There is always confusion about hardy geraniums. Many people still know the red geraniums of window sills and pots, now correctly pelargoniums, as geraniums, while this name now, correctly, is only used for true geraniums, grown outdoors because they are hardy and not damaged by frost, and they look completely different.
‘Rozanne’ is a superb modern variety with a spreading, slightly mounding habit of growth, reaching to about 40cm and up to 100cm wide with divided, deep green leaves and light violet blue flowers, made all the more dramatic by a very pale pink centre that fades to white. It has very clear red-purple lines on the petals and dark anthers to set off the blue colour. These lines guide in the flying insect pollinators for landing.
It flowers from early summer to the first frosts in October, something that other geraniums do not achieve. It can be used amid other plants as it is quite happy to scramble about while partly leaning on other plants, but not in a damaging way. It is great for covering up ground where spring bulbs are withering, flowering and keeping weeds down at the same time. It can cope with competition well, though flowers best in sunshine.
‘Johnson’s Blue’ has a bigger rush of flowers in June but tails off after a few weeks or months at most. It is very pretty when in flower and fills a period before the main show of perennial flowers really begins. The light-blue violet flowers practically glow in sunshine.
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Often confused with the previous kinds, the widely grown geranium x magnificum is a vigorous grower with dark blue flowers, the flowers not nearly as well-shaped. But it is quick-growing, making a robust weed-free clump of leaves topped over with a mass of flat, deep blue flowers in early summer, the flowers lasting just three weeks.
‘Ann Folkard’ has bright magenta-purple flowers with a black eye. The red-purple colour is strong and eye-catching. It has a trailing habit and scrambles its lax stems beautifully through and around other plants, like ‘Rozanne’, without damaging them.
Its leaves are green-yellow to begin with and later turn green. ‘Patricia’ has similar flowers but does not scramble as much, making a rounded mound of growth covered with dark-eyed magenta flowers in early summer, and can be cut down after flowering to come again.
‘Russell Pritchard’ is a low-growing and long-flowering variety with brilliant magenta-pink colour, sending out its scrambling flowering stems from a central root, dying back in winter to a central bunch of grey-green leaves. It is very attractive at the front of a border where it will bring rich colour for many weeks. ‘Mavis Simpson’ is a similar pale pink flowered version.