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Geranium phaeum as a hedge/row


by John Beaulieu (Bowl-you)

The phaeum group are among my favourite geraniums. Geranium phaeum, commonly called ‘Mourning Widow’ around here, was one of my first hardy geraniums back in the mid 1980s. Over the years they have been valuable plants to put where few others will grow. They take sun or shade and are fairly drought tolerant. Perhaps the one thing that some gardeners do not like about the phaeums is the habit of self sowing their seeds around the garden and the lawn. I like this as it provides lots of seedlings to use in other areas, and if you don’t want them, they are not that hard to control.

I started making rows of Mourning Widows around a few garden beds. They look great in June when the bloom is at peak. The rows of geraniums are like bee magnets, and we can sit nearby in our lawn chairs and listen to the hum of the busy pollinators!

They were so good for making rows, that across the yard, by my garage/plant room, I let the phaeums fill in a shady area along a path behind hostas and astilbes.

The geraniums thrive in this shady area and provide a great groundcover. Sometimes I need to trim them back from the path. I don’t really need the machete to cut my way through the jungle!

Along the driveway where we have some hanging baskets, a few plants eventually became a big patch on each side of a walkway. This was lawn at one time, and if left in place, the geraniums are a great groundcover, smothering grass and weeds.

As the patch increased I wanted another path through, so I simply run the lawn mower through the middle.

A little further along, there is a row of phaeums around a very large spruce tree. They thrive and flower in this dry shade! In the middle of the circle I have spare daylilies which do not always bloom there, but still look good with their spider plant-like foliage.

There is a wild border along the road that is also edged with the phaeums. By July, most of my phaeums are through blooming, so I trim off the flower stalks and the foliage still makes a good hedge for the rest of the summer. Trimming off old flowers before seeds are mature, will stop a lot of unwanted seedlings.

There are of course many other varieties of Geranium phaeum. All are just as hardy as the good old Mourning Widow, but the variegated foliage types (such as ‘Margaret Wilson’) may not be as large or fast growing. Many varieties have interesting foliage markings. ‘Golden Spring’ starts out with bright yellow foliage changing to regular green later. The variety lividum plants have lighter colour flowers and there are also white flowered phaeums.

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Great profile. I don't have any G. phaeum in my garden. Perhaps it's time I did!

25 Jul, 2013


Looks wonderful bowl you.

25 Jul, 2013


Fab blog,i love hardy geraniums too.Love your garden.

8 Aug, 2013

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