As a number of my readers may remember, earlier this year I posted a story titled A Peale, a Plant, and a Pot, about finding a clay pot modeled after one containing a geranium that appears in the portrait of Rubens Peale, painted by his brother Rembrandt Peale in 1801, in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. In the post I described a trip that Boy and I made to the studio of potter Guy Wolff, who made the pot--known as a Peale pot--to purchase it in several sizes (along with a number of his other beautiful pots and vessels). And where, serendipitously, I received a gift of a cutting of the geranium that appears in the painting, given to me by Erica Wolff, Guy's wife and business partner. For the Wolffs had been given a cutting of it by the horticultural curator at Monticello, who did so when he learned that the Wolffs were making such a pot. Apparently, Thomas Jefferson had received a cutting of the geranium from Rubens Peale, and its offspring resided in the collection at Monticello. So, not only did I come away from the Wolff studio with a Peale pot, but I also came away with a cutting of the very geranium depicted in the painting. It was all so deliciously--and unexpectedly--six degrees of separation.
But in Reggie's case it was not six degrees that separated him from Rubens Peale, but only three: the Wolffs, Monticello's horticultural curator, and Thomas Jefferson. Well, maybe--Reggie isn't exactly clear about what happened to the geranium between Thomas Jefferson's death and when it was then passed on to the Wolffs. But he is happy not to delve too deeply into that because he likes the story as it is just fine, thank you.
And I am pleased to show you my Peale-potted geranium several months later, sporting its very first flowering. It is now well established and has put on a lot of growth over the summer. I had been warned by Mrs. Wolff that it is a rangey, healthy plant that, once-established, grows like Topsy, requiring regular cutting back. Such a reputation is well founded, I can say with assurance. I plan on repotting the geranium soon in a larger Peale pot that I have waiting for it and also pruning it back to promote bushier growth, as Mrs. Wolff advised me when she gave me the cutting.
I cherish this storied geranium, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have it at Darlington House. I don't intend on keeping it only to myself, either. For I plan on passing on cuttings of it to like-minded friends for as long as I have the pleasure of owning it.
Please click on the link noted above to see the original story, as well as for contact information for Guy Wolff Pottery
Photos by Boy Fenwick