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.
When I looked at the photo, I noticed that one of the water droplets had a reflection in it.
I cropped the image, and the reflection is (perhaps unsurprisingly!) of the lovely geranium foliage.
I’m also wondering if those are the bumps on the surface of the petal that create the iridescence? Isn’t nature fabulous?
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 ‘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.
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 ‘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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Here she is, ready for adventure.
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.
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.
Meditation time over, it’s time to party. We need Geranium psiolostemon.
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?
Hang on, take her to the Chill-out Tent.
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.