Saturday, April 3, 2010

Pink Saturday - Geraniums

Pink Saturday - Beverly at the blog "How Sweet the Sound" hosts Pink Saturday. Let the color pink inspire you!

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.

Geraniums and pelargoniums used to be classified together, but in 1789 botanists separated the European geraniums from their South African cousins. Gardeners still call pelargoniums "geranium" - which can be confusing.

Pelargoniums in windowboxes in the French medieval town of Vezelay

The first South African geranium was introduced to Europe as early as 1600. Much loved by everyone for the bright flowers that stock windowboxes, they are also valuable plants to the perfume industry for their scented leaves.
Because geraniums have been loved in Europe for so many centuries, they have become a fixture of European still-life painting. In 1910, Henri Matisse painted "Still life with geraniums" showing a pot of zonal geraniums.

In 1888, the American impressionist artist Childe Hassam painted "Geraniums."

There are four basic types of pelargoniums:
  • 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 pelargonium on my deck
  • 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 geranium leaves in a nosegay with lilac flowers.
  • 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.

Martha Washington geraniums
  • 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.

In colder climates, pelargoniums are grown as annuals - they will not survive a frost. Here in Southern California, though, they are survivors. We moved to this house 13 years ago, and found some thriving pelargoniums in the garden that are still going strong today.

This amazing plant is probably what's called a French or regal geranium. Its leaves hold a piquant, resinous scent, and its flowers are a bright shocking pink. It burgeons and spreads so vigorously from a patch of poor soil at the corner of a planter box it foams out into the walkway. It's only when I cut it back that I reveal the clay figure here - we think this is a self-portrait of the previous owner of our house.

Lower in the yard, a pink zonal geranium grows near the base of a rose I planted four years ago.

These pretty pink blossoms are from an ivy-leaved geranium I planted in a pot with the English Rose, "Glamis Castle." Now, my memory isn't great, but I think that when I planted it, it was a white flowered geranium - which means that the original plant probably died and self-seeded a reverted offspring.

Geraniums survive in Topanga even in the wild - this zonal with its tomato-red flowers blooms on a vacant hillside off our road.

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.

Pelargonium sidoides is a garden plant with small grey-green leaves and delicate deep maroon or violet flowers held up above the foliage. Drought-tolerant, it makes pretty mounds at the front of a garden border.

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.


Sherry from Alabama said...

Thank you for such a lovely lesson in botany! Wishing you a happy Pink Saturday and blessed Easter.

Sherry @ A Happy Valentine

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

You make me want to have a yard. I wonder if they would survive the deer in West Va.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carey said...

This is such a lovely post and I learned something as well.
Have a wonderful holiday,

Blondie's Journal said...

What a lot of great information, Aunt Snow. I am thrilled that this winter I was able to bring a try of geraniums in and they survived the winter, even bloomed. Just ordinary (??!) geraniums!

Wishing you a happy Easter!


Beverly said...

Happy Pink Saturday and Happy Spring, Glennis.

I just purchased by pink zonal pelargoniums this morning. I still have to pot them.

You sure make learning an adventure. Love it.

Catharina Maria said...

Wish you a happy Pink Easter weekend !
♥♥ Rini the Netherlands

giorno26 ¸¸.•*¨*•. said...

la foto con la casa francese sembra quella di mio zio che vive a Bordeaux.
Happy Easter...Myriam

Cape Cod Rambling Rose said...

Your geranium photos are GORGEOUS! Happy Pink Saturday and have a Blessed Easter! =)

Mary Beth @ Live. Laugh. Make Something said...

so pretty! I forgot that I have to sign up ahead of time for Pink Saturday! I am conditioned to just show up and link up... so sorry! Have a delightful weekend! Here's my pink and yellow link... Please stop by when you get a moment!

Cathy said...

Today was such a lovely day to play in the dirt. It was warm and sunny here in New England so I filled my first round of pots for spring with pansies.

What a lovely post. I love all flowers.

Happy Pink Saturday! Hope you and yours have a wonderful Easter weekend.

xo Cathy

Pom Pom said...

I love geraniums and I can't wait until they stock them at the grocery store. Thank you for all your information. Fascinating! Happy Pink Saturday!

Unknown said...

What a great lesson. As usual, when I leave, I will go away with another lesson in my mind : ) Thank you! I am going to get some geraniums soon!

Mary Bergfeld said...

I love the pictures and the background information you shared with us today. My favorite is the bright red zonal. We fill a deck long planter with them in the summer. It looks wonderful from the highway below. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

Tristan Robin said...

I now know more about geraniums than I thought there was to know! I do hope somebody questions me when I'm at the nursery buying Spring plants in a few weeks! I'll be such a show-off.

Thanks for the information - and, again, lovely photos!

nancy said...

Thank you for stopping by. Happy PS and Easter. Nancy

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

As always, a simply gorgeous post, artist-formerly-known-as-g. What a riot of color, what a torrent of loveliness! Have a wonderful Easter.

Gilly said...

Great post - great photos, and I learnt a lot! European homes always seem to have masses of geraniums (sorry, perlagoniums) in their window boxes, but they don't do too well for me. Our patio faces east, and cold winds zip over the Pennines straight up the garden!

But I would love to see yours, growing in such perfusion!

Charlotte said...

Happy Easter & Pink Saturday! Such lovely flowers! But I was born with a brown thumb instead of a green one!

Jason, as himself said...

I do love geraniums. At our last house we had tons of them, all over the place, and I loved how they could survive anywhere and all you had to do was put a clipping of one in the ground and walk away.

But in our new house we have none! How did that happen?

Elisa said...

Thanks for the intro: I was only familiar with one kind. and the Ivy-leaf emitts peppermint scent? how interesting. Here we have 2 plants that survived thru the mild winter and I can't wait to see them bloom!

Anonymous said...

Mine seem to come back each year, despite the freezing and the snow here in Northern Virginia. To your second commenter, I keep them in pots up near the front porch -- the deer aren't brave enough to come that close! (So far, they've left the tulips alone, too, although I think those are better known as deer dessert.)