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Geraniums Belong to the Group of Plants called Pelargonium

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Geraniums in Bloom

Geraniums for The Garden

The showy scarlet or pink flowers usually known as geraniums really belong to a genus, or group, of plants called Pelargonium, which is a branch of the geranium family. True geraniums are grown in borders and the dwarf variety is a good rockery plant. Geraniums are less showy than pelargoniums and their flowers are generally lilac, pink or white. One of the most frequently grown varieties comes from Spain and has masses of mauve flowers and deeply-cut fringe-like leaves which turn crimson in autumn.

Wild geraniums grow in Great Britain, and include the tiny pink flower that is generally called herb robert, after an abbot who is said to have used the root to cure a plague. It is called poor robin in Scotland, and another name for it is stinking crane's-bill, because of the strong smell of the leaves when they are rubbed. Herb robert is found in waste places, the edges of woods and old walls. Another wild geranium is the dove's-foot crane's-bill, which is also small and pink. It grows on waysides and grasslands.

Pelargonium flowers originally came from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and many of those sown for planting in flowerbeds are called zonals. Some are known as ivy-leaved pelargoniums because of the shape of the leaves and because they trail of climb, and these are often planted in window-boxes or in baskets hanging up in a room. Other varieties have scented leaves, smelling of nutmeg, balsam, citron and even peppermint. Cuttings will take root in sandy soil in July or August and after a winter in a cool greenhouse with very little water they are ready to put into pots or in the garden in spring.

Pelargos is the Greek for stork, and part of the fruit of the Pelargonium looks like the long pointed beak of a stork. Geranos is the Greek for crane, and the geranium fruit is said to be like the beak of a crane. The 'beak' part of the fruit pods of geraniums and Pelargoniums, when fully grown, suddenly splits into fine strips which curl upwards and outwards as if on a spring. When this happens the seed at the tip of each strip is thrown as much as 20 feet away.

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