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Anne recently contributed to the 'Make History' programme on BBC Radio 4

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Anne Wilkinson - Author and Historian


The Passion for Pelargoniums – how they found their place in the garden

When we first had a conservatory built on to the back of our house in 1990, I tried out various plants to see what grew best, and after going on holiday and leaving them in charge of a neighbour, I soon discovered that the best survivors were pelargoniums, which seemed almost indestructible. I decided to try to find the more unusual varieties and some of the older ones. I found there were many books on pelargoniums and quite a few specialist nurseries, but little reliable information on their history. This was when I first started looking at the Victorian magazines and realised what a wonderful and neglected source of information they were.

Many people are confused about the naming of pelargoniums: why are they sometimes called geraniums? This book will explain the confusion. These plants are an essential part of all our summer gardens, and yet how much do we really know about them? If your idea of a pelargonium is a bright red flower you never want anywhere near your garden, think again. You will discover what the eighteenth century growers found so captivating and why the Victorians were so keen to use them in their breeding experiments.

The book traces the story of pelargoniums from the 1630s to the twenty-first century. It looks at the species and where they came from, how they started to be hybridised in the 18th century and the amazing varieties that the Victorians developed. It gives profiles of all the important species, from which our hybrids are derived, and examples from all the main groups of modern plants. There are some interesting characters and stories connected with pelargoniums: John Tradescant, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, the Duchess of Portland and Mrs Delany, Dr Fothergill, Robert Sweet, Donald Beaton, Shirley Hibberd and Charles Dickens, to name but a few.

The Passion for Pelargoniums - cover image
Reviews: [to come]  
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