HARDY GERANIUMS (Cranesbills)
This picture shows six different species of Geranium. Of all plants Hardy geraniums are my favourite. For many years, I thought Geraniums were confined to those plants we associate with placing in tubs and pots to give that lovely splash of summer colour. Then I learned that the latter were in fact Pelargoniums and there was a whole world of Hardy geraniums or Cranesbills out there waiting for me to discover.
For those who may not know, the name geranium originates from "geranos"the Greek word for Crane; it refers to the beak shaped seed capsule and so gives rise to the common name of Cranesbill.
These plants come in various heights and widths but all have flowers in shades of white/pink/blue or purple. The foliage colour also varies from species to species with many having attractive Autumn colour. Depending on the variety these plants can grace your garden from Spring to early Winter. Some are happy in shade, others favour full sun while some will just make themselves at home wherever you choose to place them. So anxious to please, many will happily give a second show of flower if cut back after their first display.
They are relatively disease free and UNloved by the snails or slugs. As the prefix, "hardy", implies these plants tolerate low temperatures probably around -20C and are placed in Hardiness Zone 4 of the US Dept. of Agriculture.
I am lucky to have over 60 different varieties all of which give me so much pleasure.
Is there no place safe from this fellow!
Let me tell you about some of my favourites whose pictures are shown.
Picture 1; this is Geranium "Ballerina".It has a compact form and is often seen in rock gardens. The leaves are greyish green and the flowers, which measure about 3cms across, are a purplish pink with marked dark veining of the petals and a dark center. The manner in which the flowers "dance" gave rise to the name. It blooms from early summer to autumn;propagation is usually by cuttings or division.
Picture 2;Here we see Geranium " Johnson's Blue" Oh yes this is one of my pets! It grows in a dense clump to a height of about 30-45cms. The flowers are lavender blue with a reddish tinge and measure 5cm across. The foliage is finely cut and very attractive. This plant is often used in conjunction with pale yellow or cream roses and very pretty it is . Propagation is by division.
Picture 3Geranium "Mrs Kendall Clarke".This is a tall variety growing to 60-90 cms and may require staking. The flowers are a violet blue with white veins. In a border it can look very well if allowed to roam through planting of yellow and gray. Propagation is best by division as seed may be variable.
Picture 4;Geranium Psilostemon.I find myself smiling even as I write this perhaps because this plant is one of those bold, kind of cheeky, ones that really seem to have an extrovert character. Maybe the loud magenta colour with black center and veining of the cup shaped flower gives it no other option! All the same it is a welcome addition to any garden and provides a striking combination if planted near gray foliage plants such as Artemesia or Stachys; like many of it's relations yellow and blue flowers blend very well. It may grow to a height of 122cms with flowers 4cm across. Psilostemon is happy in sun or half shade. The leaves in Autumn, for a brief time, are a good shade of crimson.
Picture 5.Geranium "Kashmir White.
One of the striking features of this variety is the foliage; the leaves are deeply cut with pointed segments. The plants reach a height of 30-45cms with lovely white gray veined flowers measuring 4cms. Because of the colour this is suitable for many sites in the garden. It flowers for most of the summer. This species is also found in shades of pink and purple.
Picture 6.Geranium " Russell Prichard"This is another variety suitable for a rock garden. It has a compact form with mat-like growth. The experts suggest protecting the crown in winter as it is less hardy than the others. It is also said that old growth tends to die out in the middle; personally I have not noticed that but mine is planted through a plastic liner in a gravel bed so perhaps that influences it's growth habit...I honestly don't know.
Picture 7.Geranium " Buxton's variety" Here is a low growing geranium that likes to intertwine with neighbouring plants. Ideal for the front of a border it starts to flower around July and lasts until the first frosts. It's flowers are most attractive and in Autumn the foliage is tinted a crimson shade.
Picture 8.Geranium traversiiWhat a little gem. I have not seen this one very often, more's the pity. It grows in mound form though may spread among nearby plants in the front of a border. Growing to a height of 16 to 20 cms the small hairy grey/green leaves are a perfect foil for the shell pink flower with paler pink edges. A glimpse of green can be seen in the center. It is not quite as hardy as the other geraniums and it is a good idea to cover it in Winter or take a few cuttings which seem to root easily. This is a good plant to grow in a rock garden or trough as it flowers throughout the summer. I promise to show a better photograph when next it blooms.
Picture 9.Geranium "Mayflower" A Spring flowering geranium with rich violet/blue flowers. The leaves are broadly divided and most attractive. This plant likes moist soil and I find it grows quite well in a north facing bed. Propagation is by division or seed but the latter can be variable.
Picture 10.Geranium "Lily Lovell"
This has the advantage of enjoying deep dry shade. It is a strong growing plant with light green leaves and dark purple flowers. Because the flowers may look a little sombre, this group are sometimes called "The Mourning Widow", it is best to plant them close to light coloured foliage.
Picture 11Geranium aspheloides
I got this geranium a few months ago and am delighted with it. It trails over the ground and here is seen around a log of wood. The flower is so dainty.
Picture 12.Geranium thurstonianum
Thurstonianum is an unusual geranium in that the narrow petals are sometimes twisted. The flowers are unlike those of any geranium I have seen to date but to me they are most attractive.
Picture13. Geranium"Mavis Simpson"
This one likes dry soil in a shady area. The clear bright pink flowers bloom from early Summer and last for a long time.It grows to a height of about 9 inches and a spread of 3 feet.
This picture shows the difference in shade and veining in four geraniums.
Picture 14.Geranium palmatum
This plant grows to around 48inches tall. A profusion of pink flowers shows in summer. It may not be hardy but tends to seed itself widely.
Picture 14.Geranium pylzowianum
This is a great little plant to grow in a trough. The stems look very frail but hold lovely rose-pink trumpet shaped flowers. It spreads rapidly but as it goes dormant after flowering it is not hard to contain.
The information I give in the table below relates to my experience with these plants. There will of course be variation when growing conditions are different.
Well there we have some Cranesbills to think about. I will continue to add information about those I grow in my own garden.
Information about some popular varieties.
spreading clump 6 inches front of border,edge of raised bed. Sun or partial shade.
small mound 4 inches rock garden , scree bed or trough. Sun or partial shade.
neat mound 4 inches rock garden, front of border
trails height about 12 inches with lax stems. will trail over other low growing plants at front of border.
trails trails about 9 inches smaller than Bill Wallis so keep to front.
trails will weave amongst other plants late flowering ,again to the front of border.
trails 12+ inches. needs room to spread, weaves amongst medium border plants.
dense clumps 12 to 18 inches sun or shade in border with suitable plants of same size.
large clump 36 inches border with plants to "cool" its strong colour.
Mrs Kendall Clarke
floppy, may need support. 36 inches ideal with plants to support it.
leafy clumps 18 inches good ground cover. Cut back after flowering for repeat flowers.
clump 30 inches sun or shade
neat clump 12 inches front of border, rock garden,sun
low growing mat 4 inches front of border, rock garden,sun
trailing 4 inches front of border, rock garden,sun
large plant 24 inches border in sun or shade.
large plant 9 inches border in dry soil and shade.
The sites specializing in these plants are included in my "Gardening links" which you can reach via the Contents or by clicking on it in the list below.