Monday, July 23, 2012

G is for Geranium

Shade can be challenge enough, but dry shade is a double whammy that I must contend with in the back section of my garden. 

Over the years, I have done lots of experiments with different perennials in this part of the garden. I have found that there is a big difference between what will thrive in dry shade and what will merely survive in such conditions. Astilbe, for instance, limps along, but isn't happy at all. If I ever neglected to water it in late summer, it would simply pack it in. 

Some taller varieties of sedum like 'Autumn Joy', which usually come along with a planting recommendation for full sun, have turned out to be a pleasant surprise. They actually don't mind a fair bit of shade.

Geranium phaeum 'Samobor'

One of the plants, with which I have had the greatest success by far, is geraniums. In fact, I have been so pleased with them, I have added new varieties each year.

 In my experience, geraniums are pretty undemanding. Mine are planted in everyday, average soil. I do however, make the effort to mulch the flowerbeds, which helps soil retain whatever moisture there is. 

Even when not in flower, foliage on most geraniums is attractive generally speaking. I do find that some varieties like 'Samobor' (see image below) benefit by having their foliage cutback after flowering. Fresh new leaves emerge within a few weeks. 

Some of the geraniums in my garden readily self-seed. In fact, one of my raised vegetable beds was filled with tiny 'Mourning Widow' seedlings this spring. This is another reason to give varieties of Geranium phaeum like 'Mourning Widow' and 'Samobor' a close haircut after flowering.

Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' has nodding maroon-purple flowers with green leaves splashed with purple-black. I find cutting back the foliage after flowering promotes fresh growth. Flowers appear in June. Height 60 cm, Spread 60-70 cm.

Geranium phaeum 'Mourning Widow' This image is perhaps a bit deceiving. In the bright sunlight the flowers appear purple, but in average light they are actually maroon-purple.  This plant forms mounding foliage and tolerates dry shade better than most. Height 60 cm, Spread 60-70 cm

Bigroot Geranium, 'Geranium macrorrhizum'

I have found that one of the best geraniums for shade is 'Geranium macrorrhizum'. The plant forms low mounds of fragrant leaves. Bigroot geraniums have creeping, underground rhizomes that I often break off and replant in early spring to create new plants.

Bigroot Geranium, 'Geranium macrorrhizum'

Midnight Reiter Cranesbill, Geranium pratense 'Midnight Reiter' 

I have this geranium in full sun and have as yet to try it in shade. From what I have read, Midnight Reiter'  does not mind part shade. It is the deep burgundy leaves that make this cultivar extra special.

Midnight Reiter Cranesbill, Geranium pratense 'Midnight Reiter' is a slow growing geranium with lavender-blue flowers over maroon leaves. Height 25 cm, Spacing 30 cm

Bloody Cranesbill, Geranium sanguieum

This is another geranium that I have in full sun. It blooms alongside peonies and evening primroses in June and makes a nice understory for the other taller flowers.

Geranium sanguieum 'Striatum' is a geranium with a mounded shape. It has blush-pink flowers with darker stripes and also blooms June to September. Height 30-45 cm, Spacing 45 cm

This is a third geranium that I have in full sun at the front of the house.

Cranesbill Geranium, Geranium 'Rozanne'

This is the last geranium that I am going to show you from my garden. Geranium 'Rozanne' is blooming in the garden right now. 'Rozanne' flowers much later than the other varieties I have in the garden and continues to bloom well into late summer-early fall. My only complaint about 'Rozanne' is the fact that the plant tends to flop, when left unsupported.

Geranium sanguineum 'John Elsley'

Briefly, here are a few other geraniums that I have seen and noted in my travels. Above and below are Geranium sanguineum 'John Elsley' which I saw at the Royal Botanical Gardens in May. 

The image below shows John Elsley's proper place at the front of a flowerbed (see lower left corner). At the RBG, it enjoys the company of a Siberian Iris and magenta-colored Centaurea hypoleuca 'John Coutts'.

Geranium syvaticum 'Album' has pure white flowers over green mounding foliage. Flowering May to June.  Often shows good bronzy-red fall color. Height 25-30 cm, Spacing 60-75 cm. 

This is a very pretty geranium that I also saw at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, ON.

Geranium syvaticum 'Album'

Geranium maculatum 'Beth Chatto' at Humber Nursery

Geranium maculatum 'Chatto' or 'Beth Chatto' forms an upright clump with lilac colored flowers in May or June. Height 60 cm, Spacing 45cm.

Geranium cinereum 'Ballerina' which I saw at Humber Nursery

This is a ground cover geranium that blooms June to September. Height 15 cm, Spacing 30 cm.

Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biocovo' at Humber Nursery

Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biocovo' has clusters of white flowers with a tinge of pink and fragrant leaves that form a low spreading mound. Flowers June to September. Height 15-20 cm, Spacing 30-45 cm.

If you haven't tried geraniums, give them a go!

My garden alphabet so far: 'A' is for Astilbe, 'B' is for ButterflyThree 'C's, 'D' is for Delphinium, The Letters E and F and now G is for Geranium


  1. So many geraniums...and every one beautiful and tolerant. I have many of those you posted, and they are still going strong, some of the later blooming. I did the big cut down yesterday (except for Samobor which had to have the chope earlier or it would be everywhere)))) That new growth is just wonderful one isn't left with a gap for long.

    Would mourning widow also be called Witches hat? Lost both of my striatums this winter strangely.

    Great display and hugely informative. They are the backbone of many a perennial bed, including mine.

    1. Bren, I have not heard of Mourning widow called Witche's hat, but it is possible that it is a common name rather than the name of a particular variety. I have seen four Mourning Widows listed:
      Mourning Widow, geranium phaeum (maroon flowers and all-green leaves)
      Morning Widow, geranium phaeum 'Album' (white fowers)
      Morning Widow, geranium phaeum 'Margret Wilson' (green foliage streaked with cream)
      Mourning Widow, geranium phaeum 'Samobor'
      I have the first and the last varieties.

    2. Mine indeed is not Samobor as the leaves are all green so it is the first one. The bees love it, and it blooms very early so they are grateful. Think I saw it referred to as Witch's Hat in an British magazine, so that is how I remember it and likely you are right, it is a common name and not variety. Thanks Jennifer.

  2. I very much like Midnight Reiter, such a delicate shade, Chatto and Ballerina are also pretty. I have a white one I grew from seed some years ago, I cannot remember the name. I have just cut that back to nothing, but it will be there again next year.

  3. I have two kinds of geraniums, pink and violet. The violet one has bloomed earlier than the pink one which is still blooming.

  4. Wow so many variety's you have of the Geranium. I also love them. They don't ask much and bring you so many flowers. Fantastic vieuws out of your garden and great captured photowork Jennifer.
    Have a great evening.

  5. You read my mind! I have been struggling with some of my bloom time for them seems minimal. I have a couple variations one being Bigroot. Is there a way to get more bloom time from them??? I will have to try Geranium sanguieum 'Striatum' next year for the little bit of sunny areas I do get. Great pictures usual and thank you for the informative post!

    1. Bigroot does seem to have a short bloom time. I find one of the longest bloomers is 'Rozanne'. Maybe give her a try.

  6. Jennifer, such a nice collection of geraniums you have! I love this one with white edges on its leaves. I have only "Ballerina" and "Album". I love your path between geraniums!

  7. You have given me more geraniums to look for. I know what you mean about Rozanne, needs to be clipped back several times during the season.


  8. Jennifer, I didn't realize there were so many colors. When I downsized my garden a couple years ago, I gave away all but the original purple ones that I have had forever. If I ever buy more, I will get that beautiful pink, and maybe a shade of blue. You garden is so lovely!

  9. Hi Jennifer - I discovered the flexibility of geraniums a few years ago when I filled a shady spot in an old garden with one. I also love how easily they can be split and transplanted.

    Your collection is amazing - love the "Mourning Widow" - maybe because the name is so evocative of by-gone days.

  10. Hello Jennifer
    What a great post about geraniums! You have many really lovely ones and isn't it fantastic that they thrive in heat and drought? That's the name of the game this summer! I have noted my favourites (Samobor and Midnight Reiter) and will try to add them to my garden next year. I think a trip to Humber nurseries is in store because: I haven't been there for ages and it absolutely has everything!

  11. Jennifer - thanks for the photo of the G sangineum - I'd lost the tag and now I know it's name. Have you tried G. magnificum - a great form, furry leaves and terrific large blue/purple flowers blooming in early-ish spring. I've two varieties that are under a pine - I'd highly recommend them. Also Midnight R. will do well in dry shade - it flops horribly, but paired correctly, or staked it will perform without a wimper.

  12. Beautiful photos as always Jennifer! Thanks for your comments!! Sorry for the late reply, we had a wicked wind storm Friday night and no power all weekend. So glad it was summertime and not the dead of winter!!


  13. Wonbderful I love Geraniums, they are wonderful garden plants and fill so many needs. You have featured some great ones. Thank you.

  14. Great post about some great plants. We have quite a collection here, have to stop myself buying more! So suitable for different situations, what more could we ask of a plant.

  15. Gosh, what a lot of geranium photos, they are glorious.

  16. I love these pretty and delicate flowers ! They are so beautiful.
    have a nice day ,

  17. You have some beauties in your garden, and a couple from your travels really intrigued me (the sweet white one, and the complex Biocovo). I have a love-hate thing with the only one I grow, wlassovianum. I love the rich vibrant fall color, and the little purple blooms are pretty, but the plants get floppy and need cutting back and are a little more work than I had thought. But they do have a place in my garden and I do like them much of the time.

    This post is making me look at them anew, and consider planting some other geranium varieties!

  18. Absolutely beautiful series of photos!

  19. I have quite a few geraniums, too, including big root and 'Striatum'. I love how versatile they are. The picture of the geraniums, sundrops, and peonies is GORGEOUS!! I've hesitated adding sundrops to my garden because I've had experience with them taking over in our heat. How well behaved are they for you?

    Have you ever tried amsonia 'Blue Ice' for your dry shade? It's bullet proof. It's so tough, easy, and beautiful, I add more every year.

  20. 'Red Fox' veronica takes dry shade, too. :o)

    1. Tammy, You are right that sundrops or Evening Primrose are invasive, but I find them so easy to pull that I don't find them to be a nuisance. They take sun or shade, but hate the drought. (They wilt when they get dry.) As a nice bonus, the leaves turn a lovely shade of burgundy in fall.
      Thanks for the recommendation of amsonia 'Blue Ice'. I have add it and red fox veronica to my wish list.

  21. Jennifer, I love geraniums and find that they're more than happy to grow in my sandy soil. I have some of the varieties that you do, but you have also featured some here that I'm not familiar with -- oh, goody, more that I can consider adding to my garden.

    I was very interested to see that Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo' blooms all summer long where you are. In both my gardens (Maine and southern Pennsylvania) it makes a big show in late spring/early summer and then is done; I just assumed that's what it did everywhere. But I know geranium behavior is often sensitive to climate. I have a number of G. endressii and G. endressii hybrids (e.g., G. x oxonianum) that bloom all summer long in my Maine garden but go dormant when the serious heat arrives in my Pennsylvania garden.

    Thanks for featuring these gorgeous plants. -Jean

  22. As the neighbouring trees grow ever larger they are sucking all the water out from where we would grow our moisture loving shade plants. Geraniums are an option I hadn't considered that I might try.

  23. I love geraniums. You have beautiful varieties in your garden.

  24. Fantastic post. I have geraniums lining the front walk. They need a haircut about now as well.

  25. iI love hardy geraniums. There is one for almost any spot. I like Geranium maculatum and its purple-leafed cultivar 'Espresso' because they are native to North America.

    1. Carolyn, I will have to make a point of looking for these natives.

  26. Jennifer, I must compliment you on the photography for this post. I have tried, rather unsuccessfully, to photograph my hardy geraniums and they have a shine to them that makes it incredibly difficult to get the colour just right. You have done it perfectly. Also, so glad you named each of your photos as I think I have now identified two of the geraniums I have purchased at local plant sales.

  27. Many of my personal favorites! Biokovo is a great early season bloomer which also has lovely fall color. Rozanne is a standout - just give it a hair cut mid summer and it will quickly rebound. Macchorizum is a phenomenal species for shade. I have had white and pink in previous gardens. Both self seed easily but not to the point of being a nuisance.

  28. I am impressed with so many varieties of geranium. I have Rozanne and she is a great performer for me, though it is down the hill by the water, so I don't always get to enjoy it. Will have to look into a John Elsley--- imagine it would grow well here. Did you know that John lives in Greenwood? Have toured his garden, lots of wonderful Japanese Maples and Hellebore.

  29. I'm inspired!!!!!!! I'll be looking to add many more varieties to the ones I have. Many thanks! Beautiful photos!

  30. Hi Jennifer,

    Your geranium garden is so beautiful. I love Geranium macrorrhizum after I saw them in RGB. But I cannot find them in Mississauga ON. May I know which nursery I can find them.



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