Wonder wall of colour is the perfect location

By Richard Wright

Friday, June 17, 2011


Wonder wall of colour is the perfect location

The pink geraniums at the Royal Hotel, Ventnor.

GARDENINGPLANTS in the wrong place can be a nightmare. They can require constant attention, watering and protection to flourish.

In the right place they can be a joy — and one example of location, location, location being key is the Royal Hotel, Ventnor, where one particular plant has a fascinating story.

The hotel has a pastel, and uncommonly dazzling, display of pink geraniums covering almost the entire lower, sheltered south aspect of the building.

The geraniums flourish in the environment of warm walls — which are also home to Ventnor wall lizards, better known at the botanic garden — and the glass roof and sides.

Royal gardener for four years Gary Steptoe quickly realised the value of the plants and has been responsible for taking

cuttings and extending the display.

I am indebted to Jane Cheverton for unearthing the history of the geraniums and publishing it in a recent edition of Ventnorensis, the journal of the botanic garden friends’ society, who are taking on ever more responsibility for retaining the jewel in the Garden Isle’s crown.

In the 1960s, Joseph, the Israeli gardener at the Royal imported 13 plants of an exotic species to plant as a personal memorial to an unlucky 13 of his friends who died in the Six-Day War, in which he also fought.

Of the 13, the pink specimen is the sole survivor.

The remaining cultivar is identified by botanic garden head gardener Chris Kidd as pelargonium peltatum, des-cribed by Joseph as a "cascading" or desert geranium.

You wouldn’t immediately identify a desert species with Ventnor but clearly it likes it — a lot.

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