Thursday 30 December 2010

Pelargonium auritum - Best in Show

Pelargonium auritum, grown and exhibited by Jan Goodwin  at the South Australia Society Pelargonium Show in 2006.   I was honoured to be asked to help judge this show when I was in Adelaide visiting my sister.  As usual, all the exhibits in the Show were of an exceptional standard, but I had no hesitation in awarding Pelargonium auritum, Best in Show. It was almost perfectly round in shape with plenty of flowers and very healthy, well coloured shiny leaves.  Without a doubt, Jan Goodwin certainly knows how to grow the species pelargoniums


Pelargonium auritum grows in the wild in the south-western Cape Province.  It is a tuberous-rooted plant with many small very dark purple-red flowers.   In her book, Pelargoniums, Diana Miller says that the first illustration was in 1697 of something close to the plant known today was of a very dark reddish purple flowered plant., by Commelin in 1697

In the mild spell we have had over the last two days I have watered plants in both greenhouses. I have found a couple more poorly plants which are now in the 'sick bay' in the conservatory.   Yesterday morning I found to my horror that I had left one of the greenhouse doors part way open all night.   Fortunately we did not have a frost, and the heater was on, but this morning I spotted that two plants of Vectis Dazzler on the lower shelf by the door had succumbed to the cold, one of them completely and the other in now in the 'sick bay'. 

The plant outside the window is an Aspidestra.  It has been in this sheltered spot for several years now and does not seem to mind the cold.  I split it and re-potted it about three years ago and found to my amazement it was flowering.   The flowers are at ground level and quite dull and insignificant.  It was thought that snails or slugs pollinated the flowers, but this is now thought not to be the case.   One theory is that fungus gnats pollinate the flowers in this country.

Monday 27 December 2010

In the beginning.....

....was Pelargonium zonale.

Pelargonium Zonale
 Commonly found growing in the coastal areas of the Southern Cape.  Although an erect shrubby type, P. zonale can often be found scrambling through bushes or down rocky embankments.  The single flowers are usually pink, but white or red forms can be found.   The name zonale is from the Latin 'zona', which refers to the distinctive horse-shoe shaped dark zone on each leaf.

P. zonale leaves showing typical dark zone

P. zonale arrived in  Europe in 1700, having been sent to Holland as seed by the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope.   A few years later it was recorded as growing in the gardens of the Duchess of Beaufort and has been grown by gardeners ever since.

Almost certainly P. zonale, together with P. inquinans, is the parent of the zonal pelargoniums we know today.

I fear I have a few losses in the greenhouses.  It has been bitterly cold over Christmas with a temperature of  -10C when we got up yesterday morning.  Three plants have been brought inside to my 'hospital' ledge in the conservatory for extra cossetting.   We are promised some very mild days later in the week.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Christmas Greetings

Pelargonium 'Sleurink's Robin'

Since Robin's are always associated with Christmas, 'Sleurink's Robin' is a pelargonium that always reminds me of Christmas.  It is a dwarf, semi-double pelargonium with very dark green leaves and is from Holland.  It was introduced in the UK by Beckwood Nurseries in 1978.  Although 'Sleurink's Robin' is said to be a dwarf,  it does not grow very big and tends to grow tall and straggly, so I like to grow it as a miniature.

The following photo's of the San Diego Geranium Society 2010 Christmas Tree were taken by Cynthia Pardoe, who designed and made the Christmas Tree. Cynthia told me there were over 13,000  visitors to the San Diego Christmas Nites.  I hope you will agree that it is most festive and a wonderful display of perlargoniums at this time of year.  Enjoy!

Tuesday 21 December 2010

A Gardener's Wife

Angel Pelargonium 'Sarah Don'

Named for Sarah, wife of Monty Don who we learn is to return as presenter of Gardener's World  in the New Year.   When 'Sarah Don' was first introduced by David Clark of Oakleigh Nursery, Near Winchester, Hampshire, several years ago, it caused a bit of a stir, being a bi-coloured leaf Angel Pelargonium.    Proceeds from the sale of the plant went to a charity.   David Clark was well known  for hybridising and introducing Regal pelargoniums with the prefix 'Monkwood' after his local village.  

Our snowy weather continues, although here in the south-east we have had a slight thaw today and outside it has become rather 'slushy'.  I took the opportunity to open the greenhouse doors for an hour or so at lunchtime.  Another hard frost is forecast tonight, with more snow tomorrow.   

Underneath the snow I have growing Brussels sprouts, leeks, parsnips, celeriac, chard, and garlic for next year.

Friday 17 December 2010

Who is the Pampered Lady?

Angel Pelargonium 'Pampered Lady'

I think I know, but I really should not say!    Pampered Lady is an Angel Pelargonium, very free flowering on a spreading type plant.  It is, therefore, ideally suited to planting in a basket for the summer.  The flowers are single, maroon with a delicate white edge.  Pampered Lady was hybridised by Les Hodgkiss and introduced in 2000.

Angel Pelargonium 'Pampered Lady' in hanging pot
(photograph taken at BPGS National Show 2008)

It's been a busy week, but I managed to get out in the garden on Tuesday morning when we had a mild spell and Brian was out for the day.   I planted the last of the bulbs I had bought just before the last cold spell we had.  I was beginning to think I would have to put them in pots.   I also cut back some of the old growth crushed by the snow in one border.  It certainly looks a lot better and when we get another mild spell I will be out tackling the other borders.

Monday 13 December 2010

Off with their heads!

No, I'm not an anarchist, nor am I rehearsing for the village pantomime!   I spent a happy couple of hours in the greenhouses on Sunday morning deadheading the pelargoniums.    I dislike taking off the flower heads, and I have to admit to leaving a few on some of the plants.  They remind me of summer, but I can't leave them long, and I will have to check again in a day or two.   The flowers don't last long in any case in the chilly weather.  The petals are thin and quickly succumb to botrytis when they begin the die off.    Taking off the flowers gives me a good chance to check over the plants for any likely problems, like blackleg or rust.  Thankfully no blackleg, but I did fine one plant with rust.  I carefully removed the plant to outside the greenhouse and sprayed it with a fungicide.  I have brought this plant into the conservatory to keep a close check on it.  I carefully checked the surrounding plants for any signs of rust.  Fortunately I did not find any, but I sprayed those plants as a precaution.  I also watered the plants, being careful to water into the saucers in order to keep water off the leaves.

Pelargonium 'Vectis Glitter'
Some folk like spotted petals, and I have to admit that they are unusual.  Vectis Glitter is a stellar type pelargonium with single white flowers that are splashed with red.   It was hybridised by the late Brian West and introduced in 1995. 

My photo was taken at the National Collection of Pelargoniums held at Fibrex Nursery at Pebworth, near Stratford-upon-Avon.

Friday 10 December 2010

A scented reminder of summer

Pelargonium 'Bode's Peppermint'

During the last two weeks of freezing weather, I have to admit to not visiting the greenhouses much, apart from opening the doors for brief spells and then going out to close them after an hour or so.   But when I do venture inside I make a point of checking over the plants to remove any flowers and leaves that have died off.   I do this as often as I can to prevent botrytis which can very quickly take hold on a plant in these cold and damp conditions.  Reaching over the plants means brushing against the scented pelargoniums which releases a brief reminder of summer, particularly the lemon scented ones.   Bode's Peppermint is, as the name suggests, more pepperminty, but still pleasant.  Sometimes known as Bode's Peppermint Rose, this attractive pelargonium was introduced in the USA by Fred Bode in 1955.

Do please feel free to leave any comments - I am always interested in what my readers have to say.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Always a winner

Regal Pelargonium 'Rosmaroy'
It is easy to see from the photo that 'Rosmaroy' is a popular plant on the Show Benches in the Regals classes.   The plant produces plenty of attractive frilled flowers on a compact plant.  'Rosmaroy' was introduced in the UK in about 1984.

Sue sent the above photo last week of her 'French' pelargonium seedlings.  If you remember, when we tidied up the pelargoniums for the winter in the Garden in France last October, Sue found some seedlings which she brought home with her.  They are doing well.

Monday 6 December 2010

Favourite from 'down under'

P. australe
 I have yet to see P. australe  growing in the wild, although I have visited Australia several times.  It grows along the Australian coast in sandy areas, and inland on acid and granite outcrops, and also parts of Tasmania.   The name 'australe' means 'southern', so could also mean from New Zealand, although records do not show that the plant occurs naturally there.

The plant has shallow lobed dark green and unscented leaves on long thin stems.  The flowers are pink or white and grow in a fairly compact inflorescence of eight to ten.   In the wild it has a quite straggly growth habit, but is fairly easy to maintain a compact plant in cultivation.  

P. australe is one plant that I would not want to be without in my collection.   I find this easy to propagate from cuttings and grow on in a John Innes No 2 compost with lots of added grit.

After a mild and pleasant weekend, the freezing conditions have returned here in the south-east.

Thursday 2 December 2010

The Boar and his relative; mysterious but not boring

'The Boar'

'The Boar' is a jolly useful pelargonium - I like to grow it as a companion plant in mixed garden planters in the summer.   It grows quite robustly over the edges with plenty of salmon pink single flowers and attractive leaves with a black central blotch.   Said to have come originally to Kew from Tresco on the Isles of Scilly in 1920, 'The Boar' is a bit of a mystery.  It has been said to be a P. frutetorum species hybrid, and in fact my photo shows the plant growing at Fibrex Nursery as a species hybrid.  However, the plant apparently does grow 'true' from seed, although initially the seedlings do not have the black centre to their leaves, but have a zone similar to P. frutetorum.    In the past there has also been confusion over its name.   In 1956 the plant received an Award of Merit at a Royal Horticultural Society show under the name 'Salmonia', which led growers to assume it was P. salmoneum which it is not.  The late Mr Derek Clifford reported to the R.H.S. Floral committee in 1956 that 'The Boar' was widely known in the U.S.A. as 'Dark Beauty'.    Mystery or not, I will be growing this again in my tubs next summer, together with a new acquisition 'White Boar' , a seedling of 'The Boar' with a similar growth habit.

'White Boar'

Information from 'Fancy-leaved Pelargoniums - Peter Grieve and after'  by Mary E Campbell and others

Monday 29 November 2010

Eskay Verglo - pretty and unusual Angel pelargonium

Angel Pelargonium Eskay Verglo
A  most unusual Angel Pelargonium, Eskay Verglo was hybridised by Des Glover and introduced in 2006.  I love the veined lower petals with the plainer upper two petals. The crinkley leaves look a bit like parsley, and it does seem to like to be watered more often.

Pride of place in my house at this time of year has to go to my Paphiopedilum Orchid.    I found this plant on the bargain shelf at a garden centre two years ago.  It had one dead flower and green leaves.   I can never resist a poorly plant in a garden centre if the price is knocked down, and I paid just £2.00 for the 'dead' orchid..   Today it is flowering for the second time and has two flowers.   I understand if it is re-potted each year it will produce one more flower than the previous year.   I saw one a week ago in a garden centre with two flowers priced at £14.99 - wasn't I lucky?

Saturday 27 November 2010

Stellar Pelargonium 'Edward's Finn'

Stellar Pelargonium Edward's Finn
I first saw Edward's Finn in Australia several years ago.  It is a double stellar pelargonium with the most beautiful pink flowers on a compact plant.  It was hybridised by Marj. Edwards of Victoria, Australia.  She has a pelargonium nursery and has hybridised many lovely plants.  Sadly not many of them are available here in the U.K.  Marj. said that this is the only double flowered stellar she has produced, and she named it for Jill Finn who used to own a pelargonium nursery in Australia.  I did bring a cutting back of this one, so maybe one day it will be available for sale here. Four years ago I attended the South Australia Pelargonium Society show and there was a really good plant of Edward's Finn on display.
South Australia Pelargonium Society Show, 2006

Last summer a friend and I stayed at a B & B in Norfolk, and knowing of my interest in plants, when we left after our four day stay the owner handed me a cutting of a plant she herself had been given.  She said the person who gave it to her did not know what it was, and neither did she.   The cutting rooted, and grew into a really lovely plant - gold leaves with red stems. The leaves are stiff and have a bristly feel to them, but the square stems are quite velvety.  I found out it is Plectranthus ciliatus "Easy Gold" and originates in the southern hemisphere.   It seems to grow sideways, and on a visit to Wisley in the summer I saw it grown as ground cover in the glasshouse.  I think I might try it in a hanging pot next summer.   It does flower - the name Plectranthus is from the Greek, meaning 'spur' which refers to the spur at the end of the flower. You need to look really closely at the small flowers to appreciate their beauty - palest blue and speckled with darker spots.  

Plectranthus ciliatus 'Easy Gold'

I can recommend the Norfolk B & B - you will be given a very warm welcome.  Comfortable rooms and a wonderful breakfast.  It was the second time I have stayed there and will certainly return.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Sweet fragrant Pelargonium sidoides

P. sidoides

Brian and I have been away for the weekend, and on our return I went into the conservatory, which had been closed.   I could not help but notice the sweet fragrance of Pelargonium sidoides which is flowering in the corner.    Although the flowers are a very dark, almost black, red, they are small .  It comes into its own at night when the scent is very noticeable.    I imagine the scent lingered because the conservatory was closed for a few days.
 P. sidoides is closely related to P. reniforne which has bright pink flowers. The leaves of both plants are a silvery grey green, which are soft to the touch.

Leaves of P. sidoides

In the Zulu language Pelargonium sidoides is Umckaloabo and means 'heavy cough'.   
The alcoholic extract of the root can be used to treat acute bronchitis and tonsillitis and can work in three ways:-
1. An expectorant.  2. Anti-bacterial.  3. Anti viral.



Saturday 20 November 2010

Unique Sport and an intruder in the greenhouse.


Phyllis is a spot of Paton's Unique.   Same single salmon pink flowers, but really striking pale green leaves edged in cream.  I have grown this, but it is difficult to propagate.   Like all variagated and coloured leaf pelargoniums cuttings are somewhat easier to strike in the spring rather than the autumn.

I found an intruder has been trying to get inside one of my greenhouses.  A mole (Talpa europaea) has left a small mound of earth just inside the door.  The base of the greenhouse has slabs and the mole hill was between two of them.   I think we may have to take up the slabs and lay a concrete base.  Obviously a job for the summer.   A mole (probably the same one) has been running around the outside of the other greenhouse and I hope it won't try to infiltrate that one.    I have had success with trapping them in the past, but I just cannot find the run for this mole.  

Thursday 18 November 2010

Pelargonium named for the Chairman

Richard Upward
Double salmon pink flowers on a dwarf growing plant.  Green and cream bi-coloured leaves.   Hybridised by Steve Pollard and introduced in 2008, so fairly new.

Steve named his plant  for the late Richard Upward who was a well respected Chairman of Farnborough Fuchsia & Pelargonium Society for many years.

A strange thing happens in my garden each autumn.  My greenhouses shrink.  In fact, they get even smaller by spring.  I wonder why this is?

Wednesday 17 November 2010

A real honey of a pelargonium

Honeywood Suzanne
Flowering in my conservatory for the past few weeks, Honeywood Suzanne just seems to go on and on.   Hybridised and introduced by John Thorpe in 1981, this is another frutetorum type zonal.  Very pale pink semi double flowers with a slightly darker 'eye', and light green zoned leaves on a short jointed dwarf plant.

I took advantage of a dry morning to go outside and tidy up.  Brian has been clearing the leaves from the lawn and border edges.  We keep these in large plastic sacks behind the summerhouse to rot down over the next year.    This afternoon I potted on some of the cuttings.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Pelargonium Angelique

Pelargonium Angelique
Introduced by a Mr Maudsley in the U.K. in 1987.  Angeleque is a dwarf pelargonium with double carmine pink flowers and well zoned green leaf. 

Dwarf pelargoniums should not grow higher than 8" (20cm).   I've grown this for several years and it grows well in a 4 1/2" pot (115 mm). 

We woke to another frost this morning, with drifting fog.

Monday 15 November 2010

A Red Pelargonium and seedlings update

P. Redondo

I've had this plant a long time; it's bright double red flowers always cheer me up.  It is a dwarf growing pelargonium with very dark green foliage. It was introduced in America in 1965, apparently from seed sent there by Frank Read of Norfolk, U.K. to a Mrs James Lumsden of Redondo Beach, California.    I have some lovely memories of a short visit I made to Redondo Beach a few years ago.

You may remember the seedlings Sue found when we tidied up her pelargoniums in France about a month ago.  She brought them back to the U.K. and here is a photo of them now that she has potted them up individually.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Pelargonium oblongatum hybrid

P. oblongatum x P. punctatum
One of my posts last month was of P. oblongatum.  Browsing some of my pelargonium photographs today I came across this one of P. oblongatum x P. punctatum.  I took the photograph at the Geelong Botanical Gardens when I attended the Pelargonium Conference held there in 2006.   The display of flowers on this one plant is just amazing.  Both plants are from the Horea section of Pelargoniums and Diana Miller in her book says the plants are similar, although the flowers of P. punctatum are rather narrower.  Both plants flower prolifically and grow from underground tubers.

Nerine bowdenii
I took this photo of Nerine bowdenii flowering in the garden yesterday.   It grows from a bulb which needs to be planted with the neck of the bulb at ground level and needs full sun to flower well.   Leaves appear in spring, which then die down.   The flowers appear in late October to November and last well.    Common names which Nerine bowdenii is known by are Guernsey Lily, Cape Flower and Japanese Spider Lily.

A poppy for Remembrance

Saturday 13 November 2010

Purple Heart

Purple Heart
I'm not quite sure why this Stellar Pelargonium is named Purple Heart, since the single flowers are orange.   However, it is a lovely plant.  The typical star shaped stellar leaves have a deep zone with green to the centre and edge.
Purple Heart leaves
Purple Heart was hybridised by Frances Parmenter and introduced in 2001.    I have been told this is difficult to grow, but I have not found it so.  It easily makes a good well branched plant.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Pelargonium acetosum

Pelargonium acetosum
 A shrubby short jointed species with narrow pale pink flowers and blue green succulent leaves. Found  growing in the Eastern Cape Province.  It is easy to grow but it needs very dry conditions and can be easily propagated from cuttings.  There is a variegated type available that has a cream coloured edge to the leaves.    I have seen both these types growing in hanging baskets.

Erodium chrysanthum is bravely showing a flower in a pot at the side of  the house - it normally flowers in the spring.  

Erodium chrysanthum

Also putting on a brave face is summer flowering Geranium 'Ann Folkard' growing under the shelter of an evergreen hedge

Geranium 'Ann Folkard'


Saturday 6 November 2010

An unusual & beautiful scented pelargonium.

Mann's Genevra

This scented pelargonium has typical mauve/pink flowers with darker markings on the top petals.  It really is a beautiful scented pelargonium with an upright growth habit.   However, it is the leaves which give this plant the 'wow' factor.  Apart from the strong lemony scent when the leaves are rubbed, they are a most attractive and eye catching light green with a white edge.  

I grow this in my conservatory for most of the year. It seems to prefer the much drier and hotter conditions and I find it does not like to be watered very much at all.   I keep it just ticking over. When in the greenhouse it just does not seem happy at all.  

Mann's Genevra is a sport from Lara Nomad  and was found about about  20 years ago  (1990) by Nancy Mann on her Nursery at Dubbo, NSW, Australia. 

We went to my  favourite Garden Centre today and came home with tulip, hyacinth and camassia bulbs, all at half price, garlic bulbs (not half price), plus boxes of violas, pansies and cyclamen, an unusual white Christmas cactus, and two rolls of fleece marked down to less than half price.  I was amused at the picture on the label of fleece being thrown over a pelargonium in flower, suggesting that one layer of fleece would keep the plant growing and in flower all winter.   I think not!

I received the sad, but not unexpected, news that Vernon's Geranium Nursery has been sold.   It seems that Thompson & Morgan have purchased the mail order side of the business and the nursery will remain on site, but for how long?   

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