Hi, Jennifer Stackhouse here with my first blog for GardenDrum! I’m a great believer in having lots of colour and action right outside my kitchen windows. When I work from home I am usually to be found not in the office, but sitting at the kitchen bench with my eyes partly on the computer screen and partly on what’s happening outside in the garden.
We get lots of birds here. There are butcherbirds, bowerbirds and kookaburras who visit along with the ubiquitous noisy miners and pee wees – or you may know them as mud larks. Magpies too stop by regularly as well as doves, wood ducks, the odd heron and choughs (pronounced chuffs). Oh and don’t forget the coots and the plovers.
These birds visit to graze on our lawns and paddocks, to raid the nectar-rich flowers in the garden or to eat some of our myriad insects. They’re also dropping by to check out the pet bowls, steal the dog’s bone or have a drink of water.
In summer there are also lots of lizards. They alternate between basking on the warm stones of our raised garden beds to also sneaking down to steal the dog bones.
Those dog bones are really popular and I’ve never ever seen them on any list of things to have in your garden to attract wildlife!
But, right now, beyond the window where it’s a bit cold and bleak, it is the ‘Big Red’ that’s taken my eye. No, it is not a bird, or a kangaroo, or a juicy bone and it’s not a bottle of tomato sauce!
‘Big Red’ is a hybrid geranium, and it is one of the best and most exciting plants I’ve ever grown. It’s a surprise winter bloomer on my doorstep.
This plant is an exuberant cross between the common zonal geranium and the trailing ivy geranium. Ivy geraniums are generally more disease resistant than zonals, but zonals produce the best flowers.
And this cross between these two different geranium species seems to have combined the best from both plants.
This interspecific hybrid (that is, a hybrid between two species) was developed in the United States where it is sold as ‘Calliope’. Or should that be Calliope – I never know!
I do know she was a daughter of Zeus and the muse of epic poetry. But, back to gardening matters.
I’m growing ‘Big Red’ in hanging baskets and right now they are giving me a bold show of red flowers and lush green leaves that is brightening the general grey of winter. The baskets have come back into bloom after their autumn prune. This unseasonably early flowering has been helped along by regular doses of liquid fertiliser.
Like all geraniums, this one grows very well from cutting so, if you can find a plant, let it grow then cut it back to provide yourself with lots of potential new plants. The reason I say if you can find a plant is that it was first released solely through Bunnings so it was a bit hard to find at nurseries but it should be more widely available now and particularly this spring.
My plants have already given up many progeny to eager gardeners who I hope are now enjoying their own cascading baskets of ‘Big Red’ geranium.