Posted: Monday 1 July 2013
by James Alexander-Sinclair
I really do not know how I first acquired Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’. All I know is that it was one of the first plants we ever put in our garden, and it is still there.
I really do not know how I first acquired Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’. All I know is that it was one of the first plants we ever put in our garden, and it is still there.
It probably came from my mother-in-law. Many peoples’ first plants come from their mothers - passing on plants seems like a cosily maternal thing to do. I know that my wife has already pressed mint and basil plants upon our children.
Our geranium may not necessarily be the same specimen by now, however, as it has a tendency to seed itself - not profligately, but with a certain restraint. It is a very charming, little blue-flowered geranium. It blooms for a long time and is excellent for little crannies in the front of the border.
Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’ grows to about 30cm tall, and the same across. It is quite spindly to look at, which is deceptive, as it is a tough old sausage, determined to survive by seeding itself into any available crevice. It is one of those plants that does not really like growing in containers for long, so it might be a bit tricky to find unless you get it while it is very small.
The question that has been troubling me is, who is (or was) Bill Wallis? The ‘pyrenaicum’ part of the name is easy – it means that the plant comes from the Pyrenees. But, Bill? He sounds like a bluff old cove, fond of a pint and never without an ounce of Navy Cut ready rubbed tobacco.
I have used the wonder of the internet to try and find out. I found an actor called Bill Wallis, you might recognise his warm, treacly voice, or possibly have seen him playing 'bespectacled lurker' in Brazil (1985), Gaoler Ploppy in Blackadder II, or Archbishop Cranmer in The Other Boleyn Girl.
There is also a Bill Wallis who has a golf tournament in Missouri named after him, and another who is a chiropractor in Ontario, but I seriously doubt whether any of them have much to do with geraniums.
04/10/2013 at 22:45
One of the few flowers growing in my yard. 4 different clumps of it some as big as a car bonnet. Only knew it as Purple Geranium. Got some from my mom and more from a woman i used do a spot of gardening for. Great plant.
05/10/2013 at 23:33
I think it comes into the category of "be careful what you wish for" plants. Like oriental poppies and forgetmenots.
Still, I suppose if you have a spot where nothing else will grow, Bill Wallis is the man to fill it.
Btw, are you from north America or do you really grow it in a yard? It would be tough enough I suppose.
06/10/2013 at 14:36
Sorry for the Americanism, Didn't mean to say that really because it is growing in my lawn. Watching too much US tv.