September 2, 2008 | Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator & Director of Outreach

 

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...

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