About The Hardy Geraniums. These fantastic perennials were not very well-known in North America until recent years, but have always been a favorite group in Europe. Now, American gardeners have really embraced them, and cant get enough. Far different from windowbox geraniums, which are in a totally different botanical group, the hardy geraniums are tough perennials that bring to gardens what every gardener wants: compact plants with beautiful flowers and a long season of bloom. Some bloom longer than others, but basically, long bloom is one big advantage of the hardy geraniums.
A common name across all the species is Cranes Bill which refers to the sharp-pointed seed pod after flowering.
Our wild species: There are about 20 species worldwide, and two magenta-flowered ones are well-known in the US as native plants. Our Wild Geranium, or Wild Cranes Bill, G. maculatum, plus another with the curious name of Herb Robert are found over most of the east as treasured wildflowers, but their short season of bloom makes them non-competitors with the hybrids for garden space. Most of the garden favorites are crosses between species from Europe and Asia.
Blue: The basic coloring of The Lilac Geranium from the Himalayas, for example, gives us many of the great blue selections. Most popular from this group is Johnson's Blue, a world favorite with large (1 1/2 to 2 inch) true blue flowers. Another from similar parentage is Brookside with even deeper blue flowers. And then there's the newer, spectacular blue-splashed white one called Splish Splash.
Purple/Magenta/White: Geranium sanguineum, is a species native to northern Europe and Asia, and known as Bloody Cranes Bill due to its magenta flowers. It has become famous itself (the wild form) and is now the most popular hardy geranium in the US. One of the reasons is that it blooms almost all summer and fall. A cultivar named Maxfrei is a dwarf version, and a newer one, Elke has striking bi-colored flowers in magenta and white. Then there's the fantastic dwarf white one with pink veins in large white petals, called Geranium sanguineum var striatum, to me, the best-looking of them all.
Pink: Patricia is a favorite deep pink and is also one of the larger plants, up to 36. Another sensational pink one that's only about 12 inches high is Ballerina, from the G. cinereum species with large striped pink petals and dark centers, almost like a bi-colored petunia. And more recently, Purple Pillow from this group gives us really red flowers with a purple sheen.
You can't have too many hardy geraniums. They are wonderful as edging in the front of a border, and equally impressive as mounded specimen plants anywhere. If they're sheared after bloom, many will do a complete repeat performance for you before fall. If you don't have them in your garden, start your collection now. You'll love them all.