Here’s Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’ blooming beside our little pond. This is its third summer, and it has filled in nicely and formed an attractive clump. Macrorrhizum geraniums are sometimes called Bigroot cranesbills and are native to the southeast alps and the Balkans. Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’ does well in shade and tolerates dry conditions. Incidentally, hardy geraniums, or cranesbills, are quite unlike the annuals we call geraniums, which are really pelergoniums. However, both do belong to the family Geraniaceae.
Gardeners owe a debt of gratitude to the plantsmen and women who discovered or hybridized many of our most popular garden plants. You will probably find some of them commemorated in the names of plants in your own yard, and ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’ is a good example.
Walter Ingwersen (W.E.Th. Ingwersen 1883-1960) was born in Hamburg and moved to England before World War I, where he opened a nursery. He later went into partnership with Clarence Elliott at Six Hills Nursery. In 1927, he founded Birch Farm Nursery, in East Grinstead, West Sussex, England. In addition to running the nursery, Walter went on plant-hunting expeditions with his son Will. His younger son, Paul, eventually joined the business and ran Birch Farm nursery until he retired in 2008. The Ingwersens were alpine plant enthusiasts, and Will wrote the Manual of Alpine Plants, published in 1978. Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’ is their best-known namesake.