June Bloom

Despite the garden taking off and plants blooming like crazy, it’s been more than five weeks since my last post. Plenty of blooming beauties to photograph, yet I haven’t managed to find the time for even a few pix. So what’s been holding things up?

zonal denial greenhouse

New cedar greenhouse aka zonal denial enabler

That’s my new greenhouse, designed (I hope) to withstand our very windy site. Although a kit, it still required many hours of work to get to this point. With 4 X 4 cedar posts and heavy beams, I’m hoping it will be up to the task of occasional 60 to 80 mph gusts during winter storms.

I plan to use supplemental heat on the coldest winter days to keep the inside no lower than 40° F. That qualifies as a “cool” greenhouse, but will be just enough to keep plants like this potted olive tree, Olea europaea ‘arbequina, safe all winter.

Olea europaea arbequina

Olea europaea arbequina

Many of my “zonal denial” plants will find their winter home in the greenhouse. But like many gardeners first attracted to ornamentals I’m growing more and more edibles, so the greenhouse will also help me start veggie seeds besides being the winter home for this olive tree, which is now covered in tiny buds.


Olea europaea ‘arbequina buds soon to be tiny white, fragrant flowers

Now, instead of worrying about cold temperatures, better to concentrate on what’s happening in the garden right now and finally take some pix.

propane cannister

Propane cannister turned into planter locks nice against Acanthus leaves


Yucca getting ready to bloom

Yucca getting ready to bloom

This Yucca lights up a corner with its bright variegated leaves that contrast nicely with the dark pot. This year will be the first in quite a few years that the Yucca will bloom.

I have a vague memory that when I bought this Yucca the salesperson said the blooms were supposed to be  fragrant.  The stalk is just fattening up and should open soon finally revealing whether the blooms are scented. I’ve long since forgotten the name of the cultivar.

Some Yuccas are surprisingly hardy in our Puget Sound climate. Even though native to warmer climes, they definitely enjoy our hot dry summers and seem to tolerate are cold wet winters.

Spiraea japonica 'Magic Carpet'

Spiraea japonica ‘Magic Carpet’

Nandina and lavender

The lavender at the front of the border hasn’t quite colored up yet, but in a few weeks it will look stunning in front of the red Nandina leaves.

Claridge Druce

Geranium ‘Claridge Druce’ marches out of the border into the wood chip path

Clematis jackmanii climbing arbor

Clematis jackmanii climbing arbor

clematis roaming through Senecio

Clematis ‘Niobe’ rambling through Senecio greyii

Variegated Hardy Geranium unknown cultivar

Variegated Hardy Geranium unknown cultivar

clematis stans leaves

Clematis stans

Clematis stans

Clematis stans

Clematis stans is a native of Japan and is a bushy plant ( technically a sub shrub) rather than a climber.

It’s flowers are tiny compared to the spectacular flowers of most vines in the genus. Flower color size and shape is highly variable.

I’m growing it in a pot, but soon it will go in the ground. It’s a very hardy species that will survive USDA Zone 5 winters.

Left outside in a pot it dies back to its roots, but I suspect in the ground here in Zone 8 it will require cutting back in winter.

Senecio greyii blooms en masse

Senecio greyii blooms en masse

Grow Hardy Geraniums: Five Good Reasons Why

Not to be confused with the well-known (and beloved) plant commonly known as geranium, the hardy geraniums (also known as cranesbills) belong to their own genus.

geranium ox pot

Geranium x Oxonianum ‘Claridge Druce’ blooming in pot circa July 2011

The more widely known plant actually belongs to the genus Pelargonium and here in temperate Pacific Northwest can seldom survive our winters without some help.  Not surprisingly, Hardy Geraniums, are tougher plants:

“whereas Pelargonium is essentially a genus of warm-temperate conditions, with very few species being hardy in Britain, Geranium is equally characteristic of cool-temperate conditions… [and] come from the temperate norther part of Eurasia and its more southerly mountain regions, and from temperate and mountainous parts of North and South America. But practically everywhere that suitable climates are to be found Geranium will be found too, including South Africa, the Arabian peninsula, the Indian peninsula, Taiwan, Indonesia, New Guinea and the Hawaiian Islands. In addition it is found in Australia (including Tasmania) New Zealand, the Azores, Canary Islands and Madeira.”  — from Hardy Geraniums by Peter F. Yeo , published by Timber Press, 1985, 1992.

The hardy geraniums seem to mostly flower in late spring or early summer, many with repeat blooms right through the fall, especially if you deadhead or shear the clump after the initial flush of bloom.

Here in the maritime Pacific Northwest my geraniums are just starting to bloom after two or three days of unusually high temperatures and a very wet March and April. I have some older varieties, probably very familiar to British gardeners, where Hardy Geraniums were popular before they caught on here in the States.

The alternative name Cranesbill comes from the fruit of the plant that forms on some species after the flowers fade, which apparently resembles a Crane’s bill to some observers.  I find them messy looking and deadhead them or shear them away. Two of my older varieties, Geranium x Oxonianum and Geranium hymalayense ‘Birch Double,’ don’t seem to have much of a crane’s bill after the flowers fall off, an added plus for me.

Here are my five reasons why some varieties make great garden plants, followed by more pictures of some of my favorites.

  1. Many of the shorter cultivars and crosses make the tidiest clumps of leaves in springtime. Great foliage plant for early spring! And great for the front of borders.
  2. They seem to be insect and pest free, except maybe for deer and possibly rabbits.
  3. Requires little maintenance: Removal of previous years growth in winter or early spring and occasional shearing or deadheading is all that’s generally required.
  4. Flowers are profuse, though some of the harder to find doubles are less vigorous.
  5. Reseeds readily, making them easy to pot up and share with friends. While division of the dormant parent clump in winter ensures you get the same flower.
clumping geraniums front of border

Hebe ‘Red Edge’ flanked by two Hardy Geranium clumps at the front of a border

Geranium volunteer  (probalby sanguineum variant) sharing gravel driveway with yellow sedum

Volunteer Geranium (probably sanguineum variant) sharing gravel driveway with yellow sedum

Geranium himalayense

Geranium himalayense ‘Plenum’ aka  ‘Birch Double’ s (first bloom of 2014)

Ogon Druce Wallis

From left: Golden Variegated Sweet Flag ‘Ogon,’ G. ‘Claridge Druce’ with apple blossoms scattered on leaves, and G. ‘Bill Wallis’ just starting to bloom


Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’ seedlings potted up to share with friends

I’ve had some plants for 15 to 20 years, especially Geranium hymalayense ‘Birch Double’, which I bought at a plant sale in the 1980s. Of the five or six varieties I have in my garden, at least four have flowers that come true from seeds; Geranium x Oxonianum ‘Claridge Druce’ seedlings seem to be just like the parent flowers, so apparently it comes true from seed. Other geraniums around the garden seem to have seedlings that show variation, but I don’t mind. If something doesn’t come true from seed, and it’s worthy of keeping, I just make an effort to propagate it by division.

For more on Geranium x Oxonianum ‘Clardige Druce’, see this previous post.

Geranium x Oxonianum ‘Claridge Druce’

A dependable beauty, this hardy geranium forms a tidy clump of leaves beginning in early spring and is eventually covered in pink flowers with darker pink veining lasting throughout the summer.

Seldom higher than 18 inches, the plant reawakens in the spring forming a  lovely clump of five-lobed, light green leaves followed by five petaled, pink flowers. Older plants range wider with a semi-creeping habit.

Dead head spent blooms to encourage more blooming, or if that seems too tedious a task, simply shear back the waning bloom and wait for the next flush of flowers.  The only other maintenance is simple:   After leaves die back in early winter cut back the stems to the ground (or if your lazy wait to spring to clean up last years remains).

Geranium Oxonianum is a cross between Geranium  endressii and G. versicolor.  Many named culitvars of this fertile cross exist, most showing variations in flower, leaf color, and habit.

Geranium x Oxonianum was first introduced into commerce around 1900 in honor of G. Claridge Druce (1850-1932), British botanist, pharmacist and plant collector.

Update Spring 2013

Every spring I’m reminded of why I love this plant.  The tidy, tight mound of green is a treat all by itself.

G. oxanianum-mound