In the Garden:
Middle South
November, 2007
Regional Report

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2620

The play of late afternoon sunlight on this flower reveals colors, textures, and shadows invisible in the bright midday sun.

Geranium 'Rozanne' is a Standout

Geranium 'Rozanne' is the 2008 Perennial Plant of the Year. A perennial geranium? Yes! The common annual flower that goes by the name geranium -- the windowbox favorite with softball-sized flower clusters in shades of red, pink, and white -- is more accurately called a pelargonium. True geraniums are hardy perennials blooming in shades of magenta, purple, and deep blue.

Most hardy geraniums are low-growing, clump-forming plants adaptable to a range of growing conditions but preferring sun or light shade and well-drained soils. 'Rozanne' fits this mold but is distinctive, too. Instead of the usual 1- to 2-inch flowers, hers are 2-1/2 inches across. Instead of spreading to 18 inches, Rozanne spreads 2 to 3 feet at maturity. And while most geraniums put out a flush of blooms in early summer followed by sporadic repeat bloom, 'Rozanne' keeps blooming all summer and into fall. Finally, instead of plain green leaves, her snazzy foliage is splashed with chartreuse. 'Rozanne' has cup-shaped flowers of an ethereal sky blue (think 'Heavenly Blue' morning glory) that are especially lovely when backlit by late afternoon sun, when the light illuminates the petals and casts evocative shadows.

Growing Hardy Geraniums
Like most geraniums, 'Rozanne' will tolerate full sun to part shade. With a USDA hardiness rating of 5 to 8, she'll grow fine across our region but would like some shade during the hottest part of the day. Morning sun and dappled afternoon shade are ideal. Although 'Rozanne' is relatively drought tolerant once established, soil should be kept moist during the first few growing seasons. 'Rozanne' is especially suited to growing in containers and even hanging baskets, where her splendid flowers can be enjoyed up close.

Many hardy geraniums will look a little ragged by midsummer. Although 'Rozanne' fares better than most, you may want to shear the plant back several inches to allow a fresh flush of foliage -- and more flowers -- to develop. Hardy geraniums are considered relatively pest-free, although slugs may be a problem on young plants.

How Winners Are Chosen
How did 'Rozanne' get chosen as Perennial Plant of the Year? The criteria for choosing winners are straightforward: Plants must be adaptable to a wide range of hardiness zones, climates, and growing conditions. They should be easy to care for and relatively pest-free. And they must be readily available (this implies that the plant is easy for growers to propagate). That said, take note that 'Rozanne' is patented and thus it is illegal to generate new plants through asexual propagation (rooting cuttings, for example) without permission from the patent-holder. Dividing your plant every few years, however, probably won't land you in jail.

True Geraniums vs. Pelargonium Geraniums
The confusion between geraniums and pelargoniums began in the 1700s when the plants, formerly thought to be the same genus, were discovered to have enough differences to warrant membership in different genera. Annual "geraniums" were reclassified as pelargoniums, but by then the plant had been referred to as geranium for so long that the name has stuck. Adding to the confusion, or perhaps helping to sort it out, true geraniums are sometimes called cranesbills because their seed heads resemble the bill of a crane.

Whatever you decide to call her, 'Rozanne' deserves a place (or two) in every garden.


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