Some plants, like some people, are naturally more generous than others. In spring, we are besotted by exuberant blooming plants, as all the world seems new again and blossoms abound in our gardens. But we need to look ahead and ensure that our gardens continue to be full of beautiful flowers once the spring flush has subsided.
It would be good if gardeners in our region became familiar with one particular family of perennials—Geraniaceae, the geranium family. Most of us already grow the annuals in our pots and beds. Once all danger of frost has passed, we buy them and they bloom happily until frost strikes again in the fall. Of course, they need deadheading and fertilizer and water and sun, but they pay us back with continuous bloom.
However, we should also consider their cousins, the perennial geraniums. These are commonly called cranesbill geraniums because if you turn the seed head sideways, it looks like the head of a crane. These are low-growing, mounding plants that come back year after year to delight us with masses of flowers. They work best in sun or partial sun and will spread to become very useful ground cover, suppressing weeds by spreading neatly between taller plants.
There are many varieties of cranesbill geraniums. I buy as many as I can because they bloom at different times and I want to ensure that one is always in bloom, spring through fall.
My first of the year is a pink that is absolutely smothered in blooms all through the month of May. I don’t know its name as it was a pass-along plant, as was another, darker pink that I treasure. Years ago, someone also gave me a start of a nameless white with pristine blooms. I have moved it to many different locations, and when it blooms in early summer it lights up my whole yard. I’ll give any gardener who stops by a start of these versatile little wonders. They’re vigorous, but never pests.
Among those I can name are ‘Rozanne,’ an award-winning, blue-flowering variety that blooms in June, then off and on, even through the heat of our summer. ‘Elke’ blooms from summer to fall, with the bonus of added leaf color in autumn.
These plants all have clean, pretty foliage and a neat habit. As they weave through or edge the beds, they tie the plantings together and make the garden look cohesive.
Perennial geraniums are easy to grow, disease resistant, hardy, easy to divide and pass along, deer resistant, and weed suppressing. That’s a long list of attributes and a good recommendation indeed. But the best characteristic of all is that they are extremely generous and bloom their little heads off. I pick them for tiny vases and put them on my windowsills, marveling at the way they keep on giving.