Sunday, July 4, 2010

Lemon geraniums

I'm rather allergic to "new" colours for flowers. I can't understand, for example, why anyone would want a blue rose - they always look to me as if they've been left in the freezer overnight. I'm not crazy either about those daffodils with peach-coloured centres. To me, they look as if they've been left out in the rain.
So when I first heard about the new pelargoniums with yellow flowers, I mentally rolled my eyes and assigned them to my private list of Growers' Abominations.
Then I saw them for sale at Wisley, massed together on a stand, and fell in love. For a start, they are not bright yellow but a soft pale primrose, so they look great against dark-leaved plants (of which I have many). They have that ability, like white flowers, to seem to glow at twilight.
I'm not sure what variety mine are - most of the yellow pelargoniums sold in this country seem to be called 'Guernsey Flair', but I seem to remember mine were called something different.
In surfing around the internet trying to remember what they were called, I was amused to see that lots of people complained that these geraniums weren't bright yellow, having been persuaded into buying them by lurid-coloured photographs in catalogues. I think the pale primrose is very pretty, set off by tiny dark-red stamens (well, antlers to be precise). At first I thought it was just the stamens that supplied the colour, but looking very closely, I saw that there were tiny maroon flecks on the petals themselves, like fairy eyeliner.
The leaves aren't typical of your average bedding pelargonium. They're quite a light, bright green, with absolutely no zonal markings, and they're slightly hairy. They're more like a scented geranium such as 'Attar of Rose' or 'Clorinda'. If you rub the leaves really hard, they even have a faint scented-geranium smell.
While on the internet I found lots of people complaining that they didn't flower. Mine seem fine, although they're not exactly a mass of blooms, and the flowers - in that irritating manner of some pelargoniums - seem to spend far longer fading than they do in full bloom. Ruthless dead-heading the minute they start to fade seems to be the answer.
I found it really difficult to discover how this pelargonium was bred, apart from one vague reference to Pelargonium urbanum. I searched my friend Graham Rice's blog as he is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to new plants, but couldn't find a post on it. Graham, if you're reading this, enlighten us please!