A discussion between two enthusiasts who both hold National Collection of Geum.

Sue Martin talks to Lloyd Kenyon

Geums require a plentiful supply of water and good fertile soil. However, I garden in Kent in the dry South East corner of England and have long been jealous of, what I imagined to be, the wetter area of Shropshire where Lord Lloyd Kenyon has the other NC of geums.

The first question I asked him therefore when we began our conversation about our Collections was, how much rain does he get in his garden? I was surprised to learn that in the seven months since March rainfall had been less than half the average and his geums too are suffering from drought. I do not make a practice of watering plants in the garden but have been forced to do so occasionally this summer, although Lloyd said he had not resorted to this. My soil is heavy Wealden clay and is slightly alkaline. Lloyd’s soil is a good loam which has been cultivated for many years and is slightly acidic. It seems that geums are not fussy about small variations in pH.

I grow my geums in nearly every bed in the garden, with two raised beds reserved exclusively for them. One is full of chiloense cultivars (see photo above) and is a riot of colour from late spring until mid-summer, with some continuing to bloom into autumn. The other raised bed has smaller coccineum and rivale cultivars but is not entirely successful as it gets too much sun and will have to be changed. Lloyd also grows his within the garden, mainly in the front of island beds in order to give colour. Geums prefer semi-shade and so do well amongst other plants.

We then talked about the plants themselves. Lloyd mentioned G. ‘Totally Tangerine’ which he rates highly for its vigour and long flowering time. G. ‘Hilltop Beacon’ is another good vigorous cultivar. We agreed that ‘Mango’ and ‘Mango Lassi’ are the same and should come under the name ‘Mango Lassi’. Also ‘Marmalade’ and ‘Oxford Marmalade’ are the same.

I have found that ‘Mrs. J. Bradshaw’ and ‘Lady Stratheden’ are weak and do not flower well, Lloyd agreed. Have they been propagated from seed for so long they have lost vigour. Also, are they still the same plants as when they were originally named?

Mention of seeds brought us to the question of husbandry and whether or not to deadhead. I have been inclined to leave the achenes on the plants as they are attractive in themselves, but Lloyd pointed out that this can lead to seedlings growing within the established plants. I have found this a problem so will follow his advice next year and get busy deadheading.

We both divide our plants every 2 or 3 years or when they begin to outgrow their space and get woody. They do not suffer from disease and are not attacked by slugs etc. The only problem is vine weevil which attack plants in pots and need to be controlled.

We have both been collecting geums for several years and obtain our plants from a variety of sources; nurseries, plant fairs, other Collection Holders, and generous members of the public who love giving a plant the CH doesn’t already have!

Sue Martin
Images copyright Sue Martin

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