Bloom geranium single fucking PAWG!


In my garden this will be the Year of the Fluffy Flower.  Ever since the first mail order catalogs arrived last December I have been mesmerized by the pictures of double-flowered varieties of hellebores, daylilies, primroses and Shasta daisies.  My usual love of simplicity has gone south in favor of the pursuit of excess, and I have ordered plants accordingly.  If summer ever comes this year, I will be awash in a sea of surplus petals.  At the moment, I can’t think of a better fate.

At the moment, I am hot on the trail of double hardy geraniums.  These are not the big, fat red or pink or white annual geraniums that you put in pots to decorate your porch.  Botanically speaking, those plants are actually pelargoniums, and while they are lovely in their own right, they are not hardy outdoors in cold winter climates.  The hardy geraniums, on the other hand, are relatively low growers that scoff at winter cold and return each year.  They are available in a range of colors and shades including white, pink rose, lavender, and blue purple.  Some species are tolerant of partial shade while others are sun lovers.  Interest in the hardy geraniums grows every year, as does the number of varieties available to American gardeners.  This is a wonderful development, as many of the species and cultivars are versatile, beautiful and easy to grow.

Most hardy geraniums are single-flowered varieties, with each flower having five petals.  The doubles have two or three times that number and resemble small roses or double primroses.  The beautiful, deeply dissected or cut foliage that is characteristic of hardy geraniums remains the same.  There are not many double varieties available, which is probably a good thing, because in my current state of fluffy flower mania I would probably bankrupt myself by buying them all.

The top of my microwave is currently home to an infant Geranium pratense ‘Double Jewel.  I potted it up when it arrived as a dormant root and now it awaits the return of seasonable temperatures before making its outdoor debut.  When it blooms, it will have white, double-petaled flowers with purple centers.  The catalog copy characterizes the blooms as being reminiscent of small clematis blossoms.

Geranium pratense is also known as Meadow Cranesbill.  Native to meadows and open fields in parts of Europe and Asia, it has been in cultivation for at least five hundred years and in use for over a thousand years.  In its natural state, G. pratense is blue-purple, so it is no surprise that another double form, G. pratense Summer Skies, sometimes also known as Gernic, is a soft bluish pink.  Both Double Jewel and Summer Skies prefer partial shade, except in the northernmost parts of the United and Europe, where they will flourish in full sun.

Summer Skies was introduced in the United States in 1997 by the English plant firm, Blooms of Bressingham.  Some sources suggest that it is actually a hybrid of G. pratense and another species, Geranium himalayense plenum.  Whatever its parentage, Summer Skies reblooms several times throughout the growing season.  Like other double-flowered cultivars, the plants are sterile, so they do not spread aggressively.

Summer Skies should land on my doorstep in the next week or so, and find its way into the garden shortly thereafter. 

I will also try Geranium himalayense Birch’s Double, which has rose-pink double blossoms.  This is not my first go-around with Birch’s Double.  I tried it a few years ago, and it died.  However, killing something once proves nothing.  I subscribe to the time-tested idea that only by killing a particular plant three times can you assure yourself that you shouldn’t grow it at all.

While there are not many double-flowered hardy geraniums at large in the world, there are more of them in England than there are here.  This is probably because the English have loved and cultivated the genus much longer than those of us who live on this side of the pond.  I predict that as time goes on, more and more gardeners will learn to love the doubles for the excellent, long-lasting flower show that they provide.  The clumps also grow larger gradually and can be divided to yield more plants.

Hardy geraniums, including the doubles, make lovely flowering ground covers.  But they are highly addictive, so be warned.  Buying one double-flowered variety may lead you to want all kinds of hardy geraniums and at the present time there is no cure for geranium addiction.

Double Jewel is available from Wayside Gardens, but is currently sold out.  Check for fall 2007 availability by contacting Wayside at 1 Garden Lane, Hodges, SC, 29695, (800) 213-0379, www.waysidegardens.com (Free Catalog).  Summer Skies is available from Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm, Song Sparrow Perennial Farm, 13101 E. Rye Road, Avalon, Wisconsin 53505, (800) 553-3715, www.songsparrow.com (Free Catalog).  Birch’s Double is available from Van Bourgondien, but is currently sold out.  Check for late spring or fall 2007 availability by contacting them at P.O. Box 2000, Virginia Beach, VA 23450, (800) 622-9959, www.dutchbulbs.com

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