Real World Gardener BIG Geraniums are Plant of the Week

August 21st, 2015

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PLANT OF THE WEEK

 

with Karen Smith  editor of www.hortjournal.com.au and Jeremy Critchley, garden nursery owner www.thegreengallery.com.au

Geraniums

With so many amazing plants in garden centres today, it can be easy to forget some of the most obvious choices.

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And if you’ve been to England or Europe over the warmer months you would see the most amazing hanging baskets of Geraniums flowering beautifully. With the recent geranium revival, it’s time to give the humble geranium a look with a fresh pair of eyes, especially some newer varieties that make the flowers of old seem small.

Firstly let’s get out the way the confusion people in general have about Geraniums.

Geraniums most people see in hanging baskets, especially in Europe and the UK, are actually not Geraniums, they’re Pelargoniums.

Pelargonium is a genus of flowering plants which includes about 200 species of perennials, succulents, and shrubs, commonly known as geraniums

Confusingly, Geranium is the correct botanical name of a separate genus of related plants often called cranesbills

True geraniums are more fragile looking, and couldn’t cope with nearly as much sun in Australia, as these Pelargoniums.

Now for a bit of history.

Supposedly, the first species of Pelargonium known to be cultivated was P. triste, a native of South Africa.

Most species bred today originate from South Africa.

In 1631, the English gardener John Tradescant the elder bought seeds from Rene Morin in Paris and introduced the plant to England.

Did you know John Tradescant’s tomb is in Lambeth garden museum in London?

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I went there in 2013.

He’s important because together with his son, he went plant collecting and bought back lots of plants that are used in gardens still today.

I’m not sure if the weed Tradescantia is his discovery.

The name Pelargonium was introduced by Johannes Burman in 1738, from the Greek, pelargós (stork), because the seed head looks like a stork's beak.

Pelargonium leaves are usually alternate, and palmately lobed or pinnate, often on long stalks, and sometimes with light or dark patterns.

Difference between Geraniums and Pelargoniums.

From the Geranium and Pelargonium society of WA

True Geraniums are known as Cranesbills, which refers to the shape of the seedpod.



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Geranium Big Burgundy



GERANIUMS HAVE:

five petals that are the same size and shape as each other;

ten fertile stamens;

seed pods with 'curls' that act like a catapult to hurl the ripened seeds away from the parent plant;

many thin stems attached to fibrous roots;

need of cool climates so most are difficult to grow in Perth's heat.

A pelargonium flower   Pelargoniums were so named because the seedpods resemble the beak of a stork. (Pelar means stork).

PELARGONIUMS HAVE:

five petals, of which the upper two differ in shape and size from the lower three (more noticeable on the species or 'original') ;

ten stamens, but not all are fertile;

seed pods have a feathered end that enables them to float on the breeze to find a place to grow;

succulent, thick stems that hold moisture to enable them to withstand drought.

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Geranium Big Pink

 

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Geranium Big Red

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those big Geraniums of old are called Regal Geraniums and grew in many a country garden where they sometimes lined the long driveways alongside other old world shrubs.

 

They had a particular place and you either liked or hated them.

As with all Geraniums, old and new, they keep a lush appearance in some of the hottest, driest conditions, are elegant in pots and can be the mainstay of low-maintenance gardens.

These and are showy and hardy.

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