August 29, 2011

Millions of Geraniums


And to think I used not to like geraniums.  I can’t even remember why any more.*  Then three things happened.   First they invented the so-called ‘Appleblossom’ geranium, or anyway it started appearing in the gardening catalogues I read**;  second we moved into town and little gardens, so I had an excuse to mess around trying to keep frelling tender frelling plants through the frelling winter;  and third, the second summer I was here I walked past two wilted geraniums lying on the pavement.  They looked like they’d fallen out of someone’s by-the-yard crate of standard bedding geraniums—they still had their roots attached but they weren’t going to last long prostrate in the street.  I told myself if they were still there I’d pick them up on my way back to the cottage.

            Two hours later, they were still there.  I hate to see anything die that’s still trying, you know?, so I took them home and potted them up, not expecting much.  They barely hesitated.  They sprang back to life and flowered and flowered and flowered and flowered.  Anything that willing gets my vote.***  I’ve been buying geraniums ever since.  But my habit is getting a little out of control.†

            Since they’re tender there is a certain amount of predictable attrition every winter.   I’m both forgetful and disorganised, so even now that I have the perpetual-summer/greenhouse at Third House, first I have to get it ready to receive visitors†† and then I have to get the visitors into it before the first hard frost, including remembering where all the fetchingly dotted-around pots of tender things are . . . and then I have to keep the collected visitors watered and the evil indoor-plant bug population down, which latter, since I won’t spray, can be complex.†††  And things die anyway.‡  But most of the geraniums come through.  Year after year.  Meanwhile I keep buying them—just to make sure I don’t suddenly run out of pink flowers—and most of the windows at the cottage are now stuffed with (mostly‡‡) geraniums, and if one of the very long arms that indoor geraniums tend to produce‡‡‡ snaps off . . . I put it in water till I have time to pot it up and, lo, I have another geranium.§  I do occasionally manage to rotate the windowsill ones outdoors, and I usually then prune them back and feed them up.  And then I put the prunings in water, and . . .

            I spent four hours in the garden today.  I was planning on doing my avenging-flame thing toward clearing out some space to plant spring bulbs.§  Mostly I spent it potting up geranium cuttings.  Oh, so that’s where all my vases have been. . . .§§ 

* * *

* This is either because subsequent enthusiasm has blotted out previous inexplicable prejudice, or it’s another spasm of Menopause Brain.  Let’s go for the former.

** Which looks like this:

Except when it doesn’t.  I keep meaning to do a blog post on All the Plants that Aren’t What’s on the Label, which has been particularly bad this year, and in the lead is Geranium/Pelargonium Apple Blossom, of which I have both purple double and hot pink single examples of this year. 

            Yesterday I tweeted about objecting to a pansy named ‘Sweet Pea’.  I had various responses, both those of you who think that plants named after other plants is just the way it goes, and others of you who don’t like it either.  Possibly as a result of coming to gardening late and marrying a passionate gardener and spending my first thirteen years in this country listening to him talking over my head with other passionate gardeners in Latin^ when we had the garden at the old house open on the National Garden Scheme^^ but I’m a little twitchy about confusing plant names.^^^   First there’s the whole Geranium/Pelargonium thing.^^^^  Then there’s the fact that ‘Appleblosson’ is usually advertised as ‘the rosebud geranium’.  Or pelargonium. 

            I like fake flowers.  They don’t require feeding or watering, they stay the same size, they don’t make messes on the floor, and you don’t buy them as little green nubs which grow up to be something else entirely.  

^ The ‘in Latin’ part also included his passionate-gardener brother and various friends.  Inferiority complex?  Me? 


^^^ Some of the answering tweets suggested cabbage roses and tea roses, and the ‘lettuce-leaved’ rose.  Personally I draw a line between something that is essentially descriptive—cabbage roses are supposed to be cabbage-shaped+ and tea roses smell like tea,++ and something that is specifically and individually attached to something else as its, you know, call name.  It’s like naming your hammer ‘Tin-opener’ and then if you ask someone to pass you Tin-opener, they pass you a tin-opener and what you need is something to hit nails with.  Or naming your computer Typewriter and asking an archangel to come fix it.  Although if I rang up Raphael or Gabriel and asked them to fix my typewriter, they would say there, there, Robin, why don’t you lie down for a while and we’ll be along as soon as we can?+++ 

+ Cough cough cough 

++ To other people.  And Bullata’s leaves don’t look like lettuce to me either.  All the centifolias—and a lot of old roses generally—have crinkly leaves.  But—lettuce?  I wasted  too much time trying to find out if ‘bullata’ translates into anything lettuce-like but my google skills are letting me down again.  Since it turns up in a number of plant names it clearly means something.  The closest I got is  whose elegant nickname is ‘stinkwood’, and which includes this description:  ‘The leaves are dark and glossy green with blisters or bubbles on the upper surface, known as bullae, hence the specific epithet bullata.’   I’ve seen Bullata-the-rose but I haven’t grown her.  Surely if she were lumpy someone would have mentioned it?  So where did she get the name?~  I have—it will amaze no one—several weird old books on weird old roses and I will pursue this further in my copious free time.  But not tonight. 

~ There’s also a marine snail.  It’s beige and swirly.  Not helpful. 



*** My conversion is patchy however.  I still think most of the standard cottage-garden herbaceous cranesbills are a dead bore.  It figures that the hardy members of the family are boring.

            PS:  Apologies if I’ve told you this story before.  I kinda think I have.  But even aside from Menopause Brain, in a daily blog this is going to happen.

† Do I have any habits that don’t get out of control?   Am I capable of developing a repetitive behaviour that doesn’t plunge directly forward into out of control?  

†† With significant help from Atlas, who does all the hard stuff, like rehanging the sun lamp and making The Timer Thing Work. 

††† Read ‘unsuccessful’. 

Somebody tell me how to winter over a chocolate cosmos.  Including getting it started again in the spring without it changing its mind and dying anyway.   

‡‡ Also begonias, a Christmas cactus which is getting as big as a small room and its rather-too-many offspring:  turns out bits of Christmas cactus root rather easily, several Unknown Things bought at plant fairs and open gardens, the occasional orchid, busy lizzie, fuchsia . . . 

‡‡‡ Some day when I have lots of money I will install plant lights over all the windowsills.  Geraniums will flower anyway but they would clearly prefer outdoor levels of sunlight. 

§ Until I fell off the cliff of lucidity last night I’d been planning on telling you about spending the afternoon ordering spring bulbs.  I was way too tired and frazzled yesterday to do much work^ so I thought I’d get my bulb orders in.  This may or may not have been a good idea.  Ask me mid-September when whatever I did starts arriving.  

^ It’s true that even near the uttermost reaches of frazzledness I can still work.  But since the ME moved in the cost is too high.

§§ Er . . . the footnotes are longer than the blog tonight too.  But not as badly.


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