This macro in the quizaway of my last post was one that took me by surprise, as if seeing a common or garden plant for the first time. And in a way that’s exactly what it was – for the last 7 years or so this perennial has been a favourite Spring mainstay and yet I’d never attended close-up to the structure of the leaf pattern, with deep veins and regular spaced dot markings. The image could easily be that of a caterpillar but joining the dots, the answer is…
Geranium Phaeum var phaeum ‘Samobor’
Since Phaeum is Greek/Latin for dusky or grey, this group of hardy geraniums are known as the Dusky Cranesbills and in large clumps, a twilight haze does appear to hover over them. 1 More dowager than maiden, they are commonly referred to as ‘mourning widows’ although the epithet is most readily linked to the mosaic leaved ‘Samobor’ (and the other dark and dusky cohorts ‘Chocolate chip’, ‘Raven’ and ‘Purpureum’).
With peeled back petals of burgundy and a white paint-splashed face, she peers through even the gloomiest of shade beds. First discovered in 1990 at a nursery in Kent, Samobor’s scalloped foliage markings vary from cherry wine spots through to full zonal circles. 2 The literature often suggests that the density of patterning is dependent on maturity or even light levels but my Samobors (top) show very distinct markings even in the smallest of seedlings and the deepest of shade.
In the dappled light of the Camley Street nature park, Samobor is distinctly dotty whilst in a sunny park garden, the leaves range between the unremarkable and ribbon edging that perfectly matches the colour of the flowers.
Did you ever see a favourite work of art commercialised into ubiquitous prints? Initially I was disconcerted by the sheer mass of cranesbill ‘Samobors’ in Russell Square this year but these hardy geraniums are ideal low maintenance plants, mounding as weed suppressant carpets and able to tolerate sun to dry shade. Here the hum of hive and bumble bees in their hordes proves their pollinator credentials …oh and they self-set easily too.
No oil painting it’s true but undoubtedly Geranium Phaeum var phaeum ‘Samobor’is a doubly attractive dusky cranesbill.
“Between the dusk of a summer night
And the dawn of a summer day,
We caught at a mood as it passed in flight,
And we bade it stoop and stay..” 3
Winner: As no one identified ‘Samobor’ from the quiz macro, I’ll opt to send out the Knautia macedonica seeds to that most thoughtful of commenters and propagator par excellence - b-a-g @ Experiments with Plants