The Scarlet Geranium
Victorians loved their ‘geraniums’ – a very general name which people then, as now, also used to include pelargoniums. Hibberd carefully explained that Pelargoniums (or storkbills, which their seed pods resembled) mostly came from the Cape of Good Hope, while geraniums were mostly herbs of Europe. The most prominent native British geranium was the ‘merry little herb Robert of the mountains’ (Geranium Robertianum) and the sedate but very lovely blue geranium of the valleys (G. pratense).
Whatever the Victorians actually called them, it was the pelargonium which they used so extensively in their gardens. They generally planted out two major classes of the pelargonium, the Pelargonium speciosum which was characterized by their wrinkled and deeply notched green leaves, and the P. zonale, ‘a somewhat ugly thing’, with coarse leaves distinctly zoned and narrow-petalled flowers so that they were often referred to as windmills.
Seedlings of pelargoniums were generally easily raised, and pelargoniums (or geraniums) were one of the staples of the Victorian flower bed.
Information and image taken from F. Edward Hulme and Shirley Hibberd, Familiar Garden Flowers (Cassell, Peter, Galpin and Co.: London: c. 1890), 5 vols.