Double Crane's-bill

'Summer Skies'
Double Field Crane's-bill; aka,
Double Meadow Crane's-bill

"I was the slightest in the House--
I took the smallest Room--
At night, my little Lamp, and Book--
And one Geranium."

-Emily Dickinson,


'Summer Skies' is a double-flowering variety of the Field or Meadow Crane's-bill, Geranium pratense. It was introduced by England's Blooms of Bressingham. It looks nothing like an earlier double-flowering Meadow Crane's-bill, 'Plenum Violaceum,' & it was almost certainly pollinated by G. himilayanese plenum which the flower (but not the foliage nor growth habit) more closely resembles.

To be candid G. himilayanese plenum is by far the superior double crane's-bill of the two, because 'Summer Skies' has more trouble keeping its foliage pleasant through the summer. It also "lodges" or tips over very untidily, as the flower-budding stems are rigid & upright in their development (unlike most G. pratense varieties), until just as the flowers are about ready to open, the rigid stems fall right down.

Double Crane's-billThey do it less horridly in bright sun than in partial sun, because in fuller sun the blooms open while the upright stems are shorter, but in less sun the stems get taller before the buds open, so are heavier & more prone to collapse. Even in bright sun the flowering stems are tippy; there seems to be no way to avoid staking or tying them in some way. By comparison, G. himilayense plenum is clumping semi-creeper & never looks like something that tipped over.

The American patent name 'Summer Skies' is the same as the cultivar name for another crane's-bill of the species G. pyrenaicum, which has single fertile flowers. This duplication of naming is bound to cause some confusion. The double-crane's-bill's actual cultivar name is 'Gernic,' but when it was patented in the United States in 1997, a more marketable trade-name was bestowed upon it.

The marketing tactic that puts incorrect names on registered cultivars can be very annoying, but sometimes the trade name becomes so well known that it would be hopelessly confusing to cite a plant by its real name.

'Summer Skies' Meadow Crane's-bill is not really evocative of summer skies, though catalogs frequently describe it as pale blue to conform to the patent name. It is in reality closer to mauve-pink, with greenish white to primrose-yellow heart, on two-foot upright & tilting & branching stems, & with deeply cut mid-green foliage.

Like many double-flowers, 'Gernic' aka 'Summer Skies' has extra petals at the expense of stamins. Having no sexual parts, it is a sterile cultivar, & in happy consequence each flower is long-lasting, striving to attracting pollinators to no effect.

It blooms best in dappled sunlight or partial shade, but given that its tippiness worsens in partial shade, it's kind of a trade-off to adjust its behavior. In deeper shade it will not thrive. It wants moist, well-draining, humusy soil. It blooms as early as May but sometimes waits until June; once it begins, it blooms the whole of summer, with rebloom possible throughout much of autumn. In colder zones it blooms May or June only.

It is reportedly a little less hardy than most crane's-bills, but we've found it to be an enthusiastic perennial, despite that the leaves do seem to get sunburned easily if exposed to too much sun or occasional dryness.

The genus G. pratense has been the brunt of an unusual amount of folklore, which is dicussed in a separate article, Legends & Lore of the Meadow Crane's-bill.


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