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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Geranium x oxonianum

Pale pink geranium with purple lace pattern

I’m a big fan of hardy geraniums and keep promising myself the luxury of a post to share some of the pictures I have gathered of them. The trouble is, they are so rarely labelled. I think this dainty beauty is G. x oxonianum ‘Lace Time’ (or similar). It’s hard to be certain as there are so many named varieties of these hardy geraniums, and often considerable colour variation even within the same clump, as you see.

Setting the difficulties of identification aside, I like the contrast between the flowers in this little cluster. The one on the right looks particularly radiant.  Continue reading