Geranium psilostemon

Even if it did not have spectacular flowers, this tall cranesbill would be worth growing for the series of changing leaf pictures which it presents over four months of the year. In spring, scarlet shoots start to push through the soil. By mid-summer they have burst into a mound of palmate green leaves. In autumn they often turn red and orange. The flowers join them in mid-summer, coming out in masses on tall branching stems, flat, round flowers of brilliant magenta with black centres. A very eye-catching plant indeed.

A hardy perennial, G. psilostemon grows in any good well-drained soil, and can be divided every two or three years to provide new plants, though it will also seed itself about the garden. It needs a little support – twiggy sticks if available, otherwise the stems can be loosely tied to a single cane which will be hidden by foliage. One plant will make its mark if your space is restricted, but in a mixed border it is worth planting a group of three or five plants 2 feet (60 cm) apart, and giving considerable thought to its companions. I like it particularly in front of hybrid musk roses, perhaps a large shrub of the peach-pink, double rose ‘Cornelia’, or the creamy, semi-double ‘Penelope’, both generous with their clusters of summer flowers. In the foreground, the white daisy flowers and creeping silver foliage of Anthemis cupaniana would look cool and refreshing.

This geranium is a staple plant in such famous redand-purple, along with purple delphiniums and campanulas, red Lychnis, fuchsias, Lobelia cardmalis, clematis, heliotrope, and many other plants of imperial splendour.

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