The Plant Lover's Guide to Hardy Geraniums by Robin ParerThe Plant Lover's Guide to Hardy Geraniums by Robin Parer

The Plant Lover's Guide to Hardy Geraniums

byRobin Parer

Paper over Board | April 20, 2016

Pricing and Purchase Info

$27.91 online 
$37.95 list price save 26%
Earn 140 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


Hardy geraniums are a staple in the garden and are among the best-loved and most widely grown plants. The Plant Lover’s Guide to Hardy Geraniums, by nursery owner Robin Parer, highlights 140 of the best species and cultivars. Featuring information on growth, care, and design, along with suggested companion plants and hundreds of gorgeous color photographs, it covers everything a home gardener needs to introduce these delightful plants into their garden.
Robin Parer is the owner of Geraniaceae, a small mail-order nursery in Marin County, California that specializes in geraniums. Well known as one of the founders of the Bay Area Horticultural Society, Parer is a frequent lecturer and has been featured by. Learn more at
Title:The Plant Lover's Guide to Hardy GeraniumsFormat:Paper over BoardDimensions:260 pages, 9 × 8 × 1.88 inPublished:April 20, 2016Publisher:Timber PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1604694181

ISBN - 13:9781604694185


Read from the Book

Introduction: Why I Love Hardy Geraniums In our overhybridized plant world, there is something calming and beautiful about wildflowers. While wandering around the countryside in spring, we come upon them as sheets of color carpeting meadows at low and high elevations, covering banks beside streams and roads, as starry flowers in forests, and even among the grasses on dunes at the seashore. We find ourselves wanting to capture these charming flowers and bring them closer to home. Some of the wildflowers we admire are hardy geraniums. Like pets, hardy geraniums adapt well to living in proximity to us. They settle down in gardens and provide seasonal bursts of flower color, as well as interesting leaves in shades of green but also silver, brown, gold, and maroon, with burnished cinnamon, red, orange, and bronze in fall. Despite their dramatic flair, they are not always the stars of the garden, but generally the supporting cast—tough, carefree, and easy to grow. Hardy geraniums last. It is not unusual for the same plant to be in a garden for decades, getting more and more beautiful as the years go on. And the flower colors yield such pleasure.      There are many blue, purple, violet, and lavender hardy geranium flowers. Blue is a favorite among gardeners, and it remains visible the longest during twilight. There are more than 50 different selections of hardy geraniums with blue, violet, purple, or lavender flowers. There are also innumerable shades of pink, plus white and magenta, which English plantsman A. E. Bowles called “that awful form of original sin.” (His disparagement aside, magenta looks lovely with the yellow leaves of Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’.) You can easily integrate these cool pink, white, and blue flowers into bedding schemes. There is only one red hardy geranium, and no yellow or orange flowers exist. There are very few double flowers, and the simplicity of the single flowers is unobtrusive and harmonizing. As our climate becomes increasingly unpredictable, more and more we value plants that will survive drought, heavy rain, and intense heat and cold. Hardy geraniums, particularly those that come from challenging climates, are somewhat more adaptable to these conditions. Some gardeners have also tired of buying annuals, throwing them out at the end of the season, and bemoaning the amount of money spent. They are now turning to perennial plants.      Most hardy geraniums are perennial. They are as easy as annuals to grow, if not easier, and they continue to perform through the seasons. And there is such variety. It is amazing that human-size Geranium maderense, from the island of Madeira, is related to the 4-inch (10 cm) alpine bun, G. nanum, from Morocco. The same is true for brilliant blue-flowered G. ‘Rozanne’ and the small brown-leafed G. sessiliflorum subsp. novaezelandiae ‘Nigricans’ from New Zealand. It is easy for botanists to see the similarities, and not terribly difficult for gardeners to do the same. But more about that later. First we need to understand the term hardy geranium.      The word geranium has always had an identity crisis in the United States and Europe. It has been a case of botanists propose and gardeners oppose. If we wish to apportion blame, it begins with Carl Linnaeus, who in 1753 was the starting point for modern-day botanical nomenclature for seed plants. He did not distinguish between geraniums, which were (and still are) widespread in Europe, and the plants introduced into Europe from southern Africa, which we know now as pelargoniums. It wasn’t until 1789 that Charles-Louis L’Heritier de Brutelle published the name Pelargonium. True geraniums, not the blanket term, are the subject of this book.      The confusion about the name persists 226 years later. And, moreover, are geraniums cranesbills, hardy geraniums, or, more ominously, the other geraniums? If only we could agree on a common name. Gardeners co-opted geranium for pelargoniums hundreds of years ago. Those who have inherited this tradition are unlikely to change, but gardeners must be able to distinguish true geraniums from pelargoniums.      Hardy geraniums are mostly herbaceous perennials. Most have perennial crowns and roots, and annual leaves and flowering stems. A few are woody subshrubs, and some are annuals. All the flowers have five equal-size petals and ten fertile (pollen-producing) stamens. You can find them in every country of the world except Antarctica. For those who don’t like to delve into botany, there is practical benefit of growing hardy geraniums instead of pelargoniums: Within certain temperature boundaries, you can plant them in the garden and do not have to bring them inside and protect them during the winter. Pelargoniums are mostly woody subshrubs. They maintain their woody structure throughout the growing season, and they do not disappear in the winter, unless killed off by cold and rain. They have flowers with five unequal-size petals, the two posterior usually larger than the three anterior. If the plant has a double flower, it is likely a pelargonium. Pelargonium flowers have 7 out of 10 fertile stamens, and a nectar tube that is fused to the outside of the pedicel and can be seen as a small bump. These plants mainly come from southern Africa and Australasia, which were joined as Gondwanaland, an ancient supercontinent, millions of years ago.     Hardy geranium seems like a reasonable compromise for a name. Pelargoniums are not usually winter hardy, as they come from mainly mild winter areas. The term cranesbill, used widely in Europe, has never been particularly popular on this side of the Atlantic, even though it is the English translation of the Greek geranion, which means crane. Geraniums got this name because of the structure of their seeds. The carpels containing the seeds resemble the head of the crane, and the bill or beak is the rostrum, the structure to which the awns, or tails, are attached. Pelargonium is derived from the Greek word for stork, and erodium for the Greek word for heron. This book offers a fresh look at hardy geraniums. These plants have so much to recommend them, and are ideal for busy gardeners who long for beautiful flowers but do not want to hover over them worrying about complicated care regimes. Once established, hardy geraniums will do their own thing, And in our increasingly regimented, urbanized world, they provide a welcome touch of nature in our lives.  

Editorial Reviews

“Packed with expert advice on cultivating hardy geraniums, this detailed study is accessible while being truly comprehensive.” —Marie Claire Maison “A useful reference for both beginners and enthusiasts, and the photography will appeal to all.” —The Garden Magazine “Robin Parer, a Californian nurserywoman who specialises in hardy geraniums, separates out  those suited to the rock garden, to shade and for border use. Each picture is accompanied by information, such as hardiness zone, the size, light requirements, propagation and its uses in garden design. . . . Parer has done an excellent job here.” —Gardens Illustrated best book of the year “Whether you’re looking for a groundcover, a shade-lover, a rock-garden specimen, or a border beauty, you’ll find it here, along with expert advice on cultivation, design, and propagation.” —Michigan Gardener