Great Companion Plants For a Cottage Garden: Geraniums

This post about hardy geraniums, popularly called cranesbills, (not the pelargoniums) is the second in my series on companion plants.

Blue hydrangea with geranium companion plant

Blue hydrangea with a geranium companion

What are companion plants?

Companion plants complement the showy ornamentals society loves – roses, peonies, delphiniums and hollyhocks – filling in the gaps in the flower border and helping it flow. They’re pretty enough on their own terms and happy to mingle in, above or below other plants. Good neighbours, they will not compete too aggressively for food, water or space.

Their presence encourages a healthier ecosystem by attracting beneficial insects which is why companion plants are often recommended for kitchen gardens. To find out more about what makes a plant a good companion, check out the first post in the series, on astrantias.

Pink roses with purple geraniums at a sunny Bodnant Gardens

Roses with geraniums at Bodnant Gardens

Geraniums (Cranesbills)

If you show me a decent sized English garden that doesn’t have a geranium, I’ll show you a garden that is missing a trick. Suppliers variously describe them as forgiving, easy, undemanding, generous and enduring. I don’t have a horse in the race, but I’d agree with them.

Geranium Sue Crug and Stachys byzantina

Geranium ‘Sue Crûg’ and Stachys byzantina

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Cottage Garden Plants: Pink love-in-a-mist

Various shades of pink love-in-a-mist flowers

Pink seed strains of Nigella damascena seem to be increasingly fashionable at recent British flower shows. It’s a quirky flower, by any standards. Layered petals wheel around a crazy eye above lacy bracts.

The complex, decorative flower form has inspired many folk names. I use love-in-a-mist, but you may know it as love-in-a-tangle, love-in-a-puzzle, kiss-me-twice-before-I-rise, Jack in the green or lady in the bower. Continue reading

Cheerleading For Frilly Flowers: Double Peonies

Pink peony

If ever a flower looked like it was wearing a petticoat, this is it. It’s hard to believe this bloom is only partially open. The yellow petals in the centre will gradually become more prominent, but I like the flower at this stage while the outer petals are still a pure pink, and are forming a protective cup around the inner petals.

White peony

The second peony has it all for me: I love the pearly character of the creamy white petals and the way those yellowy petals create an inner glow.  Continue reading

Hidden in Plain Sight: Primrose Hearts

Common primrose | Primula vulgaris

When I saw these common primroses hidden under a shrub in the gardens at Bridgemere Garden Centre yesterday, I marvelled that each petal is a heart. They looked so dainty and exquisite that I wondered if I was looking at one of the latest new cultivars.

I’d been admiring the Victorian-style, gold and silver lace primulas and some ruffled, rose-like doubles on the garden centre benches just a few minutes earlier – and, I confess, wrinkling my nose at a couple of the less dainty cultivars that are being offered this season.

Checking online, I see that every common primula (Primula vulgaris) has heart-shaped petals. How could I have forgotten in just a few months?  Continue reading

Viola Odorata: Sweet Violets

Violets

This picture of sweet violets was taken with my iPhone: it’s a blessing to be able to have it with me for moments like these. The heart shaped leaves are scrolled up, perhaps  to funnel rain water down to the roots and the scented flowers are tiny but radiant. This is a quintessential cottage garden flower for me and I love to see posies made with them. Continue reading