Perennial Plant of the Year: Geranium ‘Biokovo’

March 15, 2015 lawanda Newspaper Columns

The Perennial Plant Association has named Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2015. For starters, here is how it is pronounced: jer-AY-nee-um kan-tuh-brij-ee-EN-see bi-o-KO-vo.

Notice that this is a perennial plant, not the potted annual geraniums that you buy by the dozen. ‘Biokovo’ has many wonderful qualities, and when I was researching it, there were three that stuck out in my mind. First, it is a good plant for dry shade, and those are hard to come by. Second, deer and rabbits tend to avoid it entirely. Third, the foliage retains a lovely spicy, lemony scent for most of the year.

‘Biokovo’ derives its name from the Biokovo Mountains of the Dalmatia region of Croatia where the plants was discovered by Dr. Hans Simon.

It blooms in late spring with masses of ¾-inch five-petaled white flowers. The petal bases are tinged with pink and the flowers have long darker pink stamens that emit from their centers like fireworks. Some people comment that the plant itself is unattractive in spring and they are almost tempted to dig it up and chuck it, but then it blooms and is so wonderfully beautiful that it is worth the few early weeks of ugly.

Unlike other perennial geraniums that become wiry, half dead, unattractive messes after flowering, this plant remains as a semi-evergreen, 6” – 10” tall mounded groundcover until autumn when the rounded, medium green leaves turn brilliant scarlet and orange.

The plant spreads slowly by above-ground rhizomes and each plant may grow to three feet across in time. It is easily kept in check if need be, by pulling or digging up the shallow-rooted rhizomes. It is just as easily divided or transplanted the same way. In spring, trim away any dead-looking or unsightly areas and new growth will spring forth.

‘Biokovo’ performs best in average, well-drained soil in part shade to full sun. It is a good groundcover plant, works in front of borders and thrives in rock gardens. It is often used on slopes to control erosion.

The Perennial Plant Association suggests planting ‘Biokovo’ next to Japanese painted fern or late spring blooming penstemons such as the clear purple flowered ‘Prairie Dusk’ or bright pink-flowered ‘Pink Rock Candy’.

Have you been wondering how a plant gets elected Perennial Plant of the Year? Perennial Plant Association members vote each summer on the following year’s plant. At that time, each member is allowed to nominate two plants for future consideration. Then a committee reviews the nominated plants, which may number 400, and narrows the field to three or four perennials to be placed on the ballot.

Plant nominees need to satisfy the following criteria: suitable for a wide range of climates, low-maintenance, relatively pest-free and disease resistant, multiple seasons of ornamental interest, and be readily available at garden centers the year it is elected.

It looks as though the PPA members have chosen another winner this year!

 

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