Geranium Aristo Orchid.
GARDENING SHE may call herself the Geranium Lady, but Liz Sims really should think of a new moniker. Perhaps the Princess of Pelargoniums would better suit..?
Everyone thinks of granny’s favourite, neglected and tucked away in a pot in the corner of her porch, as a geranium, but, of course, it is not.
Geraniums are those much smaller flowered perennials, which are hardy and bomb proof and useful herbaceous ground cover in the garden.
Pelargoniums, on the other hand, can be big and brassy —everything geraniums are not — and now come in ever showier shades, far removed from gran’s geranium, which came in any colour, as long as it was red.
Liz’s Vernon Geranium Nursery has just celebrated its 35th birthday.
Back in 1977, at the time of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, her parents started it, utilising the collection started by Liz’s granddad.
It is still growing strong in this diamond jubilee year.
The nursery specialises in this wonderful family of plants and is passionate about keeping the old traditional varieties growing along with the very best of the new.
Liz says: "We all know a geranium is really a pelargonium and we should really call them all pelargoniums but I’ve discovered over many years that when I put a pelargonium in front of a gardener, he’ll call it a geranium.
"So, I go with the flow and call all zonal pelargoniums, and their varying types, geraniums and call the varieties Regals, Angels and Uniques pelargoniums and that seems to work!"
The Royal Horticultural Society, as ever, has the best descriptions:
Regal: Bushy evergreen perennials and shrubs with rounded leaves sometimes lobed or partially toothed, producing single rarely double flowers in shades of mauve, pink, purple or white grown for outdoor or indoor display.
Angel: Similar to Regals, but more compact and bushy. Mostly derived from P. crispum.
Ivy-leaved: Trailing evergreen perennials with stiff fleshy leaves and single or double flowers used for hanging baskets or containers.
Zonal: These are mainly derived from P. inquinans and P. zonale. Upright, bushy, succulent-stemmed perennials grown for their single or double flowers. Some have attractive foliage. This type is most commonly used for bedding displays.
Scented-leaved: Shrubby evergreen perennials and shrubs, which are mainly cultivated for their scented and often distinctly lobed, toothed or incised, or variegated, leaves.
Unique: Shrubby evergreen perennials that do not fall into the above categories.
Pelargoniums can be grown in borders or containers.
In the former plant in fertile, neutral to alkaline soil.
Most types prefer full sun. Regal cultivars prefer partial shade and zonal cultivars will tolerate some shade.
For indoor or outdoor container cultivation use well-drained multipurpose compost and, indoors, shade from the scorching sun at the middle of the day.
Water moderately during the growing season from spring to summer, avoid the compost becoming too wet and provide good ventilation or the fleshy stems can be prone to mould. Apply a balanced liquid fertiliser every fortnight in spring and, once flowers start to form, switch to a tomato fertiliser.
Water only sparingly in winter and many varieties will reward you with flashes of colour when most outside is dull and dour.
Pelargoniums are most usually grown as annuals but with a little care, they can be carried through the winter either by taking cuttings or by lifting and putting into a container and bringing inside
Varieties with tough woody stems can be lifted and the soil shaken off and the foliage allowed to die-off in a frost-free place.
They can then be wrapped in newspaper and hung upside down from the shed roof.
In early spring plants which show signs of being patent should have their roots soaked in water overnight before being potted up and cut back to about four inches.
It is trouble worth taking — particularly with some of the interesting cultivars available through mail order and from the Island’s garden centres — for another flash of colour next year when, hopefully, sunnier weather might perhaps better suit the majority of this colourful family.
See www.geraniumsuk.com for advice and growing information and a free copy of the 64-page Vernon Geranium Nursery catalogue, or call 0844 573 6010.