Northern Shade Gardening

Shimmery Blue Geranium

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 Category: Perennials
Geranium 'Johnson's Blue' single flower

Geranium

A shimmery blue flower and an extended blooming time are two great traits for a perennial. The long flowering Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ (cranesbill) is an attractive perennial for planting under shrubs or in a border. Mine are planted under a lilac tree, where they provide bright blue colour long after the lilac has stopped blooming.

Johnson’s Blue has  been flowering for a couple of months without stop. These plants are in part-shade, yet they have been covered in flowers. There are many fresh buds still ready to open and reveal their glimmering flowers. They look striking when the sun is shining on the blooms.

The flowers are a purplish blue, with faint purple lines giving an iridescent look to the petals. You can see from this closeup how much depth of colour the blooms have. A small white centre sets off the blue color. The simple open rounded petals are very appealing.

These Johnson’s Blue geraniums are about 60 cm (2 ft) tall and wide. The deeply lobed leaves are attractive before the plant starts to bloom. The stems have  a loose habit, with their flowers weaving into the edges of the plants which surround them. This can look fine, depending on the neighbouring plants. If you don’t want them mixing with other flowers, they look good as a grouping around shrubs with an open base, or under a tree that doesn’t cast too much shade. They need to be sited where their loose structure looks appropriate.

Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'

Geranium

Geraniums are relatively low maintenance plants. All they need is to be cut back in late fall or early spring, and to be deadheaded as their flowers fade. The dead blooms are easy to spot. The long, thin developing seed sticks out of the old bloom, giving them the common name, cranesbill. I try to cut off the finished blooms before the bill gets too long. This is one plant I prefer to deadhead with snips, rather than my fingernails, since they are sticky.

Geranium 'Johnson's Blue', 2 flowers

Geranium

I’ve thought about trying ‘Rozanne’ and ‘Jolly Bee’ geraniums, but I’m not sure if they’ll be as hardy in zone 3. I might try planting one of each, to see if they return next spring, and compare their hardiness to Johnson’s Blue.

Perennial geraniums are another mainstay in the garden.  They have attractive, long blooming flowers, and tolerate part-shade. Removing the faded blooms, and cutting back the foliage for winter are the only maintenance required.

What are your favourite perennial geraniums, and how do you place them?

Here is a followup comparison of Johnson’s Blue and Rozanne geraniums in my garden.

33 Responses to “Shimmery Blue Geranium” »

  1. Mother Nature :
    August 26, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    I’m sad to say I don’t have any but it is something to look for and add to my garden.

  2. Nancy Bond :
    August 26, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    How beautiful! Geraniums and I are best friends…I will certainly look for this one when I have a proper flowerbed.

  3. Northern Shade :
    August 26, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Mother Nature, there are a number to choose from, and most are great plants. However, I have another geranium, which I think is a variety of Geranium pratense, that is very awkward. It is extra floppy, and sends out very long leaf petioles or stems that stretch a couple of feet from the plant with one leaf on the end of each.
    I brought it by mistake from my last garden. It was spring, and I meant to bring a much nicer geranium.

  4. Northern Shade :
    August 26, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Nancy Bond, geraniums are are very amiable. Everybody should have one (or more) for a garden friend.
    The planning stage for gardening is fun, with all the researching, reading, looking at pictures, and making lists. It will be especially fun when your garden has room to spread out, and get its roots deep into the soil.

  5. Gail :
    August 26, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    You have the best blues! I love geraniums and have several natives including one that is named Espresso! The leaves are a lovely brownish color. It helps because they haven’t the long term bloom that other geraniums have! They are growing beneath Oakleaf hydrangeas with other early spring bloomers and Christmas Ferns.

  6. Northern Shade :
    August 26, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Gail, the brown leaves of the Espresso geranium sound like they would go very nicely with the ferns. They grouping must look pretty in the spring under the hydrangea. Are there many geraniums native to your area?

  7. Ken from Sweden :
    August 27, 2008 at 12:22 am

    Wery nice blog you have!
    I can see that we have almost the same zon on your plants.
    I be back!
    Best regards Ken

  8. Beth :
    August 27, 2008 at 6:55 am

    I have the “Alpenglow” and the “Max Frei”. Both have magenta/bright pink blooms. The Alpenglow was a slow starter but it did really well in full sun – but it liked to be watered a lot. These geraniums look great in the early summer garden blooming alongside dianthus, daylilies and salvia. I’ve enjoyed mine so far!

  9. Northern Shade :
    August 27, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Ken, thanks. I enjoy seeing and reading about what other gardeners are growing in a cold climate, and to learn about plant varieties I haven’t tried. It’s also great to see how gardeners from other zones are planning and arranging their plants. Congratulations on your recent open garden.

    Beth, you have me picturing squeezing a few more plants into my sunnier area. I recently had to remove some Scabiosa that got overrun with powdery mildew, and now have a little more space there. The bright combination sounds good.

  10. Monica :
    August 27, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Lovely blue geraniums! I only have one kind, “Vision Pink” in my garden. I bought them as seeds in early spring last year and they spent the past winter in a flowerbed. But I think my geraniums grow really slowly, I want them to look more cushion-like!

    What kind of weather do you have now on your side of the Atlantic? Here we have something between summer and autumn, rainy and windy but not very cold (approximately 10-15 C during the day).

    /Monica

  11. Northern Shade :
    August 27, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Monica, it’s fun to grow your own plants from seed, but it does require more patience. There’s a great sense of satisfaction in having raised them. Maybe next summer they will be large enough to form a mound. Did you start them indoors?
    A week and a half ago we had the second hottest day ever in Edmonton, 35 C (95 F). My plants looked a little droopy until they got an extra shower. Now we are back to typical late summer weather with highs of around 20 C (68 F).

  12. Monica :
    August 28, 2008 at 3:55 am

    Yes, I kept the plants in my kitchen window until late May or early June last year. Geraniums were fairly easy to grow from seed – but as you say, they require patience!
    We haven’t had that kind of temperature all summer! 20 C sounds more comfortable (for both humans and plants!) We have 15 C today, no rain but a strong wind.

    /Monica

  13. Sunita :
    August 28, 2008 at 6:27 am

    I didnt know that blue geraniums even existed ! Wow! Very pretty.
    Its a real achievement for me if I manage to find one of the ordinary, regular geraniums in a nursery. They’re not available at any of the nurseries along the coast where I am. I’ve come back with temperate-growing plants from many trips up the mountains and a geranium is usually one of the number. Sadly (and inevitably) they never survived our hot, humid climate for long : (

  14. Gail :
    August 28, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Just geranium maculatum and any hybrids that have been created…Elizabeth Ann and Beth Chato are a few. G carolinianum and G molle are considered weeds and have tiny little flowers! Everyone dislikes them for their weediness!

  15. Northern Shade :
    August 28, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Sunita, do your local nurseries stock much variety in plants? I would imagine that ordering plants online and mailing them would not be practical in your climate.
    These geraniums are willing to put up with -35 C (-31 F)temperatures, as long as they get a nice insulating blanket of snow for the winter.

  16. Sunita :
    August 29, 2008 at 8:50 am

    In Mumbai city where I garden, space is at a premium so nurseries are few in number. The plants available in these are usually the tried-and-true popular indoor plants. The bigger nurseries are usually situated in the small towns and are first on my to-visit list every time I go travelling.
    You’re right about the climate… one time when I ordered some phalaenopsis and by the time it got to me, the leaves were mush!

  17. Karin A :
    August 30, 2008 at 1:04 am

    Hi! I’m back after a blog break (I’ve spent 3 weeks in Germany) and here I found a post about my favourite plant. I grow about 50 different Geraniums but I don’t have ‘Johnson’s Blue’, even though I know it’s really nice one. But I do grow Jolly Bee (much people say that Rozanne and Jolly Bee are the same plant). I guess I have a better zone…but still I think that you should give it a try. It’s really nice, not that sensitive (it should survive in your zone) and it flowers for a long period!

    One of my favourite Geraniums is ‘Madelon’ – I love the colour and the long flowering period. I also like G. phaeum – different sorts – a lot (esp. those with colourful/varigated leaves, ‘Conny Broe’ is one favourite) because they are hardy and tolerate much.

    I hope you’ll have a nice weekend!

  18. Northern Shade :
    August 30, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Gail, I’ve been looking at pictures of the maculatum hybrids you mentioned.

    Sunita, I’m fortunate to have a number of large nurseries surrounding the city where I live. The city is very spread out and keeps building over surrounding farmland in its expansion. There is not enough value placed on the importance of protecting excellent cropland.

    Karin A, I’m going to have to check out your geranium collection in more detail. I removed some Scabiosa next to my geraniums, and have been thinking of adding some other geraniums, perhaps with some phlox.

  19. Wurzerl :
    September 3, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Hi! I love Geranium and cultivate a lot of these in my garden. I think you should plant “Rozanne”, it’ s a wonderful Geranium and it’ s blooming a long time. I like also G. sanguineum, phaeum and maculatum, all in different species.
    Have a great time Wurzerl

  20. Northern Shade :
    September 3, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Wurzerl, I’ve been looking around, but there is less selection at this time of year. I’ll probably plant ‘Rozanne’, if I can find some. I’m also looking at some of the other geraniums people have recommended. I’ll have to plant fairly soon, since the nights are getting cooler, and they’ll need to get their roots established before the frosts come.

  21. Green Space :
    September 8, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    You will love Jolly Bee which flowers for weeks here in England and works its way charmingly through other plants without becoming a nuisance. Blue Sunrise is a lovely plant if you like yellow foliage, I have it growing in a barrel where the leaves contrast nicely with a dark leafed daphne. One of my favourites is Ann Folkard which really hits you between the eyes when in full bloom. But watch out for Claridge Druce which starts off innocently with pretty veined pink flowers and eventually ends up on a takeover bid by seeding itself around the whole garden [and happily grows in any situation].

  22. Cosmo :
    September 8, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    What an informative post on these geraniums. They do okay here–I think it gets a little hot in the summer–but they’re just delightful flowers. I’m so glad to find your blog!

  23. Northern Shade :
    September 8, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Green Space, thanks for the information on your favourite geraniums. Jolly Bee seems well liked by many gardeners. It looks like a winner for the garden. Are you able to leave your Blue Sunrise in the container over the winter? Thanks also for the warning about Claridege Druce. Many books and tags don’t give you enough warnings about some plants, so its good to know, before you invite a thug into the garden. I’m already battling a few aggressive plants that were here when I moved in, so I’m wary about the rampant self seeders.

    Cosmo, do you have to put them in part shade to avoid too much heat, or do they tough it out in the sun? They do fine in full sun in my zone, but mine are in part shade because that’s what I have in excess.

  24. Green Space :
    September 9, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Blue Sunrise seems very hardy and has survived the last three winters including a few days of snow. The container is a half- barrel so quite big.

  25. Northern Shade :
    September 9, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Green Space, thanks for the followup information.

  26. Barbara :
    September 14, 2008 at 1:16 am

    I love geraniums very much and I have several sorts in my garden too. Johnson’s Blue was one of my first ones and Joly Bee (I think it is identical with Rozanne) has been planted this Spring and is doing quite well. I never lost a geranium due to winter coldness (we sometimes have -18°C too). Johnson’s Blue is planted in a sunny border, as most of my geraniums. There are some sorts of G. sanguineum and G. macrorryzum in the shady garden. A wonderful plant with a beautiful blue is geranium himalyense “Gravetye”.

  27. Northern Shade :
    September 14, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Barbara, I’ve been searching for some Jolly Bee or Rozanne, as well as some other geraniums, but they don’t seem to be the type of perennial that is left over at the end of the season.
    Do you find that G. sanguineum and G. macrorryzum have a higher shade tolerance than other geraniums? I will have to look up pictures of ‘Gravetye’.

  28. Sherry :
    October 8, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    I love geranium’s as well and tried a different one this year called the Pillar Geranium, it is a climber and did very well in zone 3……..i am going to try to winter it………. look forward to planting the Shimmery Blue, if it is available here in Central Alberta!

  29. Northern Shade :
    October 8, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Sherry, I see the ‘Johnson’s Blue’ geranium for sale at most nurseries in Edmonton. Although they might not have it left now in October. I just got a ‘Rozanne’ geranium, which is similar, but with a larger white eye, and supposedly more upright stature. The Rozanne might be borderline hardy.

  30. Jem :
    April 18, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Hi

    we have just moved to a garden that is overgrown with these really beautiful geraniums, they are coming up in the grass, all over the grass not just in one place, they have decided to seed themselves everywhere, I think they are really lovely, but, I need to control them, any ideas ? many thanks

  31. Northern Shade :
    April 18, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Jem, I haven’t known them to get out of hand like that. Can you dig them up and transplant them to another garden spot? I don’t think that they would survive regular mowing, if they are geraniums.

  32. Mary :
    May 20, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Just bought a Johnson’s Blue are they deer proof or are they a deer’s best friend

  33. Northern Shade :
    May 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Mary, the Johnson’s Blue geranium is supposed to be safe from deer, unless of course they get really hungry. However I haven’t tested this myself, as I don’t have deer around.

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