Geranium 'Rozanne' – Plant of the Centenary!
Over the past few years I have mainly written about edible plants as they are part of my passion for exotic food. Occasionally I have looked at general garden plants but have been a bit remiss in not writing about the Plant of the Century. In 2013 it was the 100th anniversary of the Chelsea Flower Shower and to acknowledge this the Royal Horticultural Society set up a panel of horticultural experts to review the thousands of plants that had been used at the show over the 100 years. They picked the best plant for each decade which resulted in a tope ten list. Geranium ‘Rozanne was released by Adrian Bloom in 2000 and was selected as the best plant for the 1993-2002 decade. These 10 plants were offered to the gardening public and RHS members to pick the best of the best. Over 7000 votes were received and Rozanne came out on top.
Rozanne has all the makings of a great movie. The story of how she came into be has its roots in the mainstay of the gardening community. To us in Australia the UK is the home of traditional perennial gardens and the names of the towns, villages and farms are often magical in their quaintness. Places like Cat’s Bottom, Tiddle Brook and Truelove just tickle the imagination of small romantic villages. Rozanne was born in a private garden called Crooked Acre in the Quantock Hills in Somerset.
The gardens were owned by David and Rozanne Waterer who both had a passion for plants. David was a second generation nurseryman and had spent his working life in the family nursery. The family had a history of breeding and produced some many top class hardy azaleas. Rozanne was also a keen gardener and her love was hard Geraniums. She had a collection over 30 varieties and when they retired from the active work force, she kept collecting seed from a range of crosses. Over time she built up a collection of favourites and also had a great knowledge of the range of flowering options. She knew all the different colours, sizes, shapes and periods of her selections so when this new flower popped up she knew it was special.
The leaves were larger than its neighbours. The flowers were large and of a most vibrant blue. The plant was strong and vigorous and flowered for an extended period. David and Rozanne could see straight away it was a stunner so they took it to one of the UK’s top gardeners, Adrian Bloom. Adrian had a lifetime in growing perennials at his nursery and garden in Bressingham – which is one of the best in the region.
Straight away Adrian saw the potential of this attractive new plant and started working on how to grow and propagate it. He soon found that it was very easy to grow and tolerant of a wide range of conditions found in the local area. It flowered quickly and prolifically over a long period. He planted it out as a river amongst grasses and other perennials where it out performed them all. However life isn’t that easy as he found it very hard to propagate. He could see its huge potential so set about finding a tissue culture laboratory that could rapidly produce some very large numbers.
To show it off to the wider community he used in his 2000 Chelsea Flower Show exhibit where it was an instant hit. It was protected under European PVR rules and then protected in USA and most other western countries. It quickly moved around the world and within a few years was achieving awards across the world. The highlights of these were the 2006 RHS Garden Merit award, 2008 Plant of the Year for the Perennial Plant Association and then RHS’s plant of the decade (1993/2002) and the Plant of the Century. From the humble beginnings as a selected seedling of Geranium himalaense crossed withGeranium wallichianum ‘Buxton’s Variety’ in 1989 Rozanne has become one of the world’s best plants.
It first came to Australia in late 2000 and was presented for sale in 2001. There were some problems with initial production and marketing and it went off the market for a couple of years before being reintroduced in 2004 by Larkman Nurseries. Over time many people have tried to propagate it in volume but it has always been hard. All the modern plants start life in a tissue laboratory in South Africa or Holland. Over the last ten years more than 60,000 plants have been sold across Australia.
Rozanne is rounded perennial growing to about 40cm tall and 90cm wide with green lobed leaves growing on wispy stems coming from a central clump. The stunning flowers start in early to mid summer and keep flowering right through to late autumn. In some sub tropical regions it virtually flowers all year. The hot dry summer and frosty winter months will stop flowering but the plant still retains an attractive form. The 5 petaled flowers are large for a true Geranium at 5cm across and are a vibrant violet blue with purple veins and a smoky white centre.
In the colder climates it may die right back to a dormant rhizome whilst in milder regions it will continue to put out fresh green foliage from the central stem. For best appearance the older leaves should be cut back as they start to age. Once it is well established a hard cut back of all the foliage in early to mid winter will create a tight and strong plant. Being a quick growing plant it responds well to regular applications of a general purpose fertiliser.
Rozanne does well across most of Australia and makes a stunning Autumn display. It can be planted singly in hanging baskets or large pots or as a large clump in a perennial garden. It looks stunning planted as a ‘river’ through the home or commercial garden. It is sold through a range of wholesale growers across the country and is now available in most good garden centres.