Clump forming and scrambling geraniums to enhance planting displays.


 This blog follows on from my last blog: Why are geraniums worth buying for the garden? Clump forming and scrambling geraniums are: as mentioned in my last blog, loose groupings  I use reflecting their principal habit, helping me decide on the best location in a border to plant them . To maximise their visual affect both these types are best considered in combination with their neighbours.  Ground-cover types can be considered  more independently such as an effective weed suppressant . Suitable companions are plants which have strong architectural form, texture and/or colour: but they must be when mature; of similar size as the geraniums to achieve a balanced composition. Phormium, hosta, alchemilla euphorbia, artemesia, iris; grasses and ferns all have species which can make suitable planting partners.

The clump formers are the ones to be most careful with; as many are large growing and can easily  smother less vigorous neighbouring plants. Clump formers with small leaves  such as some G. sanguineum species do not grow too tall and can be used to the front of a bed; but  until established  are in danger of being overwhelmed themselves by more vigorous neighbours.

The most commonly found large clump formers in garden centres are Geranium psilostemon, the Armenian Cranesbill, growing to over 1m tall it’s strong magenta flowers can make a bold contrast with yellow.


G. psilostemon on the right of this picture, part of a predominantly foliage grouping.

Geranium x oxianum  and its cultivars, ’Wargrave Pink’ and ’Claridge Druce’,  are the ones I know  the names off, but I cannot tell them apart and I do not think many people can. Having tried  to distinguish them I question the accuracy of labelling and much literature which seems to be very vague. What is important is knowing that they grow to around 60cm and have masses of pink flowers which last over a long period throughout the summer. This allows me to partner this hybrid with a suitable complimentary planting.


G. x oxianum providing ground -cover, (this photo is not my garden)

It is when one wants to know how to accurately identify a species or cultivar that one realises how vague and repetitive many books and internet descriptions are. I conclude that most authors , have looked similar resources as myself and could not identify these plants with any expertise themselves.

This brings me to these blue flowering geraniums and I confess at the moment I cannot identify them with certainty. The list includes G.himalayense, G. himalayense ’Gravetye‘, G. ‘Brookside’ and the infamous  Geranium ’Johnsons Blue’, (a cross of G. himalayense and G. pratense) it is probably the best known clump former and being sterile does not  set seed.   It’s merit is said to be its abundance of long lasting flowers.  The plant sold to me as Geranium ’Johnsons Blue’  has not has not impressed me with an abundance of flowers, perhaps it’s a G.himalayense, although it has not noticeably set seed. So perhaps it is. I am confused.

On a positive note I can identify the hybrid G. ’Orion’ it grows to around 60cm and flowers abundantly and over a long period of time.  G.himalayense is claimed to be one of the parents.


G. ’Orion’

 Clump formers consist of a central rosette of basal leaves from which flowering stem leaves emerge. These are the parts that tend to flop over look untidy after flowering or smothering neighbours.  These flowering stems can however be traced back into the basal rosette, cut away unnoticeably leaving a tidy clump.

The tall growing clump formers identified with larger leaves are most suited to the middle of the bed and partnered with plants of equal vigour and for prolonged interest strong architectural leaf form and texture such as tall growing irises or grasses.  As they get taller tend to collapse and can look untidy after flowering. If I get round to it I cut these hard back and mulch with a light layer of home- made compost , (a light sprinkling of any fertiliser should do)they always leaf up again but much tidier and some years I get a second flush of flowers.


G.x magnificum ‘ Blue Bird’  can be cut back  to ground level after flowering and grow back with a second flush of flowers in the same year

Because of their loose growth habit of their foliage scramblers do not really make effective groundcover  but are excellent for growing through other plants making them really fun to work with.  With as many failures (or learning curves) as successes I enjoy experimenting with increasing the dramatic effect they can make as they work they way through neighbouring plants.

G.wallichianum ‘Crystal Lake’ scrambling and harmonising with the burgundy leaves of through an Acer palmatum. Its flowers are just appearing adding to the composition.


Geranium ’Ann Folkard’ ( a G. procurrens and G. psilostemon cross) is a compact scrambler easily identified from other  magenta  flowering geraniums ( such as G.psilostemon ) as the foliage is a yellowish green and although it could be said to look chlorotic it can harmonise or contrast well with other foliage it merges with.


Magenta flowered Geranium ’Ann Folkard’ with pink G. x oxianum flowers sneaking into the picture.


Geranium ’Ann Folkard’ flowers en masse.

Personally I believe  cranesbill geraniums are must have plants for anyone wanting to invest in long lived, hardy, easy to grow plants able to contribute to all areas of a planting display not only the front, middle and back areas of a planting but  transcending these layers by scrambling through them .  My aim is to master their identification perhaps its time for me to invest in Peter Yeo’s book, Hardy Geraniums.


3 thoughts on “Clump forming and scrambling geraniums to enhance planting displays.

  1. Have you tried Geranium ‘Rozanne’, a fairly recent cultivar which has been very heavily promoted by people including Carole Klein? It’s touted as the Chelsea flower show plant of the century. The flowers are similar (though maybe not quite as pretty) as Johnson’s Blue, but it flowers throughout the season. That sounds great, but there are things I don’t like about it. Firstly, the foliage doesn’t look particularly attractive (it reminds me of buttercup leaves!) Secondly it never has quite the volume of flower of many geraniums. It still goes scrappy, but doesn’t stop flowering, which means you can’t bring yourself to cut it back. Thirdly, unlike many others, although it sprawls, it doesn’t set roots, (unless you pin down the stems and cover with some soil). On the other hand, maybe it just doesn’t like my soil!


    • Hi Graham, thanks for commenting on my blog. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ and G.’Orion’ are very similar and I have read from several sources that G.’Orion’ is the better. My observations on G.’Rozanne’ are the same as yours but I am led to believe it does well and flowers for a long period in full sun. My G.’Orion’ flowers long and well in partial shade. You have got me thinking about G. ‘Johnson’s Blue’ and G. ‘Brookside’ as contenders . If I can think fof a suitable sunny location I may put all four in the same planting display and see which performs best. John


  2. Thanks John,
    I’ll look out for Orion, as it sounds a better bet. I had Johnson’s Blue in my last garden, and while the flowers are excellent, it didn’t flower for that long.


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