Thursday, April 8, 2010

Geranium 'Crystal Palace Gem'

I've been busy helping my mother in the greenhouses these past few weeks. Since Easter came early and the weather has been nice, people have been clamoring to get work done in their gardens and yards, and we've been trying to supply them. Though we're mainly selling vegetable starts right now, the interest in flowers is steadily increasing. I ordered the geraniums this year, and I wanted to include some different cultivars from the traditional red zonals. We didn't get all of what we wanted, unfortunately, but I'm pleased with what we do have, and there should be even more to choose from next year.

Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum) 'Crystal Palace Gem'

We have about a dozen varieties in all, and the one above stands out as my favorite. 'Crystal Palace Gem' is from 1869, and it was named after the Crystal Palace, a large glass and iron structure designed by greenhouse-architect Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London's Hyde Park. The exhibition celebrated the artistic and scientific advances of the Industrial Revolution, particularly those of England. In this catalog you can see engravings of some of the items that were on display at the Crystal Palace in all of their Victorian glory. The building was moved to another part of London after the six-month exhibition and eventually burned down in 1936.

The Crystal Palace, essentially an enormous greenhouse, included full-size elm trees, symbolizing man's control over nature. Of course having living trees inside the structure led to a problem with sparrows.

Back to the plant. The flowers on this geranium are not so showy as some might like, but I think the leaves more than make up for it. We have a couple of other fancy-leaf geraniums that I may feature later on, but I find the combination of the two shades of green with the clear red of the flowers to be interesting and attractive without being overpowering. Like regular geraniums, it can dry out between waterings and will last until the frost, though it may lag in the heat and humidity of late summer. It can also be taken indoors for the winter and used as a houseplant until next spring. The farmers' market is still a month away (May 8th), but I think we should be able keep some of these coming along all summer.

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