Colourful, cheerful and easy to grow – that is how I like to describe geums. The flowers remind me of those of the strawberry plant; pretty and simply shaped, some produce dangling cup-shaped bells,
while others raise their heads revealing perfect rosettes. The larger, rosette-shaped flowers are generally borne on long stems and come from the G. chiloense side of the family, whereas the shorter bell-shaped flowers are often of G. rivale. There are many other species of geums, mix them up and you get a wonderful range of plants.
Mainly yellow and red, with a palette of colours in between most require a soil that does not become baked hard during summer, and they don’t mind a certain amount of shade.
There are now dozens of different varieties, not all are worth growing especially if you have limited space. Also be careful of where you buy them from becaue many seed companies are selling geum seeds from named varieties which means (with the exception of ‘Lady Stratheden’ and ‘Mrs Bradshaw’) that the plants will not be true to name. My advice is to buy from a ‘reputable’ perennial nursery or buy when the plant is in flower to be sure that you have the right one!
These are the varieties I would recommend:
‘Bell Bank’ & ‘Flames Of Passion’
I have lumped these two together because quite honestly at certain times of the year I cannot see any difference between them. The flowers vary from single to semi-double, from non-frilly to frilly, but both have lovely soft coral orange/pink flowers that are held above a dense clump of light green leaves. It is well worth growing either of these for early colour. It flowers from April to June and grows 30cm high x 30cm wide
An old, tried and tested variety that never fails to please. It produces long arching stems, with a few branches, that end in perfect rosettes of semi-double cheerful bright yellow flowers. At the base sit a clump of long, notched mid green leaves. It is not fussy about soil as long as it does not get baked hard during summer. It flowers from May to September. The flower stems reach about 60cm, but the clump is only about 23cm high.
A rivale hybrid, which means it needs a soil that does not dry out. It produces pale yellow flowers that hang their heads from darker coloured stems, which emerge from a dense mound of mid green leaves. A lot of rivale hybrids can be disappointing because of the head hanging but this one will add gently colour to a spring border. Grows to about 30cm high by 30 wide and flowers from March to May.
This nice plant has small, semi-double yellow flowers that are heavily stained with red rendering them soft orange. The flowers are held on short stems above a mound of mid-green, evergreen leaves. According to ‘Garden Splendor’s website this was discovered by Grace Dinsdale on her nursery in Oregon as a sport of the single yellow flowered geum ‘Georgenberg’. It grows to about 30cm high by 30 wide. Flowers May to July.
A new variety that is a little different to some of the other geums I have grown. This has open semi-double soft apricot flowers with neatly ruffled petals that form a rosette on short, branched stems. Raised by Brent Horvath of Intrinsic Perennial Gardens in the USA, like so many perennials today, it has a Plant Breeders Rights payment against it. It flowers from May until July and grows to around 45cm high x 45cm wide.
This very pretty spring plant is the earliest flowering geum I have grown. It produces short bronzy red stems that branched towards the top from which dangle soft orange bells that are seated in calyxes the same colour as the stems. The flowers sit handsomely above a low carpet of mid-green, evergreen leaves. It flowers from March to May and grows 30cm high x 45cm wide.
‘Mrs J. Bradshaw’
Another much tried variety with semi-double truly red rosette shaped flowers, about the size of a 2p piece, that are carried on long stems with side branches. The stems are produced continuously throughout the summer. At the base sits a clump of long, narrowly notched mid green stems. It flowers from May to September. Grows to 45cm high x 30cm wide.
Orange flowers can be quite difficult to include in a border, but I find that this lovely plant fits really well into a bed with other small flowered perennials creating an airy feeling. The flowers are semi-double, rich orange and carried on tall upright stems, branched towards the top. These emerge from a clump of long, mid-green leaves. It flowers from May to September. Grows to 45cm high x 30cm wide
Geums are very easy to grow, but many of the short varieties (especially those with dangling bell shaped flowers) do need a soil that does not dry out during the summer. However, even if they do ‘wilt’ in a dried out soil they seem to revive really easily with a good watering. They don’t mind a fair amount of shade either. I try to cut the flower stems back once the flowers have faded to encourage more blooms and prevent new seedlings from germinating – unless this is what you want of course (just be aware geums are promiscuous and hybridise easily).
by Claire Austin
Posted on 18/07/2012