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Article published in The Canberra Times
Saturday November 16, 2013

It's the little things that count. Right from the day Clare Holland House opened in February, 2001 in Barton, two big pots of geraniums at the front door have greeted staff, patients and visitors. A burst of colour amid so much emotion... View the entire article here

In the Garden


    (The summer long, blue-flowering Geranium 'Rozanne')

There have been some interesting Centenaries this year. Canberra, the Capital of Australia, is now one hundred years old. So too is the fabulous 'Tour de France' cycle race, as well as that epitome of horticultural happenings - England's famous Chelsea Flower Show. In order to mark the occasion, the Royal Horticultural Society, which holds records of all the plants that have appeared at Chelsea throughout its history in the Lindley Library, decided to hold a vote to select 'The Plant of the Century'.

From the many suggestions of plants championed by members of the Society, ten notable selections were short-listed - one for each decade.

1913-1922: Saxifraga 'Tumbling Waters' - a silver leaved rockery plant with a froth of white flowers, received an Award of Merit in 1920. Many of this well-known group of rock plants, remain indispensable as a ground cover or border edging. The early pink flowered S.umbrosa, known as 'London Pride' is still grown in cottage gardens.

1923-1932: Pieris formosa var forrestii - an elegant evergreen shrub from China and the eastern Himalayas, was first exhibited in 1924. It was much admired for its brilliant red young foliage and cream lily-of-the-valley like flowers. Still a handsome plant for cool climate gardens around the world. The initial bright red foliage changes to a creamy-pink, then pure cream, pale green and finally lustrous green. The panicles of waxy, ivory-white flowers appear in September and October.

1932-1942: When first shown at Chelsea in 1939 Rainbow coloured Russell Lupins caused a sensation. First bred from an American wild flower Lupinus, by George Russell - a Yorkshire horticulturist in the 1920's, they were readily grown from seed as a colourful herbaceous back of the border garden plant. Who would have dreamt that such a colourful contribution would eventually become a spectacular, often invasive, wild flower in New Zealand's South Island. You can see them at their best around Lake Tekapo in December.

1943-1952: Rhododendron yukushimanum, a newly discovered evergreen species with bell-shaped white flowers, was also first exhibited to great acclaim. A small grower to 1m x 1m, several modern cultivars such as 'Yaku Prince' and 'Sleepy' have since been available in Australia.

1952-1962: Rosa 'Iceberg' - which stole the Show in 1958, is still probably one of the world's best-known roses. A floriferous floribunda bred by Reimer Kordes, and known as 'Korbin' in Germany, it is available worldwide in a number of forms - as a tall shrub; a grafted standard; weeping and climbing forms. The cultivar was selected as the World's favourite rose by the World Federation of Rose Societies in 1983.

1963-1972: Cornus 'Eddie's White Wonder' - an unusual cross between C.nuttalli and C florida - admired for it's dark green foliage, white flowers and then fine red and purple autumn colour. Perhaps still available in Australia, there are currently many fine container - grown Dogwoods from which to select for both spring and autumn display.

1973-1982: Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve' - a comparatively short-lived shrubby perennial wallflower to 75cm, has small mauve flowers and long slender leaves. Closely related to Cheiranthus, perhaps the better known orange/yellow wallflower. All forms are readily propagated by cuttings.

1983-1992: Heuchera villosa 'Palace Purple'. This American plant with its bronze leaves and 'Coral Bells' - the original common name for its clusters of pink summer flowers, started a new trend for coloured foliage when first exhibited in 1983. All forms can be grown in moist friable soil in either full sun or semi-shade. Propagate either from seed or by division of established plants in either autumn or spring.

1993-2002: Geranium 'Rozanne', a naturally occurring hybrid of G.himalayense x G. wallichianum - first discovered in a Somerset garden then raised in Bloom's Nursery in Norfolk, had its initial release at Chelsea in 2000. G.'Rozanne' a delightful summer-long flowering, lightly stemmed, trailing plant with a long season of violet blue flowers makes an ideal ground cover in company with roses, or a feature in hanging baskets. It was selected as 'Plant of the Year' in America in 2008. The Genus Geranium (in contrast to Zonal pelargoniums - the bolder more colourful members of the Family Geraniaceae - commonly raised in pots and incorrectly referred to as 'geraniums') is much under-rated but valued for its extensive range of cool climate herbaceous perennials. While not as readily available on local nursery shelves as Zonal and Ivy-leaved pelargoniums, hardy Geraniums can be found on-line or sourced through gardening magazines and specialist plant groups.

2002-2012: Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Blue' - a member of the African violet family, was Show plant of the year in 2010. Unlike the typical African violet, the equally showy Streptocarpus carries irregular, elongated leaves and funnel shaped flowers. These of 'Harlequin Blue' have yellow lower petals in striking contrast to the baby blue upper petals.
More than seven thousand people voted on line to select Geranium 'Rozanne' as The Plant of the Century. Russell Lupins, which produce such a vibrant range of colours, came a close second.

Canberra Hybridisers

Rex Daley, a Life Member of the Canberra Geranium and Fuchsia Society is well know for his contribution to our Society and as a popular speaker at past International Pelargonium Conferences held here in Australia. Rex has also written many articles that have been published locally and in overseas Journals.

For a number of years he has been grafting plain leaf ivy geraniums with White Mesh, a variegated ivy that carries a benign virus. This has resulted in many lovely cultivars which carry the 'Rainbow' prefix, the attached photo of Rainbow Nancye featured in our Society's first Calendar for the month of December 2011.

Some other grafts in the Rainbow series include:
'Carolyn' Mrs Taylor & White Mesh
'Dominic' Lilac Gem & White Mesh
'Connie' Tom Girl & White Mesh
'Beauty of Jersey' Beauty Of Jersey & White Mesh
'Hannah Jane' Mrs Taylor & Roulette
'Heather' White Mesh & Roulette
'Fatime' Tom Girl, White Mesh & Roulette
'Viola Butters' Tom Girl & Crocodile

Rex also has a lovely new zonal named Rainbow Miss Susan (pictured). This plant was the result of a sport from Deacon 'Summertime', it is very unusual for this to happen and when he shows the plant that still carries the sport it attracts much attention.

Rex's description of Rainbow 'Miss Susan'
Large double flower head, consisting of two separate floret type flowers - some florets have off white petals, blotched and feathered Carmine Rose (RHS 52C) (HCC 621) other floret petals more heavily flushed Carmine Rose. Leaf dark green zoned. I understand that this is the only sport of a Deacon which retains the dark green zoned leaf all other known sports from the Deacons have the Golden leaf. Strong upright growth, a very free flowering cultivar, in keeping with the early Deacon series plants.

I am a Life Member and current Vice President of the Canberra Geranium and Fuchsia Society. I began hybridising Angel Pelargoniums in 2003 after acquiring a small collection of plants from Chris Toyer's Buds and Blooms Nursery and from Ken Attfield. This original collection consisted of Charmay Cantelena; Charmay Aria; Baby Snooks; Lara Susan; Highton Orissa; Butterfly; Echo and Rose Bengal, one of the original Langley Smith hybrids. I used these plants, plus some Regals, Pelargonium species and some of the Uniques for hybridising.

My first attempts at cross pollinating were rather pathetic, mainly because I had no idea what I was doing, but after reading articles by other hybridisers I started to have some success. I must mention that information and advice I have received from Faye Brawner in America has been invaluable. Faye's knowledge of Pelargoniums is amazing. As my knowledge improved so did the quality of my plants. Most of the ones I have kept and named are nice compact plants with good sized flowers that bloom from spring through to autumn.

Like Rex I have also been grafting plain ivy leaved Pelargoniums with Crocodile, White Mesh and Rouletta. I have also grafted some of the hybrid ivy's, Millfield Gem and Millfield Rosebud both have a lovely lacy appearance, but the leaves on both Blue Spring and Achievement tend to keep reverting to a plain leaf. Anton Crozy with White mesh and Rouletta [for a white striped flower] was lovely but alas I lost it - will try again in spring. Some of my grafts have be released by Ramm Botanicals as part of the 'Jester' series.

I am not sure if you have heard of a new release called "Big Red" (pictured) which has a similar growth habit to the Hybrid ivy's. I have grafted it with White mesh; Crocodile; Rouletta; and also one with a meshed Rouletta to give the plant both the meshed leaves and a white striped flower. So far they are all doing well so it will be interesting to see if they retain the meshed leaves.

All my plants have the prefix "Johans" in front - some of my favourite grafts are:-
'Linda Bell' Sugar Baby & White Mesh
'Lorraine' Icing Sugar & Crocodile
'Jillian' Pink Carnation & White Mesh
'Melissa' Flush Stripe & Crocodile
'Bob Finn' Giroflee & White Mesh
'Allan Rex' The Joker & White Mesh
'Rowan' Jamie & White Mesh

I have also tried grafting some zonals with Wantirna and White Mesh but so far I have been unsuccessful.

I would encourage everyone try their hand at hybridising both by grafting and also by raising seeds, there is nothing quite so exciting as waiting for the first flower to open on a new seedling.

Joan Powell