A tale of two geraniums

Having recently emerged from a 48-hour post vaccine fuzz, I decided to try a bit of gorilla gardening today as it’s a public holiday in Belgium. Given our weather conditions in northern Europe this month, this meant making surreptitious raids to sow a quick lettuce crop or pop some gladioli bulbs into the border, before being forced to beat a hasty retreat by the superior firepower raining down on me from the heavens.

Geranium sylvaticum in the border

During one such sortie, I appreciated two geraniums bringing late spring splashes of colour to the garden. These are not bold and show-stopping like the peonies or roses coming into bloom soon, but they bridge the gap between spring and summer in a dainty and pretty way, and they lend themselves to all sorts of interesting combinations.

Geranium sylvaticum ‘Mayflower’

The first is Geranium sylvaticum ‘Mayflower’. As the name implies, its a woodland geranium, native to Europe, that likes cool conditions, so is perfect both for this weather and for my east-facing ‘cool shades’ border.

The flower has an intensity of colour between blue and violet that I find very appealing, and it has tightly packed clusters of buds, promising a reasonably long flowering period. It makes a nice upright mound of foliage, about 70 cm high.

G. sylavaticum ‘Mayflower’ with sweet woodruff

I’ve combined it with the white dazzle of sweet woodruff, Galium odoratum, which is enthusiastically spreading, some young Japanese forest grass, Hakonechloa macra (I like a bit of lime green in a shady border) and higher up, Aconite.

G. himalayense ‘Gravetye’

Geranium himalayense ‘Gravetye’ is a strong blue, with large cup-shaped flowers that have violet veins and striking black stamens. I think this one does well with a bit more sun – I’ve got it at the top end of my front path border, where it’s in lightly dappled shade. It was found growing in Turkestan; the ‘Gravetye’ refers to Gravetye Manor, the English country home of a nineteenth century garden writer named William Robinson.

G. himalayense ‘Gravetye’ in the border

I like the contrast of blue and orange, so here I’ve combined it with Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’ which is another good bloomer for this time of year. The Geum is a bit sprawly and lanky, but that means that the flowers intermingle with the low growing Geranium’s quite nicely.

Geranium himalayense ‘Gravetye’ with Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’

It looks like more gorilla gardening for me until the weather improves, which it’s supposed to do towards the end of this week. Will we finally be soaking up some sunshine? I live in hope.