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Hardy cranesbill keeps summer weeds at bay

AT THE risk of creating further confusion, the red-flowered house plant or bedding flower widely known as 'geranium' is actually pelargonium, while the name geranium is correctly applied to the cranesbills, or hardy geraniums, which are plants for growing outdoors in borders.

The hardy geraniums have been steadily gaining in popularity over the years. In general, they are very easy to grow in any ordinary soil and they can tolerate light shade for part the day.

The native bloody cranesbill occurs in the Burren in Co Clare and is a good garden flower, small-growing but long-flowering at the front of a bed. There is a lovely pink-flowered form called 'Striatum'.

The tall blue-flowered meadow cranesbill is a native flower of limited distribution and a bit too vigorous for garden use, but it can fit in well with shrubs. It has a tendency to flop over, but it will still look attractive in flower. There is a lovely double-flowered form of this plant called 'Plenum Coeruleum' with pale blue flowers, and a purple double-flowered form too.

Geranium x magnificum (shown) is quick-growing, making a dense weed-free clump of leaves topped with a mass of deep bright-blue flowers this month. It expands nicely in a broad clump.

'Johnson's Blue' is very pretty, with flowers of elegant shape and of a lighter violet-blue. It is not overly vigorous and best used in a sunny mixed border. 'Rozanne' is even better, with blue white-eyed flowers all summer and a spreading habit of growth.

A strong grower, Geranium macrorhizum can be used for ground cover among shrubs in sunshine or shade. It forms a dense, low mat and is weed-proof. The flowers are deep pink to pale pink. It grows well in any soil and in moist or dry conditions, and sometimes self-sows. It can be a bit too vigorous.

Waist-high Geranium psilostemon is taller than most geraniums and it packs a real punch with its dark magenta flowers that have a black centre. 'Ann Folkard' was bred from this plant, having the same flowers and a sprawling habit, clambering through neighbouring plants until it dies back in winter.

A low-growing and long-flowering variety with brilliant magenta pink colour, 'Russell Prichard' also spreads its flowering stems out from a central root. 'Mavis Simpson' is a similar pale-pink flowered version of this. 'Claridge Druce' and 'Wargrave Pink' are low-growing and have lots of pink flowers but these have a tendency to self-sow, which can be a nuisance.

Sunday Independent