Hardy geraniums great for gardens
Words: Graham Rice
Hardy geraniums are the most popular perennials in Britain. And it’s easy to see why. They’re tough and easy to grow, many flower for months at a stretch. Their size is manageable, many smother weeds effectively, most are easy to propagate and some even have attractive foliage as well as their colourful flowers. In addition, most are unusually effective at knitting together with their neighbours - shrubs, bulbs or other perennials – to create attractive planting associations.
Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’
Vigorous ground cover which works surprisingly well as a climber, bright golden new foliage becomes greenish gold later as the dark-centred magenta flowers open in summer and continue into autumn. Amazing when climbing into a mature holly, as a ground cover it does not root as it spreads so is easy to control. Discovered by a Lincolnshire vicar. 50cm (20in)
Geranium (Cinereum Group) ‘Ballerina’
Beautifully patterned flowers sit above silvered foliage, each bloom is pale pink but very heavily patterned with purplish pink veins and with a deep red eye. The flowers keep coming during spring and summer with a scattering continuing into autumn and are set against neatly divided silver leaves. One of the best known introductions from the great plantsman Alan Bloom. Happiest in well-drained soil in a sunny place. 15cm (6in)
Pure white flowers feature a delightful delicate pattern of branched purple veins and are held over deeply lobed rich green foliage. The sprays of blooms are prolific but not crowded, so they create an attractive naturalistic display. At their peak in summer, cut back after the first flush and water well to encourage repeat flowering. Easy and spreading steadily in sun or partial shade. 40cm (16in)
A prolific, widely spreading and unusually long flowering ground cover, the purple-veined magenta pink flowers open from July until a hard frost. Although unhappy in dry conditions, ‘Dilys’ is valuable for its tolerance of poor drainage and enjoys part shade as well as in full sun. Named in honour of Dilys Davies, for many years an influential member of the Hardy Plant Society.
Geranium ‘Mavis Simpson’
This low and spreading, almost evergreen plant has lobed silvery foliage which makes a lovely background for the pink flowers which themselves have a silver overlay as well as dark veins. Flowers open from June to October and although the stems spread widely they’re easy to restrict as they do not take root. Found as a chance seedling at Kew, and named for a Kew gardener. 20cm (8in)
One of the finest of recent hardy geraniums, ‘Orion’ could be said to be like good old ‘Johnson’s Blue’ – only far far better. Spreading to make excellent ground cover, large lavender-tinted blue flowers have purple veins and open in huge quantities all summer. The broad petals overlap to create bowl-shaped flowers and the white centres accentuate the colouring. A seedling of ‘Brookside’, another fine AGM winner.
Geranium x oxonianum 'Wageningen'
Many varieties of this widely grown hybrid are weedy, floppy and unremarkable but 'Wageningen' is more compact, more upright and has a long succession of green eyed, salmony pink flowers each with a shiny reflective surface to enhance the appeal. Superb under old roses, in full sun the flowers may bleach so partial or dappled shade is ideal. 'Wageningen' is happy in most soils. 40cm (18in)
Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’
This delicately patterned form of our native Meadow Cranesbill is effective close up, where its intricate colouring can be admired, and from a distance for its haze of colour. The pale blue flowers, which open through June and July, feature a network of white veins and will come again in a second flush if dead-headed. In spring, the mound of new lobed foliage is also attractive. 90cm (3ft)
With some of the loveliest foliage of all hardy geraniums, each broad lobed greyish leaf has the soft texture of sage foliage. In June and July sprays of white flowers with deep purple veins are held just above the even mound of leaves. This is a compact and slowly spreading plant, ideal for the front of a sunny border; dryish conditions bring out the best in the foliage. 35cm (14in)
Geranium Rozanne (‘Gerwat’)/’Jolly Bee’
A stupendous plant making vigorous ground cover or a dramatic container specimen, the prolific saucer-shaped flowers open from July to October and feature purple veins and a bold white centre – all set against fresh green foliage. It needs plenty of space, or is superb planted as a specimen in a large container where it creates a blue waterfall of colour. ‘Jolly Bee’ has now been pronounced as identical. 60cm (2ft)