Hardy geraniums are an important plant in many gardens. I was first given some by a friend years ago and find them absolutely charming in garden designs. I incorporate them into beds with other plants, such as roses, peonies and grasses.
There are many different types of hardy geraniums. Some require full sun, and others adapt to full sun or part shade. The full-sun to full-shade varieties are excellent because they are very versatile. They are beautiful and durable, and best of all you can plant them almost anywhere!
One very special geranium is G. cantabrigiense Biokovo. It is a hybrid developed in 1974 by Dr. Helen Kiefer of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden.
Hardy in Zones 5 through 8, it grows up to a foot high and wide. It was recognized for its excellence by the Perennial Plant Association, which declared it Perennial Plant of the Year in 2015. One-inch wide flowers are white with pink shadings.
When viewed, it appears to be a light pink geranium. It blooms sporadically from spring to fall. If you want greater spread or stronger bloom, simply provide more water. But don’t worry – despite being described as a ground cover, Biokovo is well behaved. It increases by trailing stems, which facilitates transplantation. If it fades a bit in the heat, shear it and it will return.
And talk about versatile! You can use it in rock gardens, as a ground cover, as an edging, and even in containers. And unlike some of the blue varieties, it does not separate and does not flop. It is quite tough, and it is very easily grown in either dry or moist soil. I still have the first plant I was given, over 10 years ago, and have transplanted it and divided it more than once.
The foliage is attractive, too. The leaves are light green and deeply cut, somewhat glossy and have a pleasant scent.
If you want a stronger-colored hardy geranium, try lilac pink Karmina. It is one of several cultivars of this plant, all of which are in brighter colors. But the charm of Biokovo is hard to beat!
Donna Mack is a University of Illinois Extension master gardener for Kane County. The “Learning to Grow” column runs weekly during warmer months of the year. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for more information. Feedback on this column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.