I’ve been propagating fancy-leaved and variegated pelargoniums for more than ten years. Many of my plants are grown from cuttings that were given to me by my mother, Elizabeth Shapiro, a native of Vienna, Austria, who lived since 1947 in Inglewood, California, where I grew up.
Mom was the original plant kleptomaniac. When she saw a geranium she liked, say, in a planter box in a shopping mall, she’d discretely pinch a cutting, tuck it in her ample handbag, and stick it in a glass of water near the kitchen sink. When it had a few roots, it would be moved to any one of the many dozen containers on her patio. Every time I visited she’d give me a cutting or two. Among my favorites is Regal Pelargonium ‘Amethyst’, a woody plant that can get leggy, but takes well to propagating from cuttings in our small greenhouse. Having a good-looking specimen or two on the deck every summer is one way to keep my mother’s memory alive.
Last winter, I received a packet of ten seeds of Pelargonium x hortorum ‘Black Velvet Rose,’ hybrid geranium. It was a garden club “challenge class,” and the challenge was to exhibit one plant in a show on April 15. I started the seeds on January 15 under a grow-light in the brightest spot in the house, our dining room table. (The greenhouse is kept at 55 degrees, too cool for seed propagation.) I coddled those ten babies, rotated them, misted them with seedling fertilizer, etc., etc. Nevertheless, my specimen was the puniest in the show. The winners were a foot high, with large, darkly velvety leaves and showy bi-colored pink and white flowers. Undaunted, I brought my little plants outside in mid-May. Today, it looks like they’re ready for transplanting. Maybe they’ll finally achieve their full glory after a few feedings of the “Concime per Gerani” plant food I bought in Lévanto.