Eight years ago I wrote an article for Chesapeake Home magazine about hardy geraniums. I interviewed Faye Brawner, then president of the International Geranium Society and author of Geranium: The Complete Encyclopedia (Schiffer, 2003). She recommended Geranium macrorrhizum as a “workhorse.” Fortunately, I spied this workhorse shortly afterwards at a plant sale so I brought it home to see how well it would do in my Virginia garden.
Today this plant thrives under a linden tree (morning sun and afternoon shade) and blooms every spring with purple/pink flowers. Geranium macrorrhizum, or big root geranium, serves as a weed-suppressing, foot-high groundcover, untouched by deer and rabbits. In the fall, the green palmate leaves turn reddish bronze but most of the plant remains above ground during the winter. In early spring the leaves green up again and the flowers bloom from April to May. Although the flowers bloom high above the plant, they are reminiscent of apple blossoms, small and five petals. However, these flowers have very long stamens that protrude, resulting in a long fruit pod that resembles a crane’s beak. Hardy geraniums are often sold as “cranesbills.”
I also interviewed Robin Parer who owns Geraniaceae.com, an online nursery devoted to geraniums. Robin suggested many other hardy geraniums which I am now trying in my garden. Hardy geraniums, she explained, are the species Geranium, and are cousins to the species Pelargonium, which are the bedding geraniums with the summer flowers. So far the hardy geraniums are proving to be ideal perennials and I am looking forward to reading her new book, The Plant Lover’s Guide to Hardy Geraniums (Timber Press, 2016).
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