Sunday, January 17, 2010

More sort ofs........

Last week I wrote about the much neglected zonal pelargoniums, or geraniums as most people call them, inspired partly by the wonderful flowering season they have been having this year. I confess I have even squirreled a few cuttings from plants I have seen growing too close to the footpath. I will undoubtedly end up with more plants than I can use, but there you go.

I have always had a fondness for ivy leaved geraniums, with their slow trailing (or climbing) growth habits making them very useful in many parts of the garden. The more vigorous varieties can be allowed to climber up a trellis – we have a passionately shaded deep red form (it is almost black actually) sliding up the outside of the glasshouse – while the less vigorous varieties can be left to feature in hanging baskets.

There are many varieties, in all the usual pelargonium shades, as well as a few with very decorative leaves. One of the best of these is the old variety L’Elegante with grey-green leaves, each with a white edge that turns pink if the plant is kept somewhat dry. It has single white flowers which bloom in clusters.

Each nursery seems to produce its own branded series of ivy leaved pelargonium, so it probably pays to buy them in flower.

Regal pelargoniums are the flashy brothers to the zonals – a bit less hardy, but with larger flowers in a wonderful range of colours.

In the inland parts of Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay these need a little cosseting – they really do not like frosts and need to be kept protected over winter – but in warmer areas, and especially coastal areas they thrive, giving generously of their abundant flowers through summer.

These almost shrub like plants have been derived from strains that were originally predominantly lilac and purple, and were taller and stragglier in growth. Sometimes you will see a variety like this in an older garden, usually growing fairly wild.

Hybridisers have got to work on them improving the growth habits, and greatly improving the flowers. Today it is possible to find straight colours in almost all shades of red, pink and purple, and in many cases the flowers are blotched or feathered with wonderfully contrasting colours.

These guys need similar conditions to the zonals – good drainage, plenty of water during the growing season, and the occasional tidy up to keep them in shape. Apart from that there are few problems growing these beauties.


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