The garden has been missing hardy geraniums until now. It was always my intention to plant plenty but, being supporting cast rather than stars, they tend to slip into the back of my mind when buying plants. Of course, trees and shrubs had to come first and now I can start to have some fun with herbaceous plants. There have been two notable exceptions in my dearth of geraniums: G. endressii which I had a clump of which was divided mercilessly to plant on a bank and, inevitably ‘Rozanne’ which was also divided this spring to make three new plants – so I have quite enough of that now.
A must for the garden was G. magnificum, one of the most showy of all, largely because all the (large) flowers open in one flush, making is one of the shortest-blooming of all geraniums. But I forgive it this failing and the fuzzy leaves are attractive and I wanted it because it is a plant that reminds me of my childhood.
One that is new to me is G. phaeum ‘Springtime’. When I bought it I was having a confused moment because I wondered if it was the new name for a geranium I once grew as ‘Spring Fling’ but a quick google dispelled my confusion because that is G. oxonianum.
Geranium phaeum is loved by plant enthusiasts but the petunia brigade would not give it a second glance. The flowers are beautiful but usually in rather morose colours, centering on rich purple. When it is trying to look cheerful the flowers are paler, almost pink in some cases, but they are still the colour of faded Victorian chenille. Even the white, which I also have, has petals that are thin and seem suffused with grey. But that is not to say they are not beautiful – they are – but they don’t want to be stuck with them at a party.
Usefully, they are tough and will grow in shade and that is where ‘Springtime’ would be especially useful. Though my photo is pretty awful, the point of this is the foliage which, splotched with the usual purple, are bright yellow in spring. I split my plant and potted the three divisions and they entranced me as they crept into growth in the polytunnel. I know that some would consider they are a bit stomach-churning but I like variegation and they were bright and showed an unexpected cheerful side to the plant. Now that they are coming into bloom I am pleased to see the flowers are a beet good purple, a similar shade to the leaf spots and help to tie all the components together.