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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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The Gigantic Geranium, a Very Reliable Perennial

Of all the perennials that grow in my garden, Geranium Psilostemon, or Armenian Cranesbill, is my favorite. If ever I should move from my present home, this is the one plant I will dig up and take with me.

I first noticed this majestic perennial in the book “Antique Flowers: Perennials” by Rob Proctor. It caught my attention for two reasons. Firstly, I was on a hunt for intensely colored pink plants. Secondly, its vibrant black eyes gave it an iridescence not normally seen in perennials. It just popped off the page.There are two great pictures of it in ”Best Borders” by Tony Lord while in Penelope Hobson’s book ”Flower Gardens”, it appears no less than three times:

None of the nurseries in my area sold the plant but I was fortunate to find it online. In the first season in my garden it did not reach the spectacular growth seen in the books. However, the color was true to the photographs. It's an intense magenta pink rarely seen in perennials and the black eyes popped out at me from my garden just as they did in the books. By year two, its growth was impressive and by the third year, it was awesome, reaching three feet high and two and a half feet wide.

If allowed to flop over, this large geranium makes an unusual and tall ground cover. It does not spread rampantly and nothing can penetrate its foliage. However, when staked to grow upright, it gives new meaning to the term “wow factor”. Unlike other geraniums that last for a few weeks, this one blooms for two months.

If there is empty space in my flower beds, the geranium will self-seed there; but not aggressively. Over the years I have found many welcome offspring that transplant easily. I use them as gifts to my clients. It gives their gardens an exclusive look while making a bold statement. Whenever I require more plants than were self seeded, I split the roots of the mother plant in September and replant on the spot. The mature leaves wither immediately from shock, but by the end of October, new shoots appear from the neck of the new plant to confirm that the propagation has been successful. Plants that are divided in the spring may not flower the first season.

This is a plant that keeps on giving. Notice the richly colored autumn foliage on the right side of the double photo above.This perennial can be purchased from Hortico or Fraser's Thimble Farms. A word of advice: No web photo can do this plant justice, not even the image above. You have to grow it to know it. Thanks to for the photo.

Click here to read an update on this perennial.

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