I grew up with pelargoniums. My father grew them in the greenhouse, my grandparents planted them in with the tomatoes in their ramshackle ‘conservatory’ and they were probably the second cuttings I ever tool (the first were privet – long story). They were always grown from cuttings because, when I was young, there were no F1 hybrids that would bloom the first season and pelargoniums from seed were unreliable. Of course, things have changed and seed-raised kinds are free-flowering and useful. But they are nothing compared to cuttings-raised kinds that have so much more variety.
I currently have very few. Because of moves, and their dislike of wet and cold in winter, and bacterial gall, present on some of the plants when purchased, I have lost (or culled) lots that I used to have, including my favourite of all, the ancient ‘Crystal Palace Gem’. But I do still have a few, including ‘A Happy Thought’ which is one my dad grew all those years ago. But it is actually a lot older than even that!
It dates back to the golden age of pelargoniums, in the Victorian age. It was raised by Lynes of Warwick and introduced in 1873. Soon after, a pink-flowered sport was introduced. Often called ‘Happy Thought’, this is a perfect pelargonium. It is vigorous and suitable for planting in beds or pots outside and also makes a good windowsill plant where it will bloom virtually all year. The flowers are simple and quite small, with rather narrow petals but the bright red perfectly suits the glorious foliage which is bright green with large, butter yellow centres.
I have two patio planters filled with these. Only two plants were put in each pot in late spring and they have proved trouble-free and created sturdy mounds of colour. They have tolerated the extreme heat and, unlike other pots, have not given me sleepless nights over the worry of them drying out.
In bright sun and grown rather hard it also has remnants of the characteristic leaf zones of these plants in the green leaf tissue.
When grown in part shade and well fed and watered the leaves are larger and the dark tones are absent.
Now is the time to take cuttings to keep stock for next year.