Monthly Archives: December 2014

Hardy Geraniums: An unsung Hero

‘Saying you don’t need a geranium because you already have one is like saying you don’t need another book because you just read one’

Gert Stam, Caherhurly Nursery, Clare Ireland

I have to love them, those gaudy purple-blue Rozanne dangling over the stone wall in January, as my love for flowers has been redefined over the years.

Beginning as a love for all flowers begin, a love that bestows all it’s praises on beauty and fragility. As I worked more with plants and flowers and love became muted by the humdrum of working with flowers every day, my infatuations turned their attention to rare plants. The ones that were so difficult to come by and served as wonderful little surprises in gardens where you thought you knew every plant there.

But as I have wizened and wisened over many years gardening, my love for certain flowers has become deeper and more meaningful. Sheer beauty means almost nothing anymore. The rare plants I have forgotten to love because I forgot where I  planted them and then forgot about them completely when they never grew again, the infatuation is over.

The plants I really and truly love are the survivors. The ones that, against all odds continue to thrive and to bloom. The Berberis (that is definitely love-hate), the Geraniums, Euphorbia, the St Johns Wort and the Hawthorn. Astilbe, Filipendula and Black Eyed Susans.

You can’t kill them, you rarely have to worry about them. Thriving on neglect.

But back to Geraniums. What amazes me about them is that hey have no obvious coping mechanism. They are soft and lack spines, their roots are not particularly invasive, they self seed a bit but not overly so. The only thing I can conclude is that they have evolved to understand that gardeners are loathe to cut back plants that still have flowers hanging on, even moreso as the season comes to end. I have tried to cut my Geraniums back on three separate occasions but, inevitably, there are always a handful of blooms. In November. In December. I just. can’t. do it.

And so, I suppose this is how they spread and thrive and turn into wonderful, heaping mounds of messy, beautiful, delicated survivors.

My favorite is Geranium Dilys. The color is gaudy but the way it trails over walls is spectacular.

Geranium 'Dilys'

I hate to love Rozanne but it is always a winner in the garden.

Other favorites are the delicate maroon black flowers of the upright Geranium phaeum Samobor or Mourning Widow. To contrast the deep color and upright nature of the Samobor I also love Geranium sanguineum v. striatum. It is pale pink and delicate and wonderful and just keeps blooming and bushing out. How could you not fall in love.

Another winner for those appreciate that flash of gaudy pink in mid summer is Geranium Patricia below:Geranium Patricia

My final words of advice are just to remember that Geraniums are always a good answer to a plant choice dilemma. You will never have them all and don’t feel like a sell out. Geraniums are survivors. Very, very colorful survivors, that are well worthy of being showcased in any garden.

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