Saturday, September 5, 2009

Geraniums? Or geraniums?

I love the chocolate pattern on 'Samobor's' foliage. The glossy leaves at right are the ivy geranium; the blossom also is the ivy geranium. 'Samobor' also is called Mourning Widow and performs well in semi-shady locations.

Some of the best performing plants in our garden are the hardy geraniums, also called cranesbill geraniums. And some of the best performing plants in containers are the tender plants commonly called geraniums that in reality are pelargoniums, a completely different genus. What would happen if I put the two together?

This spring, needing to keep a tighter rein on the plant budget, I decided to try it out. The hardy geranium Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' on the north side of the house needed to be thinned and divided. The big whiskey barrels by the garage needed to be filled -- cheaply. I dug up some clumps of the 'Samobor' with its fat leaves blotched with chocolate and paired it with 'Black Magic' ivy geranium found at The Garden House in Solon Springs, Wis. The ivy geranium has just a hint of chocolate in the center of its glossy leaves. I really like the subtle repetition of form and color. The leaves are different enough to be interesting and provide contrasts in texture and similar enough to form a relationship that isn't jarring. Oh, and the flowers are nice, too.

I'm debating on whether to pot up the 'Black Magic' to attempt to overwinter it inside. It may be more trouble than it's worth considering all the other tender plants that need to make their way back into the house in the next few weeks. Although it's a perennial that easily toughs out the winters here, I doubt 'Samobor' will survive above the ground in the whiskey barrel. I'll sacrifice them -- there will be plenty more where they came from next spring.

This whiskey barrel brims with hardy geraniums, tender ivy geraniums, 'Rosamond' lobelia and a fern in the back. Next time, I'll ditch the fern and trade out 'Rosamond' for 'Sapphire' lobelia. I think the blue lobelia would be a better companion than the purple. The hardy geraniums bloomed earlier this summer; they have small, purple flowers that are held above the foliage. But the combination is about the foliage and not so much about the flowers.

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