June 17, 2013

Pelargoniums, and a new potting bench

Pelargonium oblongatum, another precious summer dormant species of pelargonium ( geranium), that blooms while dormant, and without any leaves. I am really starting to collect more of these amazing species from South Africa, my collection just can't be large enough! It spends its life under glass, in a pot set on a bed of sand.
An inexpensive Ikea purchase is transformed into a potting bench. It probably won't last long outdoors, but as we have a new floor installed into the studio, this piece was destined for the dumpster, but now has a second life outdoors. 
I've been wanting to place a simple potting bench outside of the greenhouse, not for potting plants, as I have a large proper potting bench inside the greenhouse, but just some shelves where I can store tools, and mostly to use for preparing watering cans with fertilizer. A task that always breaks my back, as I am often mixing solutions for bulbs or containers, and bending over with the hose. This little bench, a prop we bought a few years ago for a display I designed for the New England Spring Flower Show for only a couple of hundred of dollars, as it looked a bit like a Japanese-influenced potting-type bench, we've been keeping it in the studio where it just collected junk. Now, at least it has a purpose. Not designed for outdoor use, it will probably only last a few years with our weather, but it's better than throwing it into the dumpster.

June in the formal garden. There is a gap in bloom this year, and few vegetables as the puppies are also kept on this side of the yard. Everything is looking a little shaggy, as the boxwoods and bay laurels still need to be trimmed, but that won't happen until late June, when I return from my trip to San Francisco. For now, I am lucky that it looks half-way decent. It looks much better in this picture than it really does, believe me.

The bench gives me a place to store some plants away from the dogs such as this Deuterocohnia brevifolia, a bromeliad that looks more like a cacti than a pineapple relative - they form perfect mounds when grown in containers. Yes, those
are Devil's Tongue Arum in the back. I am having a second childhood!

Pelargonium dichonrifolium ( or P. exhibens). Help! One of my summer dormant species that spends its entire life under glass, in a sand bed.

Pelargonium sidoides,  a great container plant for decks and terraces ( I keep thinking of the specimens I saw in the South African garden at the Denver Botanic Garden's last summer. This plant, I planted in a large urn.

Just to confuse you, this is a true Geranium, not a pelargoinium. The giant of all geraniums, G. maderense spp. alba is a common cottage garden plant in northern California, but most everywhere else, it is a rarely seen Mediterranean gem, making a magnificent potted plant, and if you are lucky to get a pot of this giant to bloom, even better. This one self seeded into a number of my container plants which spend the winter in the greenhouse.


  1. Matt, If you have time, visit the Bonsai collection at the Botanical Garden on Lake Merritt in Oakland, it's small, but one of the finest. The Berkeley Botanical Garden is also well worth a visit.

  2. I'm jealous! I've been wanting a potting bench for a while now. This looks great! I'll have to check out my Ikea

  3. I just got a white Geranium maderense on a trip to San Francisco this March. So far it seems to like its life as a potted plant, first on a outside windowsill in Cambridge and now in a shady spot in my parents' backyard in Michigan.


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