Preparations for my youngest son’s marriage to his darling Laura have kept me out of the garden, both in focus and physically, for the last couple of months. In addition, we have had an incredibly wet winter here in the Central Valley of California–strictly an observation–not a complaint as anyone gardening here will never complain about rain, even when it comes day after day in torrents. A soggy winter can carry us quite far into spring before needing to think about supplemental irrigation!
The one project that has carried on, as the skies have allowed, is the front garden renovation started in earnest in the fall. Only a small area still remains to be double dug and amended and as much as I have had plants in reserve to work with I have marched right along behind the digging putting in perennials and small shrubs conducive to our goal of reducing the need for summer water.
Many plants which have performed well for me have been dug and divided from other parts of the garden to incorporate into the new area. A few things which had languished unenthusiastically in their current homes have gotten new addresses also. One of those ‘unhappy in its starter home’ specimens is Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’ whose blooms are pictured above.
I have been a collector of hardy geraniums for several years–I never leave a nursery or garden center without first checking their offerings for species and hybrids to add to my booty. Check out my post A tiny monster any girl can love… for a little info on the geranium vs pelargonium confusion. My zone is not terribly friendly to most of the hardy Gs although many of them thrive naturally in challenging climates all over the world–even with irrigation the air is simply too dry here in the summer months. Think the UK and much of Eastern Europe where they scramble and ramble to the point they are sometimes considered invasive! I consider them a challenge with rewards worth a little extra tending.
‘Bill Wallis’ has had a spot under a crepe myrtle tree in my front garden for more than two years, having been purchased on a now not distinctly remembered garden center ramble out of town. When I dug it up just after Christmas and moved it about three feet from its original home I swear it had only the same three leaves on it as when I purchased it and it had NEVER flowered. It’s new abode, in freshly double dug and very well amended earth was apparently the shot of adrenaline ‘Bill’ needed and the sad little clump, whose root mass had fit in the palm of my hand, sprung to life.
This is ‘Bill Wallis’ as seen on my first garden walk-around upon returning from Joshua and Laura’s North Georgia mountain wedding. My initial research after purchasing the little guy was that it would eventually form a large mound and, as it reseeds readily, could naturalize in ground that has been disturbed–not at all what my experience with the plant had been. Perhaps it was the ‘disturbed ground’ or the more fertile soil provided by copious amendment that was missing from the necessary cultural conditions needed to make Geranium pyrenaicum shine. Clearly February is not its natural blooming peak so only time will tell how it fairs through spring and summer. I especially love its sprawling red stems–cutting them back when the 1″ blooms are spent should produce new stems=new flowers. Fingers crossed on that! If I get so lucky as to have too many seedlings there will be plenty to pot up for gardening friends–how’s that for starting 2019 with a positive attitude?
I have a lot of garden travel on my calendar in late spring and summer, including this year’s Garden Bloggers Fling in Denver. Also have a dear friend moving to Arizona this year and that could require a new garden consultation–going to have to read up on all those spiky things! You won’t even have to pack a bag to join me as I see new places and new gardens throughout the year.
4 thoughts on “‘Bill Wallis’ welcomes me home…”
Wow, I do not think that many of us grow cranesbill geranium anymore. I sort of like it because it tolerates a bit of redwood debris. It can get covered if too much falls, but it does not mind the herbicidal effect of a little bit of it that so many other perennials and annuals are sensitive to. I think that it takes a bit of shade rather well too. I know it prefers warmer and cleaner environments, but we lack that luxury.
You are right, Tony! I am not really sure if we don’t grow them because they aren’t commonly available in the retail trade in California or that they aren’t widely available because the nursery industry believes we don’t grow them. The result is the same–hard to find! Interestingly, the author of my favorite hardy geranium reference book is Robin Parer who was one of the co-organizers of the Bay Area Horticultural Society and owns a small mail order nursery based in Marin County and named Geraniaceae, specializing in members of the cranesbill family. Check out http://www.geraniaceae.com to see what she’s got on her plant list!
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That is an odd group to specialize in, although I do happen to really like several of the Pelargoniums. I know from what I grew that odd things become popular. I grew many cultivars of rhododendrons that I really disliked, and when I grew citrus, our most popular was my least favorite. I still can not figure out why hellebores are so popular. They look awful here. Yet, we sell as many as we can grow.
Good to have you back. Are you coming for the Mary Lou Herad tour this year