Why, you may ask, am I writing the first of our plant profiles on Geranium maderense when in my RHS encyclopaedia it is described as “an evergreen, short-lived perennial usually behaving as a biennial” and with only one snowflake to its name?!
Well, I would defend it to the hilt as a geranium any plant lover should have in their herbaceous border or in a container. True, it is not very hardy although I do know of someone in Bolton who grew one in a sheltered position in their garden for several years.
It is a plant that gives so much pleasure I just can’t imagine a summer without it. I do keep a couple of mature plants in pots overwintered in my greenhouse kept just above freezing but once brought outside in Spring it produces rosettes of deeply toothed, bright green leaves which in themselves are highly decorative quickly followed by masses of pink flowers with magenta centres on reddish stems which continue through until the first frost – it just never stops flowering!
It produces seeds in late summer even though still flowering and these may be collected and dried if necessary before being thrown onto a pot of gritty sandy compost. Germination is rapid and almost 100%! The seedlings grow quickly and may be potted up individually after a few weeks. These small plants are, of course, definitely not hardy and must be kept frost free during their first winter but the following Spring burst into rapid growth producing their attractive foliage and wonderful “imposing, panicle-like inflorescences” (RHS description!).
It is an undemanding plant, thriving on neglect, requires no feeding – in fact starvation enhances continual abundant flowering. In its natural state in Madeira it grows in the most inhospitable of sites! If wilted through excessive dryness it will perk up quickly after a few hours of soaking. The only negative is that greenfly and whitefly seem to be quite partial to it – keep an open eye!
But it is a seedsman’s and a plantsman’s delight. If you haven’t already, then do try it.
First published in the North West Group Newsletter Autumn 2012
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 33.
© Copyright for this article: Glenda Ostick
This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2014. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.