A Gallery of Geraniums

Regular readers will know I have a bit of a thing for Hardy Geraniums.  Since buying a Macro lens, I have been able to photograph them closer up, and rather than exposing any flaws, it has revealed more wonder.

Take my most favourite of all, ‘Anne Thomson’.

In case anyone wants a quick biology refresher:

The female reproductive organs sit on a sort of raised platform inside the flower, called a pistil.  At the base of the pistil is the ovary, where seeds will later swell.  A stalk-like organ emanates from the ovary.  This is the style, topped by a sticky platform, the stigma.  Pollen is produced by the male reproductive organs, the stamens.  These usually stick up as smaller stalks around the style.  Each stamen consists of a stalk-like anther, topped by a swollen filament.  When an insect visits the flower, they brush against the pollen, which they will then transfer to the stigma.  This will fertilise the waiting ova, or eggs, and seeds will develop in the ovary.  In some plants, the ovary becomes the swollen fruit that we eat.

Geraniums have a very simple flower structure, so are perfect for studying the reproductive organs.  Each flower has five petals, five curly protrusions on the stigma, and five or ten stamens.  Flowers like maths.

My macro lens has been giving me a new perspective on some of my favourite hardy geraniums.  Take ‘Anne Thomson’.

Now, I knew that there was a sort of iridescence to the petals, and I knew that sometimes they seem to verge on the ultraviolet. But I never appreciated before just how velvety the black curls of her stigma are.  Or how the filaments are like pecans.  The crevices seem to reflect the pink glow from the petals.

P6300054
Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ very close-up.

When I looked at the photo, I noticed that one of the water droplets had a reflection in it.

Geranium 'Anne Thomson' (3)
Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’

I cropped the image, and the reflection is (perhaps unsurprisingly!) of the lovely geranium foliage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Geranium foliage reflected in a water droplet on Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’.

I’m also wondering if those are the bumps on the surface of the petal that create the iridescence?  Isn’t nature fabulous?

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Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’

For her Art GCSE, my eldest daughter is currently studying Rachel Ruysch, a wonderful Dutch still-life painter you may never have heard of.  As part of this project I currently have a vase of flowers and a plate of fruit and cheese decaying in my airing cupboard.  For six weeks.  Eldest daughter has also been photographing dead insects, and other signs of decay.  Perhaps this inspired my photo here.  It is ‘Anne Thomson’ again, but this time, sun-faded and going over, and struggling with a squatter.  I do however love his aviator sunglasses and metallic sheen.

Geranium 'Anne Thomson' going over
Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ going over, with a blowfly.

Geranium ‘Dragon Heart’ is similar to ‘Anne Thomson’ but has larger flowers.  You might think that bigger is better, but they do not make quite such an elegant little cup, and are not produced in such profusion.  They tend to sprawl more.  Here she is, man-spreading.  I love the black spend flowers next to her.  Like ‘Anne Thomson’ this geranium is a sterile hybrid and will not produce seed.  This allows the plant to just keep on producing flowers from May to December.

Geranium 'Dragon Heart'
Geranium ‘Dragon Heart’

A change from magenta.  Here is Geranium ‘Brookside’ with Crocosmia foliage.  This geranium also just keeps on going.  It provides a soft blue cloud, with its slightly fuzzy stems which catch the light beautifully.  The overlapping petals make a star-shape seen from behind.

Geranium 'Brookside' (2)
Geranium ‘Brookside’

Geranium ‘Sweet Heidy’ does not produce flowers in such profusion, but what flowers they are.  Each one is like a precious gem.  Where the petals of ‘Brookside’ overlap, ‘Sweet Heidy’ has a gap between each petal, which gives a different, and even more beautiful effect.  You see the green sepal through the gaps.  ‘Sweet Heidy’ is often described as having a ‘rainbow’ corona around the centre of the flower.  I don’t quite see a rainbow, but there are sparkly tones of shell-pink, lilac and blue around a white centre, and with deep purple veining and filaments, and a magenta stigma and anthers.  the effect is exquisite.

Geranium 'Sweet Heidy'
Geranium ‘Sweet Heidy’

I have had to wait a long time for this next one.  This is my latest-flowering hardy geranium, ‘Crystal Lake’.  At first it looks like this flower has a really fat stigma, and no stamens.  But when it first opens, the stamens are hugged in closely around the style, with the black filaments tucked in on a diagonal.  It is like a cossack hat.

Geranium 'Crystal Lake'
Geranium ‘Crystal Lake’, newly opened.

After a day or two, the anthers peel away and the filaments, having done their job, drop off.  The stigma is a rather plush plum, and the anthers are black.  Look at the gorgeous spreading poison-purple in the veins, on the palest lilac petals!

Geranium 'Crystal Lake' (2)
Geranium ‘Crystal Lake’

Another delicate little flower is ‘Elke’.  I made the mistake of planting ‘Tiny Monster’ (see below) next to her.  True to its name, ‘TM’ is running amok, whilst goody two-shoes ‘Elke’ is cowering in the corner.  ‘Elke’ is like a bone-china tea-cup, almost too fragile for this world.  But I do so love her pink veining and the pink of her stigma.  I hope she gets braver, and comes out to play more.

Geranium 'Elke'
Geranium ‘Elke’

And here is the rambunctious ‘Tiny Monster’.  I love the fuchsia, almost coral-pink stigma.  The filaments are the most delicious lavender on top and fuchsia in the crevices.  Uh, she might be a handful, but she is breathtaking.

Geranium 'Tiny Monster' (2)
Geranium ‘Tiny Monster’

Here she is, ready for adventure.

Geranium 'Tiny Monster'
Geranium ‘Tiny Monster’

In the picture above, you can really see the shapely form of the pistil, which holds all of the reproductive organs.  It is such an elegant design.  The veins, which stand out more to an insect’s eye, direct the pollinator to the goodies at the centre of the flower.

Now let’s have a quiet, contemplative moment with Geranium versicolour.  The veining on the petals reminds me of a dragonfly’s wings, or stained glass.  I never noticed before how blue the filaments are.  I think it is the deeper crevices in the ‘pecan’ that are stained blue.

Geranium versicolour (2)
Geranium versicolour

Just like the other geraniums we have looked at, once the filaments have done their job by releasing pollen, they drop off.  This leaves the curly stigma, this time palest pink.  The petals also take on the palest hint of pink.

Geranium versicolour
Geranium versicolour

Meditation time over, it’s time to party.  We need Geranium psiolostemon.

Geranium psilostemon (2)
Geranium psilostemon

Like ‘Anne Thomson’ and ‘Brookside’, Geranium psilostemon is just teeming with flower from May until December.  It is a festival every day.

And being at a festival, her clothes are a little bit crinkled, and her makeup is smudged.  But she looks brilliant, doesn’t she?

Geranium psilostemon
Geranium psilostemon*

Hang on, take her to the Chill-out Tent.

Geranium psilostemon (3)
Geranium psilostemon*

It’s ok!  She’s back up and dancing.

I hope you enjoyed this little science-meets-art experiment of mine.  Isn’t that what nature is?  Indeed, life?

*I thought I planted Geranium psilostemon here, and her foliage looks right, but her petal texture looks too shimmery and her colour too deep. I think she has psilostemon in her parentage, but may be another happy accident. As can happen at festivals.

30 Comments Add yours

  1. Penny Post says:

    Once again wonderful image sand even more wonderful descriptions.
    Can I ask where do you get all your plants? I’m currently trying to build up three beds with even bigger ones to fill next year and have a very limited choice at our local garden centres, not helped by the fact they are all owned by the same company. I don’t live in a big city and tend to order plants online and I’m wandering if you have done this and can recommend any suppliers. In the current heatwave I’m avoiding ordering anything online in case they die in transit.

  2. Ali says:

    I can strongly recommend https://www.claireaustin-hardyplants.co.uk/. I buy in spring and they always arrive healthy. There is a really good selection too.

    1. Penny Post says:

      Thanks had a quick look and it looks like a really useful website.

      1. Ali says:

        It is a great one. She has a fab ‘Book of Perennials’ too!

      2. Penny Post says:

        Saw it when I went on the website.

  3. Wonderful close up photos! Thank you for the education and amazing plant parts. I liked versicolour the best because of all the veining.

    1. Ali says:

      It is lovely, isn’t it?

  4. bcparkison says:

    Wonderful phots . A bugs eye view. I will certainly be copying some of these as I color my paper flowers.

  5. Oh! Oh! Oh! Pure heaven! You should send the picture of the reflection in the water droplet into a magazine … its extraordinarily clever. Well done you. The usual garden envy …. 😘 ! Katie x

    1. Ali says:

      It was an accident! Don’t tell anyone.

      1. Ha! Well it’s incredible … definitely worthy of a magazine cover. X

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, this is inspirational!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you, that is very kind.

  7. Heyjude says:

    Gosh you have adapted to your macro lens very quickly. It took me ages to get anything decent photographed and even now (3 years later) I end up deleting more than I keep. Love your Geranium views and the biology lesson 🙂 I thought I had enough geraniums but oh, ‘Elke’ is calling out to me. Which ones are fairly low growing?

    1. Ali says:

      I think the camera is fairly easy to use. Elke and Blushing Turtle are the lowest, (10-15cm). followed by Crystal Lake and Tiny Monster (15-30cm).

      1. Heyjude says:

        What camera do you use?

      2. Ali says:

        It’s an Olympus E-M10 mkII Jude. A compact DSLR. I really love it.

      3. Heyjude says:

        I have the EM-10 so probably have the same macro lens as you do – 60mm? Or did you go for the 30mm? You are a very talented photographer.

      4. Ali says:

        Ah, thanks Jude! Yes, I use the 60mm lens. I also have the 14-42mm lens and 40-150mm lens which came with the camera, but seem to use the macro lens the most.

  8. Wonderful photos! I’ve never been a big geranium fan but seeing your hardy collection makes me think I need to reconsider! I’ll have to check in the fall at the local nursery. Fall is the best time to plant in our area.

    1. Ali says:

      That’s interesting – to get the plants established before winter? I have done that sometimes, but seem to lose more plants. However the majority who make it are much stronger and flower earlier than the spring-planted ones.

      1. We get a lot of rain during the fall while temperatures are still relatively mild. This helps the root system getting established before winter according to local gardeners. Summers can get really hot and dry here which makes it harder for new plants to do well. I do plant things year-round, but fall seems to work best!

  9. John Smith says:

    If you could have just one hardy geranium in your garden Ali, which would it be? Thanks

    1. Ali says:

      It would have to be ‘Anne Thomson’.

  10. John Smith says:

    Thanks Ali, I dont have so much space so need to maximise each bit of it !

    1. Ali says:

      My last garden was a postage stamp, so I completely get this! I think you utterly love each plant in a small space (or they don’t stay long!)

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