Pelargonium x citronellum- Mabel grey

Pelargonium x citronellum known as Mabel grey is an upright shrub with rough palmate (maple shaped) grey green leaves and pale pinkish purple flowers, it is said to be the strongest lemon scented pelargonium and some regard this plant as a species native to the South Eastern Western Cape on the foothills of the Langeberg mountains & close to streams. Although it is also suggested to be a cross between P. Scabrum (lemon scented leaf) and P. Hispidum (balsam scented leaf) presented in 1962 and named after Countess de Grey (a British aristocrat in Bedfordshire) by her daughter Lady Baring wife of Sir Evelyn baring, governor in Kenya 1952-1959

p x citronellum mabel grey

Pelargonium triste- the Morin brothers

Pelargonium Triste was the first recorded pelargonium to travel to Europe & was taken to the botanical gardens of Leiden by the Dutch East India company (VOC).

The seventeenth century was the beginning of plant exploration and collecting from around the world, During the mid 1600s Pierre Morins was a gardener, florist and a distributor of plants and seeds some of which were said to be some of the rarest from around the globe.

He created a garden in Paris at the Faux bourg saint-Germain proche la charite.

According to the diarist John Evelyn Pierre’s garden was oval in shape with cypress trees possibly shaped and flat top pruned, The garden was filled with crocus, anemones, tulips, ranunculus and wild butterflies.

garden of pierre morin small

Evelyn wrote on the 4th April 1644 “Morin was a person who from an ordinary gardener has arrived to be one of the most skill ful & curious persons of France for his rare collection of shells, flowers and insects”.

His brother Rene Morin had the same occupation as Pierre and owned a separate plant nursery and specialised in tuberous plants such as tulips, hyacinths, colchicums, narcissi, lily and a wide range of plants, shrubs and ferns from around the world.

It is uncertain when and how Rene died but I believe after his death many of his plants, Pierre received and added to his own garden.

Rene was the first to have the printed plant catalogue in France to show his large selections of plants to Europe in 1621.

Pelargonium triste was included in Rene Morin’s garden, John Tradescant (the elder) bought this plant from Rene along with many other plants including Tulips, sprekelia, ranunculus and anemones.

Some were believed to be bought back to the gardens of Kew in 1629 and 1631.

Pierre also grew the May apple known as the podophyllon in his garden and even named the plant Anapodophyillon (meaning wild ducks foot in Greek) maybe because of its thick stems which was mentioned in the Hortus Cliffortianus 1737 p202, the name Anapodophyillon was later changed to podophyllon. ( Podophyllon is later said to have been cultivated in Kew gardens).

The Morin brothers later had the plant genus Morina named after them, (Morina longifolia which is native to the Himalayas, It is a tall plant with prickly leaves & Spikes with white/pink flowers.



A seventeenth century Paris garden, prudence Leith Ross garden history vol.21 no.2 pp 150-157

Journal of American horticultual society April 1954 Vol 31 No 2 p 173

“unique Pelargoniums”

“Unique pelargoniums” are hybrids which originate from Pelargonium fulgidum, probably because of the brightly coloured flowers. Some hybrids have been developed to have larger & more showy flowers usually of reds, pinks and whites which can have splashes or veins of similar colours and bio colour leaves.

P. fulgidum has bright red scarlet flowers with long wavy leaves & soft hairs, native to the Western Cape in coastal areas. It is a low growing spreading shrub and is semi succulent.

This plant was presented to Holland during the 1800s and was later grown in Italian & English gardens. It is uncertain what other pelargonium species were used for hybridizing “unique” pelargoniums, possibly a white flower species.

During the mid 1800s A “white Unique” pelargonium ( originated from P. Fulgidum)  was hybrizated with “ old Unique” (Rollinson’s Crimson) pelargonium.

Unique hybrids include:

Stocks bill “white Unique” pelargonium- white with reddish markings.

Atrium- pale pink reddish flowers with crimson markings on the upper petals

bolero- large pink flowers with mahogany markings.

Mme Nonin- flowers pale lavender with white

Claret rock unique- bright red flowers with dark veins

Duchess of Devonshire- salmon pink flowers with mahogany markings

The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire flowers were mentioned in the British florist: lady’s journal of horticulture, vol 2 1846 as follows:

“ Mr G. Hudson’s two seedlings pink of last year, the Duke & Duchess of Devonshire, again justifies the high character given to them and when more generally distributed cannot fail to be leading favourites”

It is uncertain if these are pelargoniums but they were noted as pinks first class (flowers), The Hudson’s Duke of Devonshire is said to have purple laced flowers but at the moment I cannot find any record of it.

flowers-18643 for facebook