Flower of the Hour – Geranium – The Perennial Gardener’s Joy!
Growing the perennial hardy Geranium, not to be confused with the all-to-common annual ‘Pelargonium’ Geranium, has been a special joy in my life. My addiction has quite overtaken my garden and I have drifts of every variety of Geranium I can find happily leaning over walkways and smiling from every corner. Here you see a single charming bloom in the midst of Lamb’s Ears.
What makes a hardy Geranium so delightful is its ability to continue flowering most of the season while offering drifts of foliage which is attractive and mounding. Although it does prefer being consistently moist, once established, one rarely has to water. Geranium’s usually prefer part-sun and can survive in all types of soil conditions.
Most Geraniums come in pink and blue varieties and flower most prolifically in May and June with on-going spurts of growth through the season if the flowers are sheared back. The photo below shows two of my front gardens in late May. The tremendous pink flush of flowers mirrored at the top right of the photo is Geranium ‘Biokovo Karmina’ which I purchased from Bluestone Perennials four years ago because of its ability to survive in direct full sun. It is a shorter Geranium variety, which lends itself to edging and is always the first Geranium to bloom. It’s quaint foliage turns a striking red color in the fall.
Just beginning to bloom in the bottom right hand side of the photo is Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ which has tremendous foliage. This is such a prolific bloomer, it grows to be nearly four foot tall by the end of the season with an explosion of non-stop lavender flowers all the way through September. I have to cut back this variety severely or it will completely overtake my sidewalk with blooms.
Hardy Geraniums are often referred to as “Cranesbill Geraniums,” because their seed pods resemble a crane’s bill. Because most Geranium foliage is marvelous throughout the season as well, the plant family makes a fantastic filler and blender for perennial beds. Once a plant becomes established, it will soon be dropping seed. At first I plucked these upstarts out as if they were the ever-horrid weed. It is wiser, in my experienced opinion, to take a more adoptive attitude in relationship to seedlings. They come up in the most surprising places – here in the middle of my flagstone walkway – and are easy to transplant or move should they become intrusive. I have left this little fella right where it landed and am curious to see if he survived the harsh winter. In the fall I recommend that you leave Geraniums as is with no clean up because they often reseed more readily if left alone. Spring brings lots of surprises.
There are a growing number of hybrid geraniums on the market, the most popular seems to be Geranium ‘Rozanne’ which was introduced by Blooms of Bressingham. This plant blooms most of the summer and is as hardy as they come. The 2008 Perennial of the Year – it is a fantastic addition to the garden. Last year I discovered an equally hardy Geranium known as ‘Jolly Bee’ and have been amazed at both these plants strength during the hot summer season of late August and early September. Both of these prolifically flowering varieties lean towards a shade of blue, however, in my garden Rozanne is a true blue tone, while Jolly Bee is more lavender in color.
Try out a few Geraniums in your garden this spring and I know you will enjoy them all season long!
Shawna Coronado says Get Healthy! Get Green! Get Community!
I know you probably get a lot of fliers from nurseries and other gardening announcements from various places. I got one early last year from Blooms of Bressingham announcing ‘Rozanne’ and had every intention of finding a spot for it my garden. It never happened. I hope to make it so this year. We have several other pinkish varieties scattered around.
Geraniums are such great plants – almost year-round interest, great foliage as well as flowers (that red autumn foliage on some is breathtaking), fairly tolerant of different light, soil, and moisture conditions…and those blues! Wonderful. Great post, Shawna!
Thanks for the good words. And sometimes life has happy accidents TC – ‘Rozanne’ was sold out at one nursery, so I tried ‘Jolly Bee’ before I tried ‘Rozanne’ and was surprised at the strength of the plant. I love them both!
Is spring here yet? I can’t wait to get out and see if I have any Geranium babies popping up.
I have a ‘Johnson’s Blue’ and I love it, but it seems to get kind-of leggy and lays funny after a while- I’ll have to get some shots of it this year. I’ve read that some shear them off to stop them from getting floppy- do you have any suggestions? My beds look nothing like yours…that’s for sure!
Yes, I have Johnson’s Blue also – absolutely shear them off! I grab great handful’s of Johnson and lop him all the way back to the greenery – cut off mounds of flowers. They keep for a day or so in water on my front porch and perk things up, then I toss the material in the composter. Meanwhile, the plant comes back to life and is more beautiful than ever!
Enjoyed this article and your photos. I’ve planted nursery stock geraniums and I’ve been lucky to get two years out of them in the garden.We have a wild cranesbill geranium growing along our gravel road where the sun peeks in, makes for a wonderful walk by for about a week.
My Johnson’s Blue and Rozanne last most of the summer and are gorgeous – try those varieties. Both do best in mixed sun.
I’m hacking them back by the end of the season with vigor they get so flowery. Can you believe that? Just a gorgeous plant!
I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
Thanks for the post Sherin – you’re always welcome. I went out to your site – interesting! You might like my other blog too – http://www.gardeningnude.com
Hi Shawna, I love geraniums, and Rozanne is my favorite. I love the way it sprawls around its neighbors in my mostly-shady garden. And I love that it blooms from May until frost.
I found your blog through your comment on Garden Rant. It’s great to discover another Chicago-area blogger! I’ve added a link to your blog in my Chicago-area garden blog list.
I hope you’re planning on attending Spring Fling this May!
Thank you for the info and links…I am definitely adding some hardy geranium to my garden this year. I do have one that I put in last summer, it has red and white striped flowers and tends to crawl side-to-side rather than up and out. I don’t know what kind it is, would you, perhaps? I simply purchased it and threw away the tag. Silly me. I’m learning more as I read gardeners blogs! (I don’t even know whether it has survived the winter yet).
Jan – I am happy to check out your plant – you left no way for me to contact you however. Can you send me an email? Contact information is on the blog and in my profile.
Shawna, I don't think I've posted a photograph of this geranium yet–thanks for your help. I'll look in my files & see if I can find a photo & I'll let you know. I so appreciate your interest, you're very kind! Also, thanks for adding me to your Google 'followers' list;)
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What a cute flower is that? I like it. Thanks for sharing this one but can you add more information about this. Just quite interested. keep posting!