You say Geranium and I say Pelargonium - but let's not call the whole thing off, because whatever name you use for them, these verstile plants are worth keeping around. Geranium is the botanical name for another genus entirely.
In 1888, the American impressionist artist Childe Hassam painted "Geraniums."
- Zonal, named for the pattern of their leaves, marked with light or dark patches or "zones." These are the standard geranium of paintings, stiff, upright, with rounded umbels of flowers in clear, bright, cheerful colors.
- Ivy-leaved, with long rangy stems that hang or twine through other plants. They derive from the species peltatum - the name comes from Latin "shield" referring to the shape of its leaves.
- Scented geraniums have less showy flowers, but have thick, textured leaves that are scented. Varieties have been selected and bred from many species to have scents like peppermint, ginger, rose, nutmeg and citrus.
- Regal, also called French, and also "Martha Washington geraniums" are a hybrid introduced around 1900. They have ruffled leaves that are often scented, and have large flowers, some blotched or veined or bi-color.
These cultivated pot-plants are the most common pelargoniums, but you can find unusual varieties for the garden and for growing in pots.
As hybridizers work more and more with the genus, some amazing sub-categories have spring up. This unusual plant is one of a sub-group called "Stellar" for their intricately shaped flowers and leaves. Its coral flowers have cut, narrow-petals and bronze-patterned deeply notched leaves.
Here is a wonderful specimen, pink with intricately cut petals, grown at the Charles and Ray Eames House - perhaps another "Stellar" member. The granddaughter of the noted designers says that Ray Eames loved to garden, and loved growing lots of geraniums in small pots. Click and read this lovely article from 1999 about Ray and her garden at the Eames House.
Pelargoniums are easy to grow - as is evident by these Topanga survivors. And they're easy to find in almost any garden center, hardware store, or even in storefront racks at supermarkets. If you're new to gardening, give them a try. If you're an established gardener, look for the more unusual varieties at mail-order houses like Logee's, Avant Gardens, or White Flower Farm.
But try them. You won't regret it.