Search This Blog

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hardy Geraniums - Secret stars

(By next week this easy to grow, hardy Geranium sanguinium will be a mass of blooms.)

Hardy Geraniums...maybe it's the name that confuses people? For some reason, these wonderful perennials just don't get the credit they deserve.

Over the past 10 years or so I've tried at least 20 different varieties here. A few were unhappy, a few looked good for a short time and then mysteriously disappeared but most of them became wonderful additions to the garden.

First of all, when people think of Geraniums, they tend to think of the hot house variety that are not hardy here in zone 6b. Those are really named Pelargoniums and Geranium is just a nick-name. On the other hand, plants with the nick-name Cranesbill are really named Geranium. I know, it's confusing but just stick to Hardy Geranium and you should be ok.

The first variety I grew here and probably the first for many other people too was a common Geranium sanguinium. My variety is purplish but there are other colors too. I've tried the pink with little luck but would like to try a white bloom now.

A friend shared a piece of Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biokova' which quickly captured my heart. It's just coming into bloom now so I'll wait a few days before sharing a good photo. Once I saw that this variety came in another color, the pink version named 'Karmina' I was hooked and started looking for more Geraniums.

(How could this lovely hardy Geranium be called a weed. I sure wish I knew it's name.)

Many years ago I was walking at Fox Hollow Farm, a perennial nursery that used to be in business just a few doors down the road. Growing out of a crack in the ground cloth was an interesting leaf that I thought might be a hardy Geranium. I asked the owner if I could dig it and buy it. His answer was that anything growing out of a crack was a weed and I could have all the weeds I wanted free of charge. That Geranium came home with me and although I don't know it's species name, it's one of the best here in my garden. Growing in a spot with no added ammendments, lots of shade, no water during dry periods and right near the road, it's become a huge, glorious clump. I've been sneaking off pieces to move here and there and finally will have enough next spring to share.

(Geranium oxonianum 'Katherine Adele')

One of the newest varieties here, Geranium oxonianum 'Katherine Adele' has quickly become a favorite. Not only is the flower lovely but the foliage is beautiful all season long. This one is a front of the border plant, winding it's way around and through neighboring plants much like the sanguinium varieties.

It took me a few years to learn that the different types of geraniums require very different growing conditions. The darker leaved varieties (so called purple foliage) really require a good amount of shade. Don't think your Geranium maculatum 'Espresso' died if the foliage disappears. Sometimes I find the dark leaved varieties go dormant during the summer heat.

Over the next few weeks I should be seeing many more hardy Geraniums come in to full bloom. There's 'Cambridge' out back, lots and lots of 'Phillipe Vapelle' spreading around, the fantastic wlassovianum in the shade bed (just try to pronounce that one) and more, some are so new they're still in their pots.

Stay tuned for more on the hardy Geraniums. I'm off to a garden club meeting and I have a terrible urge to go on a shopping spree after the meeting :-)



Xris said...

Your second Geranium looks like G. maculatum, which is native to Long Island and most of the eastern United States. I've seen it growing wild in the woods in upstate New York.

It could also be a volunteer from a garden cultivar such as "Wargrave Pink".

Doug Green said...

I agree with xris, kinda looks like G. maculatum. I never did like 'Biokovo' but that's what makes horse races and gardening discussions.

I'm watching my variegated G. macrorrhizum come back this year and looking forward to seeing it in bloom after a tough start last year.

Melanie Vassallo said...

Hi xris and Doug,

Thanks so much for the information. I looked around on-line and yes, Geranium maculatum is definitely what I have here. One look a photos of the seed pods convinced me. They are quite distinctive and my daughter Emily and I used to play with them while waiting for the school bus.

How nice to find something so beautiful that belongs here and grows so easily.