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).
Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is the 15th of the month, check out this link for other articles: http://www.maydreamsgardens.com
volunteer butterfly bush
Early spring is the time to start your cool season vegetable and herb seeds but it also a good time to make more plants from the perennials in your garden, both edible and ornamental. This week, I literally hacked a chunk out of my sweet marjoram in my garden bed and put the chunks in the plastic containers that strawberry growers use (the plastic containers you buy in the grocery store, with the lid cut off). I added soil from the compost bin, labeled and watered the plant, and placed it on the deck to root and recuperate. I also pulled oregano and thyme and put them in similar containers. All of these plants are about 5 years old and have grown so big they would not notice if I removed parts plus they are more likely to root in early spring with cool moist temperatures.
I also chopped up the lemon balm to create new pups, dug up baby plants from my black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), tore out extra blanket flowers while they were still small (Gaillardia), and took a few stems from the ice plant (Delosperma), a succulent groundcover. I still need to pot up chunks of the chrysanthemum while the leaves are small and near the ground, as well as the bluets (Centaurea), hardy geraniums, Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida), speedwell (Veronica surcolosa), yarrow (Achillea), aster, and creeping phlox (Phlox subulata). These perennials have been in my garden for years and tend to either spread outward or become congested inward so I have plenty to share.
marjoram slices in plastic containers
I overturned my plastic containers of chocolate peppermint, peppermint, and spearmint that overwintered on the deck, broke up the plants into chunks, and re-potted into more containers. Mints are also easy to root in water but they are invasive and should always be grown in containers.
Usually I find a volunteer—a seedling in an unexpected place. This year I found a butterfly bush seedling (Buddleia) in January in a patch of dirt on the concrete steps. Last week I dug it up and put it in a small container. When it is bigger and older, I will either plant in an appropriate spot or give it away to a friend. I have started new butterfly bushes, wand flowers (Gaura), and flowering tobacco plants (Nicotiana) this way. Look around your garden for volunteers and plants that can be shared with friends!
Posted in Edibles, herbs, landscape edible, plants
Tagged achillea, aster, blanket flowers, bluet, Buddleia, butterfly bush, centaurea, chrysanthemum, creeping phlox, delosperma, flowering tobacco, gaillardia, hardy geraniums, ice plant, Japanese anemone, lemon balm, mint, Nicotiana, oregano, phlox subulata, plastic containers, rudbeckia, speedwell, sweet marjoram, thyme, veronica surcolosa, yarrow