Commonly knows as cranesbills, hardy geraniums are quick-growing, mounded perennials covered in five-petaled, veined flowers in shades of pink, purple, white, and blue. They produce an abundance of small flowers for over half the year, so the continual color is a true benefit.
Their common name of cranesbill comes from the shape of their seed pod, shown here in a great photo from robsplants.com:
Their foliage is pretty and varied, and also easy to prune. Cutting back these plants is essential, and I’ve divided them in the fall and pulled up dozens of volunteers as well. There are hundreds of varieties of hardy geraniums. I can’t identify the plants by their flower color and leaves alone (they were planted by other gardeners), but two of the varieties at Coppertop look a lot like Johnson’s Blue and Roxanne to me.
The foliage of the Geranium sanguineum is more spiky and delicate than the other varieties. I confess that last year I pulled up clumps of these, thinking they were weeds. Most have returned undaunted.
Translated as bloody cranesbill, their green leaves darken to crimson in autumn, which is something I missed out on last fall. It’s this autumn coloring that has given the plant its name.
I’ve never been a big fan of old-fashioned annual or summer “geraniums” in their orangey red shades, which are actually in the genus Pelargonium. Their furry leaves and strong aroma don’t appeal to me, but they are some folks’ idea of summer in a pot. In Italy we grew lovely ivy-leaved geraniums that trailed out of planters in the hot summer sun. I’ve also been attracted to gorgeous, scented-leaved geraniums and fancy-leaved zonal geraniums — all of which are actually pelargoniums, pretty much annuals in zone 8 and below, and none of which I grow at Coppertop. Maybe it’s time to change that and find some nicely scented beauties for my deck pots.