by Pam Erikson/Special to Langley Advance Times
At this time of year, we are always looking for fillers for the garden – plants to go in certain spots that either look a little bare or need something to keep the weeds down.
Hardy geraniums fit that bill perfectly.
Also known as Cranesbills, this is a huge genus of many species.
For many years, we have grown this extremely hardy perennial in areas that were too dry to support some other plants or were neglected areas that just needed that bit of colour.
Not only do they come back reliably every year, and come in a wide range of colour and sizes, but they are so easy to maintain.
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The foliage comes up in early spring, followed by a mass of colour – and then when they finish blooming, we simply shear them down and allow the new growth to come back, thicker and more lush than before – very much the way you would treat the annual petunias.
Some people are afraid to cut things back, but believe me, many plants benefit from a little haircut.
By cutting back after the first blooming (to about 8 inches), we have a lovely new flush of growth for the summer.
Keep in mind, there are some varieties – like Rozanne – that do not require cutting back as they are continual bloomers for the entire season. Rozanne is an award-winning purple with a white washed centre that the bees absolutely love.
Our five-year old plant stands about three-feet high and wide this year and is buzzing with activity.
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Through the years, we have grown many varieties of hardy geraniums and while the aforementioned Rozanne is hugely popular, we personally love some of shorter, more ground cover varieties, such as Biokovo – a very vigorous ground cover with white/pink blend flowers. She forms a lovely mat of foliage that has proven to be one of the best control of weeds in our garden.
Other varieties to look for include Raven, with its very dark purple blooms, standing about two feet tall (and definitely benefits from that shearing I mentioned earlier), and Phoebe Noble, a fabulous pink, which was named after an amazing plantswoman from Vancouver Island.
We have grown the hardy geraniums in all areas of our garden, but have found that the best light conditions for them has been dappled or indirect sun. That being said, I have even had one growing at the base of a cedar hedge in dense shade and it still bloomed.
When they say this plant is “hardy,” then mean it.
– Pam Erikson is owner of Erikson’s Daylily Gardens
and Perennials and president of the Langley Garden Club