The species Pelargonium is a half hardy shrub first collected in South Africa and brought to Britain in the mid seventeenth century by sailing ships from the Dutch East Indies Company. NOT a Geranium as it is still often mislabelled in nurseries around the country. The name Geranium rightfully belongs to a group of hardy herbaceous plants native to Great Britain, Northern Europe and North America.
There are over a dozen varieties including Regal, Zonal and Scented-leaved which I tend to favour, though the new Stellar Pelargoniums which were bred as recently as the 1970’s in Australia, are quite exotic looking. You can use these flowers in the borders, in tubs or containers or in hanging-baskets or in a glasshouse. They are cheerful, colourful (from white to dark purple and almost black) and fairly resistant to pests and diseases. Even the S&S leave them alone which is one good reason for me to grow them. In winter I bring them indoors and now that I have a cold conservatory they do very well, continuing to flower most of the year.
- Regal Pelargoniums have some of the most colourful flowers in this genus of plants, truly everything from black to white. This is Aztec. Large white blooms with red & velvety reddish-brown markings on each petal.
- Another Regal is Dark Secret. It’s flowers are mahogany red with a deep burgundy blaze on each petal.
- Next is a Double Zonal Pelargonium, name unknown, though it could be ‘Bold Minstrel‘. It has deep magenta, double flowers with a white centre. The Zonal type are the most popular ones grown and often seen as bedding plants in public gardens and parks.
- Another Double Zonal Pelargonium, again name unknown. This has a clear mauve pink colour, with distinctive reddish-mauve blaze in the centre of each petal.
- Now for a couple of lovely Single Zonal Pelargoniums, again nameless. I have had some of these plants for years though most of what I have now are from cuttings of the original ones. Flowers are rose pink with a white eye and the second one has deep magenta veins.
The single ones look particularly beautiful after the rain as the drops seem to hang from every petal. All Single Zonal Pelargoniums have five petals in a floret, these are arranged in a cluster to form a flowering head.
- Finally, the Scented-Leaved type. These have the most attractive and fragrant leaves from peppermint and apple to rose. The flowers are often small and inconsequential, though I actually like the daintiness of this pelargonium. Leaves can be used in baking.
Prince of Orange (left) is a naturally bushy plant with small round leaves and a lovely orange scent with pale mauve, almost white, flowers.
Pink Capricorn (centre) is often incorrectly labelled Pink Capitatum. With soft green ruffled foliage, scented lemon rose, this pelargonium has a generous habit that gently trails and is covered with mauve pink flowers that have purple feathering on the upper petals. The only thing you need to do is dead head for continuous flowering.
Attar of Roses (right) has soft, fresh green leaves of a lovely strong rose scent and small soft pink flowers. It can be used in bouquets and in enhancing the flavour of the most delicious jams.
I keep my collection in terracotta pots on the patio. This summer I have moved them into a slightly shadier position as the sun has been so hot that they dry out very quickly. All Pelargoniums respond very well to regular feeds of high potash during the growing season, something which I always forget about!
See here for the participant’s guide.