Fish Geraniums

fish or zonal geranium (Geranium hortorum)If you are looking for perennial color accents for the spring, the summer and beyond, there are three plants that you should consider for your garden. One blooms red, orange, pink and violet, the second in yellow, and a third in purple, all grow rapidly and unerringly in the sun, with a minimum amount of fuss.
The most carefree bloomer in red is the old-fashioned zonal or fish geranium (Pelargonium hortorum). Not too many people seem to ask for this classic plant anymore, which is customarily grown in clay pots. The reddest fish geranium I know is the cultivar “Redondo,” which often is available in local nurseries. Of course, fish geraniums come in many other colors, including the well-known brick red, as well as most shades of pink, rose, violet and orange. There are also cultivars with distinctive leaf markings in red, bronze, orange, yellow or white.
When it comes to reliability and flower display, what the fish geranium is to red, pink and violet, the Euryops daisy is to yellow. The Euryops daisy may be caught blooming at any time, although it flowers most in spring and fall. It might be said that there is no truer, deeper yellow than that which shows itself in the flower petals of the Euryops daisy. In addition, the most popular Euryops cultivar (Euryops pectinatus “Viridis”), has verdant, dark green leaves that give it a springtime look throughout the year.
During the past decade or so, a purple blooming perennial gradually has become a mainstay of the California sun garden. I speak of Limonium Perezii, commonly known as sea lavender. It is easily recognized by its large, lobed and wavy leaves and sprays of purple and white flowers.
Years ago, my first encounter with this plant was along cliffs that overlook the ocean at Del Mar, between Los Angeles and San Diego. At the time, I thought it must be native to California’s coast, since it had such a rough and ready look and was obviously not being cared for by any living soul. Only later would I learn that the Canary Islands, located off the coast of northwest Africa, are the exclusive habitat of sea lavender. What we see along our shores are naturalized colonies of this plant, originally imported from across the seas, which self-sows with abandon where soil is sandy and moist ocean air hovers all around.
It has become a common practice to inter-plant sea lavender with constantly flowering white floribunda or shrub roses such as “Iceberg” or “White Meidiland.” In truth, however, sea lavender has a character and a habit of growth all its own, so that it is cultivated to its best advantage when given its own space among a variety of other plants. When planted in a mixed row or hedge with roses or some other ornamental species, it looks fine for a year or two at most, at which point it probably will be overgrown or crowded out by its companions. In such close quarters, sea lavender should not be planted so that it touches other plants. It should receive abundant light from every direction, and air should circulate freely around it.
For a simple, yet effective color display, plant a discrete group of sea lavender beside a group of either fish geraniums or Euryops daisies. The purple of the sea lavender stands out as well against either red or pink geraniums and offers an appealing contrast to the full bore yellow of the Euryops daisy.
When they finish a period of intense flowering, both geraniums and Euryops daisies may be cut back by as much as two-thirds. Without such pruning, these plants may become leggy and lose the intense color effect produced when they are kept more compact.

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