Biokovo Hardy GeraniumGeranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'
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Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
With the Biokovo Hardy Geranium, or Cranesbill, it’s a toss-up which is more beautiful, the rounded, lobed leaves that turn red tones in fall, or the charming pale-pink flowers that adorn it in spring, early summer and a little in fall too. A fabulous groundcover plant for sun or shade it spreads up to 2 feet across, but rises only about 6 inches above the ground. Grow it at the front of beds, sprawling out over a path or terrace, or along shady paths through areas beneath trees. It’s a great companion to all shade-loving plants, and yet it can also be grown in sunny rock gardens and on slopes, especially in cooler zones.
The Biokovo Hardy Geranium will grow in full sun, partial shade and full shade, making it one of the most adaptable garden plants. The broad mat of stems and leaves is weed-proof, and needs almost no attention to stay neat and attractive. Untouched by deer or rabbits and usually free of pests or diseases too. Trim off the flower stalks once the petals fall, if you like it extra-neat. Drought tolerant, but grows best in moist, richer soil that are well-drained. Avoid wet ground.
Versatile, beautiful, and easy to grow – if you haven’t discovered hardy geraniums yet you have been seriously missing out. If you want a lush, full garden, without creating lots of garden chores, then these plants are an essential part of the mix. Happy in partial shade, and just as happy in full sun, they will grow almost anywhere, and they are one of the easiest ways to fill the front of your beds, plant in rock gardens, or break the hard lines of paving and retaining walls. For the beauty of both flowers and foliage, combined with compact form that fits perfectly into smaller areas and foregrounds, few rival the Biokovo Hardy Geranium. Sprawling out to be 2 feet wide, but rarely more than 6 inches tall, it’s the perfect hardy plant for every garden. The simple pink flowers that cover it in spring, and are also scattered through summer and fall, combined with the bold red foliage it develops in fall, make it truly multi-seasonal. The odd bit of care needed is minimal, so there is little to do. Start with this one, and move on to other great hardy geraniums – your garden will be transformed beyond your dreams.
Just to set things straight, this plant is related to, but very different from, the common ‘geranium’ planted as a summer flower, with big, ball-shaped flower heads. Those plants should really be called pelargoniums.
The Biokovo Hardy Geranium is a sprawling perennial plant with semi-evergreen stems growing from the root. In cold areas it tends to die back and resprout each spring, while in warmer areas most of the stems pass through winter unscathed. The stems sprout vigorously from the base, and sometimes spread gently by underground stems, but this plant is not invasive. Each slender, green stem branches and branches again to create a mat of vegetation that is 18 inches across, sometimes extending to 24 inches. It is low-growing, rising to a mound hardly more than 6 inches tall, plus the flower stems when it’s in bloom. The small leaves are rounded, but this is hidden because they are deeply divided into 5 or 7 lobes, and each lobe has a jagged edge. The leaves are soft, slightly hairy, with a smooth surface, and dark green. In fall, especially when exposed to direct sun, they become bright red and then deep red through winter – a striking and beautiful effect.
The small flowers are carried in profusion, with the main bloom period in late spring, but more flowers appearing in summer, and often again in fall. They are simple, open cups, pale pink, with 5 petals, and prominent, darker pink stamens in the center. The flowers attract a range of butterflies and bees. When the petals fall a long, slender seed pod develops – the origin of an alternative name for these plants, cranesbill.
The Biokovo Hardy Geranium is an ideal low ground cover for the front of beds, on slopes, in rock gardens and retaining walls, and even in planter boxes. It spills out of beds onto paths and patios, softening those hard, straight lines, and giving a softer, full look anywhere in your garden. Plant it alone, in clusters, or to cover larger areas – space plants about 15 inches apart for group planting.
The Biokovo Hardy Geranium is cold-hardy in zone 4, although it may die back, even to the base. It always bounces back in spring, and rapidly grows back, flowering normally. It also grows in much warmer areas, right into zone 8, and is normally evergreen, perhaps with reduced fall coloring, in areas with warmer winters.
Plant the Biokovo Hardy Geranium across a wide range of light conditions, from full sun and partial shade into light full shade. Avoid heavy shade, which will reduce flowering and leaf density. It grows well in almost all soils, and although you will see the best growth in richer, moist soils, it is also very drought resistant once it is established. Avoid wet soils, especially in cold zones.
You won’t have to worry about deer or rabbits eating this plant, and it has no important pests or diseases. You might see a few spots on older leaves, but these have no significance. Remove any dead growth in spring, and trim lightly after the first blooms are over. This will remove the seed pods and increase later flowering. Nothing more is needed.
The genus Geranium has over 400 species in it, found mostly around the eastern parts of the Mediterranean, but also across Europe and most of the northern hemisphere. It shouldn’t be confused with the genus Pelargonium, which produced the colorful annual plants many gardeners still call ‘geraniums’. This is why we use the name ‘hardy geranium’, to distinguish them. The big-root hardy geranium, Geranium macrorrhizum, is a valuable garden plant, especially in deeper shade, and it grows wild through south-eastern Europe. Geranium dalmaticum is a small plant that grows in a limited area along coastal parts of Croatia. In 1974, at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, England, these two plants were crossed together, and the hybrid that resulted is called Geranium x cantabrigiense. From that cross several garden varieties have been raised. Also, because these two plants grow together in a small area of Croatia, natural hybrids are possible, and one of these plants was growing in the Biokovo Mountains along the coast of Croatia. It was discovered by Hans Simon, and released in 1980 through his nursery in Germany, with the name ‘Biokovo’. The stems of this plant are longer and more trailing than is found in plants of the Cambridge hybrid.
The Biokovo Hardy Geranium is a wonderful garden plant, and loved by everyone who grows it. Super-easy, colorful and a fabulous ground cover, it will transform your garden for almost no work. Do not hesitate to grow it – you certainly won’t regret it. So order now, as supplies of this very popular plant are always limited.