I have long had a love affair with geraniums–true or hardy geraniums to distinguish the group from their cousins, pelargoniums (often called zonal geraniums.) I am usually in the throes of a love affair with one plant or another and spend my garden center time searching out every different one to add to the garden. In future posts you’ll no doubt hear about my current obsession with all the wonderful new perennial dianthus, or my first glimpses at the diversity in the large plant family called campanula which sent me up and down the highways hunting down every one in the Central Valley, or the lavender years, or, or, or…I first drank the kool-aid with Geranium incanum in the eighties when we had a difficult front slope in southern CA to fill with things that were easy care and would take up a fair amount of space. At that time there were not many varieties of these hard working gems in most local nurseries or garden stores even though there are over 300 species and many, many cultivars and hybrids in the world.
Most true geraniums, often called cranesbill, are easy care; not too fussy about soil and rarely bothered by insects or disease. Although they are often tagged as full sun, in my hot, dry climate most benefit from some afternoon shade. Let’s face it—most everything here, including me, could benefit from some afternoon shade! I have about a dozen different kinds between my front and back beds but few are in bloom yet. I do shear back the foliage for our cold winter and the new foliage is just now popping out. Later in the spring I’ll dedicate a post to them as they come into their prime.
On the other hand, G. ‘Tiny Monster’ has been up and running since mid January and will bloom continuously until I cut it back in self defense in late November or early December. It is a garden workhorse for me. The source of all the ‘Tiny Monster’ clumps in my garden (and in several fellow gardeners’ yards) was a 4″ plant found almost two years ago at the fabulous Plant Depot in San Juan Capistrano, CA. I always stop in when I am visiting my SoCal girlfriends and never leave the OC without back of the Volvo wagon full of great finds. Lots and lots of 4″ pots so you can try a lot of new things without breaking the bank.
I popped my little discovery in the ground under one of a pair of ‘Renae’ cascading tree roses hoping to give it a little protection from the southern exposure. It quickly grew to a clump about 18″ high and 4 feet across. Like many of the true geraniums it will attach to the soil at points away from the original crown. These babies can then be detached from the runner, dug up and transplanted. ‘Tiny Monster’ has proven itself as a reliable mounding ground cover in the hottest, driest conditions imaginable. You can see the original clump in the photo below—this is a south facing bed with brutal summer sun. I have transplanted clumps to a dry little sloping area behind the pool which is also south facing AND gets the western sun to boot. Never wilts, never dries out, always blooms. If I let it, it will scramble over its neighbors but is easily controlled with 5 minutes and a pair of hand clippers. The magenta flowers are cheerful and the charming lacy, cut leaves look airy and cool. For me, this tiny monster can hang out in my garden any time!