Regular readers of this blog know that I am gaga for Cranesbill aka hardy geraniums. This spring I ordered five varieties from west coast expert Robin Parer's specialty nursery. So it was a given that I'd be interested in her book — "The Plant Lover's Guide to Hardy Geraniums" — the latest in the terrific series of plant guides produced in cooperation with Kew and published by Timber Press. I am a collector by nature and love series of objects which helps to explain why I have a shelf devoted to these Kew guides. That and the fact that they are all good looking, good reads full of good information and advice.
As in the other volumes in this series, there are short pieces by garden professionals listing their favorite hardy geraniums for sun as well as shade. Each of these tidbits also tells where these folks garden: institution or nursery, location and hardiness zone
I will admit to being somewhat disappointed since only two of them are from Zone 5b. The other five are all from warmer climates which surprised me since I think of geraniums as "hardy" in my climate and colder and yet this book showed me that there are a lot of geraniums that come from much warmer climates. The book has a section devoted specifically to North American species and one to South African species, which pretty much suggests that gamut.
G. phaeum 'Chocolate Chip,' one of Robin Parer's own introductions.
If you are not familiar with these Kew Garden guides, they all follow a similar pattern. Thus there is a section on designing with hardy geraniums, understanding them, information on growing and propagating them, as well as lists of where to buy hardy geraniums around the world, where to see them (in France, the U.S. and the U.K) and sources for more information on the subject (print and online).
The book has four pages devoted to photos of the leaves of the different varieties. Since hardy geraniums, as with many flowering plants, only bloom for a limited time, it's the leaves that you will be looking at for most of the year. They vary widely in size, color, and shape. Many are scalloped, deeply lobed or even fringed as well as being variegated, speckled and blotched with darker color. It's these characteristics that make them such an invaluable garden plant.
The largest section of the book is devoted to "Hardy Geraniums for the Garden" with large, clear photos of the flowers and information on each specific variety including any problems or information that a gardener would want to know before planting them. Within this section the geraniums are listed by use or type: For rock gardens and containers, as ground covers, for shade, those that are scramblers and crawlers or work best in beds and borders. This section also looks at tuberous-rooted species as well as annual geraniums.
This is an amazingly comprehensive and useful book. One of the reasons I like these guides so much is they have more than enough information to get you excited and to get you started, but not so much that it overwhelms you. If you become a passionate lover of this plant then you can learn more from all the extra sources provided. Packed with color and printed on thick glossy paper, this is an excellent buy at $24.95 in the U.S.
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Note: I asked for a review copy of this book since I am familiar with two of the major publications on the topic and because I grow such a variety of hardy geraniums. Even though I was not paying for the book, I felt my experience would make me a good judge of its value. You have my report above.