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Gardening With Hardy Geraniums
By Birgitte Husted Bendtsen
Timber Press, Inc., 2005
If you are one of those gardeners who pursue one family of plants to exhaustion, then you will identify with this author, a Danish collector, gardener, writer and photographer of geraniums. This compilation of information on 400 varieties of geranium is written as if she has grown and communed with each one.
I don’t know if there are any commonalities between Denmark and Georgia in the areas of soil or weather, but author Bendtsen states that her geraniums “flower from mid-May until well into autumn” so we at least share the same growing season.
The wonderfully detailed photographs illustrate in eye-opening variety the wide range of blooms and foliage available in this group of plants. Over half of the book is devoted to detailed descriptions of species and hybrids available, in many cases including the origin of the name and the variety’s family heritage.
Bendtsen grows a garden full of geraniums which you might expect would be too fussy, given the profusion of relatively small foliage and flowers. Photos reveal the companions of which she does not write – hosta, polemonium, ligularia, tradescantia, rohdea – all of which have substantial leaves to provide the eye with relief. She devotes several pages to rose companions and which geraniums are suited to pairing with them.
I was tempted by the foliage variations alone, not having realized the range of possibilities. Since the author gardens in Europe, it may not be easy to locate some of the varieties presented. On the internet, you will find that many results of a search for ‘geranium nurseries’ will yield sources of pelargoniums, not the geraniums we are seeking. Plant Delights offers limited selections online. But then, the search is part of the game and buying from nurseries that share our climate will probably ensure you have a better level of success with the geraniums you do find.
Reviewed by Karin Guzy