Some plants just do not get the respect they deserve. Perhaps they are too easily grown, and maybe they are too closely associated with working class gardens, but some plants are never given the credit they deserve, and are not planted often enough nor thoughtfully enough in our gardens.
Perhaps the best example of that is the poorly regarded zonal pelargonium, more usually known as the bedding geranium. This free flowering, summer blooming succulent-stemmed shrub is very popular in many parts of the world, but here is relegated to municipal bedding schemes and the like.
It is a travesty as this wonderful plant has any amount of colour, it is drought and wind hardy –not so keen on frosts of course- and is as reliable as anything through the summer. In some more northern areas of the country rust can be a problem, forming on the undersides of the leaves, but this far south it is nowhere near as bad a problem, and zonal pelargoniums are unlikely to be bothered by too many diseases.
There are many thousands of different kinds of this adaptable and versatile plant, some grown for their colourful leaves –the “zonal” in their name refers to their leaf markings – others for their brightly coloured flowers, while yet others are treasured for their exquisitely shaped flowers.
Perhaps the most commonly seen forms today are the seed raised varieties offered for sale in garden centres and supermarkets. These are raised from very dear hybrid seed, and have been developed overseas for the potted plant trade. In most of Europe and America, these plants are largely grown to be planted out for a season then discarded. Traditionally the bright red forms are the most popular – often planted out with white petunias and blue lobelias to give a very patriotic garden - but the hot pinks are also very popular today.