Saturday, December 10, 2011

Geranium magniflorum: underappreciated and then some...

Few plants are more useful in the garden than geraniums. I have patches of geranium I planted decades ago that cheerfully persist with little fuss or bother, providing masses of flowers in season, often with a second season of fall color and of course months and months of just plain great foliage. I just spent a few days with Robin Parer, the proprietor of Geraniaceae, and I shall blog about her wonderful nursery anon (once I download the images) but my visit with her reminded me of this amazing South African gem: Geranium magniflorum. If you click on that hyperlink you will see that this plant is being promoted by Plant Select, and several of the nearly sixty cooperating wholesale nurseries produce it...well, I believe they do. There's this little problem you see...

Despite the fact that this plant is incredibly cold hardy (South African pedigree notwithstanding: it's tough as nails!)...despite the fact that it has the most finely dissected foliage of a lustrous green that is soundly evergreen (unlike most geraniums that die down in winter) albeit it takes on lustrous, purple tones in winter...despite its stunning display of lavender salvers over a long season...despite its resemblance to the very similar (and very tender) Geranium incanum-- a mainstay in subtropical gardens--

This plant has somehow missed the mark. People just don't get it. I suspect part of the problem is the Latin name: "magniflorum" sounds a tad too much like "magnificum", the latter being a buxom Asian, with coarse foliage by comparison and large lavender flowers that last a bit too short of time. EVERYBODY has grown G. magnificum, but hardly anybody grows G. magniflorum, and more 's the pity. There are spectacular plantings of this all over Denver Botanic Gardens and the Gardens at Kendrick Lake. And up at PERC in Fort Collins: what are we to do about this pitiful state of affairs?

I guess I am a tad too attached. After all, I collected the first seed of this on my 1997 March trek to South Africa with Jim Archibald. It was one of hundreds of fantastic plants we collected back then on that amazing occasion. And it deserves to be known! Do put it on your want list for this coming year: there are lots of places you can get it...mail order check Laporte Avenue Nursery or one of the many wholesale sources at Plant Select if you represent a retail nursery. Let's get this wonderful plant out there!


  1. What the what! I want one now! I'll admit, at first glance, I too thought your post said "magnificum"...I guess we all need to look a little closer! Seriously, though, looks like a great plant...I'll definitely add some to my garden if I can find them :-) I LOVE that foliage...just stunning.

  2. Robin Parer is a gem! Funny thing is, I've actually had this on my order from Laporte once and when I got to checkout and realized I'd blown my budget, it was one of the things cut! Shame for shame! I'll correct my actions, posthaste.

  3. Ok. You had me at "purple tones in winter."
    Added to list.
    Thanks again for always robbing my wallet by enticing me with your high-fahlutin plant reveries!!!


  4. If the three of you missed out on this, what hope is there for the vast throngs of unwashed hoi polloi? I think you will be pleased when you get spread the word!

  5. All of your plants and gardens are beautiful. Winter just gives us a chance to think about the new gardens that we want to create.


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