The Casual Gardener: Get to know long-lasting Rozanne

The uninhibited Geranium ‘Rozanne' is the undoubted champion of the summer border. John Manley urges you to plant it now to enjoy its long-lasting violet-blue flowers later this year

'Rozanne' is in flower much longer than other geraniums

IT'S at least three months until the majority of them come into bloom so you'd be excused for thinking it's a bit early to be reading about summer-flowering perennials. But today I wish to celebrate one herbaceous plant in particular if for no other reason than to give any readers unfamiliar with it ample notice to enjoy its pleasures later this year.

The plant in question is Geranium 'Rozanne'. Many of you will already know this plant and no doubt have a similar affection for it, as I have yet to encounter anybody who regards 'Rozanne' with any disdain. Arguably the only criticism that can be levelled at it is its near ubiquity.

A 'hardy geranium' of the sort closely related to the native cranesbill (as opposed to the more tender pellorgoniums that occupy every office window sill in Christendom), Rozanne is the relative newcomer.

The Rozanne it takes its name from is Mrs Rozanne Waterer, who in the late 1980s along with husband Donald, noticed something different about a plant at their Crooked Acre garden in Somerset. The couple were both keen gardeners and plant breeders, with the lady of house having a particular passion for geraniums, her garden boasting at least two dozen varieties.

The special plant that caught the Waterers' trained eyes was a stronger grower, with larger leaves and flowers than other geraniums. The following year it flowered from June until November – considerably longer than any of its counterparts. The violet-blue flowers of this super geranium looked a lot like those of fellow geranium 'Buxton's Variety' but were twice as large.

For me, it is best compared to G. 'Johnson's Blue', which can match 'Rozanne' for colour of flower but comes nowhere near in terms of their longevity.

After consulting various gernaium experts, the Waterers teamed up with appropriately named plantsman Adrian Bloom. The latter's company Blooms of Bressingham put the as-yet-unnamed geranium through a series of rigorous trials before finally launching Geranium Rozanne ('Gerwat) – to give it its full botanical name – on to the market in May 2000.

Since then 'Rozanne' has sold more than 12 million units, picked up a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit and numerous accolades on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2013, as the Chelsea Flower Show celebrated its 100th year, 'Rozanne' beat off 10 other contenders to be voted Plant of the Centenary, which little over a decade after its launch is no mean feat.

As well as its extended flowering period, the other main advantage of 'Rozanne' is that it's not particularly fussy about soil types or location, as long as it is neither too dry or too waterlogged. This 'superplant' will even tolerate semi-shade, though in such a situation its flowers won't prove as eye-catching.

Speaking of which, those very same flowers also prove eye-catching to our bee population and will therefore help boost the prospects for pollination throughout your garden.

There's an old gardeners' adage that states: 'If in doubt, plant a geranium' as nothing fills a gap in a border better than these colourful, unbridled perennials. And as you've just been reading, it's difficult to find a geranium that surpasses the beautiful and long-lasting 'Rozanne'. You'll find it most decent nurseries, though it won't look like very much at the moment, perhaps just a few green shoots emerging at soil level.

Now is the time to plant it, rather than in the summer when you're seduced by its soft blue flowers as you walk through the garden centre. And the good news is it gets better and better every year.

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