Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sandra's Garden: Vancouver's Centennial





Species name: Pelargonium x hortorum 'Vancouver Centennial'

Common name: 'Vancouver Centennial' geranium

Location: Sandra's garden

Geraniums themselves (not real geraniums, of course, but Pelargonium plants) are incredibly popular garden plants around the world. I've blogged about a red-flowering cultivar already, and you can read all about it HERE. This cultivar, however, is a special type of hybrid that has then been selectively bred for leaf shape and leaf colour. The first time I had ever seen this specific cultivar was in Sandra's garden. Since then, I've seen it literally everywhere I've looked. Isn't it funny how things like that happen? Someone brings your attention to something, then you start noticing it a lot more often.

Contrary to what you might think, this cultivar was not created in Canada (despite being named after Canada's famous Vancouver, not one of the United States' many, many Vancouvers) but in the United States. Rumor has it that it was named in honor of Vancouver's 100th birthday, which would have officially been in 1986 (the city was officially incorporated using the name "Vancouver" in 1886; prior to that it was Gastown which was settled in 1867 and grew to become the town of Granville until the renaming in 1886). I'm not sure if this is true or not, but a nice story. The leaf shape was selected by growers to minimize the "frilling" that can be seen in most geranium cultivars, and the leaf colour was selected based on the maximum amount of red that could be bred into the plant until it was no longer healthy and couldn't survive. Leaves are green for a reason; the pigments in the leaves responsible for photosynthesis (the creation of sugar from carbon dioxide, water and light energy) end up giving the leaf its green colour. If you maximize the amount of pigments other than chlorophyll you end up decreasing the plant's ability to make its own sugar, resulting in a weakened plant. At the end of the day, the amount of green and reddish pigment balance that optimized a visually-pleasing leaf but also enough green to maintain the plant's photosynthetic ability was about half-and-half: the green around the border of the leaf and the red on the inside. The decreased frill also ended up with a leaf that is strikingly similar to a maple leaf, giving this plant its other common name: the maple-leaved geranium.

Like many non-native plants, this cultivar of geranium is incredibly slow-growing (which is unlike many of its relatives which are fast-growing) and very sensitive to too much and too little water. Until the plant becomes established in the soil, periods of drought can be seriously detrimental to the health of the plant. Once established, flooding and standing water are its biggest enemies. Surprisingly, this cultivar is much more cold-tolerant than its relatives so will last further into the fall than the average geranium will. It is still frost-sensitive and definitely won't tolerate snowfall or freezing, so there is no need to worry about the potential for becoming invasive (at least in Canada).