My Geraniums

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.

Ten little Pelargonium x hortorum ‘Black Velvet Rose’ geraniums.

Regal pelargonium ‘Amethyst’ featured in a “pot-et-fleurs” mixed planting designed for a garden club show. The pot also contains pelargonium ‘Mrs. Pollock’, Neomarica caerulea (fan iris, given to me by my friend Jean Schon), Phyllitis scolopendrium ‘Undulatum’ (hart’s tongue fern), creeping Jenny, and spider plant, also from Mom’s garden.

About writedesigner

Graphic designer, writer, and gardener Ellen Shapiro is based in Irvington, New York. A frequent contributor to design blogs and magazines including Print, Imprint,, Communication Arts, and Etapes, she writes about trends, issues and personalities in design, illustration, photography, and visual culture around the world.
This entry was posted in Horticulture, In My Garden, What's Blooming Now and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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