Clearing Out the Greenhouse & Taking Pelargonium Cuttings – Sunday September 15

I start off with good intentions. Each spring, I determine to keep the greenhouse tidy. By September, all manner of clutter- bits of string, old labels, empty plant pots and dead plants- trip me up. It looks a mess. So this weekend I’ve emptied all the plants and swept right through. Phew. It doesn’t get any easier. It’s a 20 foot Alton cedar greenhouse, bought second hand and painted black. First I take out all the pelargoniums. The one above is called Tomcat. It’s like burgundy velvet. It flowers non stop from March through to November. In a mild winter it carries on flowering for 12 months. This year, I’ve decided to cut everything back and keep all the plants as cuttings in 9cm pots. The mother plants, several years old and getting leggy, have been composted. It’s hard to do. I tend to hang on to plants even when they are past their best.

There’s still a lot of colour, but the cooler temperatures and damp atmosphere creates mould. Botrytis is a killer of tender plants such as pelargoniums. Cutting them back and reducing the watering helps to combat the problem.

I’ve got an ancient wood and metal garden nursery trolley which I station outside the greenhouse doors to hold the plants temporarily.

Luckily, it’s a beautiful sunny day with temperatures around 21C. We’ve had one night of frost, but no damage so far. Night time temperatures are dipping into single figures though, so there’s no time to waste.

I quickly snip off 3″ cuttings from non-flowering shoots and pile them in my trug. To take cuttings, I cut above a pair of leaves to start with. Then I use a sharp knife to cut below a leaf joint where there’s a concentration of hormones to aid rooting. I use my fingers to snap off all but three leaves at the top. Any large leaves are cut in two to reduce moisture loss. The soft, tiny winged growth on the stems is rubbed off as they attract mould. I gently rub over the leaves to check for aphids.

I fill 9cm pots with 50% peat-free multi-purpose compost and 50% grit or perlite for drainage. Tap the pots on the table to settle the compost. Cuttings need air as well as moisture to grow, so I don’t squash the compost down.

It’s still warm enough to work in the potting shed. There’s a robin in the eaves, quietly twittering away. Sometimes robins can be incredibly loud, at other times its almost a whisper. It’s as if they are singing to comfort themselves. It comforts me as well to have such calm and joyful company.

All potted up, I water them once and set them somewhere cool, bright and frost free to root. The west-facing potting shed window will do for now, out of direct sunshine. They will spend their winter in the greenhouse though with a fan heater set at 6C. Next spring, I’ll tip them out and pot them into individual 9cm pots.

Back in the greenhouse, all the staging is cleared and jet washed down. Any spiders are relocated to the poly tunnel. I can’t kill anything. Slugs and snails go into a dry ditch beyond the boundary hedge. Food for other creatures, I hope.

When I’ve cleaned the glass and repaired the sliding door mechanism, I’ll push the citrus trees back in for the winter. It’s been a good summer for lemons and oranges. A few lemon cakes and orange marmalade might be in order….

Winter salads and micro veg are springing up in shallow terracotta pans. There will be more room now I’ve cleared out the huge pelargonium pots.

Luckily, there’s a few pots of colour left. This orange gerbera has been flowering for months. And my purple bougainvillea usually flowers into December. I haven’t quite finished polishing the glass, or replacing the comfy armchair, the biscuit tin and the radio. That will be tomorrow’s finishing touches. For today, after all that work, I’m collapsing in the summerhouse with a nice cup of tea and mulling over the autumn and winter season to come. I’m ready for anything the weather might throw at us.

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32 thoughts on “Clearing Out the Greenhouse & Taking Pelargonium Cuttings – Sunday September 15

  1. Your pelargonium cuttings are prettier than mine. I remove all but the tiniest leaves. I also take several cutting from long stems, so those below the terminal cutting lack the terminal bud. I cut their tops just above an axillary bud. I cut their bottoms just below another axillary bud. (There are two cuts made between each cutting, and a small scrap of internode gets cut away in the process.) But of course, I do not grow them in a greenhouse either. They get plugged directly where new pelargoniums are wanted, and start to grow at the end of winter.
    Are your oranges sour oranges, such as ‘Seville’? When I grew citrus, those were very rare. (They were also one of only two cultivars that was grown on its own roots, ungrafted.) Not many make marmalade, and if they do, they use lemons or sweet oranges. It seemed like those who wanted sour oranges were all English.

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  2. I love Karen the Pelargonium Tomcat flower. Your Greenhouse in lovely: you have worked very hard to clean it, place it and put your armchair and your stuff without forgetting the beds of Grace and Meg to have your favorite place to spend the Winter. I also have a hard time getting rid of plants even if they are ugly. The nursery car is very useful and I like it very much. How many magnificent cuttings of different pelargoniums you have planted with the company of your friend the nightingale! Spring will have a lot of new plants ready to bloom, I love it! When I was little and up to 30 years or so, my Mother and I also made cuttings of Geraniums, species of the genus Pelargonium that are now called Pelargonium and in Spain commonly Geranium. My Mother’s favorites are P. zonale, P. hortorum and P. peltatum. But a moth arrived in Spain from Morocco that puts the eggs in the flowers of the geraniums and larvae are born that get inside the stems and eat them inside, killing them. And since they have no natural predator, they roam freely. Since then we have no geraniums. Karen I really like that you are such an animal lover, relocating spiders and snails. Your lemons are fantastic. You already have seedlings of winter salads and micro vegetables: in Winter you will not lack fresh green. I love Gerbera. And your bungavilla will make you happy with her flowers in December. Rest a lot in the lovely Summer House enjoying your tea. And please Karen don’t work so much at once: you can do it in two weekends, for example. You are delicate in health and you must take care of yourself: I want the best for you. Work out my good friend. I hope it doesn’t freeze again and that the night temperatures remain in two figures. By day 21ºC they are ideal to be in the garden: keep it that way. Sorry for extending me so much in my comment. Karen much love and greeting and strength for yours and for you. Take care. Caresses Grace and Meg. Affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx

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    • Thank you Margarita. I always look forward to your comments. I see and enjoy my garden through your eyes. Sorry to hear about your geranium moth. I too have P. Peltatum. A lovely soft and furry leaf. The scent is wonderful. And zonale too. Flowers all summer. I’m pacing myself and working over several days. Luckily, I found the energy to finish the job today, and everything has been put back, ready for the winter. Safe and sound. And Meg and Grace love their cosy beds under the greenhouse staging. Enjoy your weekend. Love and affectionate greetings in return, karen xxx

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      • Karen your words overwhelm me. That you see your garden through my eyes is a compliment that I can’t with it, it’s too much for me. I’m glad you have two of the varieties of geraniums that my Mother and I like so much. It is great that you have finished the work in the Greenhouse and everything is ready for Winter. Now it’s time to rest. Have a fantastic weekend. Love and health Take care Affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx

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  3. I’m glad it’s not just me who means to keep the greenhouse and potting shed tidy only for them to attract clutter! Thank you for your timely post on pelargonium cuttings. It’s time I got on a made some too. Tomcat is a lovely rich colour. I’ll have to look out for one.

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  4. Oh gosh, that is a big job with an average size greenhouse Karen, but with with your VERY full 20 foot one… well done is all I can say! I must admit I am looking forward to when the tomatoes are over so I can tidy up a bit too – and perhaps I will get round to cleaning the glass this year too! You have prompted me to plan srarting afresh with my woody pelargoniums too – something else to add to my never-ending list!

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    • It is a never ending list of jobs. I’m trying to make it somewhere cosy for the winter to mooch to. Just selecting an old armchair and throw for the corner. Got radio, kettle, biscuit tin …and gardening books. I’m ready 🙂 x


  5. That is a big job that you have now got behind you Karen. Oh, how I wish I had a greenhouse! It is on our list of things to do…. I used to take cuttings from my Pelargoniums too, but had a complete failure one year (bad compost?) and decided to give up. When I get a greenhouse I will start again, as it is so satisfying knowing you have ‘recycled’ old favourites. Enjoy this late summer sunshine. Your summerhouse looks so welcoming for sitting and soaking it all up. It is clear and sunny here and we might be getting our first frost this week.

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    • Thank you Cathy. We had our first frost the Saturday before last. Woke up and the back field was white over. Caused rather a panic as for the past few years we haven’t had frost until November. It was just the one night though, so no damage. Nights are chilly though, down to 6C. Days are remaining at 18- 20C, so still pleasant to work outdoors. Pelargoniums need to be kept dryish over winter and above 6C. I use really gritty compost, and then add grit on top. Water once and then don’t spray them like usual cuttings. They rot if there’s humidity. If keeping on a house windowsill, west facing, out of sun, I’d still keep them very dry. They will sit there in a dormant state until spring and then you can pot them up and grow them on. They make large plants from tiny cuttings each year. Good luck xx

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    • Thank you Anne. I forgot to mention that I’ve got to empty the poly tunnel next….and that is a complete tip. Everything thrown in the corners! And then there’s the potting shed, which I started to clean last week, and now needs doing again as I’ve just filled it with stuff from the greenhouse. You would laugh to see me just redistributing my rubbish! I’m hopeless. Have a good week. x


    • Thank you. In the middle of winter, it’s lovely to have a bit of the Mediterranean in my greenhouse. It’s toasty warm, being made of wood, which expands in winter to plug any draughts.


    • Thank you Noelle. Best thing I’ve ever bought. The greenhouse cost £260. We had to take it down and rebuild it at home. Took us a week to transplant it here. My sanctuary over the winter. Thanks for reading

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