Pelargonium ‘Crystal Palace Gem’

The only good thing that can be said about winter (just for the record: I’m not a skier and I don’t have a garage) is that it hasn’t been as brutal as usual. Yet. But if you’re reduced to tallying the survivable aspects of a season — that’s saying something right there. And at the top of the short list of things that get us through the dark ages — there’s ‘Crystal Palace Gem’.

I like relics. Okay, I don’t fall for something just because it’s been around forever — it should have some other redeemable qualities. But I’ve always been fond of old things (I won’t mention names). And in that category of the plant world, Pelargonium ‘Crystal Palace Gem’ certainly qualifies.

Introduced in 1869 during the heat of the fancy-leaf geranium craze, it rode the crest right along with the tricolors ‘Happy Thought’ (1877) and ‘Mrs. Henry Cox’ (1879). And the fact that it survived is a testimony to its fortitude. It also says a lot about this plant’s charms. Think about how rapidly trends come and go in the gardening world (or in the fashion or entertainment world, for that matter). And then count up the cultivars with staying power. Bet you haven’t used up the fingers on one hand yet.

There’s a lot to love with ‘Crystal Palace Gem’. On mine, some leaves revert to a golden pea green. But the standard is irregularly striped leaves with green and chartreuse marbling. And furthermore, those leaves are neatly stacked on a shapely plant, even in low light. (That said, given its druthers, it would prefer a bright east, west, or south window.) And have I ever seen this plant wilt? No. Has it ever complained? Or come down with mealybugs? Never. But right about now, it’s those shocking red flowers that get me through the doldrums.

Try. Just try to walk by this plant in January with your typical winter scowl in place. Can’t be done. You’ll be humming Tiptoe through the Tulips in no time. Tiny Tim, we miss you.

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12 Responses to Pelargonium ‘Crystal Palace Gem’

  1. usually I read your postings nodding in agreement with all, but alas I am a New Englander to the very bone and love my winters as much as my springs falls and summers. The snow falling when I awoke brought forth my standard smile and wish to cozy up here, which is what I am doing reading blogs and about to settle in and knit for a spell. The Crystal palace , is , as most of your plant profiles, a gem, (tee-hee) and you are right about how a flowering indoor plant does so much to cheer us when days are dark.I do not have it, my collection is limited to one un-named but beautiful pink , and a whole lot of scented leaf varieties ( Attar of Rose, Lemon Crispum, Apple, the list goes on and on) and one rub of a leaf brings on the same smile as the snow! Love the leaves on this one and will keep an eye out for it

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Well, you’ve got a point, Cheryl. The white blanket is infinitely more becoming than vast oceans of brown, I’ll give you that. And I wouldn’t abandon New England on the basis of its ghastly weather from Dec-March for all the flowers in the tropics. But unlike you, I count the days — no, I count the hours — until spring bulbs begin to pop. The fact that they need winter prior to popping is lost on me. You mentioned Apple. Instead, I would recommend the hybrid between Apple and Nutmeg — ‘Logeei’ alias ‘Old Spice’ — it has the best traits of both. Mine is thumbing its nose at the bleak skies as we speak.

  2. I’m so glad you didn’t mention any names but it is true that it takes one to know one, and I know a good relic when I see it! How could those flowers fail to have an effect on winter scowls? But I do agree with Cheryl… watched bulbs never pop and there’s a lot of winter enjoyment to be had out there before Spring arrives. Can you maybe tell by my attitude that I didn’t have much shoveling to do with today’s latest snow storm, and no pipes have burst within the past 48 hours?

    • Tovah Martin says:

      I can tell from your smirk that you’ve got a barn full of hay, Joe. But I’ll stick by my guns (what an expression!). I notice that there are two factions in New England. Those who have garages and those who don’t. It’s a great divide. Next spring, I’m sure that I’ll discover the perils of 2 winter months of bare ground. In the meantime, my lower lumbar is dancing a jig.

  3. Lisa from PA says:

    What a color! Love it, love it , love it! The staining on the leaves is just mesmerizing. By the way, my Logee’s catalog arrived in today’s mail~ something nice to read along with a cup of tea. Not to rub it in, but my husband used the snowblower to clear the driveway today and when he was all done, came in through our two car heated garage! Scowl away! 🙂

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Am I envious? No way. On the other hand, my aching back is green. A few more storms, and I might be back in shape just in time for digging holes. About the color = Do you believe that Gertrude Jekyll launched a poison pen attack against this very shade of red? Her goal was to overthrow pelargoniums from the face of the earth. Ever see a picture of GJ? Talk about a scowl…Her boots looked better than she did, and happier.

  4. Lee May says:

    Heyyy, Tovah, there’s an expression where I come from, one used when somebody says something that one thinks is aimed at one: “A hit dog hollers.” That one would be me. OK, I love winter, even though I’m a born Southerner. I even loved wind-battered, snow-plagued Cleveland when I did time there back in the ’70s. Too, I have a garage, detached, the kind bonsai prefer in winter – if we have winter again. But, I also love geraniums. Love ’em for their blah-fighting, their fragrance and beauty, as you so elegantly note. One more thing: I’m also old, with qualities that may or may not be redeemable.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Hey Lee, I’m just home from your former stomping ground — flew into Atlanta and gave it the glad hand for you before heading to Callaway Gardens to lecture last week. Yeah, I’ve seen pix of your garage = doesn’t look like there’s room for the car wedged between the bonsai. Now you’ve got me wondering = Have you ever tried bonsai-ing some of the geranium species? There are some winter blooming South African species would be dynamite, I bet, like P. echinatum with a little heart on every flower petal and P. gibbosum with its knotty stems would be genius. Lee, you’re like a fine wine — you just get better.

  5. Lee May says:

    Welcome back, and thank you for giving my best to ‘Lanter. On the bonsai, of course we’d both have that idea, kin that we are. Yes I have, and yes, I did. Coupla months ago I found a downtrodden no-name, knotty-stemmed, citrus-scented little geranium that I bought for virtually nothing. I pruned it severely (no surprise, huh) and am now awaiting its development, admiring it as I do. Thanks on the wine analogy, Tovah. Not a cheap one, I trust.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      I got the crash course in pronunciation, Lee. Albany will never be the same (All Bane eeee?). I know, I know — some of those little geraniums look like they’re suffering from severe arthritis (or worse) but you can’t help but love ’em. Not cheap wine for sure, you’ve matured to the full bouquet.

  6. balsamfir says:

    Does it get really really big? I have a geranium I got from a friend who got it 20 years ago from a elderly country woman who’d had it forever(this means likely at least 40-60 years of potting on). It roots easily, gets at least 30-40 inches tall in my south window before I wheel it out doors and break it in the process every spring, and it blooms all the time, winter and summer. In summer, with more sun, the leaves shrink to normal geranium size. Its an almost florescent red that reminds me of bad 60’s lipstick. I wonder if its the same plant, reverted to green leaves?

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Sounds like someone’s geranium got the upper hand. Are you going to let this botanical bully muscle you out of house and home? I don’t care how much lipstick it has on = you’ve got to stand your ground. This monster needs some serious disciplining with pruning shears (and it will be a better plant as a result). But I don’t think that the culprit is ‘Crystal Palace Gem’ — it’s got tighter growth and even the reverted version tends to be totally chartreusy-apple green.

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