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)