Geranium palmatum (Canary Island Geranium)


Like many Portland area gardeners before me—and likely after—I’ve tried to grow Geranium maderense in my garden with little success. Yes, those experiments could have been successful if I’d been lucky enough to own a larger garden with a greenhouse for overwintering large specimens, but I don’t have that kind of setup, so I need to work with what I have available at this time, and because of this, I just gave up on it.

Enter Geranium palmatum, also a large species plant, but one which I was talked into trying by a few of my garden blogging friends. My first impulse was to say no to the free starts. I was terribly reluctant because of the previous failures and disappointments. But then the prospect of it actually working took hold, and I wanted to save seeds from the experiment, so I committed to it for 2 years to see if it would work (it’s a biennial or short-lived perennial).

The fact that I was offered seedlings from someone else’s garden in the Willamette Valley said to me that I might have a chance with it.

Luckily, the experiment turned out to be an incredible success. The plant was a real hit in my garden last summer.

The first year it was just lush foliage—but it grew well. The plant start I’d received had been in a 3″ pot so I didn’t know what to expect but I was told that it would get large quickly. And it did.

Last winter wasn’t too cold or rough for it. The plant began to take off as we warmed up, and I was surprised that during the winter it had remained semi-evergreen for me.

Then it bloomed its head off last summer, and I enjoyed the show.

So overall, I wouldn’t call this an easy beginner’s plant. It will require some more advanced gardening skills to plant it in the correct site, but it’s worth the additional light mental effort.

(If you’d like to read a nice post about the two different species mentioned written by someone else, I really recommend this one.)

You don’t see this plant offered often at nurseries since it’s really just a small start of a plant that will look much different later in the garden. Nurseries can’t keep plants like this in containers for long, and they’re a bit of a financial gamble.

We had starts of Geranium palmatum for sale at Secret Garden Growers but there’s a waitlist now.

If you’re interested in purchasing seeds, they’re currently available in my shop: Spiffy Seeds (Geranium palmatum)

Geranium palmatum and Another Open Garden

Pelargonium ‘Antares’, a rather showy and compact plant.

I’ve been trying to keep up around here.

The back garden as she is tonight.

It’s difficult to keep up with tasks in the garden at home while working so much. Owning what feels like thousands upon thousands of plants I just can’t keep up. I sometimes feel like an ill-fated character in a Charles Dickens novel. What’s the moral of this tale? Why am I doing this? I dunno. By the time I get to this point I’ve fallen into hysterical laughter.

I know I have a lot of friends who love to live this crazy life.

Maybe you’re one of us too?

The potting bench on the south side of the house.

What wrong did I do to deserve all of these weeds? Why are we swimming through spring to summer? Why? Why? Why?

The north garden entrance. I prefer for folks to enter this way but most want to go through my pretty wooden gate.

At least I’m getting to some pruning. And I am removing and cutting back hard. Limbs from trees and shrubs are being cut. Gardening is maintenance but with an eye toward careful artful pruning. But you must be patient for things to grow. So many great plants take much patience.

We won’t talk about the front garden. This is like slamming my head into a wall. It needs to get back within my control lol.

But weeding… Oh I curse the heavens!!! I shake my small swollen arthritic and lightly clenched fists at you!!!

Some parts of the garden are much better though, and as things grow, I’m really happy.

The south garden as seen through a dirty window upstairs.

Part of that happiness comes from having made decisions. So much stress comes from worry. Life is short. Make a decision and make it happen. If it’s the wrong choice, choose again.

Geranium palmatum at Secret Garden Growers.

A happy plant this year is one that I wasn’t sure about how to plant. I had a few and the pretty one below is the one that made its mark on me. I can’t get enough of it. It’s taken some time to get to this size. Geranium palmatum is only hardy down to zone 8 so not all of you can grow it. This took a few years to look this stunning. (You can’t bring this one in easily to protect it.)

Geranium palmatum in my garden. It’s HUGE!

It’s a glorious bloomer. I will collect as many of its seeds as I can to sell in my new shop, but I am sure that I’ll be weeding a few of these along with the weeds.

It doesn’t give me a rash though like a few of the weeds.

Oh the weeds!!!

Geranium palmatum and friends in the south garden.

This Saturday I will open the garden again to Hardy Plant Society members, but I do so in the hopes that they can meet a horticulturist in her garden. My plant garden lab is lush and full this year.

I look forward to greeting guests again, and here’s to late summer! I’ll be open again soon and hope that things will be just right…