Every summer veg garden should boast a runner bean frame with its promise of an endless supply of beans throughout the late summer and autumn.

Yes, like most gardeners, I’m a runner fan, but have to concede that although French beans are less robust, they are a tad tastier. Even my visiting deer prefer French leaves to runners, which they don’t deign to graze. Needless to say, barricades have to be constructed to discourage this predilection.

So I was delighted when breeders introduced a runner-French bean cross, which combines the strengths of each species. The new crosses have thankfully inherited some of the toughness of runners. Living at 200 metres, I’ve always had to give French beans more protected, sunnier spots than the relatively undemanding runners.


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I was interested to see that the new pods have smoother skins than a runner, and this may contribute to their superior taste. Vitally whatever the beans, pick small and never let the pods get large enough to start developing seed. If they do this, leave them to it and shell at the end of the season.

Like French beans, the new crosses are self fertile. This removes any problems gardeners may have during a cool, wet summer when pollination is problematic. I confess I’ve never had a poor set like this but the new varieties could be useful for some people.

Lack of beans may be down to quite the opposite kind of weather conditions. Cold, wet springs can sometimes be followed by hot, dry summers when night time temperatures could exceed 15C. This heat causes poor germination of pollen if it persists for 2 successive nights, a problem that may become more common in Scotland. Any beans that do form under these warm conditions will probably be small and curly.

And new crosses to try? With bright red flowers, Firestone is a tasty beauty with fine straight pods. As the name hints, Moonlight is white-flowered with pods up to 30cm long if you’re unwise enough to let them reach that size. And gorgeously bi-coloured Tenderstar lives up to its name.

The Herald: Geranium x cantabrigense ‘Intense’Geranium x cantabrigense ‘Intense’ (Image: free)

Plant of the week

Geranium x cantabrigense ‘Intense’ is an early flowering hardy geranium with several bright pink flowers on each stem. Hardy and able to cope in sun or semi-shade, dry or damp cantabrigense geraniums are a cross between the indestructible macrorrhizums and G. dalmaticum. Low growing, they make good ground cover and suppress many weeds.

The foliage is semi-evergreen and turns red in autumn, it is also scented.