Garden

Pelargonium

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Around the Pelargoniumsby Filippo Figuera (Vivaio Malvarosa)

Let's see if I can. Let's see if I can talk about Pelargonium without ever calling them geraniums. I promised myself to be careful not to make this mistake. I want to keep a column that talks about these plants without ever using the name with which they are universally known (geraniums, in fact), but the correct one: Pelargonium.

In fact it would be more convenient to use the name that everyone knows and make me understand both by neophytes and by those who habitually turn up their noses in the face of inaccuracies of botanical nomenclature. But I want to try it anyway. Not for pedantry, but to give the clear signal, to the reader, that it is my firm intention to speak of these plants differently, abandoning stereotypes, inviting the reader to rediscover them, and re-evaluate them if necessary.

The name geranium evokes images of sunny terraces, of long city railings from which almost woody branches emerge which sway in the wind. The first experiences of home "gardening" come back to memory: cleaning the plants from dry leaves, old flowers, watering pot by pot, taking care not to wet the leaves ... There is a bit of nostalgia, perhaps. But the passion? Do we not have the feeling that there is nothing more to discover? Are we not tired and bored of the usual, usual, usual geraniums?

So that's enough! Enough Gerani. Let's talk about Pelargonium! But what difference is there? Why is the same plant often referred to with two different names? The truth is that for a long time those who have studied these plants have all classified them under the name Geranium. Only at the end of the 18th century was the Pelargonium genus distinguished as something different from the Geranium genus. So it happened that the most common and well-known ornamental plants changed their name and the name Geranium was used to indicate spontaneous seedlings very common in nature but unknown to most. Even today the old name resists in common use and in all languages.

It often happens in the nursery to talk about this misunderstanding. I don't feel like being a fussy guy and I'm certainly not there to correct the customers' mistake. But if the subject comes up ... let's talk about it. Sometimes, however, I happen to exchange an understanding look with my interlocutor. I understand then that he is keen to express himself exactly. Maybe he's a collector.


Collectors

They are, the collectors, among the customers who give greater satisfaction. Not for the reason that one could believe (not only, at least), but for the charge of enthusiasm that they leave after a visit to the nursery. Sometimes I spend a lot of time talking to someone about the joy that some pelargoniums can bring. They tell me about their adventures (or misadventures). I let them know about the latest pieces in my collection, bought or exchanged here and there for Italy.

There is one, collector, now a friend, who arrives in the nursery for lightning visits, always leaves some seedling, or some broken sprig who knows where, with the name of the species written on a makeshift sheet. Take a look at the news and then go away, at the speed of light.

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