Sunday, 28 September 2014

The national pelargonium collection 2/2

This is the second part of a long blog post. Please click here to read Part 1.

Pelargonium 'Shannon', hybridissed in Califonia by Jay Kapac
Crossing two species results in a species (or primary) hybrid. This category contains two of my absolute favourite pelargoniums, Pelargonium'Shannon', which I’ve waffled on about before (here). It’s quite a relaxed, almost straggly plant, with bright green foliage and small flowers of a colour often described as salmon pink, although I think the pink is a shade or two cooler than that would suggest. The markings in a deeper pink at the base of each petal are quite a feature. A great choice for containers.

Pelargonium 'Ardens'.
Pelargonium 'Ardens'.
Another species hybrid is the very beautiful Pelargonium 'Ardens'. This latter plant, a cross between Pelargonium lobatum and Pelargonium fulgidum, has particularly long flower stems (peduncles), at the end of which are blooms of the richest deep red with brown markings. It’s quite exquisite, the flowers giving the impression of just managing to contain some inner, burning flame. I first came across it only a few months ago in a feature in July’s Gardens Illustrated (no. 211 – worth getting hold of a copy), and was more than delighted to make its acquaintance in person.

The long peduncles of Pelargonium 'Ardens'.
Container planting with P. 'Ardens', Gardens Illustrated no. 211
The next group I was interested to spend some more time was the Stellar, or ‘Five Fingered Zonal’ pelargoniums – I was even fortunate enough  to catch most of these in flower, allowing me to appreicate some of the most interesting petals, in terms of both shape and colour, complementing some superb foliage. There’s something about these plants which I find particularly dynamic; showy, but without (for the most part) wandering beyond the realms of good taste. Do let me know if you agree by leaving a comment below!

Pelargonium 'Aaron West'
Pelargonium 'Aaron West'
Pelargonium 'Aaron West'. This has a striking flower, with long, thin white petals of equal size and distribution, each kinked like a bolt of lightning. A generous flecking of pink along the inner length of each petal completes the look – a sumptuos flower. The foliage has zonal markings and the typically five-fingered palmate form of the stellar pelargoniums.

Pelargonium 'Annsbrook Jupiter'
Pelargonium 'Annsbrook Jupiter' 
The petals of Pelargonium 'Annsbrook Jupiter' are neither as long nor as thin as P. 'Aaron West', although the colouring is similar, if a little more subtle with the pink flecking.

Pelargonium 'Vectis Volcano'
Pelargonium 'Vectis Volcano'
For the ultimate in flecking, there is Pelargonium 'Vectis Volcano', whose white petals (two smaller upper, three larger lower) appears to have been treated to a generous dusting with paprika.

Pelargonium 'Miss McKenzie'
Pelargonium 'Miss McKenzie'
But it wasn’t just the flowers that caught my eye here. The leaves of, for example, Pelargonium 'Miss McKenzie' are divided between the lobes, or fingers, to the extent that the fingers seem splayed out in an exaggerated fashion. These are real jazz hands.

Pelargonium 'Lotus Land'
Pelargonium 'Lotus Land'
The golden foliage of Pelargonium 'Lotus Land', contrasting with the bright pink of the flowers, reminds me of nothing so much as the leaves of the serenely beautiful Golden full moon maple, Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum'. I can’t help but wonder what they might look like in a planting together – hideous, possibly, and certainly not an authentic combination, but I’ll probably have to try it just to see for myself.

Golden acers in Kazyuyuki Ishihara’s Togenkyo Artisan Garden at Chelsea earlier this yeara
At this point in my visit, I was waylaid by a grouping of plants – the miniature zonal pelargoniums – how fantastic! Pocket sized, perfectly formed zonal pellies, with as great a variety of foliage and flower colour and form as their larger cousins. Growing to no more than 12 cm high, these are the perfect plants for a small window ledge, and so, several more names were added to my now immensely long shopping list of plants for the spring. Here are just a few.

Pelargonium 'Garnet Rosebud'
Pelargonium 'Garnet Rosebud'

Pelargonium 'Gwen'
Pelargonium 'Gwen'

Pelargonium 'Red Spider'
Pelargonium 'Red Spider'

Pelargonium 'Mini Czech'
Pelargonium 'Mini Czech'
Tearing myself away from these diminutive delights, I managed to find the area containing the scented-leaved pelargoniums, where ensued much rubbing of foliage and sniffing. The range of aromas includes fresh, minty and eucalpytus, invigorating citruses and rich, and more mellow scents of rose and spices. By this time, my poor nervous system was approaching sensory overload, but I managed to postpone turning into a gibbering wreck for just long enough to take a few more photographs.

Pelargonium 'Chocolate Peppermint'
Pelargonium 'Chocolate Peppermint'
I found one of the plants on my wish list, Pelargonium 'Chocolate Peppermint', which I recognised by its distinctive, oak-shaped leaves with dark brown central markings. I hadn’t been expecting the individual leaves to be quite so large, however – nor so soft and delicate. Quite a surprise; I’m now even more enthusiastic to add this to my collection, although quite where all these new plants are going to go in my house I’ve yet to work out. We don’t even have window ledges.

Pelargonium 'Annsbrooke Beauty'
Pelargonium 'Annsbrooke Beauty'
This photograph shows a specimen I didn’t have on my list, but as is so often the case, meeting the plant in person gives an entirely different impression, and I have a feeling that the lemon scented 'Annsbrooke Beauty' will soon be coming to stay. There’s something very well matched about the way the bicolour markings on the petals mirror the variagation on the handsome foliage.

Finally, a bench containing some fine ivy-leaved pelargoniums. These trailing plants are fabulous, they flower for an age and the foliage is rich and glossy.

I was particularly taken with the tactile, succulent foliage of 'Flakey', a dwarf trailing variety...

Pelargonium 'Flakey'
Pelargonium 'Flakey'
...and I will definitely be growing the considerably larger and more vigorous Pelargonium 'Chuan Cho' next year.

Pelargonium 'Chuan Cho'
Pelargonium 'Chuan Cho'
And that should have been it for this visit. However, even as I was walking back to the car, I couldn’t stop myself from sticking my head into another glasshouse, where I found another two plants which demand to be added to my small collection of dark flowered regals (at present comprising 'Lord Bute', 'Mystery' and 'Regalia Chocolate').

Pelargonium 'Garland'

Pelargonium 'Rimfire'

In all, it was a fascinating few hours spent with some truly wonderful plants, and the opporunity to see such a comprehensive collection is one not to be missed – even if, like me, you leave it till September. I would urge anyone with an interest in this genus to make the trip, especially if you’re in the area anyway visiting Stratford-upon-Avon or one of the many famous gardens in this part of the country (among them Waterperry, Rousham, Kiftsgate, Hidcote and Buscot Park, not to mention the pottery at Whichford). For me, though, the draw of the nursery and the National Pelargonium Collection was sufficient to entice me out of Kentish parts, and I’d like to thank Heather and the staff at Fibrex for accommodating my curiosity, putting up with a nosey visitor and making the trip so worthwhile. I’ll certainly be back next year.