-double scarlet flowers from early summer and some later on. 'Lady Stratheden' has semi-double bright yellow flowers and is widely grown.

'Prince of Orange' has large bright orange flowers. 'Prinses Juliana' has bright yellow, semi-double flowers with a tinge of red. 'Dolly North' has bright deep orange flowers. These are all about 50cm tall, a bit more or a bit less.

Geums are easy to grow in good ordinary, well-drained soil in sunshine. They tolerate partial shade well but do not flower as much as in sunshine. Plants can be raised from seeds quite easily, even sown outdoors in a fine seedbed.

The flower stems of geum are upright, or slightly wobbly, depending on the variety. The more traditional kinds have a lovely floppiness, an airy look, as they lean over neighbouring plants or flop outwards over a grass edge or a paved area.

Geum plants can continue to produce a scattering of flowers through the summer if grown in good soil that does not dry out too much. Spent first stems can be tidied away after flowering to encourage new growth. The plants need to be lifted and divided to maintain their vigour after a few years.

The red or yellow flowers look very well with bronze foliage, such as New Zealand sedge or bronze fennel, and red, yellow and red-purple flowers. The recent vogue for hot colours has brought these bright flowers back into play.

Sunday Independent

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