One to look out for – Summer Alpines of Distinction

Geranium argenteum

A few alpines give me a real thrill, with or without flowers. The silvery foliage of this species, formed over lax clumps is visible throughout the growing season and is amply enhanced at flowering with its soft shell-pink flowers with lovely veining.

Geranium-argenteum This is an easy alpine plant in terms of its cultivation and all it asks is an open, sunny exposure and a freely drained soil. The species can be found on limestone in nature and whilst it in no way needs this alkalinity in the garden, I will always try and wedge plants between pieces of Dolomite rock in a raised bed or rock garden. I have found this lovely geranium growing on the alpine grassy lawns on the summits of Monte Baldo high above the eastern shores of Lake Garda, N. Italy. On closer inspection the deep and tangled tap roots are delving into the alpine turf amongst rocks, always ensuring the necks of the plants are well-drained. It is a precious sight indeed, flowering with alpine Forget Me Not (Myosotis) and Daphne cneorum.

Geranium-argenteum-3---CopyIn the garden I would recommend avoiding any overhanging plants to compete with the clumps, thus avoiding needless die-back. In order to maintain purity of form from seed-raised material it is important not to plant either Geranium cinereum or G. subcaulescens nearby, as the resulting seedlings may vary due to hybridisation. If you are growing an especially fine form, this may be propagated by taking short cuttings after flowering and utilising a sandy mix with some added Perlite. Care must be taken to look out eagerly for seed and to catch it before it pops – “practice makes perfect”! I like to have some small paper bags at the ready and as the seed ripens it can be collected and the process repeated over the weeks, as ripening seed can take a while!

Geranium argenteum occurs sporadically in the Eastern Alps with an impressive outpost in the Julian Alps, Slovenia and in the southern Dolomites. It is rarely seen in nursery catalogues, but should certainly be sought out.

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