Geraniums – but not pelargoniums

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Flowers which have been gracing many gardens recently are a family of perennials in pink, magenta or blue and one which is hardy and so reliable to perform well every year; plants worthy to be in your garden.

This group of plants are geraniums but not to be confused with the half-hardy ‘geranium’ used in summer containers. The latter, despite the name, is a different plant altogether, with the proper name pelargonium.

The mini group or rockery geraniums are ideal for use as ground cover in a rockery or, if planted in the front, can be included in a herbaceous border.

Rockery geraniums will thrive in any ordinary garden soil, growing to a height of some six inches, with a spread of as much as 12 inches. The dainty flowers, one inch across, are pink or magenta, usually veined, with deeply cut, decorative foliage.

The larger relatives have an entirely different habit, growing to about 18 inches with flowers as much as two inches across. This one, also named Crane’s Bill, is a vigorous herbaceous perennial guaranteed to do well in ordinary garden soil and safely coming through the hardest of winters.

There is so much growth these plants really require some form of support to prevent them becoming damaged by wind and rain, resulting in an unruly appearance. The single flowers are purplish-blue, borne in profusion; the foliage is deeply divided and lobed, with Johnson’s Blue (pictured) being the most popular variety.

Remove flowering stems once they have lost their colour and cut back all foliage to ground level at the end of the season. If clumps are of sufficient size they can be divided in early spring or autumn. This keeps the plant producing plenty of new growth and by dividing up large clumps new plants are obtained for free for planting in other parts of the garden or given to friends.