Saturday, May 23, 2020

garden geraniums

Geranium phaeum 'Marchant's Ghost'

New out in my pocket-handkerchief garden today, this subtle whisper, Geranium phaeum 'Marchant's Ghost' (distributed by Graham Gough of Marchants Hardy Plants, E. Sussex, 2005: "ghostly, pale grey-lavender flowers the texture of satin"). It retains the distinctive flower-shape, though not the chocolate colour, of Dusky Cranesbill (Geranium phaeum, Sw: Brunnäva), native to much of Europe but only a garden escape in the UK and Sweden.

Disconcertingly, it dies right back to the ground in winter, unlike most other geranium species.

Geranium phaeum 'Marchant's Ghost'

Geranium x oxonianum 'Wargrave Pink'

This variety, 'Wargrave Pink', is one of many garden selections of the hybrid Geranium x oxonianum, collectively known as Druce's Cranesbill. The parents of the hybrid are French Cranesbill (Geranium endressii) from the western Pyrenees, and Pencilled Cranesbill (Geranium versicolor) from the Mediterranean. According to Stace the hybrid can be distinguished from the former by its longer styles (>4mm) and from the latter by its petals not curving back at the tips.

When the flowers first open they are deep pink and only the stigma is seen, as in my close-up. Then they turn much paler and the ring of stamens appear, initially grey-blue.

Geranium x oxonianum 'Wargrave Pink'

Geranium nodosum
Knotted Cranesbill (Geranium nodosum), another species from southern Europe (Pyrenees, Alps, Jura). Glossy toothed leaves, the upper ones three-lobed, and an erect habit. Difficult to capture the lilac colour of the flowers unless you shade them, otherwise the camera tends to show them as bleached white, as in the breezy photo below.

Geranium nodosum

Leaves of Geranium nodosum

Geranium macrorrhizum

And yet another species from southern Europe, Rock Cranesbill (Geranium macrorrhizum); it's native to the SE Alps and the Balkans. The S-shaped stamens are distinctive. Bees like all cranesbills, but I think this one might be their favourite. The hairy leaves are scented. The essential oil of this species has valuable properties; but it is not the usual Geranium Essential Oil, which comes from Pelargonium graveolens.

Leaves of Geranium macrorrhizum

Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'

Geranium x cantabrigiense is a hybrid between Rock Cranesbill (Geranium macrorrhizum, see above) and Dalmatian Cranesbill (Geranium dalmaticum), native to Croatia. It's a sterile hybrid, but that doesn't bother the bees.

Geranium lucidum

And then there are the native species.... This is Shining Cranesbill (Geranium lucidum, Sw: Glansnäva), with beautiful but small flowers of clear pink. My camera insisted on seeing the the flower as white until I draped it in heavy shade.

(Five days after this post, Bug Woman of London wrote a post about Shining Cranesbill, and here I learnt about the plant's very different character away from home territory, particularly in the Pacific NW USA where it's "diabolically invasive" in woodland.)

Geranium dissectum

Cut-leaved Cranesbill (Geranium dissectum, Sw: Fliknäva), growing on the edge of the tarmac.

Geranium robertianum

And almost in the porch, that most familiar wild species of all, Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum, Sw: Stinknäva). This one has quite an unusual petal-shape; the individuals vary greatly, while never being mistakable for anything else. The Swedish name alludes to the scent of the plant, which many people find unpleasant.

Leaf of Geranium pratense

At some point soon I'll be seeing the purple-blue flowers of Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium pratense, Sw: Ängsnäva). Twenty years ago we introduced it into Laura's garden, it spread itself around and has now made its way to mine.

Ivy-leafed Geranium (Pelargonium peltatum cultivar)

And finally, we have to talk about these! It was Linnaeus who unwittingly sowed centuries of confusion when he placed these plants in the genus Geranium. (They are indeed in the larger family Geraniaceae, but are distinct enough from true Geranium species to require a separate genus.) The damage had already been done by 1789, when  Charles L’Héritier proposed the name Pelargonium; it contains around 200 species, predominantly from southern Africa. They are unfailingly popular as bedding plants for containers and baskets, they flower all summer until the frost kills them, and they are still what most British garden enthusiasts mean when they say the word "geranium". (In horticultural circles the plants we've been talking about up to this point are usually called "hardy geraniums".)



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