26 Oct 2010

On geraniums and delphiniums

The Dormouse and the Doctor

There once was a Dormouse who lived in a bed
Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red),
And all the day long he'd a wonderful view
Of geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue).

A Doctor came hurrying round, and he said:
"Tut-tut, I am sorry to find you in bed.
Just say 'Ninety-nine' while I look at your chest....
Don't you find that chrysanthemums answer the best?"

The Dormouse looked round at the view and replied
(When he'd said "Ninety-nine") that he'd tried and he'd tried,
And much the most answering things that he knew
Were geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue).

The Doctor stood frowning and shaking his head,
And he took up his shiny silk hat as he said:
"What the patient requires is a change," and he went
To see some chrysanthemum people in Kent.

The Dormouse lay there, and he gazed at the view
Of geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue),
And he knew there was nothing he wanted instead
Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red).

The Doctor came back and, to show what he meant,
He had brought some chrysanthemum cuttings from Kent.
"Now these," he remarked, "give a much better view
Than geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue)."

They took out their spades and they dug up the bed
Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red),
And they planted chrysanthemums (yellow and white).
"And now," said the Doctor, "we'll soon have you right."

The Dormouse looked out, and he said with a sigh:
"I suppose all these people know better than I.
It was silly, perhaps, but I did like the view
Of geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue)."

The Doctor came round and examined his chest,
And ordered him Nourishment, Tonics, and Rest.
"How very effective," he said, as he shook
The thermometer, "all these chrysanthemums look!"

The Dormouse turned over to shut out the sight
Of the endless chrysanthemums (yellow and white).
"How lovely," he thought, "to be back in a bed
Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red.)"

The Doctor said, "Tut! It's another attack!"
And ordered him Milk and Massage-of-the-back,
And Freedom-from-worry and Drives-in-a-car,
And murmured, "How sweet your chrysanthemums are!"

The Dormouse lay there with his paws to his eyes,
And imagined himself such a pleasant surprise:
"I'll pretend the chrysanthemums turn to a bed
Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red)!"

The Doctor next morning was rubbing his hands,
And saying, "There's nobody quite understands
These cases as I do! The cure has begun!
How fresh the chrysanthemums look in the sun!"

The Dormouse lay happy, his eyes were so tight
He could see no chrysanthemums, yellow or white.
And all that he felt at the back of his head
Were delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red).

And that is the reason (Aunt Emily said)
If a Dormouse gets in a chrysanthemum bed,
You will find (so Aunt Emily says) that he lies
Fast asleep on his front with his paws to his eyes.

A A Milne

It's kinda hard spending much time in our peaceful spring garden without being reminded of the dormouse. I really do think he'd be much happier in our English Garden than he was in the Chrysanthemum bed from Kent, don't you?

I've always been especially fond of the delphinium. Like the dormouse I love the blue ones best, although I'm not sure whether I prefer the deep and meaningful purply blue or the frivolous clear vibrant blue ones that mimic the colour of the spring sky above.

I first grew them in my student digs in Carlton. It was one of those tiny south facing plots behind a single fronted Victorian terrace in Princes Hill, and I suffered the perennial Melbourne duo of dark and damp as I struggled to establish a very English cottage garden. They were all the rage here in the 80s, remember?

Delphiniums were one of the few plants that grew well. Those, a huge wisteria vine that eventually toppled part of the chimney under its weight and ajuga, which grew rampant and uncontrolled. The delphiniums, at least, were well behaved. Strong, beautiful and tall. Over two metres tall, some of them.

In our Central Victorian garden they've only just begun to flower. I love the way they're mingling with the vibrant crimson of Madame Isaac Perriere and the purple and pink of the larkspurs. I have white and pale purple ones still to bloom. Delicious!

I can't say I'm quite so enamoured of the humble geranium, or pelargonium to give it its real name, but having seen them flowering gloriously en mass in Tuscany and Provence, I am a long way from dismissing them as entirely boring, although I still find their stiff succulent stems do little for me. There were a few struggling on in our garden when we moved here, and I dug them up and put them into pots, which is where you will find them now - in the Children's Garden under the cubby - flowering their little hearts out. The pinkish-red one in the picture is the only one that had a reprieve owing mainly to the fact that it so effectively covered so much of the old corrugated iron side fence that I couldn't bear to remove it.

After enduring so many years of drought I am so glad that it remained. The geranium comes into its own during periods of hot sun and little water - as our Mediterranean friends will attest - and it has flowered away happily with no love and attention from me at all over many years now. The dormouse would certainly have approved. I've managed its blowsy bright red by underplanting it with rosy red roses, Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff' and Crocosmia 'Lucifer'. I remember with fondness an old English gardening friend advising me that "The Bishop always loves being in a bed with Lucifer"!!

My garden always gives me great pleasure at this time of year before the hot summer burns off the blooms. There is so much promise of greatness!

I'll leave you with a view of the first of the roses, the gorgeous overgrown Lorraine Lee, as it smothers the tank stand and threatens to engulf the garage. Sublime.

Much better than yellow chrysanthemums from Kent.


  1. Isn't spring just glorious, I cant help but feel happy when I wander around my garden.

  2. Sigh....
    (In an "English Country Garden" running through my head.)

  3. Just beautiful Jeanne. Loving my garden here too at this time of year. I hadn't heard that poem before - such a cute one! Mel x

  4. Love spring, love flowers (no geraniums or delphiniums here though) and LOVE A.A. Milne.

  5. At this time of the year we are anxiously watching our veggies growing, not delphiniums ~ or roses. *sigh* I'd rather either but you can't eat them. Your garden always loos amazing & lovely.

  6. I adore that poem, reading it was like maple syrup on pancakes :-) Your country garden looks spendid Jeanne and I do hope I can pose in front of those pink roses soon and have my hubby sweep me off my feet. Sorry, I am day dreaming! Actually I have had two coffee's, so that explains it! xxx


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