Herbaria (August 22, 2012)

This week (now catching up on last week) I’ve focussed on Zonal Geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum). Zonals are the colorfully patterned, but stinky cousins of the wonderfully scented pelargoniums aka Scented Geraniums. I’m a scented geranium fan and always grow several each year (I will feature those soon), but I have never been into the zonals, primarily because I do not enjoy their musky odor. They remind me of the horrible pom-pom geraniums that my primary school sold as a fundraiser each year. As a result, the neighbourhood, which was not known for its gardens was pretty much littered with them. In fact, they were one of perhaps half a dozen plants that were grown with intention around our subdivision, and the plant I most closely associated with gardening until I was old enough to experience something more. This year my friend Barry gifted me with several cuttings and it is through his eyes that I have come to appreciate them for what they are rather than the memories they evoke.

Zonal geraniums, named after the patch or “zone” of colour that marks their leaves, are all about the foliage. Until recently I’ve been diligently snipping off their flowers, but decided to let them go for these photos.

From Left to Right:

Top Row: 1. Dwarf Morning Glory ‘White Ensign’ (Convolvulus tricolor) These dwarf morning glories stay relatively small and low to the ground. They do wonderfully in pots and don’t invade the garden. Last year I grew ‘Blue Ensign.’ I tried to grow ‘Red Ensign’ this year, but the squirrels got to the seeds that were directly sowed. I had better luck starting this batch in pots. They remind me of bindweed and I haven’t decided yet if that is in a bad or good way. 2. Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) 3. Talinum paniculatum ‘Limón’ This one is a self-seeded volunteer from a plant that I purchased last spring. Oddly enough the seedlings have shown up sporadically around the yard, but none have come up in the spot where the original was planted. I quite like talinum and have just acquired a second species, another volunteer that came along in a pot of opuntia that I received as a gift from my friend Barry.

Middle Row: 4. Stellar Geranium (Pelargonium) Stellar geraniums are a subset of the zonal group that have pointy flowers and pointed lobed leaves. Barry received this plant as a cutting from a horticultural society member and I received a cutting from him. 5. Tomato ‘Reisetomate’ Aka Traveler Tomato. I’ve been wanting to grow this unique, ugly/beautiful variety for years and finally managed to procure seeds this winter. My plant isn’t particularly prolific, but it sure was exciting to watch the first fruit develop. 6. Pelargonium x hortorum ‘Vancouver Centennial’ I believe that this variety is also a member of the Stellar Group. If you’re a Canadian, you have to grow it at least once. It’s practically mandated.

Bottom Row: 7. Yellow Jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) Back in May I needed help identifying interesting seedlings that turns out to be this plant. We all assumed it was Orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) but it is actually the yellow flowered species. Jewelweed is a moist soil plant and my garden is sandy and dry. Turns out that the yellow flowered species is more tolerant of dry conditions than the more common orange flowered type so it makes sense that it is able to survive in my yard. Yes, if allowed, the plant does run rampant like a weed, but I have allowed a few to stay as it makes a useful medicinal salve. It’s pretty, too. The plants that are happiest in my dry soil have protection underneath the huge leaves of two, tall ‘Lacinato’ kales. As you can see, the jewelweed leaves have a slight blue/green hue that compliments the blue kale leaves well. 8. Pelargonium x hortorum Another Zonal Geranium. Believe it or not there is a forth, but the plant is still rather small so I left it out. I quite like the chartreuse leaves of this one, but the flowers are not my thing.9. Hosta ‘June’ Late August is not the best time of year to feature hostas as the heat has really put them through the ringer. This is ‘June,’ the first hosta I purchased whose name I knew, and one of my very favourites.

Herbaria F.A.Q

What is this?

An herbarium is a collection of plant specimens. Herbaria is the plural form. A collection of collections.

Every week, until I can no longer find anything living to fill up the boxes, I am photographing and posting a collection of flowers, leaves, stems, and other plant parts that are in my garden. This is an experiment in celebrating diversity and I hope it will allow me to focus more closely on the beauty that is inherent in the different parts of each plant. It also serves as a visual file of the seasons and a record of my garden, my gardening practice, and the plants that I choose to grow.

Why doesn’t this start at the beginning of the calendar year or garden season?

I would have preferred starting this project at either of those times, but alas, that is now how things worked out. The idea for this project came to me rather spontaneously one May morning as I sat pondering how I could best use a stack of nine wooden, pint-sized fruit boxes that I had recently purchased at the flea market. I have a thing for wooden boxes and I love to display little collections of cherished items within them. These nine little boxes begged to be kept together as a display — it didn’t take long before the idea came to mind: little boxes within a box, framed within weeks and months of boxes. Within the hour I had worked out the logistics of the project and was photographing my first box. That was May 16, 2012.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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3 thoughts on “Herbaria (August 22, 2012)

  1. Funny- while I also think zonal geraniums are stinky, I love smelling them because they remind me of my great grandmother’s yard. Those and Jupiter’s Beard which is another stinky flower. Funny how memories influence us.

  2. I came across your website with the herbaria photos. What a wonderful idea. Since I have a large herb garden growing over several seasons, the herbaria project for seasonal herbs would be perfect as a teaching tool.

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