Hardy Geraniums Shine in the Summer Garden
Often passed over for their showier annual cousins the pelargoniums, hardy geraniums feature several desirable characteristics that warrant a closer look. Perennial geraniums shrug off cold winters, and many are hardy to zone 3. Pests generally pass over geraniums, therefore no chemical sprays are needed. Plants have a long blooms season, and the lobed foliage is attractive even out of bloom. Horticulturists have focused their breeding efforts on geraniums in recent years, so experiment with one of these cultivars in your garden.
The 'Rozanne' geranium cultivar, which was named the 2008 Perennial Plant of the Year, shined the spotlight on hardy geraniums in general and caused a resurgence of interest in their role in the garden. 'Rozanne' features large blue flowers and lots of them over a long blooming season. The tidy plants grow about 20 inches tall and reach two feet wide, and maintain their rounded shape in the garden. Mounds of chartreuse foliage soften border edges even when plants aren't in bloom.
The magenta blossoms of 'Elsbeth' geraniums pop against healthy green foliage at the front of the border. A large flush of blooms appears in June, and a smaller repeat blooming occurs in September. Provide plants with rich, well-drained soil and three inches of mulch to keep the roots cool and moist.
We gardeners can never have too many white flowers, and the deeply divided foliage of geranium 'Alba' only increases the ornamental value of this plant. This geranium appreciates soil with excellent drainage and will shine in your rock garden. Shear the plants when blooms fade to keep it tidy.
Dark, moody foliage is very on-trend in the landscape, and this seldom-seen variety will turn heads in your summer garden. Native to woodland areas, 'Espresso' geraniums prefer more moisture than other hardy geraniums, and also tolerate more shade than other varieties. Keep 'Espresso' geraniums mulched, but don't mulch the crowns of the plants, which can cause rot.
If you want to stump your horticulturally savvy friends, grow a lesser-known geranium variety like the G. wallichianum 'Buxton Blue.' Place the small plants in your container garden, where you can observe the detail of the white eye up close. Watch out for slugs, which love geraniums, especially ones grown in shadier locales. Handpick slugs in the morning, or set out beer traps.
Geranium 'Summer Skies' is the antidote to the ordinary bloody cranesbill plant that some gardeners find a bit on the weedy side. Double flowers with veining appear in late spring and continue for several weeks in hot areas or throughout the season in cooler regions. Flowers of Geranium 'Summer Skies' last longer in sites with afternoon shade.
'Splish Splash' brings a level of novelty to the cranesbill group that appeals to many gardeners. Every petal features a different pattern of flecks and specks that endure for several weeks in summer. Shear the plants back when blooming slows for a repeat show in early fall. For maximum effect in the garden design, add a companion planting that emphasizes one of the two colors of 'Splish Splash,' like 'Blue Hill' meadow sage or candytuft.
Also known as mourning widow geranium, 'Springtime' hardy geraniums sport deep burgundy flowers held aloft on wiry stems. Leaves emerge with a variegated pattern but eventually settle into a green tone in the summer.
'Ann Folkard' geraniums spread generously in the garden, weaving bright green foliage and purple flowers with neighboring plants to fill in all gaps in the summer border. Plant beside a silvery artemisia for a contrasting cloud of beauty.
As is the case with many hybrid plants, 'Sirak' geraniums are consistent and reliable garden performers. Violet flowers have dark veining and a white blotch that make them interesting cut flowers.
While the trailing and mounding types of hardy geraniums have their place at the border's edge, some situations call for a taller plant. 'Patricia' hardy geraniums are taller than most, reaching a height of about 30 inches. Plant them alongside ornamental grasses or baby's breath for a breezy garden effect.
A dwarf cranesbill like 'Carol' breathes life into crevices and other difficult to plant pockets in the garden in late spring and summer with wine-colored flowers and grayish-green foliage. 'Carol' also makes a rock wall into a vertical garden when you plant small divisions between gaps. Water this living wall thoroughly the first season until plants establish a deep root system.
One aspect of geraniums that turn many gardeners off is their habit of self-seeding all over the garden. However,'Plenum' geraniums are sterile, so they stay where you put them. If you do fall in love with their double violet flowers and tolerance of many growing conditions, you can propagate them by division in the spring.
In contrast to the sprawling hardy geraniums out there, 'Stephanie' produces a very compact plant that perks up the late spring border. The blue flowers with deep purple veins are very showy when paired with white flowers like sweet alyssum or phlox.
Geranium Ingwersen's Variety
In addition to its unusual name, this geranium stands apart from others due to its aromatic leaves, which release fragrant oils when crushed. Walter Ingwersen probably didn't notice this feature immediately when he discovered it growing on a mountainside in Yugoslavia in 1929, but its stunning amethyst buds and contrasting pale pink flowers surely caught his eye.