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Br J Gen Pract. 2007 August 1; 57(541): 681.
PMCID: PMC2099689

Stealing geraniums

Real geraniums are hardy, well-behaved plants; unlike pelargoniums (often called geraniums). You don't have to pamper them in any way. You see a gap at the front of a border, think geranium, and plonk one in. If it's at the very front, you do well to choose a sprawling, small flowered kind, like G x riversleanum or asphodeloides, which will form a haze of white or pale pink over the edge of your lawn or path. Most other varieties can go a few inches further back. None of them gets very tall, although some can spread inordinately. Apart from the vibrant magenta of ‘Anne Folkard’ and psilostemon, they come in a range of almost-too-tasteful pinks, mauves, and blues.

One way to get hold of them is to consult the Plant Finder (free online), locate your nearest specialist nursery, and buy in a range. People who grow geraniums for sale tend to be kindly and mildly eccentric, so set aside an hour or two and be prepared to come home with a few plants you don't know what to do with. Get them in the ground at the first opportunity: if they don't fit, you can move them easily at any time except during hot drought.

Young readers with huge mortgages, growing families, and little interest in gardening need their geraniums too, because there are few cheaper ways to cover a garden. Obtain a single plant of G x magnificum (rich blue in June), G macrorrhizum (pink in spring, and often again later) and one of its varieties with creeping brittle roots like ‘St Ola’ (pinkish white). In autumn dig them out and break them up and stick them in any patch of unfilled soil. You will soon have more plants to give away than people to give them to.

Which brings me to the title of this piece. The actual theft of geraniums is unnecessary, except perhaps if you see a particularly wonderful clear pale blue form of wild G pratense growing in a hedgerow. It will propagate easily from a small portion of root, leaving the main plant to be enjoyed by others, and spread its useful genes. Don't try and pinch cuttings (I wonder if this is how the word ‘pinch’ got its second meaning?) from people's gardens because they are unlikely to take. But I think it is permissible for doctors visiting their patients to ask if they could possibly have a bit of some plant they know can be easily propagated. This usually produces pleasure to both parties out of proportion to the effort involved, and it brings nothing more to the doctor-patient relationship than the gentle bond which should exist between all gardeners. An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
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Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners