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Looking back… Top 5 Geraniums


We have had so much cold arctic air this year that I resolve never to complain about the heat in summer again. The news lately (other than the Olympics) has been about wind, rain and flooding in southern England. It got me thinking about the challenges that our plants face, even if we do everything right. Knowing which plants are up for a challenge can be useful.

Very often Canadians will greet each other with the comment “Hot enough for ya?” or perhaps “Cold enough for ya?” if it’s winter. We don’t really expect a response to that specifically, we just carry on with conversation. It just shows that the weather is always on our minds. And I’ve never paid so much attention to the weather as when I seriously started gardening and collecting hardy geraniums. The year, 2012, was the most fickle year of weather yet, as we had two weeks of July-like weather in mid-March followed by the return of winter. Our July brought heat waves and the worst drought (here in Ontario) that we have ever seen. We had lots of rain in August, but that only beat down the already weary plants! To make matters worse, we were away on holidays during the worst of the July heat.

They don’t call them hardy geraniums for nothing, I did not lose a single plant over the summer! I thought I might have lost Geranium ‘Stephanie’ as it was dried and shrivelled up when we returned home, but it has since re-sprouted. One of Stephanie’s parents is a plant that goes summer dormant, so that is why it had looked so poor.

Sure, a lot of geraniums were not looking the best and many were away ahead of their normal schedule, but at least they survived. Unfortunately, I also missed collecting a lot of seed. A tough growing season like this sure changes your list of favourites. Plants that may not be as showy as some but managed to thrive and bloom all summer quickly move to the top of the list (at least for that year).

The two that were the best bloomers for me in 2012 were ‘Nimbus’ and ‘Orkney Cherry’, and as I wrote this in late August, ‘Orkney Cherry’ was still going strong, scrambling through the rockery and making it look as if other long-finished plants such as G. dalmaticum and ‘Rothbury Gem’ were still flowering. Actually all my cinereum-types gave up blooming when the heat and dry hit. When it cooled down to only 25 to 28 degree C temperatures there was the odd bloom here and there.

A new geranium that I had found in the spring, G. himalayense ‘Derrick Cook’, put on a good show with it’s large white flowers and impressed me enough to make my top five list.

Geranium ‘Dragon Heart’ performed very well and had a bloom period almost as good as ‘Nimbus’. My final pick is another new plant (to me) this year called ‘Cheryl’s Shadow’, which completely ignored the heat and bloomed all summer, still going strong into the autumn, although the tiny pink flowers are really no larger than those of Herb Robert. They do look good on the dark brown foliage.

Sadly, ‘Cheryl’s Shadow’ turns out to be a zone 7 plant and we are only zone 4, so it will have to come in for the winter with my Erodium ‘William Bishop’ which is zone 8-9. That erodium is certainly runner-up to my top 5 picks as it too, bloomed non stop all summer. As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, this wonderful little erodium continues to bloom all through the winter when I bring it indoors. The ‘Cheryl’s Shadow’ on the other hand, does not really like coming in for the winter. I nearly lost it during the winter of 2012-13 and it is not really doing all that well this winter (indoors) either. I may try it in my unheated, enclosed porch where temperatures only drop to a little below freezing, if it survives that long for me. A good example of how favourites can change from year to year.

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Love that Erodium!

20 Feb, 2014


The bloom of the Erodium looks so much like Claytonia that I had to look twice. Beautiful plants. This year I'm adding Johnson's Blue and New Hampshire Purple, both hardy to zone 4. Do you have, or have you seen, Double Jewel?

21 Feb, 2014


Lorilyn - Yes, I have had G. pratense 'Double Jewel'. I just moved many scattered pratense varieties to a new spot (trying to get like plants all together) and I hope it is still with me. It is a very nice plant, and even though the doubles don't usually set seed, I did get a beak forming and got a few seeds. I had bad luck with the tiny seedlings though... Perhaps I'll get another chance?

25 Feb, 2014


I have Double Jewel and it did very well last year. No seeds though.

25 Feb, 2014

I found this old photo which included my Double Jewel. All the plants in that new bed were eventually moved to better locations. A crabapple tree shaded them all too much... Live and learn.

28 Feb, 2014

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