Non stop geranium flower power!

One of the major players in our gardens is the hardy geranium with its gaping, saucer-shaped flowers heavily veined in order to guide the thirsty bee to the vital nectar and pollen. There are varieties galore and it’s quite possible to have hardy geraniums or cranesbills in flower from March until October in shades of pink, white, blue and rich magenta.
The long flowering geraniums are often sterile, which means that they cannot be pollinated despite the foraging bee. Although being sterile may be frustrating for the plant, it’s a highly desirable trait in the garden setting, for sterile plants produce flowers over many months without the worry of unwanted seedlings popping up in strange and unwanted places. Each individual flower lasts a long time too and being sterile doesn’t deter the bee. They still forage enthusiastically.

One of the very best is the deep-blue ‘Orion’, a seedling from ‘Brookside’. It outshines every other blue due to its large, cobalt blue saucers striated in reddish purple. The paler middle adds more definition and this stunning geranium begins flowering in May, pre-empting the roses and most summer-flowering herbaceous.

Cut this mound-forming star back in the first week of July, to literally nothing, and ‘Orion’ will produce highly divided leaves within days and then carry on flowering until autumn. It does need a wide space, as it will cover almost a yard, but it stays tidy reaching between two and three feet in height (60-90cm). It coincides with the ruby-red buttons of Knautia macedonica and deep-red astrantias such as ‘Claret’ - creating a Persian carpet effect of rich colour and tapestry.

If you want a paler-blue geranium for late-summer, look no further than the brilliant ‘Rozanne’. This was a Chelsea superstar, introduced in 2000, but it still graces all the best gardens because it flowers for so long, sending up white-centred paler blue flowers studded with sooty black stamens. The soft strokable foliage, inherited from G. wallichianum, is lightly marbled and lobed and in autumn there are glimmers of red. Many gardeners give ‘Rozanne’ a Chelsea chop, cutting back by a half or a third, to delay the fresh flowers until August. Whatever you decide, this is a statement plant for a border working particularly well on a corner or in another strategic place. Impossible to divide, but then who would want to!

The similar to look at G. wallichianum will flower only in early autumn, as the days shorten, but there are some good forms. ‘Havana Blues’ is a pale blue and ‘Rise and Shine’ a cobalt-blue that ages to pink. Both colour up well in autumn, with reddening foliage.

Not all hardy geraniums are blue. Some come in strident pink and ‘Patricia’, officially described as a magenta-pink, is hardly ever out of flower. This large geranium will perform in slight shade too, like one of its parents G. psilostemon, and it’s a showstopper with duskily-middled flowers held up on long stems. The more reserved ‘Light Dilys’ is a red-veined mid pink with a darker pink eye. A sport (ie. a different coloured shoot), from the equally worthy reddish purple ‘Dilys’. Both are compact geraniums (15” or 40cm ) with divided foliage and long stems topped by smallish flowers. However ‘Light Dilys’ is the prettier of the two and is small enough to be planted at the front of the border where it will send up wands of flowers.

'Dreamland’ is a breakthrough in breeding because it combines soft grey foliage, from the slightly tender G. traversii side, with hundreds of pale pink flowers throughout the summer on a small, hardy plant reaching eight inches (20cm) in height. Give this long-flowering geranium an open sunny site at the front of a border and mingle it with other silvers that might include dianthus and silver thyme - Thymus ‘Silver Posie’. Or flatter a true blue sea holly such as Eryngium × zabelii 'Jos Eijking' (PBR) or an English lavender such as ‘Imperial Gem’. It’s said that this is Alan Bremners’ dream geranium - so it must be good.

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