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