Now it might seem a little early in the season to be featuring a geum, as these lovely little plants are more likely to be at their best in April and May, rather in the latter part of the coldest February we have known here in Hampshire for quite some years. However, a chance glimpse of some hardy little specimens of Geum Bell Bank putting out sprays of optimistic buds encouraged us to give them a mention here on our blog.
The story of Geum Bell Bank is an interesting one. Back in the 1980s, when the world was a younger place, the legendary plantsman Geoffrey Smith was presenter of BBC Gardeners’ World and a forthright panelist on Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time. He had his own garden near Harrogate in his native Yorkshire and there he, at some point in that decade, developed the variety of geum that is named after the stream in his garden, either by natural crossing of Geum rivale with Geum chiloense or perhaps by deliberate crossing with Geum borisii. Whatever the uncertainty about its origins, Bell Bank is a charming plant, with coppery pink frilled double flowers over a long period into early summer. But then, mysteriously, Bell Bank slipped out of cultivation for a number of years, only returning after its being rediscovered in the late 1990s, when a plant in the possession of one of Smith’s former work colleagues was sent in for identification to the then holder of the national collection. It was identified as Bell Bank from a sketch in one of Smith’s books, and since then Bell Bank has regained its rightful place in the catalogue of geums and, more importantly, in people’s gardens.
There are many other lovely varieties of geum now available, with much breeding and development in recent years, including the now well known Cocktail series. The national collection is held at Brickwall Cottage Garden in Kent – see this link – and a large number of new introductions have been made on the nursery there.
Geum Bell Bank is available to buy from the Paddock Plants website using this link.
Rob and Joanna – February 2018