How To Grow An Indoor Garden

Geraniums are the easiest plant to take cuttings from. Willow shows you how in this extract from The Wild Journal.

Charlie and I compete for space in the small greenhouse we fill with tomatoes and pelargoniums. By the end of the summer I usually win and my geraniums overflow onto the terrace and windowsills of our house.

Geranium Wilhelm Langguth

The scented leaf perlagoniums are the best. Even the boys learn to pinch the leaves for a quick fix of lemon, apple or chocolate scent as they brush past them. The variated citrus-leaved ones are my favourite and I love how easy it is to clone them to give away as presents for friends.

A crispum variegatum, a scented-leaved pelargonium with a lemony aroma grown by Carole Bamford. © Michael Vince Kim for The New York Times Style Magazine.

My friend Carole Bamford is just as obsessed as I am. She has an entire greenhouse dedicated to pelargoniums with over 120 different species. Their scent has become the signature of her divine Bamford beauty products

Carole Bamford's pelargornium greenhouse. © Michael Vince Kim for The New York Times Style Magazine.
Growing from cuttings is basically growing for free. In 'garden-speak', it's called propagation. If you're new to taking cuttings, in a nutshell, it's when you snip off a small shoot from a plant, poke it into its own pot of compost and, after a while, it starts growing you a whole new plant.
Carole Bamford's potting shed © Michael Vince Kim for The New York Times Style Magazine.

This year I've gone geranium crazy; as well as filling my garden, every surface of my kitchen, sitting room and even the bathroom, are covered with different types of geraniums. There are so many that I love, I find it hard to be selective.

Pelargoniums in Carole Bamford's potting shed © Michael Vince Kim for The New York Times Style Magazine. 

I often enjoy them more for the leaves - which I use in arrangements - than the flowers, and I am drawn to the scented and variegated leaf varieties first and foremost. The ones bringing me the most joy are 'Mrs Pollock', 'Attar of Roses', 'Horizon Appleblossom', 'Wilhelm Langguth' and 'Tomentosum'

L: Wilhelm Langguth the geranium. R: Mrs Pollock the geranium

My mother always has her secateurs in her back pocket and whips them out at any given moment, like some sort of garden ninja, discreetly snipping snippets of geraniums she likes the look of and multiplying her favourites to give away as presents. I'm coming to realise gardeners have an inbuilt urge to do this.

A small pot (I use terracotta pots that are about 10cm/4 in tall.)
Potting compost
Rooting powder
1. Fill your small pot with potting compost and water until moist. 
2. Cut a stem about 20cm (8in) long and with one or two side shoots from a healthy plant.


3. Lay it flat and gently nip off the side shoots and any little buds that might be forming. You should end up with a. long, green pencil-like shoot. 

4. With sharp secateurs, cut diagonally just below a node, which is the area from which branches, leaves and aerial roots grow out from the stem. You can dip the base into rooting powder and dust off any residue (but it's not really necessary with geraniums as they take root so easily).
5. Poke a hole into the compost close to the side of the pot and slot the shoot well into the compost, burying the node (and, better still, the one above it) below the earth. 
6. If there are remaining leaves at the top of the shoot, snip them of; you want the plants energy to go into forming roots, not the keeping the leaves alive.
7. Take several cuttings like this and dot them around the edge of the pot. They can be quite crowded. 
8. Keep your cuttings damp but not too soggy. When you see roots appear at the base of the pot - the time this takes will vary depending on each plant - that is the moment to re-pot each cutting, giving each one its own small pot to expand in. Think of the geraniums or any cuttings like small babies who hate being put in an enormous cot too soon. 
To speed this up, create a propagator: place a clear polythene bag over the pot, secured with an elastic band. Snip tiny holes in the bag let air circulate, then remove the bag once the shoots look alive.

This is an edited extract taken from Willow Crossley's The Wild Journal: A Year of Nurturing Yourself Through Nature
Further reading
To learn more about Carole Bamford's obsession with Pelargoniums you can read In the English Countryside, a Library of Geraniums - a NY Times Style Magazine article all about her enduring love of this flower. 
For a thrilling read on geraniums this Financial Times article The Joy of Geraniums is so interesting.