Bright candy colours bring summer cheer

Allan Jenkins

Early summer means geraniums. Time to change the window boxes, refresh the rooftop pots. We usually leave it until the early May bank holiday,or the later one at a push. We stock up on lupins, geraniums and lobelia (always dark blue); perhaps a few deep purple petunia.

My window-box tastes were defined at 19, selling plants in a posh Kensington square. I like the restricted palette, the repetitive ritual, keeping changes minimal.

Our choices are usually between which red we like – something dark, or maybe scarlet; and sometimes ivy leaf trailing geranium – or not. At least until this year. A warm, wet winter meant the geraniums flowered through. Finding new plants was impossible, so I pruned them tight. Some scant lobelia has self-seeded. Everything is now in happy bloom.

The rooftop, though, was a tulip battlefield: petal corpses, leaf exhausted. One early morning, I saw my local fruit and veg stall had started selling a few cut flowers, plus a tray of Barbie-pink geraniums and a couple of garish harlequin-striped petunia.

My wife was unconvinced by the candy colours – that’s architects for you – but these were healthy little plants and I wanted to give them a home.

The baby pink sits well with me in the slightly crusted terracotta (I’d bought some old pots a few years ago from the Chelsea Physic Garden). And I am liking the brightly striped petunia lolling in a chimney.

I am trialling them with Dalefoot Double Strength compost (Soil Association approved, peat-free and made from wool and bracken) that I’ve mixed with old spent soil. So far the results have been impressive.

It seems in these fearful, difficult days I am cheered by childish colours. You could say they’ve grown on me.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from