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More recondite plants #2: hardy giant pelargoniums on rampage!



Hardy giant pelargonium

Few plants can match the giant Turkish Pelargonium (Pelargonium quercetorum) for drama or rarity. You're not likely to find this in any other American botanic garden, and only in one or two gardens in Europe for that matter. It can grow over a meter tall. Its flamboyant, hot pink trusses are startling in the backlight when you round the corner next to the Cactus and Succulent House in the Rock Alpine Garden. It has thrived in this spot for a decade or more. In nature, this occurs in oak groves (hence the specific name in Latin) in Kurdistan, on the Turkish-Iranian border (an area you are not apt to visit any time soon, I fear). It is one of only a few species in the genus that occur outside of Africa. 

We obtained seed of this from Jim and Jenny Archibald  who are in my opinion the world's greatest seed collectors. These redoubtable explorers based in Wales have turned us on to many of our greatest plant treasures. Unlike the closely related Pelargonium endlicherianum, which has firmly entered the fringes of cultivation thanks to fabulous Colorado mail order nurserymen, Bill Adams at Sunscapes and Karen Lehrer and Kirk Fieseler at Laporte Avenue Nursery. The giant Turkish pelargonium has yet to make it into commerce. I know a few nurserymen working on it, however. When they finally put it on their list, I will be standing first in line with my checkbook! Meanwhile, you can join me in traipsing down to the Rock Alpine Garden to worship at its recondite roots, so to speak...


Richard Riedy

My P. quercetorums and also P. 'kavushan' (P. endlicherianum x P. quercetorum) send yours their greetings from Los Lunas, New Mexico. They do ask that you add "Iraqi" to "Turkish-Iranian border" for after all the species was originally discovered in Iraq. You write, "It is one of only two species in the genus that occur outside of Africa." Please do not slight P. alchemilloides that grows in the mountains of southern Saudi Arabia and P. quinquelobatum from Yemen as well as the half dozen species native to Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. What a spectacular picture.
Diane Whitehead

The hardy pelargonium I grew from seedex seed a dozen years ago is quercifolium, with oakleaf-shaped leaves. It is from South Africa. The book I use to see what should be hardy here puts its minimum temperature at barely below freezing, so mine must have selected itself to be hardier than usual, one of the advantages of growing slightly tender plants from seed. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Panayoti Kelaidis

Dear Richard and Diane, Very good to hear from both of you. I WISH P. quercifolium were hardy in Denver: your Victoria climate approximates the West Cape much more closely. I did see spectacular Pelargoniums at altitude in Jonaskop thanks to Dave McDonald (Pelargonium ovatum) but these did not overwinter in our severe steppe climate. And as for you, Richard: I have incorporated your correction already in my post (two turns into few): I had a gnawing suspicion I was wrong. I must check our 'Kavushan' and see how it's doing. I can't believe we fumbled that! Great to hear from both of you, Panayoti
Panayoti Kelaidis

And thank YOU for responding to my post. I will indeed be posting on plants here at the Gardens, so do keep up. The only hardy pelly that's available from the nurseries I indicated (Sunscapes and Laporte) is P. endlicherianum. It is thriving in many local rock gardens. It seems to need a)good drainage b) not the hottest spot (dappled shade) and some irrigation to do its best. I consider it to be one of the best introductions of recent decades: I believe it will be a garden workhorse for the Rocky Mt. region in years go come. Trying not to be too recondite...Thanks for the note!

Thanks for posting the link to this at the bouldergarden.net email list. I didn'tt know DBG had a blog..and wouldn't be likely to routinely look it up. But if you're going to post individual plants we can covet... well that's just grand! How long is the bloom season on hardy pelargoniums? Are they good choices for urban metro area gardens? Thanks again...hope you let us know when you post again. Now I just have to figure out how to work my new word of the day --- recondite -- into my vocabulary. Sandy Boulder
Doris Boardman

Hi Sandy in Boulder, Actually our blog has RSS feed so you can alway be up-to-date with our newest blogs--look in the right column on our blog. Once you get to the RSS page, read "Learn more about feeds" if you have any RSS questions. Or, since Panayoti will always be posting under What's Blooming, you can get the What's Blooming widget available at the bottom of this page: http://www.botanicgardens.org/content/whats-blooming -- I embedded it onto my google page since I visit google a lot. Feel free to add our widget to your blog or web site, too, so you can easily see Panayoti's latest blogs. Enjoy! Doris

what a poor grammar :)
Ernie DeMarie

Panayoti, an amazing image of a spectacular pelargonium. I grew it years ago when I was at Cornell doing my thesis, and it flowered but never made seed. I suspect your and Richard's dry montane climate with low humidity and bright light is what it likes best. As for hardy pelargoniums, here near NYC after mild winters one might see the following reemerge: sidoides, reniforme, luridum, iocastum, alchemilloides (some of the numerous forms), ionidiflorum, and a few others. Some can behave as resowing annuals, such as some form of alchemilloides, minimum, and grossularoides (including the much nicer larger flowered form from the south Cape area), Have you had success with any of the South African species outdoors in Denver yet? Keep those posts coming-Ernie
Panayoti Kelaidis

Ernie, I was hoping you might check out the image: I very much enjoyed your website by the way. Yes, the Turkish pellies are fabulous in our steppe climate. I've not yet had similar success with any South Africans, although I have seen lots at high elevations, and brought a few through one or more winters. The hardiest thus far was P. sidoides, which lasted 3 years: I think they need more attention to microclimate than I have provided: our cold really does get to them... Thanks!

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