I look around my garden in early spring for gaps where plants have failed to survive the winter. I would love to fill these gaps with exotic tropical plants with lush foliage and showy flowers.
However, my garden is on a north facing slope in North Wales near the sea. It is exposed to salt laden gales and a lack of sunlight. These are not ideal conditions for tropical plants. Tropical plants also need to be kept frost free over winter. This means either growing them in pots or digging them up in autumn. They then need storing inside during the winter months, with no guarantee of survival.
Instead I fill the gaps with hardy geraniums. These plants can cope with my growing conditions. They are frost hardy, reliably perennial, virtually pest and predator free and resistant to diseases. They are easy to maintain and some remain evergreen throughout winter. Many are colourful and some have scented foliage.
The name hardy geranium is used to distinguish them from tender geraniums. This is a related group known as Pelargoniums. Pelargoniums are not frost hardy and do not usually survive our British winters.
Hardy geraniums are found on all the main continents. New species are still being discovered in more remote and inaccessible areas of the world. About 10% of the 200 or so species and over 600 named hybrids and forms have white or nearly white flowers.
The rest range in colour from the palest pink to the darkest violet-blue. Many flowers are veined, netted or overlaid with another colour. Others change colour with age and a select few are double-flowered. Some have attractive autumn/fall leaf colour. No yellow flowering hardy geraniums and no species with scented flowers have yet been discovered .
Hardy Geraniums – Perfect Mixed Border Plants
Hardy geraniums are sometimes called meadow cranesbills, They were once common in wild-flower meadows. But changes in farming practices means they are now largely restricted to hedgerows.
Hardy geraniums are excellent plants for the mixed border. As a group, hardy geraniums are very easy to grow and are tolerant of a wide range of soil types and garden situations. They are left untouched by slugs, snails and rabbits. Pest such as aphids and whitefly also leave them alone.
Some species are evergreen and some have scented leaves. Many will flower throughout the season, especially if they are given a light tidy up after the first flush of flowers fade and before they set seed.
New growth soon appears and they carry on flowering. There is no pruning to do to these plants as they only need the old foliage to be cut away during the early spring tidy-up.
Hardy geraniums will give you many years of trouble-free gardening. They are often know as the Queen of the Border. They are also regularly voted among the top five perennial plants. It is these qualities, together with their versatility, ability to mix well with other herbaceous perennials and to blend with virtually any colour scheme that makes them the backbone of many mixed borders.