Geranium pratense

 ‘Victor Reiter Junior’ strain’

The species commonly known as the Meadow Crane’s-bill is a native of Britain from the midlands of England to central Scotland where it can be found on Roadsides meadows and especially calcareous grassland. However it is the cultivar we are interested in. Named after a San Francisco plant collector Victor Reiter Jr. (?-1989) who founded the Californian Horticultural Society in the 1930s. Victor was also known for his breeding of Echeverias.

This is a plant that grows to 2-3 feet with finely cut leaves of dark purple with a hint of dark greenish purple towards the centre. The flowers are born on dense inflorescences of deep blue with maroon veining, particularly noticeable on the back of the petals. After a shower of rain the water droplets on a flower take on the colour of a translucent maroon droplet. The seed heads are also maroon in colour with the now redundant thread like anthers an off white. It is best grown in full / part sunlight where the intensity of the leaf colour is likely to be strongest and the colour shown to its best.

The plant makes an excellent foil with Hostas, especially H. Thomas Hogg with its creamy slightly twisted leaves and green variegation. Any of the lower growing glaucous Hostas would also make an excellent foil for this plant. I think it will look at its best against plants whose foliage is other than green. Any normal garden soil with good drainage will do.

The plant is readily available from nurseries, I got mine from Crug Farm Nursery when on our visit to Wales in 2010 . As this plant is likely to be propagated from seed it  may vary slightly, therefore it is suggested that any purchase should be seen or purchased from a reliable nursery. Some off you may recall seeing it in Dr Akhtar’s garden during this year's (2011) visit to Stoke on Trent. It was growing near the Cornus kousa at the front of the border.

 James McCombe