Purple Crane's-bill
June photograph of the Purple Crane's-bill underneath an Apricot Surprise Azalea.

Geranium pratense 'Victor Reiter Jr':
Our Purple Meadow Crane's-bill

"Strange to hear them sing about the bushes
in the lulls between the thud of the bombs,
or to see between the cannon-flashes
the whole peninsula ignite with blooms,

spring flowers bursting through the crevices
of piles of rusted shot, and peering out
from under the shells and heavy ordnance.
A geranium waved from an old boot."

-Ciaran Carson,
b. 1948, Ireland


In February, as can be seen in the fourth photograph below, Geranium pratense 'Victor Reiter Jr' emerges with purple stems & budding leaves.Crane's-bill In March the newly matured leaves are startlingly purple. These soon fade to a purple-flushed deep green before it begins producing its flowers in late May or early June, the first peak of flowering being throughout June, with rebloom beginning in August & lasting into early autumn.

Sometimes when it goes to seed (typically in early July, when the third photograph below was taken) it will stop blooming for about two weeks or a month, but then it'll start blooming anew, as furiously as before. If it has gotten rangy, it can be clipped back during the July lapse in flowering, inducing new growth & assisting its desire to have a second long flush of flowers.

After it has definitely finished blooming for the year, it's a good idea to clip it back a bit, especially if it was not sheered between its two flowering periods. But it should not be trimmed clear to the ground, as it will remain nicely leafy throughout the entirety of autumn & occasionally into part of winter. As winter progresses it will vanish altogether, but reappears before winter's quite over.

The reason hardy geraniums are called "crane's-bills" is fairly obvious from the seed photo below. The seeds appear to have bird beaks. When these dry out, the beak snaps open, & spits seeds a considerable distant.

Crane's-billPurple Crane's-bill loves sun or shade but has nicer purplier spring leaves in a sunny location, & requires moist rich soil. It is cold-hardy to an extreme degree (to minus 40!), as the species is native of northern Europe & Iceland. It is not heat-hardy.

There is a cultivar derived from this one which is called 'Midnight Reiter,' similar in most respects except it is a dwarf, growing only to about nine inches height, whereas 'Victor Reiter Jr' will grow two to three feet or occasionally taller.

It forms a low mound if growing more or less alone. But as we like to put crane's-bills under larger shrubs, this one climbs quite high through the limbs of a deciduous 'Apricot Surprise' Azalea.

Crane's-billThe foliage is fast-growing & the blooms are a darker violet-blue approaching royal purple, quite dark compared to other strains of G. pratense. Others tend to be closer to lilac-blue.

When the azalea is in full apricot & orange bloom in late May through part of June, so too is the 'VRJ's' crane's-bill having its first big flourish of blossoms.

The lilac blooms mix nicely with the bright yellows of the azalea, & the dark crane's-bill leaves are a nice contrast to the paler azalea leaves. When 'Apricot Surprise' is finished blooming, the crane's-bill continues to bloom right up to autumn, lending the larger shrub the appearance of itself continuing to have blossoms.

Also growing near the 'VJR' crane's-bill are a 'Pink Elf' Cape Fuchsia with dangling red blooms; an 'Aurea' fuchsia with crimson blooms & spectacularly fountaining golden foliage; & other perennials, including miniature daffodils. It makes for a most colorful grouping. There is also a narrow, shading Hornbeam Tree the lower limbs of which 'VRJ' climbs upon.

See also:
Legends & Lore of Geranium pratense,
Meadow Crane's-bill

which is illustrated with further
portraits of 'Victor Reiter, Jr.'

& see:
Geranium pratense 'Summer Skies'
Double Meadow Crane's-bill


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