Soon after I joined the South Pennine Group of the HPS in 1998, it was decided that we should form Special Interest Plant Groups. They were Hardy Geranium, Euphorbia, Umbellifer, Aquilegia, Scented Plants, and Hosta. Members could belong to as many groups as they wished.
My chosen group was Hardy Geraniums. We used to visit each others gardens, and then talk geraniums over tea and biscuits. Eventually the mini groups fell out of favour, and my taste in geraniums changed. Instead of buying any new one I saw, I became more discerning, choosing the smaller types, and am now removing the large ones from my garden. They are great if you need to cover bare soil, but bare soil is at a premium to all hardy planters. I only wish I could throw away these rejects, but find myself potting them up, in the hope of selling them at our plant sale.
Of the smaller ones, I would recommend G. cinereum, G. kishtvariense, G. riversleaianum, G. x antipodeum 'Stanhoe', and G. 'Dusky Crûg'.
I then discovered erodiums, same family, but mainly smaller.
I have five of the larger herbaceous ones, E. manescavii, E. carvifolium, E. acaule, E. castellanum and E. c. 'La Féline' , but these are starting to get too big. I also suspect that E. 'Almoldovar' may turn out to belong to this group.
The smaller ones, suitable for a rockery, are my favourites now. I bought my first ones from Peter Smith of DH Nurseries, Matlock. 'Maryla' is named after his wife, who is a member of the Derbyshire Group. I have another called 'Robin', named by the French grower, Jean-Pierre Jolivot, for Robin Parer, an American grower who gave a lecture to our group some years ago.
Erodiums are very free flowering, starting in May through to November. They have beautiful ferny foliage, often silvery in colour. The flowers are usually pink, with a purple mark on two petals. They do need to be dead headed regularly, which I like to do on a sunny day, sitting on a stool alongside a large plant. I have counted over 200 spent flowers from one plant. They have aromatic foliage which adds to the pleasure.
They sulk if left in pots, and will do anything to get their tap roots down to the water table. Take cuttings in spring, pot them on into a gritty soil in a long pot, and then just as they are beginning to flower, but before they have wrapped their roots round and round the pot in frustration, plant in their permanent position. You will have a happy plant which will last for years.
My favourites are, 'Robin', 'Stephanie', E. x kolbianum 'Natasha', 'Frans Delight', 'Maryla', 'Norse Pink' and 'Eileen Emmett'.
First published in the South Pennine Group Newsletter, Winter 2010
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 29.
© Copyright for this article: Judy Coulson
This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2012. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.