Denver, Memorial and Pelargonium

By Wayne Handlos, Ph.D.

In June, Diane and I went to Denver, Colorado, to attend the memorial “program”

for Erne Shubert, wife of Diane’s college botany professor at the University of Denver.


Erne passed away at the age of 98. She and her husband,

Moras, 99, organized her memorial service on what would

have been their 73rd wedding anniversary, on June 11, 2011.

After a very enlightening and entertaining program of history, poetry,

music, reminiscences and corrections (by Moras), light refreshments of Erne’s

favorite foods (white chocolate popcorn, olives, sweet pickles, spicy nuts, peanut

butter sandwiches, brie on crackers, rhubarb dessert squares) were served.


                          Conservatory at the Denver Botanic Gardens

To read about the history of Denver Botanic Gardens, see Fourish, A Visionary Garden of the American West


Moras Shubert was active in the establishment and development (and continues on

the Board of Directors to this day) of the Denver Botanic Gardens. We have visited

the Botanic Garden on several occasions over the years. The large conservatory is

its most distinctive feature. However, in recent years many funds have been obtained

to enlarge and revamp several features of the facility. So, in the social time

after Erne’s “program” we met one of their long-term friends, Bob Graham

(generous supporter of the Denver Botanic Gardens and other cultural organizations

in Colorado) now 90 years old who insisted on giving us a personal tour of the renovated

facilities. His knowledge of plants was encyclopedic dating from his days

working in nurseries to earn money for his college education.


The gardens were in full bloom with the late spring and early summer perennials

and shrubs like hardy geraniums, peonies, iris and roses to name just a few. We

enjoyed an hour’s walk (he called it his 90 year shuffle) around much of the garden

admiringthe plant varieties in many families from many areas of the world.


                                                                      ‘Mini Karmine’                                 ‘Monco’

The high-lights were the plantings of Pelargonium in the South African Plaza. All of the

Pelargoniums were planted in large, shallow bowls and made a most interesting display.

The most common plants were P. sidoides, P. ionidiflorum and a cultivar called ‘Mini Karmine’

(which I suspect is an interspecific hybrid of those two species). There were also containers of

a dark orange flowered plant similar to P. acetosum, as well as P. inquinans, P. gibbosum and

P. tongaense. The most intriguing plant was labeled ‘Monco’ and appears to be another pretty,

pink and white flowered, trailing interspecific hybrid (of indeterminate heritage) with glossy divided

leaves. Only one regal cultivar was seen (and with the high night temperatures this is not a

great climate for this type of plant).


Before returning to California, we met with two of the Garden’s horticulturists

(Dan Johnson and Mike Bone) who gave us a behind-the-scenes look at some of

these plants. The Garden personnel were very helpful in assisting us and welcome

future contacts. They will also identify several additional plants of unlabelled

Pelargoniums growing in the Garden. If you are ever in Denver, be sure to check out

the Denver Botanic Gardens.