A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Stalking the Alpine Geranium

Nothing says Europe like gorgeous windowboxes spilling over with profusely blooming flowers. I remember the first time I was in Brussels, gazing at a gray stone building several stories high on a downtown corner. Every window had a box with deep pink geraniums cascading from it. That's exactly what I would do if I had lots of windows, I remember saying to the man next to me.

So, two years ago, when I realized that I had the perfect spot for windowboxes--a bank of seven windows alongside the back wing of my house, highly visible from the street--I knew just what I would do: plant them with nothing but deep pink cascading geraniums. I obtained boxes and brackets and soil, and got everything ready for the flowers.

Problem was, I couldn't find the kind of geraniums I had seen in so many European windowboxes. I finally bought pink ivy geraniums, and they looked nice, but it wasn't the effect I wanted. The following year, I had even worse luck. Unable to find enough of one color to fill all the boxes, I ended up with deep purple zonal geraniums, alternated with white, and so disliked the effect that I didn't even feel like watering the poor things.

This year I was determined to get the true European look, or leave the boxes empty. I went online to look for a picture of a European-style windowbox, so the garden shops would know what I was talking about, and chanced upon a flower farm that specialized in what I learned are called alpine geraniums. They are a particular subspecies of ivy geranium.

Geraniums, of course, are, strictly speaking, pelargoniums. What I wanted were pelargonium peltatum series balcon. I called the farm and had a longish chat with an extremely nice gentleman who shared my enthusiasm for the alpines. He said he was about cleaned out, except for plants which were already spoken for and ready to be shipped, but he thought he could put together enough of one color to serve my purpose. His place, Wheeler Farms, was in Portland, Connecticut--a bit of a drive, but certainly more convenient than Brussels! Two hours later, I was there.

I ended up with 48 mid-cascade pink balcony geraniums and almost as much as I ever wanted to know about this variety. Mr. Bill Larson, the owner, was friendly and helpful, full of information about the botanical origin, propagation, and care of the flowers. To my further delight, he was bemoaning his inability to interest any gardening journals in an article about alpines. Before long, we had hatched a plan to work together to get something published.

The 48 babies have been lovingly tucked into their boxes, and received their first feeding. If food, water, sun, and constant loving thoughts beamed their way can make alpine geraniums bloom as gorgeously in Springfield, Massachusetts as in Brussels, Belgium, I'm about to have a wall worth walking by!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

SO, I am dying to know, did they come out well??? DO you have any pictures.
I too just discovered Wheelers and am so thrilled. We just moved back to the states from Bavaria Germany, and I spent 3 days looking for the right thing.
I passed the link on to a friend of mine and I know that the military spouses of the world that loved Germany as much as we do, will bombard this company with orders... so get yours in if you haven't already. lol.
take care~

12:15 PM  
Blogger Cicily Corbett said...

Yes, Carlene, they were gorgeous. Stupidly, I didn't take any pictures of them. But they were exactly the European effect. I had the mid-cascade, so they weren't extremely long (a longer variety is available from Wheeler's, I believe), but they spilled over the boxes and were very full and airy--exactly like the ones in the picture I posted, which I took in Brussels a couple of years ago. Same color, too.

1:24 PM  
Blogger cspost said...

Apparently, Wheeler's has closed. Do you know of any other vendor for Alpine geraniums? I've been looking for YEARS! Thanks so much. Carol Post

1:15 PM  
Blogger Cicily Corbett said...

Carol, the sale of Wheeler's alpine geraniums has been taken over by Larson's, also in Connecticut. Larson's is run by the nephew of Bill Wheeler, who retired and closed his nursery. Plants may be purchased online or at the nursery, which is located in Woodstock, CT. http://larsonsgeraniums.com/pages/about-us Good luck!

11:03 AM  

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