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What’s New in Preservation?

June 30, 2021 Published By Julie Arrison-Bishop

The Mrs. Lawrence geranium has been a standout feature in our historic gardens for over 60 years.

Early History

This flower is a historic favorite in the Gold Coast gardens of the North Shore of Massachusetts but their history reaches back to England in the early 1800s. Many estates and castles had their own nurseries and greenhouses and often competed to see who could grow better plants and flowers for local shows. The Mrs. Lawrence variety made its first appearance in England around 1820 as did the Mrs. Lawrence rose.

It’s not clear how they ended up a local favorite, but their popularity was no mystery. This special geranium was frequently used in border gardens and was known to grow over two feet tall. For generations, Magnuson’s of Manchester-by-the-Sea exclusively sold these hardy flowers to local gardeners who used them to add one-of-a-kind color to gardens all over the area.

Saving a Piece of Horticultural History

Tyler Malik is the third generation to keep the historic Mrs. Lawrence geraniums in bloom exclusively for The House of the Seven Gables.

Ray McGuire of Chapman’s Greenhouses in Beverly Farms, Mass. stands in front of the flower variety he helped to save.

Though it fares well against the seaside elements, this geranium variety is prone to disease. In the mid-1980s, the flowers were nearly lost. Dan Foley, and longtime gardener at The Gables and his then-assistant Robyn Kantor, contacted Flora Roland Hodges of Nahant. She also cultivated the Mrs. Lawrence variety and the team was able to acquire cuttings to start a new generation of plantings.

For the past 40 years, Robyn has been working with Chapman’s Greenhouse in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, to keep this rare variety in cultivated in a greenhouse and eventually in bloom in our historic gardens. Three generations of the family – Ray McGuire, Colleen Malik, and Tyler Malik – have kept this piece of horticultural history alive. Though there are challenges and off-years, these iridescent pink beauties exclusively adorn our gardens year after year thanks to a passionate garden and greenhouse team.

Next time you take a stroll in our gardens be sure to give a nod to the Mrs. Lawrence geraniums and our staff members who care so deeply about the authentic, historic experience on our site.

 

This post was written by Julie Arrison-Bishop