The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

Bloomin' Erodiums


All the plants in the garden are now snug under two and a half feet of insulating snow. In a heated section of my garage is my plantroom where I have all my not-so-hardy geraniums, which includes some Atlantic island species, some South African varieties, a few hybrids with New Zealand blood in them, and a selection of erodiums.

Among the erodiums moved indoors are some newer (to me) varieties (mostly of the petraeum group), that I’m not sure about the hardiness of. Once I have some seedlings of those, I will feel safer testing some in-ground for the winter. We have already had temperatures of –28C, but I’m sure they were no where near that cold under all the snow. It is really late spring cold that I worry about, after the snow cover is gone in early April.

I also brought in a few very late germinating geranium seedlings, as I figure that tiny seedlings germinating in late October (in pots) would not survive the winter. I also had a seedling, from a seed scheme, of Erodium malacoides that I brought in, as it was just ready to bloom. Being an annual, I figured that I need it to produce seed to keep it going. I’ve found very little information on this plant. The blooms are a lot smaller than I expected. It can be hard to judge the scale from many flower photos. This seems like it is a weedy species with flowers more or less the size of Herb Robert.

Erodium malacoides is one of three erodiums that are blooming now, indoors. Erodium ‘William Bishop’ (formerly known as ‘Bishop’s Form’ – more on this in comments) always blooms continually for me throughout the winter indoors, under lights. For the second winter, I have Erodium trifolium (which came from a seed scheme as E. pelargoniifolium) flowering. Of course having blooming plants to play with, I have to get out my artist’s brush and start dabbing pollen around. I understand that E. trifolium is not big on self pollination.

Last winter I tried to set seed on ‘William Bishop’ as no seed had formed in the garden. I did not realize at the time that it is sterile. I had really good success getting seed on E. trifolium last winter. I also got to play with a new little tweezer/magnifier tool that I had gotten for Christmas. The stamens fall off very easy when touched by a brush, so grasping them with tweezers to pollinate other plants works very well.

Since I had beaks forming on E. trifolium, I tried some of the trifolium pollen on a ‘William Bishop’. I did get a beak to form, although it produced only one seed.

I put the single seed in a safe location at the end of last winter… So safe that I forgot what I had done with it! Not too long ago I found it and sowed the single seed. I now have an interesting seedling that is growing quite well.

I assume that most of the non-ferny leaved erodiums are closely related. This is information that is hard to find.

I also have a trough brought indoors with Erodium stephanianum and E. atlanticum, both from seed exchanges. E. atlanticum flowered well outdoors and I did get a few seeds, but I’m not sure about it’s hardiness. I’d love to know if anyone has tried it in a USDA zone 4 climate. I think E. stephanianum is another of the annuals, so it had to come in as it had not bloomed yet.

Finding hardiness information on erodiums can be a challenge. Much of what I find is written with the UK in mind and their new hardiness ratings are not of much value for Canada. In terms of where the plants grow naturally, the elevations are often mentioned, but not the minimum temperatures. Oh well, it is this challenge that keeps it so interesting.

More blog posts by bowl_you

Previous post: All the best for the holidays

Next post: Not only for geraniums



Wow... what a contrast between the freezing conditions you have outdoors, and the warmth of your plant room.

I hadn't realised that Bishop's Form had changed its name to William Bishop. When did that happen ?

I love that photo of atlanticum ... very pretty !

Thanks, John ...... interesting blog.

7 Jan, 2014


I love atlanticum too. Perhaps in time you will be the one writing the definitive book on erodiums...

7 Jan, 2014


Marvellous blog. The dry cold of Canada is a contrast to our wet cold in England, would affect plants too.
Our Herb Robert is a tough plant, never gives up, seeds all over my garden, I hate pulling them up, but it has to be done.

8 Jan, 2014


Very interesting blog I to love your atlanticum....
Thats a very handy tool, not seen one of those before.
Thank goodness we're having a mild winter here, so far, even got a bit of border tidying done today, this afternoon I'm thinking of getting the daylily seeds started in the fridge, by the time they sprout it should be getting near spring!!!!

8 Jan, 2014


Simbad, the tool is one of many interesting things found in quilting/fabric shops. Brenda is a quilter, and I always check out their various tools.

Terratoonie, the story on the 'William Bishop' name is new, and I found it interesting, as I played a minor role in it. It turns out that the common name of 'Bishop's Form', that has been used for decades for a selection of Erodium x variable (a cross between E. reichardii and E. corsicum) is not a valid name form, and David Victor (the geraniaceae registrar) was going to give it the acceptable name of 'The Bishop'. I had read of this in the journal of the Hardy Geranium Group or the Geraniaceae Group Newsletter, so I adopted the new name in my writings. I had been writing to a well-known geranium/erodium grower in England, Allan Robinson, of Sutton Bridge (north of the Fens of East Anglia), and as it turns out, Allan knew more about the naming of this plant. He knew it was named after a Mr. Bishop who was in charge of a rock garden at St. John's College in Oxford (around the early 1940s). Allan pointed out that calling it 'The Bishop' was like taking a plant named for me (John Beaulieu) and calling it 'The Beaulieu'! Allan and David were in touch and did more research to find the full name of William Bishop. This will now be the official name when David Victor publishes the new Erodium Register. I like to do my best in using the correct names, as there are so many wrong or confusing variations of erodium and geranium names out there.

The other top wrong naming involves that Erodium trifolium pictured in this blog. If you google Erodium pelargoniiflorum, about 90 percent of the images shown are in fact E. trifolium. Growers continue to send seed of E. trifolium to seed exchanges under the name of E. pelargoniiflorum.

There, I made a short story long!
John in the deep freeze thanks to something called an artic vortex.

8 Jan, 2014


Hope your weather improves soon.

8 Jan, 2014


Hi again John ..

Thanks for the very interesting history of the William Bishop name ... certainly in my garden I have several small erodium which were labelled Bishop's Form when purchased a few years ago .. I must give them new labels !

Well done on your part in the naming of Willam Bishop ..

and please don't send the Arctic Vortex to the UK ;o)

8 Jan, 2014


Thanks for that John, of course!!!! should have realised it would be something crafty lol, I have a large magnifying glass to hang round my neck when doing my cross stitching, eyesights not what it used to be, I'll have a look next time I go in our local craft shop :-)

9 Jan, 2014


Just heard a funny thing on the radio. It turns out the cold air mass (that has just moved back up north) is called a 'polar' vortex... And I'm sure everyone around the world has heard of the antics of the Toronto Mayor. The radio said that although the Polar Vortex has now moved on, Toronto still has their Bi-polar Vortex!

After a stretch of -28C type temperatures we are now heading to +8 and rain tomorrow! Not good for the couple feet of snow on the roof... and I was hoping to start my winter-sowing in pots. I guess I have more pressing work to deal with.

10 Jan, 2014


Keep safe, John in all that melting snow ...
and look out for Polar bears ;o)

10 Jan, 2014

Add a comment

Featured on

Recent posts by bowl_you

Members who like this blog

  • Gardening with friends since
    14 Aug, 2008

  • Gardening with friends since
    9 Aug, 2009

  • Gardening with friends since
    17 Jan, 2012

  • Gardening with friends since
    3 Sep, 2009