Wednesday, January 26, 2011

G is for Geranium

I'm not talking about the beautiful annual (to our zone) Pelargonium aka scented geraniums or storksbills.

I'm talking about the botanical name Geranium aka Cranesbills, Hardy Geranium, American cranesbill, alum root, wild geranium, Crowfoot, Spotted Geranium, Dove's Foot, Tormentil, Storksbill, Alum Bloom, Shameface, American Kino Root, Old Maid's Nightcap, and Chocolate Flower.  This Geranium is often perennial in our zones and a beautiful unassuming workhorse.  I'll post a few photos of some of the ones in my garden.

Unknown variety

Various Cranesbills are carried by most local nurseries and catalogs.  The simple reason is many fold: 
  • They are attractive all summer.  
  • They take little care and upkeep.
  • The leaves are in several different shapes and colors; including fall colors.
  • They aren't fragile.
  • They are long lived.
  • Some are low bushes and others vine.
  • The flowers are strong but dainty looking.
  • They're not expensive.
  • Easily divided, moved and shared. 
Rozanne Cranesbill

Cranesbill can grow in moist soils, but prefers well-drained, loamy or sandy soils with a neutral pH.  It will grown in full sun, partial sun, and partial shade.   They are self seeding although never considered invasive.  After bloom, you can encourage more flowering by trimming back.  Some will bloom most of the summer without trimming.  I'd advise watching the first couple of years to see what your plant wants.  They become "leggy" if they are over fertilized.

Cranesbill Alpenglow

Cranesbill is a herb that is native to North America. The part used medicinally is the root. Cranesbill is found in tea, capsule, and liquid extract forms.  Cranesbill has been used by Native Americas to stop bleeding and to treat diarrhea.  Most of us are familiar with the "Alum" used to treat sores in children's mouths.  This is made from the root of this geranium.  Alum that's used for pickling is a different substance.

Max Frei Cranesbill

Geranium was in most every English garden with over 400 varieties available.  Check out the cold hardiness for the plant you buy (most will be Zone 4 or 5).  If you live in a very hot/humid area, plant in some shade.  They fill in nicely under bushes, around taller perennials, and as later cover for spring blooming bulbs.
The flowers are blue, pinks, lavenders, and many variations on those themes.  The blue is the newest hybrid.  My "Gerard's Herbal" talks about "It is found neere to common high waies, desart places, untilled grounds, and specially upon mud walls almost every where."  Side note:  If you've never read  this garden/herbal book, you're missing a delight.  John Gerard was born in 1545 and his writings are of that era.  He uses the old English names and manner of speaking, plus, the superstitions of the day. 
And the end of the season brings beautiful fall colors to my perennial cranesbill.  Whether you have a large or small garden, there's a place for this geranium.   

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