Pelargonium blandfordianum is a lovely pelargonium with deeply incised grayish leaves which are fragrant with a scent of rose and white flowers with reddish blotches on the under petals. It is believed to be a hybrid between P. radula and P. quinquevulnereum. There are a few variations of this plant, ‘album’ refers to the white flowered form and ‘roseum’ to the rose pink flowered form which has a distinct rosy wormwood fragrance on the leaves.
This hybrid was developed during the early 1800s, introduced by George Spencer Churchill the Marquis of Blandford to which this plant derives its name. George Spencer was a keen and accomplished botanist while he resided at White knights park estate, a medieval manor which is now part of the university of Reading (white knights campus). Here he became widely known for has large collection of rare and exotic plants from around the globe. Various species were also transported there from the royal gardens by order of the king. George took out a loan to expand and enhance his new estate, creating many new features, such as the ‘Chantilly garden’ which contained several conservatories possibly for tropical plants, a vineyard, bridges, a wide variety of trees, a botanical garden with a wide selection of unique plants, many from America, a wilderness and many seats, fountains, grotto’s and pavilions. Later the gardens fell into decline after George Spencer became bankrupt and his creditors set fire to his house in rage, the rest of the estate was sold off. But remains of the gardens was again found after the world wars.
Pelargonium radula is a parent of the hybrid Pelargonium blandfordianum, it has decorative deeply incised leaves with a lemony rose fragrance and small pale pink flowers with dark purple markings on the upper petals. It has similar characteristics to P. graveolens which is closely related and possibly an equivalent to P. radens or a clone and also has a few forms with varied flower colours. The other parent is Pelargonium quinquevulnereum
which was also believed to have been a hybrid, grown by Mr Armstrong who lived in Hampshire, that shares some similarities to Pelargonium graveolens.
Pelargonium radens is a tall upright shrub with delicate grey green finely divided leaves and light purple flowers with darker markings on the upper petals. The fragrance of the leaves are rose lemon scented and grows well in medium to large pots often growing beside other Plants. Pelargonium graveolens has soft velvety triangular deeply incised leaves which have a somewhat rosy mint scent, a well known pelargonium since the 17th century in food and beverages, tea, potpourri and perfume. Other hybrids related to Pelargonium radens or Pelargonium graveolens is P. ‘citrosum’ which has strong citronella lemon fragrance with pale pink flowers also known as the mosquito plant which is popular in the United States & Canada and is a cultivar of P. graveolens, also said to help deter mosquitoes.
P. ‘lady plymouth’ is a hybrid from the species P. ‘graveolens’ with silver & cream leaves which are variegated with a minty scent and light purple flowers, there is also a similar cultivar known as P ‘grey lady plymouth‘ with has grey green leaves. P. ‘Cinnamon rose’ has spicy cinnamon scented leaves, and an upright growth with short branches and pale purple flowers. P. ‘Secret love’ is a eucalyptus scented leaf pelargonium with light pink flowers showing some characteristics to P. capitaum. P. x melissinum is a cross between P. crispum and P. graveolens which has large lemon balm scented deeply cut leaves and pink flowers.
P. ‘rosemint’ has mint rose scented leaves which are variegated and is used in perfumes, showing some similarities to P. lady plymouth. P. ‘westerlund’ rose lemon scented leaf close resembling that of P. graveolens.
Christmas is the time for celebration, merriment, snow covered mountains and also spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts while marking the birth of Jesus by hanging wealth’s, carol singing and decorating the tree for many countries around the globe. The first Christmas trees took form in Germany in the 8th century by St Boniface to convert pagans to change their beliefs to Christianity by dedicating the fir tree to the birth of baby Jesus, an alternative to the great oak tree sacred to Odin in Norse mythology. The Christmas tree in medieval Germany at Christians was to honour and remember Adam and Eve, the first humans created on Earth and the ancestors of our civilization, plays were also performed on the run up to Christmas with a fir tree which would be covered with apples and other decorations to portray the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. Later in the mid sixteenth century Christmas trees were decorated with small boxes, fruits and sweets that hung from the fir branches, Tannenbaum ballads would be played around the trees, with songs such as ‘oh Christmas tree’. St Nicholas, the patron of children is believed to have been a bishop of Myra (now modern day Turkey) who lived during the 4th century and he was known for his compassion & kindness helping those in poverty. The saint is based on the legend Sinterklass which is Dutch for St. Nicholas with a feast day on the 6th December.
It is believed that Dutch Colonists brought the Sinterklaas tradition with them to New York in the 1600’s then known as New Amsterdam the capital town of a Dutch colony on the southern edge of manhattan Island, the word Sinterklaas was later changed to St. Claus and then formed into an English equivalent Santa Claus which over time had became increasingly popular around the United States. In modern times these ancient customs are now taking place around the world, interpreted differently in many cultures.
InAustralia the home is usually decorated with native Christmas bushes or small trees, the New South Wales Christmas bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) is hung around the home and has lovely cream coloured blooms that turns reddish pink in late December with small green leaves. Another is the woolly bush (Adenanthos sericeus) which has brush like, deeply divided leaves, silvery on the ends that resembles snow and small red flowers, it is often used as a decorative tree during the festive season. In Austria a wreath is created using branches of cherry trees in flower known as barbaratag which brings good luck to the home and is sacred to saint Barbara, decorated with ribbons and four candles to represent the four advent Sundays coming up to Christmas signifying hope, love, joy and peace.
In Austria a wreath is created using branches of cherry trees in flower known as barbaratag which brings good luck to the home and is sacred to saint Barbara, decorated with ribbons and four candles to represent the four advent Sundays coming up to Christmas signifying hope, love, joy and peace.
On the fifth of December the day before St Nicholas’s day in Croatia, children would leave their well polished boots by the window and while they were a sleep St Nicholas would put a present inside their boot, but if they misbehaved a Krampus (a giant horned beast) would instead only put twigs of gold inside.
China is one of the leading producers of plastic Christmas trees & decorations which has become increasing popular in recent times especially in shopping centres around China as well as paper lights and ornaments. It is also a tradition to give out apples on the day before Christmas to represent harmony and peace interpreted from silent night Christmas carol. Santa is said to reside at Lapland known as Korvatunturi, in the Northern regions of Finland, which includes an entertainment park, children’s letters from countries around the globe are sent there to prepare their wishes for gifts on Christmas day. In Lapland Santa is also characterized as an xmas goat called Joulupukki who would lay presents under the Christmas tree or for mischievous households a sack of coal.
It is the custom in France at Christmas to place a crib in the home which symbolizes the birth of Christ, then it is filled with characters in clay that represents various occupations in an urban or town setting such as a priest, baker, policeman etc. A Cherry wood log would also be brought inside on the night before Christmas and spattered with red wine then it is added to the fire or stove giving a lovely aroma though out the home. In Georgia the outer covering of a Christmas tree would be traditionally cut downwards to create long curling pieces forming an imaginative tree, possibly to represent the beard of St Basil, which is usually made of walnut or hazelnut known as the Chichilaki. At Christmas eve in Hungry the tree would be decorated in the evening by family members in secret, then when they have finished, the children would then be overjoyed to see the beautiful embellished tree that brightens up the room. Christmas presents are said to be brought by Christ who leaves them underneath the tree, children would then remain patiently in the next room and when on hearing a bell would immediately rush over to the presents and open them.
In Greece the first Christmas tree arrived in 1833 by king Otto and now every year a magnificent tree decorated with illuminated lights is erected at Aristotelous square, Thessaloniki usually along side a ship that is also lit up by vibrant lights a custom that represents seafarers who had come back home from a long voyage. Traditionally Children would call on each house in the town or village and sing carols along with triangles or drums on Christmas eve.
Popular plants grown for their elegant display during the Christmas celebrations include: Christmas rose which has large white elegant rose like flowers with a tint of pink that can add colour to dull surroundings in winter, it is a member of the buttercup family known as Ranunculaceae, there is also a number of cultivars with larger flowers and double blooms as well as pink varieties and cut flowers can also be purchased for the home. It is believed that this plant was given the common name Christmas rose because of a fable, when a little female child did not have a present to give to Jesus in the stable after his birth and so she wept, her tears fell on to the snow covered ground and up sprung a Christmas rose. Poinsettia is a well known favourite especially at Christmas because of its striking bright red flower/leaf bracts, although there are many other colours which can range from orange, pink, cream and also marbled. This plant occurs naturally in Mexico known as the Christmas eve flower where it was first grown by the Aztecs & also in Central America, in the 1820’s the diplomat Joel Roberts Poinsett grew them in his greenhouse and has now became extremely popular all over the United States.
The Christmas cactus Sehlumbergara is an attractive cacti with small fleshy leaves that join together to form long stems, the flower areoles, contains long cylinder shaped purple pink petals that hang downwards and grows at the joints and stem tips. It is native to South Eastern Brazil where it grows on mountains usually by the coast. Others include Snowdrops, holly, ivy and mistletoe. Unfortunately the main computer broke down during lock down so I don’t have so much time as I would like to write the newsletter this month & partly last month, but I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas at this difficult time and that you will soon be reunited with Family and friends.
The gardens of the renowned Impressionist Artist Claude Monet is situated at the village of Giverny, Northern France where Monet painted his famous works of the Japanese bridge & water lily pond.
The gardens are separated into two areas, the gardens in front of Claude Monet’s house & the pond garden with the Japanese style bridge across the other side of the road, they are known for their wide range of beautiful highly fragrant flowers which come to life in spring, in a range of colours and shapes that becomes more scented when they are lit up by the rays of the sun. Monet’s flower garden has the occasional splash of vivid colours like in an impressionist painting, Peonies were said to be one of Monet’s most admired plants and grew many rare peonies from Asia in the gardens, as well as tulips, dahlias, fox gloves, poppies, clematis, sage, chrysanthemums, Japanese anemones and love lies bleeding among others.
The strongly scented captivating fragrance of the hyacinths in various colour combinations are charming in Spring, especially as one walks past the flower beds full of these lovely plants. Many fragrant roses of all colours are also present in the gardens which trail up archways and trellis.
At the water garden the beautiful array of purple and white blooms of the wisteria reflects over the sepia water of the pond above the simplistic Japanese style bridge where colourful shrubs surround the pond. There is also a smaller bridge which is situated over a canal which at one time used to flow into the pond, it has wisteria growing above it and has similarities to the larger bridge. The pond contains water lilies koi carp and also smaller fish such as ruds, perch and pike as well as various wildlife. Lovely colourful shrubs, bulbous plants and annuals surround the areas of the pond such as tulips, iris, azaleas, tall fox gloves and peonies.
Near to the pond is a large beech tree which shades the ground on warm days and was planted by Monet.
Claude Monet decided to remain in the village of Giverney from the late 1800s when he caught sight of it out of the window while passing on a train. His house and gardens are now very popular with tourists and artists worldwide & when he claimed ownership of the house and gardens in 1890 he transformed it completely by planting 100,000 flower varieties in the front garden and across the road from his house a pond was added while gradually adding the Japanese style bridge, wisteria and other flowers and shrubs & of course the water lilies.
The land in front of the house was originally an orchard and was sloping, it has a multitude of different sized flowers, shrubs and trees to add volume and colour as well as iron archways for growing trailing roses. Claude Monet died n 1926 and after its decline after the second world war the house and garden was restored to its former glory, such as the amazing brightly coloured yellow dinning room with red terra cotta & beige tiles.
Flower of the month- Pelargonium citronellum
Pelargonium citronellum also known as the lemon scented pelargonium because of its strong lemon scented palmate leaves which have elaborate veins on the underside and are covered by hairs also present on the stems.
The flowers are pinkish purple with darker veins on the upper petals and can grow to about 200 cm in height, its is similar to Pelargonium scabrum which is also lemon scented ,but the leaves & flowers are much larger in size and the scent is stronger.
P. Citronellum is native to the South Western Cape, on lower areas of the Langeberg mountains. It is
ideal for scented gardens or in large pots in full sun and sandy loam soils, PH neutral preferably close to water or near the coast and is great for flavouring food and beverages, added to pot pourri especially when the leaves become more fragrant in the Summer months and can also help deter insect pests and mosquitoes.
Pelargonium Mabel grey is suggested to be a hybrid between scabrum & hispidum and it is said to be the strongest lemon fragrance of all the lemon scented pelargoniums with pale purple flowers and is the original ancestor to a variety of Lemon scented hybrid pelargoniums.
Another lemon scented leaf pelargonium is P. crispum native the the Western cape which has fan shaped leaves and white to deep pink flowers.
Through the ages gardens were created for their beauty, expression, design, to create food and medicine & for making cosmetics and perfumes.
The first garden was believed to have been created in 10,000 BC in the middle east (The Levant) a Mediterranean region, the Fertile Crescent was a wide expense of land which was similar in shape to a first quarter phase of the moon, which contained wild grasses of barley and wheat so that hunter gathers would grow there own food instead of searching for miles to find it and could then live closer together in settlements.
Later when the advancement of human society began to develop gardens were more appreciated for their attractiveness and was regarded more as a luxury.
The Epic of Gilgamesh contains the earliest recorded gardens from the year 2100 BC when Uruk the ancient city of Sumer was built upon a large man made hill, the upper hill contained buildings & temples and the lower areas of the hill was said to contain gardens with ponds, orchards, date palms and fallow fields, it also had water canal irrigation systems to water plants.
From the 16th century BC the ancient Egyptians created gardens for decorative use, garden cultivation & design seen from early wall paintings containing ponds with lotus plants surrounded by lines of acacia and palm trees.
Over the centuries new garden ideas & layouts where being created, manly for the use of herbs for medicine and vegetables for providing food.
The raised border was first created during the middle ages in Europe but was restricted to monasteries and the wealthy who owned manor houses. Local saplings were woven together to create fences and filled with soil to make raised beds, usually rectangular in shape, they were used in kitchen gardens, vegetable and herb gardens and infirmary gardens.
During the Elizabethan era in England cottage gardens became fashionable and were mainly for easy access to herbs, vegetables and fruit around the cottage grounds, but also contained a variety of flowers such as old roses, hollyhocks, Sweet William, primrose, violets and calendula.
Present day cottage gardens have a mixture of different plants in a border directly outside the cottage with stone or turf pathways, this style has a natural feel with well balanced colours and various flower shapes and fragrances, sometimes mixed with long grasses, these often replaced lawns with many flowers and herbs grown close to each other to reduce the need for weeding.
The potager is a formal garden design in France, consisting of a mixture of fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs grown together in borders, edging beds such as wattle fencing, containers or divided by hedges, walls or pathways. It is usually grown organically and some of the flowers are editable ideal for a kitchen garden, Pelargoniums and geraniums also grow well in this type of garden style with plants such as chives, cauliflower, broccoli, gladiolus, hyssop,
peppers, marigolds, strawberries, violets, lettuce & mallows and many more.
The angel pelargoniums are hybrids believed to be derived from P. crispum a lemon scented pelargonium and P. grossularioides a fruit scented pelargonium.
Although they have almost certainly been crossed several times with hybrids such as the regal and other pelargonium species with one of its parents or closely related types.
It was named the Angel pelargonium pelargonium by Dereck Clifford because they looked similar to Pelargonium dumosum which was illustrated and described by Sweet, the Latin name “Dumus” meaning house of the church which may have had some reference to Angel.
Pelargonium crispum may have been crossed with a hybrid known as ” the Shar” but this is not certain, The first known pelargonium Angels to be created was by Arthur Langley Smith who produced many with pink, white and pale purple flowered varieties with veins and patterned markings. Arthur was a school teacher who lives in London, he named one of his creations ” Mrs G H Smith” a white flowered pelargonium with blushes of bright pink after his wife of the same name.
Angel pelargoniums such as P. crispum angel eyes still have leaves that are very similar to P. crispum and are usually scented, the species pelargonium P crispum has fan shaped crisped edged leaves that are lemon scented and is used for essential oil and potpourri. This plant is native to South Africa in the Western Cape where it grows in sandy rocky areas, on mountainsides and hills.
P. tritidum is also believed to have been used to create the hybrid angel pelargonium which was introduced to Kew gardens in the late 1700s by Masson. It is also known as the brittle stalked pelargonium because it has delicate thin stems and bright green leaves which are divided into 2-3 leaflets and has a strong unpleasant fragrance, the flowers are white with deep purple markings native to the Western and Eastern Cape.
The angel pelargonium “hybrid”Henry Weller” which has large dark purple pansy like flowers with a white outline, has similar leaves and long flower stems to P. grossularioides a fruit scented pelargonium with leaves that closely resembles a gooseberry leaf which is kidney shaped, the flowers are small and reddish purple and is native to coastal areas of South Africa and also further inland in the Eastern Cape.
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
Pelargonium crassipes has lovely small pink flowers with darker pink markings, this plant is native to Namaqualand in Namiba , South Africa where it grows in arid conditions. It is a low growing shrub up to 30 cm 12 in height, The stems are short with many petioles and finely divided oblong shaped leaves.
crassipes was first discovered by Francis Masson, the Scottish botanist who traveled to Africa in search of new species 1772-1775
Pelargonium antidysentericum is a upright or trailing plant that can grow into a large shrub and becomes more woody with age. This pelargonium has pale purple to mid purple flowers with pinkish purple markings, each flowering stalk contains 2-5 flowers. It is aromatic with an underground tuber which can grow to 14 cm across, the leaves are kidney shaped & 5 lobed but can vary, some types are zoned and are greyish green in colour while others are light green without being zoned, there are said to be three subspecies of this plant.
The name “antidysentericum” is derived from the pharmacological word antidysenteric meaning medicine for dysentery, the Khoikhoi (hottentots) aboriginal people of South Africa used this plant to treat dysentery and also for anemia. It was given the name by Vincenz Franz Kosteletzky a bohemian doctor and botanist who studied medicinal plants (1801-1887).
Pelargonium antidysentericum grows in South Africa in the Northern Cape where it grows on hillsides in rocky areas.
P.schlechteri is a beautiful pelargonium with an inflorescence of bio coloured mauve,maroon or purple flowers edged with beige or white. The leaves are ovate in shape,thicker at the base with a leathery texture.
It is believed that this plant was named after the botanist and taxonomist Rudolf Schechter who collected plants during his expedition to Africa from 1891 and later to Indonesia & Australia, Rudolf is said to have discovered 1000 species of orchids and wrote many books on botany.
Pelargonium schlechteri is native to South Africa in North Drakensberg, Kwazulu Natal, Mpumlanga and the Eastern Cape where it grows in high altitudes, close to streams or among large rocks.
Pelargonium luridum has graceful clusters of cream,beige,yellow,pink or red flowers on long stalks which are night scented. It is a tuberous plant and the leaves grow from ground level without stems, The leaves are feather like and change slightly with age, when young they are more ovate in shape and when mature are divided more into leaflets. The name P. luridum is derived from the Latin word meaning smoky yellow, this refers to the colour of this plants petals and is native to a wide area of South Africa, Cape province,Natal,Orange Free State and Transvaal usually in grassland and damp areas. In the early 1800’s this plant was listed as a geranium by Henry Charles Andrews an English botanist and botanical artist who illustrated & published five books on botany from 1797-1888.
A root of P. luridum was sent to England from South Africa to Robert Sweet, an English botanist and horticulturist who mentions in his works about a plant that had not flowered, although a little later when the plant grew bigger and bloomed he knew it was the same species as Henry Charles Andrews and changed the botanical name geranium to pelargonium luridum which was mentioned in the colvill catalogue 1822.