Geum Mrs J Bradshaw
Ursula Buchan to the rescue again, writing in The Telegraph on 7th June 2003, with far more information than I could pithily relate on this charming perennial. No biography of Mrs B though.
Some plants just have everything that a gardener could require: good looks, long flowering season, trouble-free personality and hardiness. Yet the gardener may still not be aware of them. One plant that is sometimes ignored – quite unfairly – is Geum ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’.’Mrs B’ will flower from mid-May until late summer, adding brightness to any warm planting scheme and retreating unobtrusively into the background when the flowering is done. She only needs staking in a very exposed position, will live for many years provided that she is regularly divided and she comes true from seed. What is more, she is very pretty.Geum ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’ has a basal rosette of hirsute, bright-green leaves, with sparsely placed, deeply cut leaves on the hairy 24in-tall stems.
Geums are members of the Rosaceae family and have its characteristic bowl-shaped flowers. They are carried in erect clusters at the top of the branching stems, are semi-double, about 2in across and are a clear deep-scarlet colour enhanced by the central yellow stamens.
From a distance, these flowers look like strong red blotches seemingly suspended above the ground. (They closely resemble the flowers of the ornamental quince, Chaenomeles japonica ‘Crimson On Gold’.) They come in a tremendous flush in May and June but continue to appear for most of the summer, especially if the spent heads are cut off. This capacity to flower for a long time makes the geum an excellent anchorage plant, unifying a planting scheme consisting of more ephemeral flowers.
I have not been able to discover (perhaps a reader knows?) who ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’ was or is but her namesake has been on the scene for many years. She is a selection or hybrid from Geum chiloense, a species from Chile that was introduced to this country in 1826.
The geum most usually associated with this one is G. ‘Lady Stratheden’, which has semi-double, pure-yellow flowers. There are also a number of bright-orange geums on the market, in particular ‘Dolly North’ and ‘Fire Opal’, as well as the shorter-stemmed ‘Georgenburg’, ‘Coppertone’ and Geum ‘Borisii’. Other attractive plants available include some selections of the Water Avens, Geum rivale, in particular ‘Leonard’s Variety’ and ‘Cream Drop’.
Geums like a fertile soil enriched with well-rotted organic matter which won’t dry out too much in summer. A position in either full sun or light shade suits them. Place them towards the front of the border since you can see through their flower stems to plants behind. They should be divided from time to time to keep them from dying out; this is done either in autumn or early spring. Alternatively, since ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’ and ‘Lady Stratheden’ invariably come from seed they can be propagated easily if sown in autumn in a tray and put in a cold frame to overwinter.
Generally, geums do not suffer from pest or disease damage, although occasionally the leaves are chewed by sawfly larvae. The remedy, as with gooseberries, is
derris, sprayed when the damage is first spotted.
For myself, I would rather not put ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’ together with ‘Lady Stratheden’, tempting as it is, since they flower at the same time. The mix of clear red and bright yellow is too blatant, too reminiscent of mass municipal plantings of tulips. Instead, for a warm association in early summer, put ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’ with one of the more orange cultivars, such as Geum ‘Georgenburg’ or, better still, with Euphorbia griffithii ‘Dixter’, whose orange flower-bracts and copper-bronze foliage tone very well, and whose habit is more solid than that of the geum.This plant also looks very good, particularly when it first flowers, with the wallflower Cheiranthus ‘Blood Red’, and later with the scarlet Lychnis chalcedonica and the purple-leaved, red-flowered Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’. Phormium tenax ‘Purpurea’ provides both contrast in leaf shape and habit, as well as a satisfyingly sumptuous harmony of colours. If you want to play safe, combine ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’ with Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’, which has similar flowers but grey-green leaves and a more compact habit.
Thank you, once again, Ursula Buchan