Way back in June 2003, horticulturist Kathy Freeland, then working for Midwest Groundcovers in St. Charles, Illinois, wrote about one of her favorite perennial plants: Geranium × cantabrigiense ‘Biokova’. Who knew that 12 years later the Perennial Plant Association would name it 2015 Perennial Plant of the Year?
Here’s Kathy’s recommendation:
Geranium × cantabrigience ‘Biokova’ is a hardy geranium named for a mountain range in Yugoslavia. While there is some confusion on the plant’s name (it’s also seen as G. × cantabriense ‘Biokova’ and G. × canta- brigiense ‘Biokova’), the cultivar is lasted as a hybrid of two species: G. macrorrhizum and G. dalmaticum.
G. macrorrhizum is a hardy, 8- to 10- inch tall perennial that spreads by underground runners. The flowers are deep magenta, and the fragrant foliage boasts attractive autumn colors. G. dalmaticum is a hardy dwarf only 6 inches tall, bearing bright pink flowers and glossy, finely cut foliage. It’s used extensively in rock gardens. ‘Biokova’ bears the best of both species, including a small stature, fragrant foliage with autumn color and the ability to spread by underground runners in neat clumps.
Commonly known as ‘Biokova’ cranesbill, this is one of the best cultivars, producing masses of white to delicate pink spring flowers with a deeper flush of pink on 6- to 8-inch-tall, 8- to 12-inch-wide plants. The sepals are redder than the petals, making a handsome contrast with the flowers.
This beautiful perennial boasts fragrant, deep green, semievergreen leaves that turn red in autumn. After a rain shower or when sprinkled with water, the foliage releases its wonderful aroma, filling the planting area with its spicy smell.
Hardy from zones 5 to 7, ‘Biokova’ should be sited in well-drained soils in partial sun for best results. I grow it as a groundcover in a container below a fig tree on an east-facing balcony and love to sprinkle water on the foliage for its scent. In the landscape, the cultivar combines beautifully with butterfly bush and junipers in a butterfly garden. It also works well with annuals such as bachelors buttons, snap-dragons and verbena, as well as in perennial borders. Easy-to-grow ‘Biokova’ is propagated by cuttings and has no pest or disease problems.
One of my favorite plantings of this cultivar is the groundcover bed at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin. It shows off the plant perfectly. The blooms remain a long time, the irresistible aroma wafts up toward visitors along the path, and the butterflies just love it. Another intriguing planting is at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen. ‘Biokova’ is located at the back of the bed under the shade of trees behind some juniper, which are in full sun. Not too many folks would think of using these plants in combination, but it realy works.
This terrific groundcover merits more use in the landscape. Not only does it attract lots of attention when planted in mass, the semievergreen foliage adds winter interest, the spring flowers attract butterflies, and the aroma of the leaves is pleasant to the gardener. I love Geranium—the plant is easy to find, easy to grow and easy on the purse strings.