The Pelargonium blandfordianum hybrid and its related cultivars

pelargonium blandfordianum

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.

photo by James Eggleton-unsplash.com

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.

Latest Pelargonium species & fresh seeds

Pelargonium  graveolens L’Her
Rose geranium
A beautiful pelargonium  which is  believed to be a cross between graveolens x radens and is often used for rose oil in perfume, soap and also toothpaste. It has pale pink  flowers with thin purple lines on the upper petals & each flowering stalk has about 1-7 flowers.  P. Graveolens L’ Her is an up right shrub with a spreading growth often trailing along the ground and up walls to reach towards the light  and prefers slightly sandy soil conditions in semi shade. It is ideal for fragrant gardens, rock gardens,or pots.

Pelargonium  ranunculophyllum
Horse shoe zoned pelargonium   
A lovely graceful pelargonium which has attractive rounded palmately lobed leaves with a reddish to deep purple zone (horse shoe mark) in the centre. The flowers are  narrow and white to pink sometimes with reddish  markings on the upper petals and pale orange to yellow pollen,  they are arranged on  long upright flowering stalks which  contains about 2-3 flowers. P. ranunculophyllum  is a low growing  plant  with long delicate stems   and  is smaller in size than P. alchemilloides  which has similar characteristics and with thinner stems.  It is native to the Eastern Cape where it grows in rocky sandstone or on mountainsides over 1000 m,  best grown in part shade in pots or planted in the garden and also combined with other plants.

Pelargonium  littorale
Pelargonium littorale Huegel
A graceful pelargonium with delicate pinkish stems and pale pink flowers  with dark purple markings on the upper petals & each flowering stalk contains 2-7 flowers. P. littorale is an upright low growing shrub which grows to about 10 – 50 cm in height and has heart shaped leaves. It is native to South West Australia  where it grows in coastal areas from the South Eastern corner to Geraldton in the North.  The name Littorale is derived from the Latin word ‘Littorlis” meaning shore (or grows close to the shore or littoral waters. Best planted in a small to medium sized pot or planted in the garden which is partly shaded by taller plants or rock garden.

New fresh seeds of Pelargonium mollicomum, pineapple scented leaf.
An attractive & graceful pelargonium with a slightly exotic appearance, it has creamy white flowers with thin purple lines on the upper petals & each flowering stalk has about 1-5 flowers. The light green rounded leaves are pineapple scented with a dark zone in the centre.  P. Mollicomum is a low growing shrub which reaches to about 50 cm/20 inches in height and prefers slightly sandy soil conditions. The name “mollicomum” is derived from the Latin word meaning soft hairs. It is ideal for fragrant gardens, window boxes,hanging baskets or pots.

New fresh seeds Pelargonium scabrum
A pretty pelargonium with strong lemon scented rhomboidal shaped leaves and white flowers.

View https://www.pelargoniumspeciesworld.com/page33.html

New fresh seeds P. hispidum – balsam
New fresh seeds P. odoratissmum-apple
New fresh seeds P. grossularioides- fruit
New fresh seeds P. Betulinum

View website : www.pelargoniumspeciesworld.com

Chocolate, hazelnut and Pelargonium tomentosum mousse

This creamy chocolate and minty dessert with pelargonium tomentosum leaves, hazelnuts ,Greek sheep yogurt and fruit makes a mouth watering delicious sweet dish to enjoy after your main meal in spring and summer.

Ingredients
1 packet of chocolate pudding power (7 servings)
I pot of Greek sheep yogurt or plain Greek style yogurt
4-5 leaves of pelargonium tomentosum, finely chopped
25 grams of chopped hazelnuts
3 to 4 small pears cut into small cubes
A sprinkle of cinnamon
A large drizzle of honey for each dish
Other fruits of your choice like peach, nectarine, strawberries, blueberries, prunes, watermelon or kiwifruit.

Dessert with pear and nectarines fruits

To prepare
First follow the instructions on the chocolate pudding packet, usually 48 grams of pudding power with 4-5 tablespoons of sugar and 660 ml of fresh or evaporated milk.
When you have prepared the mixture ready to add to the dessert dishes, add the chopped hazelnuts and pelargonium tomentosum leaves and mix well, then pour equally into each dish and leave to cool.
You can also choose to prepare only a few desserts and keep some back for later placing them in the fridge.  
Spoon the yogurt on top of each pudding individually, then add the chopped pear along with other fruits of your choice.
Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top of each dessert, a few chopped hazelnuts and a large drizzle of  honey .

Beautiful species pelargoniums native to Australia

Pelargonium littorale (left) is a low growing upright and delicate shrub which is similar to that of Pelargonium capitatum rose scented leaf and pelargonium grossularioides fruit scented leaf..
The flowers are pale pink with darker markers and each flowering stalk contains 2- 7 flowers with long and ovate sepals, the leaves can range from  oval, heart shaped, or orbicular.
P. littorale grows from about  10 to 50 cm’s in height and is covered with  glandular hairs, green to pinkish stems, classified under the section Peristera, as a subspecies (pelargonium littorale- Huegel subsp. Littorale)

This plant is native to South West Australia mostly in coastal areas from the South Eastern corner to the Geraldton sand plains in the north.. Which is why it was named Littorale from the Latin word ‘littoralis’ meaning shore (or grows close to the shore or littoral waters) It can also occur in Victoria and areas of South Australia.
South Western Australia is a eco zone with a Mediterranean like climate which has dry and hot summers and wet winters know as the botanical province which consists of a wide range of plant and animal life as well as woodlands, forests and eco areas of scrub land. This region also has honey possums which forage on flowering shrubs for nectar and pollen. Western bush wallabies and short tailed scrub wallabies.

Pelargonium helmsii (carolin) also known as the Alpine storks bill is native to bio-regions of victoria and New South Wales in mountainous areas including – Northern fall (highlands), Victorian alps and the snowy mountains, it has dark pink flowers with darker markings and oblong sepals with each flowering stalk containing up to 5-12 flowers. It is listed as vulnerable.
Pelargonium renifolium Swinbourne is also native to South Australia and has very small light pink flowers and a greater sprawling growth.

Pelargonium rodneyanum (below) also called the Magenta storks bill is native to specific areas of Australia including New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Where is grows on rocky hillsides, sclerophyll forests, woodlands and shrub land.  It has striking dark pink flowers with darker pink markings of the upper petals, on a long delicate flower stalk which contains up to seven flowers. The leaves are soft, light to dark green with shallow lobes and oval to narrow ovate in shape, it grows to about 45 cm’s in height with short stems and also produces brown tuberous roots.

This plant was named after Admiral George Rodney 1718-1792, a British Naval officer, who travelled along with Captain James Cook as head scientist exploring New Zealand and Australia collecting plant specimens for  the gardens of Kew.
Pelargonium rodneyanum is also grown as a garden plant in pots, flower beds or rock gardens because of its colourful flowers. It grows well in slightly acidic soil which has good drainage and is also a popular plant for ground cover.

Pelargonium alchemilloides (below) also known as the lady’s mantle-leaved pelargonium or Wildemaliva is native to a wide area of South Africa apart from the Northern Cape and grows in moist lowland regions usually in clay and loam soil conditions. It  has also been naturalised in temperate coastal areas of South-Western, Western Australia where it grows in shrublands, grasslands and woodlands. This plant has a rambling growth and is low growing, it adapts well to hot and dry environments with much rainfall during the winter period and has an underground tuber.

The flowers can range in colour from dark pink, yellow or white with darker markings and each flowering stalk contains about 3 to 6 flowers. The leaves are rounded or oval in shape with a purplish brown horseshoe zone in the centre, lobed with hairs which gives the impression of a silky texture.
The name alchemilloides refers to the plant Alchemilla (lady’s mantle) which bears some resemblance to this pelargonium, it is a perennial with green to yellow flowers and fan shaped leaves under the Rosaceae family to which the tea is used for medicinal purposes.

Pelargonium australe (below) is endemic to the whole of Australia apart from the Northern territory as well as eastern Tasmania and New Zealand, where it is also known by the name of the native storks bill.. It has white to light pink flowers and darker markings on the upper petals, arranged on long flower stalks which contains up to 12 flowers.

The leaves are slightly scented, hairy & rounded/ or oval with shallow lobes and the plant as a whole grows to about 30 cm’s in height, in its native habitat it grows in rocky areas, on cliffs by the coast, or in sand dunes.
The name australe means Southern possibly meaning the southern hemisphere. The stems of this plant are not so succulent like than that of P.drummondii, while the leaves, also show some similarities to P. capitatum but do not have rose scented leaves.

Pelargonium drummondii (below) shares some similarities to Pelargonium australe, but the stems are more branching with smaller flowers and thinner stems and also P. capitatum which grows all over the South West of Australia was original brought over by early colonists from Britain.

It is an upright shrub which grows to about 10 to 40 cm’s in height with succulent like leaves which are dark green & heart shaped. The flowers are white or pale pink  usually with  darker markings and each flowing stalk contains about 4 to 7 flowers.
It is native to coastal areas of South West Australia and also amongst granitic rocks on sloping ground, hills or small mountains.
This plant was given the name drummondii after James Drummond a Scottish gardener and botanist who became an early setter and collector of  newly discovered plants in Australia.

Pelargonium inodorum (below) which also goes by the name of the wild pelargonium or storks bill is an annual which is native to over a large area of  New South Wales where it grows in forests, woodlands, or grassy and rocky areas and also in Victoria, Tasmania and New Zealand.

The flowers are white or pink with darker markings of dark pink or purple and each flowering stalk contains about 3-14 flowers with oval or heart shaped leaves that are covered in short hairs. The flowers are small and are just a little larger in size than the sepals.
The name inodorum means unscented possibly referring to the flowers as it is believed to have slightly aromatic leaves.

The lovely delicate pink violet flowers of P. anethifolium & its beautiful hybrids

Pelargonium anethifolium has been greatly admired over recent years for its lovely delicate flowers which range in colour from yellow, green to pink violet with dark reddish markings that are scented at night. The leaves are feathery  with traces of red, as well as a tint visible on the petioles, also consisting of an underground tuberous root.
This plant has some similarities to pelargonium triste which may have been collected and taken to Europe during the times of exploration in the Cape possibly believing that it was the same species,  P. anethifolium was not identified as a separate species until 1835.  
The name anethifolium refers to the leaves of the dill plant Anethum gravelens, a herb and spice which is very similar to the leaves of this plant. Pelargonium  anethifolim is native to South Western areas of the Cape and grows to about 50 cm’s in height.

A hybrid of this pelargonium includes P. gibbosum x P. anethitfolium which  has various forms of flower types:
The pale pink form (right) has beautiful delicate flowers of pastel pink with a slight flush of darker pink on the petals, arranged on an long, elegant flower stalk, containing up to eleven flowers, but they carry no scent.
It is crossed with Pelargonium gibbosum known as the gouty pelargonium because of its swollen nodes on long scrambling branches. The flowers vary from a slight orangey yellow to a brownish yellow with 6-14 flowers on each flower stalk. The leaves are succulent like with a leathery texture and has sharp and irregular leaf margins or lobed.  P. gibbosum becomes more woody as it ages and grows to about  40 to 60 cm’s in height, native to the Western cape where it grows in sandy and stony areas not far from the coast.

The peachy pink flower type (left) appears to be smaller in size than the light pink, but the mixture of orange and pink colours with a dash of yellow in the centre makes this flower simply unique.  The flowers are arranged on a long flower stalk which contains up to  eleven flowers, the sepals are also fairly long compared to the flower size and the leaves are also very decorative.

Another hybrid is P. anethifolium x fulgidum which also has various flower forms:
The deep red type (right) has striking pale pink or white flowers with splashes of deep red on the petals, this form looks more like a hybrid but is a very attractive plant and the leaves are still rather similar to that of P. Anethifolium.
The white form (below) with splashes of pale pink are simple but charming with just that added  flush of bright pink upon the white delicate flowers.

This hybrid is crossed with pelargonium fulgidum which has bright scarlet or deep purplish red flowers on long flower stalks. It is a low growing shrub with scrambling foliage & succulent like stems with leaves that are either rectangular or heart shaped with finely toothed leaf margins. P. Fulgidum is native to  Western coastal areas of South Africa usually on sandy hillsides or growing within rock formations of granite.

References- pelargonium gibbosum x anethifolium https://pelargonium.janedgar.net/p-gibbosum-x-p-anethifolium/
https://www.geraniaceae-group.org/gallery/pelargonium-species-hybrids-g-z/
pelargonium anethifolium x fulgidum   https://pelargonium.janedgar.net/p-anethifolium-x-p-fulgidum/
https://www.geraniaceae-group.org/gallery/pelargonium-species-hybrids-a-f/

A Shakespearean inspired garden

William Shakespeare was a playwright, actor and poet during the renaissance period of 1585-1613, who wrote up to 39 plays of comedies, tragedies and romances including Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth.  He was born in Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, in the west midlands, England where he a grew up and later was said to have attended the Kings new grammar school of King Edward 6th where he studied Latin and classical authors. By  the age of 18 William married Anne Hathaway 26 and they had three children together, later Shakespeare purchased a house known as New place, originally built in 1433 by Sir Hugh Clopton and constructed using both brick & timber with impressive gable roofs, ten fire places, two gardens, orchards and  barns.
The gardens at New place was believed to be beautifully presented with intriguing and precise formal features filled with trees, herbs and flowers, It is not certain if Shakespeare grew plants in his garden or if he had any influence in the design, but he certainly had a great understanding of plants as well as their significance & symbolism possibly from studying folklore and classical studies.  The popularity of Shakespearian style gardens have increased greatly over the years and is now recreated all over the world, brimming with flowers and plants which have been interpreted and defined in the works of William Shakespeare such as roses, tulips, poppies, crocuses, daisies,daffodils, fritillaries and violets, lilies,anemones, hellebores and many more, the layout is usually geometric and based on Elizabethan architecture and garden designs of the period such as boxwood dividers, pathways and seating.
Shakespeare often used plants to represent special meanings in his plays, using up to 175 herbs and flowers depicted throughout his works such as in the comedy ‘A midsummer nights dream’  as follows :
“ I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, where oxlips & nodding violet grows, quite over canopied with luscious woodbine, with sweet musk roses and eglantine, there sleeps Titania sometime in the night, lull’d in these flowers with dances & delight.”
also Nick bottom a humorous character with a head of an ass is approached by the fairy queen Titania and four fairy attendants, their names symbolize the healing power of plants that are used in herbal remedies and its connection to the mysterious magical illusion of the moonlight which caused many superstitions during the 1500-1600’s.

Mustard flowers Image by Vincent Keiman-unsplash.com

The names of the fairy servants and their connection to traditional medicine include pease-blossom (pea) a low growing or trailing plant and pod shaped vegetable used to make pease porridge or pea soup during medieval period, the seeds are dried or made into a powder and was applied to the skin to help with skin conditions like acne, it is also cooked as a vegetable or added to salads, bread (powder form) and as a coffee substitute.  Mustard seed – mustard plants are commonly used as a spice and to make mustard when mixed with vinegar or other ingredients, it is also used to ease arthritis & muscle pain and to help against the common cold. The two other names include moth also at the time used as a remedy in the home and the other cobweb.
Also in the play Shakespeare uses the phase “Love in idleness” which is the folk name for the wild pansy and its ingredients is believed to make up a love potion mainly for the purpose of Titania to fall deeply in love with the first person she sees, Nick bottom.

wild pansy Image by Coralie Rentz-unsplash.com

Wild pansy (botantical name Viola tricolor) is a low growing creeping plant that grows  amongst the wild grasses and countryside of Europe, the flower petals vary in colour from purple, blue, white or yellow usually in two or three toned colours. This plant is also used medicinally to treat epilepsy, problems with the lungs such as bronchitis and the common cold & skin conditions. Wild pansy symbolizes ‘love in Idleness’ because according to Roman mythology Cupid intentionally shoots an arrow towards a virginal priestess of Vesta but missed, instead hitting a pale flower to which the love spell changed the petals to three colours.
In the romantic play Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare uses the interpretation of plants to symbolise certain aspects of the story, the rose for instance represents Juliet’s love for Romeo such as “ what’s in a name ? , that which we call a rose by any another name would smell as sweet”   her love is restrained when she discovers that Romeo is a Montague and has a long standing feud with her family.

roses mage by Peggy Zinn -unsplash.com

Roses are not only known for their beauty but also grown for their fragrance in perfumes, skin care and as cut flowers. Rose petals and rose hips have medicinal properties and are often used to treat wounds, bruises and rashes when applied to the skin, the tea also helps to soothe a sore throat and ulcers. Their wide range of  varieties also make them attractive in the garden, such as the old classical roses, shrub roses, climbing and modern roses, to which there is believed to be up to 300 species and possibly many thousands of  cultivated varieties.
In King Lear William Shakespeare refers to a plant by the name of a cuckoo flower, an alternative name for a Ladies smock flower which was used in describing the scene when the daughter of King Lear announces his return from France. “ Crowed with rank fumitor and furrow weeds with burdocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo flowers, darnel and all the idle weeds that grow in our sustaining corn.”  (fumitor-fumeria officinalis)

cuckoo bird Image by David Clobe-unsplash.com


Ladies smock, Cardamine pratensis grows wild all over Europe and in parts of Asia usually in meadows and close to streams, the flowers are light purple, similar to the colour of lavender on long spikes. Ladies smock is also used to decorate garlands on the 1st of May when celebrating the coming of Spring. The leaves are used medicinally as a remedy for indigestion, to increase hunger and is also good for those with asthma or skin conditions. It was given the name Cuckoo flower because it is believed that this flowers blooms at almost the same time as when the Cuckoo bird appears in Spring.
Rosemary is also used to symbolize love and remembrance in the play Hamlet, Ophelia the daughter of Polonius a chief counsellor is driven to madness after her Fathers death.
Ophelia describes the meaning of plants through her grieving – “there is rosemary that’s for remembrance, pray you, love, remember and there is pansies that’s for thoughts, (Laertes  her brother- “a document in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted”.) there’s fennel for you & columbine, there’s rue for you and there’s some for me, we may call it a “herb of Grace” O’ Sundays, Oh you must wear your rue with a difference.”

Rue, Ruta graveolens symbolizes regret and can be grown as a herb or as a garden plant or hedge, The leaves are bluish green with a strong musk like scent which can be used as a flavouring in cooking and placed within small flower bouquets, it is also believed that cats dislike the smell. Rue has been gathered & grown since ancient times for its medicinal properties such as to reduce flatulence, improve eyesight, menstrual issues and when added to the skin to aid arthritis, sprains, bone injures and swollen areas.
Other plants, flowers and trees mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays include: Flowers- cornflower, camomile, carnation, crow flower, fritillaria imperialis, honeysuckle, violet, iris, marigold, peony, narcissus, daisy, daffodil, cowslip, primrose, buttercup, daisy, lavender, lily, orchid, musk rose. Herbs and plants- aloe, balm, blackberries, burdock, bilberry, caraway, fennel, bay, flax,mint, marjoram,clove,gooseberry, nettle, parsley,hemp, ginger, dog berry, hyssop, leek, grape, camomile, ivy, mustard, radish, rhubarb. Trees- almond, apple,apricot, ash, birch,box, cork, date, cedar, hawthorn, holy, lime,mulberry, myrtle, olive, pine, plum, pomegranate, quince, walnut, willow, wormwood, yew.

The Christmas season

Image by Aaron Burden-unsplash.com

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.

In Australia 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.

Image by Zoo monkey-unsplash.com

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.

image by Jessica Fadel -unsplash.com


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.

Image by Jerry Wang-unsplash.com

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.

Image by Aaron Burden-unsplash.com

DESTINATION-LONG WOOD CHRISTMAS GARDENS

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The Long wood Christmas gardens, at Kennett square, Pennsylvania in the Brandywine Creek Valley has a spectacular flamboyant display of colourful lights illuminating up to 150 trees during the Christmas period. Music is also played to give an atmosphere of the festive season along with a light show in the evenings lasting for about 30 minutes while in you warm your hands over the fire pit. Long wood gardens is believed to be the best botanical gardens in America to visit during the holidays.
The gardens of Long wood covers an area of 1,077 hectares containing woods, meadows and gardens. The land was first purchased by George Peirce during the 1700’s, a farmer & Quaker, his son Joshua worked on the land, making it suitable for growing crops and also built a farmhouse out of brick which can still be seen within the gardens today.
As time went on Joshua’s grandchildren gained ownership of the farm, who both had a keen interest in tree species and so decided to build an arboretum containing a collection of native and exotic trees, which was open to the public known as Pierce’s park ,the trees were grown in lines at the East of the farm house and during the mid 1800’s it is believed to have contained one of the most outstanding collection of tree species over the whole of the USA. But later fell into decline and so the gardens were again purchased by Pierres Du Pont in 1907 due to the planned destruction of the tree collection.. Pierres from 1915-1919 was the president of the E.I.du Pont de Nemours and company, his grandfather was a french economist who immigrated to America.

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With the new owner, Longwood gardens was developed mainly for the purpose of creating beautiful surroundings to bring satisfaction and joy to his friends when they visited him there and so added many features to the grounds to entertain them and over time creating more and more stunning gardens.
The four acre conservatory is the largest within the gardens and was built from 1919 containing  about 4,600 plant & tree species including beautiful all year round flowering blooms, orchids, decorative foliage and fountains. Many of the plants are highly scented and a delight to walk around the various pathways admiring the breathtaking views and displays, there is also an exhibition hall with a new theme every year at Christmas with decorated trees, ornaments, ribbons and illuminated lights. The conservatory to the east was restored and altered in 2003 which shortly afterwards opened to the public.  Many garden styles over the years were added to the conservatory gardens including a Mediterranean garden created by Ron Lutsko jr, a children’s garden, indoor green wall by Kim Wilkie consisting of 47,000 plants, banana house, fern passage, acacia passage, camellia house, bonsai display, cascade garden, orangery, palm house, orchid house, the new silver garden by Isabelle Greene with an dry desert like setting, desert house and the estate fruit house.

In the outdoor long wood gardens Pierre s. Du Pont added a flower garden walk which is approximately 600 foot long with brick pathways and an abundance of colourful species for all seasons blues, pinks, reds, oranges, yellows, whites and greys featuring tulips, daffodils, allium, foxglove, fritillaria, blue bells, saliva, chrysanthemums, asters and more, in the centre is a round fountain with spurts of water.
An Italian style garden was created from 1925-27 which was inspired by Italian and french  design, situated by the side of a lake to the North East of the estate and contains many spectacular classical water features such as fountains and pools in square and circular shapes along side freshly cut grass, with added features from 1928 and 1921.

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A woodland garden was also created on the grounds by planting up to a thousand native Eastern deciduous trees such as oaks, maples, ash and tulip trees known as Peirce’s woods. The taller trees would ascend over the lower shrubs and ground cover along with 10,000 plants which were rescued  from North Carolina before the construction of a new highway. Colourful blooms in spring and Autumn include Virginia bluebells, foam flowers, phlox & trillium (birthroots)  species.
The Meadow garden was formed in 2014 filled with  86 acres of  herbaceous perennials, native wildflowers and also additional  plants to handle invasive species with scenic views of the countryside, designed by Jonathan Alderson and Jonathan Alderson landscape architects of Wayne, PA. The main concept of the garden is to point out to the viewer the connection between nature and the way we live as human beings. There is a farm house that has recently been restored and features two galleries containing artwork, photography and history of architects who have previously  worked on the gardens.

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Mediterranean garden

The very essence of Mediterranean garden style not only creates spectacular surroundings with its classical warm colours of pale beige, deep browns, bright yellows, reds, terra cotta, yellowy pinks and bluely greens included within the combination of trees, shrubs, succulents and cacti which can portray any garden style using plants such as the olive tree, pomegranate , lavender, bay tree, rosemary, eucalyptus, citrus and yucca which can be used as herbs in cooking, to inhale the heavenly aromas or to provide shade from the hot sun during the summer.
The Mediterranean can cover several areas of the globe which include Australia, California, coastal areas of Chile, countries that border the Mediterranean sea, Spain, Italy, Greece and the Western Cape of South Africa which have dry high temperatures in summer followed by mild winters usually with strong winds and heavy rain, but in some areas frost can also occur. Other countries which have cooler conditions, can easily imitate this environment using a greenhouse.
One of the most important part of the Mediterranean garden is to create shade from the extreme heat of the sun outdoors during the Summer months, whether for relaxing, dinning or to protect your plants. This can be in the form of a courtyard with tall palms or trees, a patio with a pergola shaded by vines or climbing plants or a structure attached to the house with terra cotta tiles or other material, Shade roll up blinds can also be added at the sides to protect from the wind and sun.
Trees and shrubs can also provide shade but may take a few years to reach a suitable height, also adding colour and fragrance to your garden, these include Hakea also know as pin-cushion, Hakea is a beautiful shrub or five metre tree with exotic flowers pinkish red in the centre with spikes which turn to an orange pink tone over time which attracts honey bees, and with long thin blue green grey leaves. It is native to Western Australia where it is known for its stunning appearance and there are approximately 150 species and also a few hybrids. Robinia pseudoacacia also called the black locust is a hardwood tree that can grow to 12-30 metres in height with highly fragrant graceful clusters of cream white flowers with a splash of yellow in the centre, it produces a high amount of pollen which attracts wildlife and is native to United States but has also adapted and grown naturally in North America, Europe and Southern Africa. Carpenteria californica is a shrub or bush like tree with lovely anemone like flowers which have a sweet fragrance, white in colour with soft yellow in the centre, it is considered rare and is only native to limited areas of California and is a species of the hydrangegeaceae family.

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Boronia heteropylla is an upright shrub native to Western Australia and has striking brightly coloured magenta pink bell shaped flowers each containing four petals and mid green trifolate needle like leaves. This shrub is also called red boronia and can grow to about one to three metres in height ,both the leaves and flowers are fragrant, an excellent plant for adding colour to your surroundings. Genista aetnensis is a charming bright yellow flowering tree or shrub that is native to Sicily and Sardinia, the flowers resemble a pea in shape and are fragrant similar to a jasmine scent. It can be grown as a shrub but over time can grow into a tree up to 8 metres in height.
Syringa pubesceans – an attractive shrub with stunning fragrant tubular lilac flowers and ovate leaves, it attracts bees and butterflies and can also be used for hedging or borders.
Callistermon has striking bottle brush like flowers in various colours, although the most usual is bright red, with long thin leaves. This shrub is native to Australia and Tasmania, the plants name Callistermon is derived from Greek meaning ‘ beautiful stamens’.
Anisodontea also called the rough leaf African mallow is a woody shrub with light to bright pink showy flowers which resemble a hibiscus and grows to about two to three metres, the three lobed leaves are scented and is native to South Africa, this species is of the Malvaceae (mallow) family.
Freylinia lanceolata has attractive and colourful orangey yellow long bell like flowers which are fragrant and smells similar to that of honey, it blooms all year while attracting bees, insects and birds.
Hebe is a bushy shrub native to New Zealand, some types have decorative leaves in various colours of greens and white which has clusters of reddish purple flowers. The name of this plant ‘Hebe” is also a name of the goddess of Youth from Greek myth, who could restore mortal beings back to their youth to which this plant is named after her.

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Climbers and vines are also excellent way for creating shade which can be grown in a container or in the soil to cover a pergola, archway, wall or fencing. The most usual vine in the Mediterranean is most certainly the grape vine Vitis and there are many varieties to choose from so you can enjoy the delicious fresh grapes in Autumn, make wine or raisins/sultanas. Passiflora is a lovely vine with tendrils and flowers with up to 9 petals and long thin wavy corona filaments, there are many varieties which range in colour from pale – dark purple, blue and pink-red which attracts honey bees, carpenter bees, butterflies and humming birds. The passion fruit of Passiflora edulis can also be eaten and added to yogurt and with other fruit. Clematis cirrhosa has beautiful elegant bell shaped flowers, creamy white in colour with pale green in the centre, sometimes with dark splotches.
Thunbergia gregorii has showy and very bright orange flowers also called the trumpet vine, it is an evergreen vine native to Africa which is similar to the black eyed Susan vine. Ipomoea purpurea also know as the morning glory has striking bright purple trumpet shaped flowers in Summer with large heart shaped leaves. Solandra maxima is a lovely woody vine with large white, yellow to toffee coloured cup shaped flowers with dark lines which are scented at night. It is native to Mexico and central America but some parts of this plant is poisonous. The strong sweetly scented white flowers of Jasmine officinale or common jasmine is another amazing vine for providing shade, it is a delicate plant which can grow to four to nine metres in full sun.
Palms,Succulents and cacti plants with sculptural, geometric shapes and colourful flowers are great in dry arid conditions, such as Kalanchchole luciae, paddle plant that has impressive rounded leaves with bright colours, yellowy green outlined with red which form a rosette and is popular in California. The flowers are also scented and deep yellow in colour which bloom in spring from its second year of growth on long flower stalks. Cereus a cactus with unusual sculptural shapes, Phoenix canariensis a date palm from the Canary islands, its trunk grows up to 30 ft. Chamaerops also called Mediterranean dwarf palm, a hardy plant that can withstand short cold periods. Cycas revoluta a slow growing palm native to Japan and Washingtonia robusta a tall palm tree also known as the Mexican fan palm.

The Season of Autumn/ Fall

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The Autumn season can be both pleasing & at times a little dismal with the brightly coloured leaves of the fall which adds colour to the surroundings, the harvest of fruits, vegetables and grains, the cutting back of plants and seed germination but also the thought that we are again getting closer to winter when daylight becomes shorter and the temperature gradually gets cooler.
The seasonal name Autumn originates from the Latin word ‘Autumns’ and in Greece it is a time for harvesting grapes & olives with the making of wine & olive oil and also picking pomegranates which is made into a liqueur. The arrival of the robin is also a symbolic to Autumn which stays throughout the winter and also very tiny lizards which hatch out from their eggs and hide under leaves and foliage. Also lovely Autumn bulbs which are native to Greece flower in September and October include snow drops (Galanthus), lilies (candidum and Chaledonieum) candidum autumnale, Crocus (iridaceae) and Narcissus serotimus.

Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, fruits and grains, also known as the goddess of the earth bringing grain and cereals to mankind after the harvest. Her daughter Persephone is kidnapped by Hades and is taken to the underworld resulting in the delay of the seasons, causing the destruction of plants and animals on earth. Hermes goes down to the underworld to return her to earth but does not know that she has eaten some pomegranate seeds and when she reaches the surface she reunites with her mother Demeter and has been destined to return to the underworld at specific times of the year, a time of Autumn and winter.
Now that Autumn has arrived you may need to think about pruning, cutting and dividing perennials, things that need to be completed before the frost ( in cooler countries) planting bulbs and clearing fallen leaves.
When pruning deciduous trees it is advisable to wait until October or November when the leaves have fallen and you can see the branches more easily ,it also gives the tree time to repair its self before winter, this period is also a great time to cut back any hardy shrubs in your garden. Another task for Autumn is to plant bulbs so that they have a cold period before they start to come up in Spring, whether you choose to plant them in a container or in the ground it is best planted in well drained soil around 18 c, so that the bulbs wont rot over the winter months with a good light source.

Tulips, Allium, Anemone, Crocus, Cyclamen, Daffodil, Iris, Hyacinth, Snow drops, Narcissus and Crocus are beautiful plants that are grown from bulbs.
Sowing seed in Autumn is great for germination of some plant types, with others the seeds will fall or are dispersed by birds onto the ground and after a cold period will germinate in Spring. But in cooler countries there maybe a problem with frost after germination when growing outdoors. Although seeds of Sweet peas, cornflower, flax, marigold, queen Anne’s lace,poppies, California poppies, antirrhinum, dill, Cynoglossum, Lupinus, viola, primula and foxglove are ideal for growing from seed in Autumn, but may need to be grown undercover as seedlings, until they are old enough to be planted outdoors if there is not enough warmth.

Autumn is also an excellent opportunity to remove any plant debris in containers or in the garden to remove diseases, bacteria, fungi and unwanted insects as you come into the winter period. Old blooms, flower stalks and dead leaves can be removed which can also make it easier for the plant to produce new grow in Spring. Cleaning surface areas for plants germination and underneath pots can also help to prevent diseases and insects.
Some varieties of pelargoniums flower in Autumn such as P. abrotanifolium, P. mollicomum, P. graveolens and P. ionidiflorum which are still flowering in October here in Crete, although some low growing species are dormant during the summer and then after the rains start to produce new growth and flower in winter. Pelargonium anethifolium has a tuberous root with flowers- yellow to greyish pink with purple markings and is night scented, the leaves are feathery & is dormant during the summer months. Pelargonium barklyi has lovely light green ornamental leaves that are hairy with deep veins & a purple zone along the edge, usually dark purple/red underneath with cream coloured flowers, the tuber is turnip shaped and can survive dry hot summers when it is dormant. Pelargonium chelidonium is also dormant during the summer but flowers in Spring which are bright pink in colour with darker markings, a turnip shaped tuber and ovate leaves, Pelargonium aciculatum has pale yellow to cream flowers with darker markings and greyish leaves. Pelargonium asarifolium, Pelargonium auritum and pelargonium carnesum Autumn/ winter growers.