Pelargoniums have gained popularity and fascination throughout Europe and beyond since the 1700s up to the present day, It has inspired many famous artists especially during the time of impressionists such as Van Gogh ( geranium in a flower pot), Renoir ( the geranium & cats 1881), Cezanne ( pots of geraniums 1885) and also Matisse ( still life with geraniums) among others.
There has also been a poem written about Geraniums by Richard Brinsley sheridam 1751-1815 an Irish writer, playwright and poet known for his works “ the rivals, the Duenna and a trip to Scarborough”,
The poem is called “ the geranium” part of the poem is as follows: “ Observe you sweet geranium flower, how straight upon its stalk it stands & tempts our violating hands, whilst the soft bud as yet unspread, hangs down its pale declining head.”
In recent times many artists and illustrators have created pelargoniums on stamps such as the colourful red pelargonium from Belgium and also posters, prints and textiles.
The young plants of pelargonium crispum & tomentosum are still growing well on the outside window sill, they have each been covered by plastic bottle tops to protect them from the cold throughout winter.
As the days are now getting warmer in spring, we can now start to gradually remove the tops during warm sunny days.
P. tomentosum has soft peppermint scented heart shaped leaves, it is a low growing branching shrub with white flowers which have pale purple markings on the upper petals and are native to areas of the South Western Cape next to forests,
P. crispum has tiny strong lemon scented leaves, it is an upright shrub that grows to about 70 cm 28 inches in height with large pink flowers.
Pelargonium saxifragoides is a petite & charming low growing shrub with tiny fleshy ivy shaped leaves, it was given the name Saxifragoides because of the similarity to Saxifrage meaning stone breaker in Latin which is the largest genus of the Saxifragaceae family and are low growing plants that grow in rock crevices in its native habitat and is also grown in cultivation for its brightly coloured flowers.
The flowers of the Pelargonium saxifragoides are star shaped and pink-white in colour with darker purple markings on the upper petals, the early history of this plant in Europe is unknown but was grown at Chiswick gardens by the Royal horticultural society during the 1800s.
P. antidysentericum is an usual plant that in its native habitat looses its leaves during the Summer months and then after flowering in Autumn produces new growth, although in cultivation this may not occur. The name antidysentericum is derived from the medicinal word antidysenteric meaning to relieve or to prevent dysentery, It has a very large tuber partly underground which grows to about 1m with short branches and rounded toothed leaves. The flowers are pinkish purple to white in colour with darker markings on the petals.
The P. praemorsum is similar to P. antidysentericum but doesn’t have a tuber and has more showy cream to pink or purple flowers and deeper veins which has the appearance of a butterfly.
The name praemorsum means “bitten off” because of the unsharp edges around the leaflets which are rounded and wedge shaped. It grows to about 30cm in height and was first grown in Europe in the 1800s by seed which was originally collected by Mr Quarrell for the Colvills nursery
Some pelargoniums can survive short periods of frost or snow but in cooler countries with continual cold weather they can be kept in a greenhouse or conservatory that has good air circulation & lighting. If you are keeping your pelargoniums outdoors it is advisable to cover them with a dome or a fleece when there are signs of frost or snow and to check the weather forecast frequently for signs of cold weather. If your pelargoniums are planted outside in the garden replanting them into pots and taking them indoors or into a greenhouse/conservatory over winter is another alternative.
After the winter months and the coming of Spring with warmer sunny days you can think about gradually reintroducing your plants again into the outdoors during daylight hours,the removal of old leaves, flower stalks and dead branches that have built up over winter with help your plant to develop new growth towards summer which may need to be pruned to create a more compact and bushy appearance over the new year.