Woottens 2011 Handbook
I am going to throw myself out there now and admit something deeply uncool. If you are of a sensitive disposition, please look away now. I have a bit of a soft spot for…wait for it…pelargoniums! No, not the loud, brash, blousy, shouty, oh-my-granny-loves-those cultivars of which there are hundreds. I like some of the cultivars but I prefer the more understated (give me some credit!) and delicate species pelargoniums*. I especially love scented-leaved ones. I must say now that I am not fond of pelargoniums as bedding (I am not particularly fond of bedding full stop). It is in pots that I like them most.
The main reason for my affection stems from my time at the Chelsea Physic Garden where they have a collection of pelargoniums – grown both indoors and out. ‘Glasshouse 4’, where they were kept, always smelt divine. It was always a pleasure to work in there. I think the scent of ‘geranium’ oil** is heavenly – maybe because it also partly reminds me of the relaxation and luxuriousness of spa treatments and the smell of aromatherapy.
Last year, to satisfy my pelargonium desire (and to appease the magpie lurking within me), I ordered several from Woottens of Wenhaston. These included P. sidoides, P. triste, P. x ‘Ardens’, P. fruticosum, P. australe and P. ‘Lara Starshine’ (what a fab name!) amongst others. They arrived well packaged and in good condition. I think P. australe ended up working out the best – it looked fantastic in its pot and produced pretty, starry white flowers profusely all summer. Scent-wise I think pelargoniums really come into their own when you have a glasshouse to keep them in – which I sadly do not – and this has also meant that I was not able to over-winter them as we did at CPG. I let them dry out and stuck them in the shed but, as expected, they REALLY didn’t like the stale air in there. We shall see how many survive but I don’t hold out much hope.
At the beginning of February I received a copy of the latest Woottens handbook and finally got round to poring over it in the last couple of days. The 2011 handbook is the ninth to be produced by Michael Loftus (the last was in 2007). His 20 year old plant nursery in Suffolk is particularly known for its auriculas, chrysanthemums, historic bearded irises and pelargoniums amongst other plant collections. Right now he also seems to be very into clivias and hemerocallis too. The catalogue is nicely put together, packed full of useful information and beautiful images – it’s such a pleasure to browse. Whilst I was sent my copy gratuit, I think that at just £5.80 (including postage) it is fantastically good value. It’s perfect bound, printed on good quality paper, well laid-out and a wonderful resource. If you’d like to order a copy it’s available on the Woottens website – just click on the ‘Publications’ link on the home page. Or call 01502 478 258. I know I already have my eye on some Iris sibirica ‘Flight of Butterflies’ – one of my faves! – and yes, perhaps a few more pelargoniums too.
* Pelargoniums (often called geraniums) are not to be confused with the hardy, herbaceous perennial ‘true’ geraniums, which are a separate genus – although they both belong in the Geraniaceae family.
** Geranium oil, important in the fragrance industry, more accurately comes from Pelargonium (often P. graveolens). As well as smelling gorgeous it is a balancing oil (good for hormone imbalances apparently), an antidepressant, antiseptic, an astringent and haemostatic (stops bleeding). In skin care it balances oil production. It also has insect repellant properties. Wow – quite a list of qualities huh? I get my geranium oil from Neal’s Yard and use it in an essential oil burner.
- If you want to know more about pelargoniums and how to grow them read about it on the RHS site here.
- Woottens nursery is open throughout the year. The Display Garden is open every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 9.30am–5pm from the 1st April to the 30th September. Visitors can also see, for free: the Bearded Iris Field (over two acres) between 29 May to 13 June; and the Hemerocallis Field on the second and third weekends in July.
- Michael Loftus is self-taught and opened Woottens in 1990. He previously owned and managed the Neal’s Yard Whole Foods Warehouse in Covent Garden during the 1980s.