8th October 2016
When I first agreed to undertake the write up for this meeting, the original speaker from Thompson and Morgan was scheduled; then the Chairman’s email arrived with details of the change of speaker and my heart sank into my muddy gardening shoes. Our new speaker was Ken Abel, an expert on Pelargoniums who has been described as “the UK’s best grower of show Pelargoniums”. Why my reaction? My problem is that I dislike Pelargoniums; I regard the modern hybrids as garish and ugly and some of them even have a horrible smell. They are grown by the million in in vast greenhouses; take over garden centres early in the spring to be planted with high expectations and thrown out at the end of the season. They are typical of the horrors of modern factory horticulture with its by-products of pollution and waste.
However, a promise is a promise, so I turned up to the meeting with my notebook and pen at the ready and prepared to be converted. Mr Abel gave us a comprehensive account of his methods of growing pelargoniums for showing. He starts his cuttings in coir compost, which he buys in blocks, mixed with more conventional composts and raises the small plants in 2 inch pots. Cuttings are taken all year around as bottom heat is available. He deliberately restricts the root growth of the plant to increase the top growth to maximise the impact of the show plants.
Mr Abel advised on composts used as the plants approach show size as well as the treatment of any problems. Feeding was highly specialised to correct any deficiencies and liquid seaweed was used as a stimulant to bring the plants to their best before a show. Most plants are discarded after 4 – 5 years as they become too woody. We were shown a large selection of his prize winning plants which were grown and manicured as show performers. They can be grown as fans, as standards or balls and also be trained as bonsai plants which were both intriguing and attractive. He said that his favourite show was the Yorkshire Pelargonium Show where his plants have carried off every available prize.
I did not change my mind about Pelargoniums but I can admire Mr Abel’s dedication and passion for his plants. He spares no effort in the raising and showing and the results are plants that reach the highest standards of perfection. For those of you who enjoy growing Pelargoniums (and long may you continue to do so), I would recommend Mr Abel’s Website – www.prize-pelargoniums.com which is a mine of information on all aspects growing and showing Pelargoniums.