The garden cleaning has begun, and it’s evident there will be plenty of work to fill autumn days. As I clear stems and foliage from this season’s growth, spaces open up and present opportunities for moving groundcovers around and also acquiring some new plants — shopping! I have a collection of groundcover plants that reproduce easily and are handy for filling spaces at this end of the season. I’ll admit that some of my favourites like yellow fumewort (Corydalis lutea, Zone 4 ) and white fumewort (C. ochroleuca, Zone 5), run rampant through dry shade areas in the garden; but they’re shallow rooted and easy to remove when they overstep their boundaries.
Leader of the pack in sun or shade is groundcover cranesbill geranium ‘Claridge Druce’ (Geranium x oxonianum ‘Claridge Druce’, 18 x 18 inches / 45 x 45 cm, Zone 4), with clear pink flowers and glossy leaves that sparkle in sunlight. ‘Claridge Druce’ forms a thick clump of foliage that remains attractive all season, with a bright flower display beginning in mid-June and lasting through July. The foliage looks good right into autumn, and if allowed to stand, it remains green under snow. (My resident rabbit has been seen digging it up for a mid-winter snack.)
There are several well-known cultivars of G. x oxonianum, such as salmon-pink ‘Wargrave Pink’, white and pink-veined ‘Katherine Adele’ (with maroon-blotched leaves) and deep cerise pink ‘Phoebe Noble’—all hardy to Zone 4. They’re clump-forming groundcovers with sprays of cupped flowers for at least six weeks through summer. If cut back when finished blooming, a fresh clump of leaves grows (although I never need to do this, as the foliage has remained pristine). These oxonianum geraniums are reliable fillers between shrubs and among other perennials, with no pest problems.
‘Claridge Druce’ has found its way into my list of indispensable plants for its ability to make a reasonable number of seedlings, providing me with fresh plants to cover space where and when needed. The mother plant’s progeny don’t fall far from her skirts and can be left to thicken the patch until needed elsewhere; and so far as I know, G. x oxonianum ‘Claridge Druce’ is the only cultivar to seed itself. This is a most useful and charming plant, and I’ll always want it around.
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