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Garden with a Winner!™

Biokovo Cranesbill geranium x cantabrigiense ‘biokovo’

Perhaps one of my favourite “go to” perennials when a reliable, low maintenance ground cover is the requirement. Ages ago I purchased a 10cm pot of this plant basically on a whim as I needed something with light coloured flowers for a darker nook in my garden. The particular garden in question was in a zone 2a (on a good year) so needless to say this plant needed some serious hardiness genes. Since that time, approximately 20 years ago, bits and pieces of this ‘mother’ plant have made their way right across the country finding new homes in almost all the provinces. In the event that you are not convinced that this Cranesbill should have a position in your garden, you may be keen to learn that I have mowed this perennial with the lawnmower several times and she just keeps on producing. Now that is one tough perennial.

The Cranesbill or hardy geranium collection continues to grow with new colours and leaf forms added regularly. Biokovo is actually a hybrid as noted by the “X” in the binomial (botanical name) originally from the mountainous region of eastern Europe. The foliage is quite lobed or deeply serrated and very fragrant when brushed. An extra bonus is that the foliage shows a wonderful carmine red in the fall and in most parts of the country, it is an evergreen. Plants grown in regions with severe winter weather will not see foliage until the very early days of spring. Even at that, Biokovo rebounds very quickly, promising better things to come with its first flush or verdant green foliage. The fact that its growth habit is compact and dense, the mature clumps provide excellent winter harbourage for ladybugs and other beneficial insects in the garden. Additionally, I believe that the somewhat strong aroma general to the entire plant, keeps many of the nasty critters at bay, the slugs never come to visit!

The abundance of soft pink flowers, often blending to white start very early in the season and seem to last right through until the extreme heat of July and August. Thereafter, periodic blooms will appear, but this is the season that she really put out a lot of new growth. Early, consistent and long-term blossoming makes this perennial an excellent pollinator plant, providing a nectar source well before many other plants have had time to bloom. Bumblebees swarm around my clumps. The soil conditions that my plants grow in is rather heavy clay, with significant amendments of course, but still clay. This Cranesbill tolerates the less than ideal soil conditions and I think actually tends to help break the clay up (perhaps just wishful thinking). Planted in a sunny spot will encourage more bloom as well as invite even more bees to the plants. Grown in a shadier spot, the foliage will be smaller but still just as dense as sun grown specimens and the flower stalks will be stretched a bit, not at all displeasing.

Division or reproducing new plants is beyond easy. All of my neighbours on the block have received divisions and are happily dividing theirs for gifting or local club plant sales. Spring or early fall is the optimal time to divide and replant however, as the spirit moves you or a neighbour needs a new plant, Biokovo will endure and root very rapidly.

Ground cover is perhaps the most widely used purpose for this perennial however, she is great in a woodland garden, at the cottage on a dry, sandy slope or even containerized in warmer regions of the country. Whatever the use you choose, this Cranesbill is excellent garden currency, give a little, spread the cheer and trade for something else to add to your collection.