Wednesday, 10 September 2014

When is a Geranium not a Geranium?

Geraniums and Pelargoniums are both very closely related; both are in the Geranium family (Geranianceae), with some species of Geranium having leaves superficially like those of Pelargonium, and some Pelargoniums dying back for winter like Geraniums. There is sometimes a degree of confusion between the two genera... add the fact that 'geranium' is often still used as a common name for Pelargonium and things can get tricky!

In flower the two are usually easy to tell apart; Geranium flowers have several planes of symmetry (they are 'actinomorphic') while Pelargonium flowers only have one ('zygomorphic'). Let's take for our example probably the best known Geranium of modern times, Geranium 'Rozanne'.
Although the leaves of Geranium 'Rozanne' look similar to many Pelargoniums you can see that the flower can be divided symmetrically several times, as below.
Now let's compare this with a Pelargonium flower, using Pelargonium 'Lemon Fancy' as our example.
As you can see, the flower of this Pelargonium can only be divided symmetrically once, as shown below.
Of course sometimes plants like to make life difficult; below is Pelargonium 'Paton's Unique', a variety of Pelargonium with several planes of symmetry (an actinomorphic flower)...
...while Pelargonium 'Appleblossom Rosebud' is just trying to be awkward!
It doesn't matter how much these modern varieties of Pelargonium break away from the typical zygomorphic flowers of Pelargonium species their lineage can still be traced back to 'proper' Pelargonium flowers, keeping them firmly and unmistakably in the genus Pelargonium.

So now you know.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A new direction

Well after 10 years with my employer it is time to move on....

In some ways the decision about which direction to take now is easy; my passion for horticulture is so deeply ingrained in me that I can't really think of anything else I'd want to do! With horticulture being such a diverse industry there are still enough directions to keep me wondering which direction to take.

I've worked directly and indirectly in horticultural retail for 11 years, firstly as part of a team trying to turn a struggling garden centre's plant area from a tired loss making space into a healthy and profitable one, then for the last 10 years as part of a production team that has also been heavily involved in retail. I enjoy selling plants and tackling the multitude of problems that gardeners bring to my attention, so I could see myself working in retail in the future. Similarly I've enjoyed working in plant production; taking a young plant and nurturing it up to become a good strong garden plant is immensely satisfying and I'm good at it!

Growing plants and dealing with problems, such as pests and diseases as well as cultivation issues, would I think make me useful in a garden too. Even though I've not yet worked full time as a professional gardener I have always grown plants at home and I have a wide range of gardening skills. Yes there are things that I might be rusty on (I've not yet tackled topiary or a giant hedge!) but my love of gardening and belief in the importance of good horticulture means that I'm very keen to get experience and learn to get it right.

Over the years I have built up a diverse knowledge of horticulture, and I hope that this will be of use to future employers, even though I lack the paper qualifications to 'prove' it. I believe that being self taught has given me some advantage in that I have come to rely on myself for my horticultural learning, and because I find learning about horticulture so much fun I enjoy finding out new things, so I'm continually expanding my knowledge and keeping it fresh.

I also really enjoy writing about horticulture and plants. I've enjoyed building my website and also have a lively Twitter and Facebook account, and a fledgling Pinterest account too! You can read my articles here on my Pots and Polytunnels blog, and even a bit more about my journey into horticulture so far here. If you have a copy of 'How To Grow A Gardener', published by the Old Horts Network, you can read a bit more about the work I've been doing on pages 35-39.

So now I find myself looking for a new job. Although I've worked in retail and production horticulture for 11 years part of me would be interested in working in a garden. What concerns me at the moment with finding a job is the timing; I will be leaving my company on the 7th of November 2014, but this is not the time of my choosing. I would like to make it clear though that I am leaving my employer at this time of year due to a company restructuring and not because I've been naughty!

If you would like to get in touch, maybe if you might be interested in me joining your organisation, you can email me at mail @

Please note that I have signed an undertaking of confidentiality with my employer and will not be able to enter into any detail about their activities in the public domain, nor will I be able to comment on anything that does not directly affect me or my work at interview. Please bear this in mind if you already know where I work; this is a difficult time for me anyway, and I can't afford to get into trouble with my boss!