The Cottage Gardener 7(176): 303-305 (February 12, 1852)

Donald Beaton

The Diadematum Section.—This is the most distinct, and the most generally cultivated, section of all the old-fashioned geraniums, for you may meet with two of its kinds in almost every garden where such things are admitted.


The old Diadematum, with hard, smooth, shining leaves, and peach-blossom-coloured flowers, streaked with small vein-like lines, crossing each other sometimes;— that is, the petals are between what a botanist would call reticulatum and striatum — between netted and streaked. I wish to be thus particular, because I have been asked, I know not how many times, what is the difference between the two Diadematums, this and the next one being often confounded the one for the other.

I do not know the wild parents from which this section comes down to us, nor do I think it is in lineal descent from a wilding, but that it originated from an extreme cross; and one can tell to this day that the blood of one of the parents in this cross is mixed up in the large prize pelargoniums, but at this moment I cannot call to mind the names of any of the pelargoniums in which it is prominent, but a dry, smooth leaf, delicate constitution, and a loose style of flowering, are sure signs of an affinity with Diadematum. It is next to presumption to say that this Diadematum is barren, but I believe it is quite so, although it yields pollen. In the language of cross-breeding, every anther on a plant may be full of pollen, and that pollen may act on a different flower; but if the plant, with all this pollen, cannot be made to seed itself, we call it barren. Besides being a good bedder, Diadematum is an excellent basket or vase plant; it comes in pretty early for cut flowers, if kept a little warmer than greenhouse heat, but it will not stand much forcing or confinement. It comes from cuttings all the season, and one time is as good as another to make cuttings of it. It is very easy to keep over the winter, and, like all Diadematums, the soil cannot be too rich for it, but it should not be stiff.

Lady Mary Fox

Diadematum rubescens.—Of the two this is, considering all its qualities, the best bedder; and when in the height of its beauty many ladies prefer it before Lady Mary Fox, but to settle the question without raising a dispute, let us say they are both best. About London they call it Diadematum superbum of late years, but I had it by its right name a week or two after the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Bill, and, I think, from Mr. Baily, then gardener at Dropmore. It is quite different in aspect from the last, having very soft leaves, and much darker flowers, with a more close habit of growth. Indeed, it is the best-habited plant of all our bedders, except a seedling from it called Regium. I never had but this one seedling from it, or from this section. There were three or four seeds in the pod, but two only vegetated, and one of them I could not rear; but, seeing that an only seedling turned out a first-rate bedder, we may consider this geranium as at the very head of ail our breeders; and I would strongly advise a whole army of cross-breeders to lay siege to this stronghold, and strong enough they will find it, I promise them.

It forces in the spring much better than the original Diademutum, and would make a specimen plant as well as any of the large prize pelargoniums, for a greenhouse or exhibition stage. It comes easily from cuttings all through the season, and is not difficult to keep through the winter.

Diadematum regium.—This is a new seedling, which I obtained from the last; and, with the exception of the leaves being less soft, every word which I have said about D. rubescens will apply to it also. It comes up to D. rubescens in every respect, and, like Spleenii and Mrs. Jeffries, it will make an excellent match bed with D. rubescens, in a geometric arrangement, and after a few years it will very likely seed, but at present it has no disposition to do so. I am not quite certain of its pollen parent, because I was on the point of giving up the cross altogether, when I got a chance pod, after applying the pollen of every geranium that I could think of as likely to breed in the section, but from the beautiful tints of the flower I think The Priory Queen was the pollen parent; and I would strongly advise this Queen as a breeder for perpetual bloomers, such as we require for beds, to be used both ways—to seed and to yield pollen; but it does not easily seed under pot culture, nor is very free to seed even in the open borders.

I sent D. regium to some of the public establishments round London, and I think it must be had now in the trade, and that Mr. Appleby could supply it. From him I first received the pretty little Diadematum bicolor, a striped flower which makes a very pretty little bed from two-year-old plants. It is the dwarfest in this section, is quite barren, stands as much heat as a pine-apple, and must be increased from cuttings early in the spring, as it is slow to root after it comes into flower, and summerstruck cuttings of it are bad to keep through the winter. When the geraniums come into flower next May, if I am spared I shall look round the nurseries, and give the names of all those that are in affinity with the Diadematums, and are the most likely to breed with them. I wish I had made out a list of these kinds before, but the truth is, I had no idea, for a long time, that these notes would have been called for.

The Curate.—I have alluded to this little plant already, and shall merely say of it now, that it is the dwarfest of all the bedders of this class, and though not very showy, is always in bloom, and is indispensable in a large collection. It borders on the Oak-leaved section. The leaves are small, and so are the trusses and the individual flowers; they are dark red, with black spots on the upper petals, and also a little streaked with dark lines. It would match with the Shrubland Pet, and the Gooseberry-leaved sort; also with the Dandy and Golden Chain, and Lady Plymouth,or Variegated Oak-leaf, alias Variegated graveolens, where a lot of little compact beds could be disposed side by side in a lady's flower garden, or, better still, in a children's flower-garden, where all these pet things would be just at home and in character. Lady Plymouth, with its variegated oak-leaves, and pale lilac little blossoms, would make an exquisite edging for a bed of Curate, or Diadematum bicolor, or it might be used by itself. It is a sport from Graveolens, or Rose-scented Geranium, and should always be propagated early in the spring, long before it comes into blossom, as it is difficult to get good cuttings from it in summer without taking the flower-wood or shoots; and they never make strong plants, or show the true character of the variety, if you keep them ever so long. Mr. Jeffries, at Ipswich, grows it faster than any one I know, and he has it always in peat, or mostly so; but the other day I saw several plants of it with Mr. Mallison, at Claremont, the finest and strongest I ever saw, quite different from the usual run. They were growing in a kind of soft yellow loam, but quite light, and they put me strongly in mind of what I have often said about particular soils suiting or not suiting certain kinds of plants, without our being in the least able to say, or tell of the effects before-hand. Witness the Solfaterre Rose, which does so well with some of our correspondents, but if you take buds or cuttings from their plants, and plant them in what you may think the very same kind of soil, the chances are that they would turn out good-for-nothing, like my old plant. There was a fine Strawberry some years since called the Downton, which was condemned all over the kingdom, while I was growing it the finest of the fine, and the family would use no other sort as long as they could get the Downton, yet it would not grow but on one quarter in the garden, and that I at last foolishly trenched, and from that day to this I could never grow it again, and I had sad complaints about the loss of it. Take, as another instance, The British Queen Strawberry. It is allowed to be one of our finest sorts, yet, after all we could do with it at Shrubland Park, it was not worth picking off the ground, nor would a row of it twenty yards long produce a fair dish at the height of the season. In pots and forcing the same—I even changed the stock three times, and at last had runners direct from Mr. Ingram, from Her Majesty's garden at Windsor, with whom I saw the finest crop of it I ever saw of any fruit, but, like the rest, they turned out good-for-nothing, and I shall be curious to know if Mr. Davidson, my successor, can do anything with it.

Now, it may turn out that many of those bedding geraniums which I have pronounced barren, may not be so altogether on a different soil, and I never did much with them experimentally but at Shrubland Park; I am perfectly confident, however, about all my remarks on them in that kind of soil, for I seldom missed a season without flowering thousands and thousands of seedlings, and, for want of room, I had often to plant whole rows of them between the cabbages in the kitchen-garden. This last season, I had a beautiful bed of the last seedling that was named for me—they named it, by consent, Sir William Middleton, after my worthy employer. Any one who has visited Shrubland Park in my time, will allow that neither he nor his gardener would allow a seedling to be so called unless it was up to the mark. It belongs to a section in which no good bedder has yet appeared, although, judging from the muddlers which some growers are contented with in the same breed; it is, and must be, a general favourite section for bedders. It first appeared in the fourth generation from Jehu and Yetmeniana grandiflora. The section of Yetmeniana [Yatemanianum?] has produced more varieties of bedders than all the rest of the sections put together, and yet there is not one of them a first-rate sort. Yetmeniana appeared about the same time as the fancy calceolarias, in 1831-32. It has a reddish ground, with a dark spot in each of the three front petals, and the two back petals nearly black. It was a seeder, and soon produced a larger flower in all respects like itself, only that the plant was a little stronger in growth. This was called Yetmeniana grandiflora; both of them being good breeders, and not being very particular with which kinds to cross, I kept them both to the last, and, like the rest of our breeders, I had many crosses from them that passed the ordeal of two or three years' growth. Some people admired them, and do admire them to this day, but I confess I am not of that number. Their original dark spots, mixed and turned into a chocolate brown, as in Madame Melliez, Belle d’Afric, Statuiskii, and all those "black-and-all-black" sorts which disfigure the exhibition tables to this day, but still help to carry off prizes for want of better things. At the last July exhibition in the Regent's Park, I saw I know not how many seedlings from this class much improved; the brown, rusty colour being a good deal washed out by now blood from the little fancies, and now that the two races have united, we may soon expect a great improvement in this style of bedders. Even the large prize pelargoniums of the florists have at last been impregnated with fresh blood from the race of Yetmeniana,—witness Hoyle's Ocellata, a most beautiful flower, as distinctly marked in the three front petals as if it came from Yetmeniana itself.

Seeing all this as clear as daylight, we ought to be very careful not to lose the old Yetmeniana grandiflora, because, after awhile, its character will either be lost by too much colour from others, or the race will turn barren; and if we lose the original stamp, we must submit to a dead stoppage, as in the case of those barren ones which I have mentioned already. The flower-gardener must look to this, for the florist never dreams of such things; but, in his anxiety to gain size and form, and a ready sale for his plants, he is as sure to run into a circle, as that this section of Yetmeniana is the most promising we have to originate a fresh and improved style of bedders from. The Jehu breed is the next best section, or, at any rate, the most promising to yield a ready harvest; but, as it stands at present, the breed of Jehu is too strong in growth, and must be reduced by mixing with it those of an opposite character, from the higher-coloured among the fancies. D. Beaton.

February 19, 1852  316-318

BEDDING GERANIUMS. (Continued from page 305.) For the last few years some of our nurserymen, and a few private growers, have been collecting as many of the wild species of Geraniums as could be had in the botanic gardens and in collections of botanical curiosities, and this desire for old, cast-off plants, was soon aided by the London Horticultural Society, when they began to offer prizes for small collections of the wildings. But after seeing all that have been exhibited, and the collections at the Kew Gardens, and in the garden of the Horticultural Society, and also in some of the nurseries, I cannot say how many species are procurable now, because, among all the collections that have seen, there was a mixture of crosses which passed as genuine species. I have even known the Horticultural Society deceived by exhibitors passing off crosses in their collections of wild species, but, of course, not intentionally, but for want of knowing better. I cannot now, however, bring the names of these crosses to mind, except flexuosum, of which I have a memorandum, made in 1848. In almost every private collection that I have examined, ardens, and ardens major, flexuosum, ignescens,and quinquevulnerum were called wild species, but none of them are so in reality, they are crosses, of which figures and full descriptions are given in "Sweet's Geraniaceae," a six guinea work, which is now very scarce. No one has taken up the geraniums scientifically since Mr. Sweet died, hence our present confusion when we want to learn the best kinds, and select from them for the purpose of crossing, with all those bedders that are known to yield seed. I shall here offer the best selection of breeders that I have been able to make, and I have been at it since the summer of 1843, and such of our readers as wish to procure them must take their chance of what they can find in the nurseries under the names and descriptions I subjoin. I saw a good many of the sorts with Mr. Appleby, and all true to the names except sanguineum, and that I could never find true in any nursery, yet it is the second best on my list. But I shall begin with

Ardens and Ardens major, both crosses according to Sweet, the best authority. They are tuberous rooted, with large-lobed leaves, and jointed flower-stalks, and the flowers are nearly black, with red markings. Major is the strongest grower and the best one to seed. They seed easier if grown in peat, and kept as cool as possible while under the operation; but the best plan would be to use their pollen with the Yetmanianum breed, and with all those between that breed and the new fancies. The habit of flowering on long footstalks, and the length of time the flowering season would extend, are the only good qualities that can be expected from Ardens, except, perhaps, helping us to get striped flowers.

Bipinnatifida.—The Horticultural Society distributed the rasp-leaf geranium by this name, but Sweet has a beautiful cross belonging to the Oak Leaved section under the name, and he gives quinquevulnerum and triste as its parents; the flowers are a striped lilac. I have seen this plant in flower, and I doubt its parentage; I also think it is bad to seed, but I have not tried it much, neither do I know which is the true name, that by the Society or Sweet's name, but the striped flowering plant I mean is Sweet's, and is one of the most promising we have for getting striped flowers like those of Sidonia.

Saepeflorens.— This is highly to be recommended for getting deep, reddish-pink crosses from, it passes for a wild species with most growers, but it is a cross between reniforme and echinatum, the latter being the mother plant. I have seen it confounded with its pollen parent, reniforme, but the two are very distinct, reniforme is a dull, reddish-pink, with a distinct black mark in the two upper petals, and I take reniforme to be the original from which the dark blotch in the show Pelargoniums originated. The flowers of saepeflorens are of a brighter colour than those of reniforme, and instead of the black marks in the upper petals, the flowers of saepeflorens are dotted all over with faint black spots, and sometimes a little veiny; the leaves are larger than those of reniforme,and much softer, and the stems are much more gouty, a quality inherited from its mother—echinatum; by these marks, the two can easily be distinguished; they are very common in the nurseries, and every one who is looking out for cross-breeders, ought to possess them; they were extensively crossed thirty years ago, and some of their seedlings, now lost, would be considered good bedders at the present day. Most people know how shy echinatumis to flower, and that it blooms early in the season, and after that goes to rest like a Cape bulb; on the other hand, reniforme is a most free bloomer, and continues to blow till late in the autumn, and its pollen has at once conquered the natural habit of echinatum, and turned saepeflorens,their offspring, into a free and perpetual bloomer, so that we need not despair, in crossing this family, if one of the parents exhibits qualities we do not approve of, provided one of them is to our mind.

Cortusaefolium.—This has a bright pink flower, and belongs to the same group or section as Echinatum and Reniforme, and like them, has been the parent of many of the old greenhouse kinds, that we should be now thankful if we had them to bed out; it is common where the wild ones are kept. One of the best crosses from this species was called Comptum, and a figure of it is given by Sweet. Saepeflorens was the other parent, and as we have the two now to work from, Comptum, though long lost, may easily be originated a second time, and all of them may be tried with crosses of the present day, particularly with the fancies or little geraniums, as Ibrahim Pacha, and if they will cross, the fancies may soon be brought out with a more hardy constitution, and their flowering time extended over the whole season, two qualities which every lady sighs for, when viewing the most extraordinary specimens that are yearly exhibited for competition at the great London shows. "Oh! doctor, doctor, what a charming flowerbed that and that geranium would make, if one could keep them so all the summer." I have had a hundred such remarks made in one day, no matter who the doctor was, or whether he was a doctor at all. The best doctor for our present purpose, is he who can infuse the hardihood of the wild Cape Geraniums into the new race of fancies, for most of the wild ones are much more hardy than the generality of the prize sorts, as I have proved over and over again, having the two growing side by side in the borders of a conservatory wall, where it was very rare indeed to lose a Cape species in winter, and where no winter passed, however mild, without leaving blanks in the large sorts.

Echinatum.—This is the most common of all the original species, and the name of it means hedgehog-like, because the stems of it are prickly. I have said already, that its natural habit is to go to rest soon after it has done flowering, and that is also the natural habit of many of the tuberous-rooted, and the fleshy-stemmed sorts from the Cape, but it is not difficult to cause them to change this habit under cultivation. If they are turned out of the pots in May, and planted out-of-doors, or in a cold pit, and well watered at first, till they take to the new soil, there is not one in the whole tribe, as far as I have tried, but will go on growing to the end of the season, and then the spring or May flowering ones will all flower again in the autumn, and far superior to anything we have seen under pot-culture. I once had a patch of reniforme—no matter when in full bloom—in a south border, late in the season, and the man from whom I had it, and who flowers it in a pot every year, took it for an entire new species, and asked for a piece of it, as something quite new to him. A great botanist, who saw it soon after this, was taken in the same net, and declared the plant was new to science, and that I ought to take special care of it, being one of the finest of the race for a border plant. I was wicked enough in both instances, not to say what made all the difference. This echinatum will flower just as well as reniforme, in the autumn, if it is planted out in time, and of all the wild species that I have seen, it has the best habit of flowering for the flower-beds, the foot-stalks being stiff and erect, throwing up the flowers far above the leaves, like Tom Thumb. I therefore recommend it most strongly for a breeder, and it seeds freely in its own section, which is the same as that of reniforme, saepeflorens, &c. A fine cross from it, by the pollen of saepeflorens, was figured by Sweet, by name erectum, which is now lost, but may easily be had again, and will be an acquisition for the flower-garden, as the foot-stalks stand quite erect, as the name implies; the flowers are of a beautiful lilac cast. This seedling, when we shall again possess it, should be tried with the pollen of Sidonia, and the high-coloured fancies for an entire new cast of bedders. Indeed, without some such experiments with these wild species, we may just as well go to bed at once, for all that we can do with the worn-out crosses we now possess, as far as the flower-garden is in question. Cortusaefolium, reniforme, echinatum, are all of them excellent breeders, and their first and second crosses will unite with many of the other sections, witness flexuosum, which they pass off as a species, but it is a cross from fulgidum, the finest of them all, and saepeflorens; it originated in Colvill's nursery, under Sweet's crossing, with his own hands, and is the only one of the hundreds he originated that is now exhibited at our metropolitan shows. It also blooms in the open ground from May to October, and being so near akin to fulgidum is one of the very best crosses that one can now take in hand to go on for high-coloured seedlings, unless, indeed, the black markings of its grandfather, reniforme,should reappear in the seedlings from it; but I shall treat of how this is to be avoided under fulgidum. For the present I must name one more belonging to the reniforme section called crassicaule, or thick-stalked, and the stalks or stems of this one are really very thick indeed, much more so than those of echinatum, which is in the same group. This crassicaule is not much of itself, and probably many a geranium grower would not pick it off the walk, but wheel his barrowful of compost right over it, and pass it by as useless. It is, however, the very best geranium in the world for the cross-breeder, and if all the geranium-worts in the world were at the bottom of the sea except this one, with fulgidum, reniforme, and two more I cannot name, it would be possible to stock the gardens over again with as good sorts as we now possess, and with a greater variation than many of us think possible at the present. If I were allowed the expression, I would say that this crassicaule is the only species known to us in which the genuine milk of the race can be detected, and for this milk, or, in other words, for the purity of its white, or milk-white blossoms it is invaluable for the cross-breeder. D. Beaton.

Cottage Gardener May 15, 1855 p. 0105


There were two collections of these from Mr. Turner, of Slough, and Mr. Dobson, of Isleworth, two of the most celebrated growers of them in the world; but they did not come into competition this time, Mr. Dobson's plants being in No. 10 pots, while those from Mr. Turner were only in small 32's, making up the most astonishing feat yet accomplished in growing Geraniums. The plants in these small pots produced each from twenty to thirty tresses of large flowers; the leaves hung over the pots, and the growth was as strong as is usual for the kinds, which run as follows:—Governor General, the brightest and best scarlet of this lot; Petruchio, a darker sort, which was all but new last year, and of which it was then predicted that it would follow Magnet to Covent Garden market; Rosamond, Lucy, Pandora, very dark at the back; and Medora, all well-known sorts of first-rate merit as show plants. Mr. Dobson had Delicatum, his best white; Harriet and Arethusa, twin sisters; Eugenie, a scarlet, which rolls back the petals too much; Rosamond, very gay; and Vulcan, the same, all very large plants, and as full of bloom as if it were a month later.


There were two collections of thorn, but not of the best kinds. One from J. Allnutt, Esq., of Clapham Common, consisting of Fairy Queen and Bride, the two brightest in this collection; Queen of the Gipsies and Cleopatra, inclining to the Jehu breed; and Richard Cobden, with Darling, falling more into the strain of the Hero of Surrey; but nothing "goes down" now in fancies but pure white, clear scarlet, and purple-crimson.

The second collection was from Mr. Todman, gardener to Mrs. Buckmaster; beginning with the brightest of them, Delight, Perfection, and Triumph; then Richard Cobden, Defiance, and Cleopatra; all of them well grown and bloomed.

Mr. Dennis, of the King's Road, Chelsea, sent six plants of a new forcing seedling Geranium, called Alma, for which I predict the same "run" as Alba multiflora, on the very first acquaintance. Although I shall never be a good florist, I shall not yield to any one in my estimation of bedding and forcing Geraniums. I never saw Mr. Dennis, that I am aware of, but the moment he announced his Lady Mary Fox, I sent for a half dozen of it; and if I was now in harness, I would recommend another half-dozen of Alma, and would have them, too, to put them into forcing by next Christmas, and to try in a bed in the flower-garden the following summer. It is of the same strain as Rouge et Noir, but larger in all the parts, or with the size and constitution of the Queen of Roses. Touchstone and Rouge et Noir are the only two we have of that strain for beds, and both are barren. Perhaps Dennis's Alma is a breeder, and if so, the gate is opened again for breeders in this class.

Beaton Bibliography