How can I miss you if you won’t go away?

About three years ago I removed the white wild geranium (Geranium maculatum var. alba) from the front of my sidewalk border. It’s not that I didn’t like the geranium, it’s just that I wanted to try a mix of salvias in its place. Removing the clumps seemed pretty easy – just dig up the horizontal rhizomes.

Wild Geranium
Wild Geranium


Some of the geranium was transplanted, some given to friends, some went on the compost heap. I confess that I felt a little guilty about removing all these perfectly good plants.

Turns out the guilt was entirely uncalled for, because the wild geranium had no intention of going softly into the botanical night. Not so slowly, from seeds and bits of rhizome I had missed, it started to reassert itself. In fact, it seemed to grow with great vigor, intending perhaps to teach me a lesson in humility.

Wild Geranium growing with wild strawberry in the parkway bed.
Wild Geranium growing with wild strawberry in the parkway bed.

Right now there are wild geraniums popping up and blooming between the Salvias. There are also substantial clumps of wild geraniums across the sidewalk in the parkway bed, gradually coming to dominate the wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) I use as a groundcover there. I never even planted geraniums in the parkway bed, they moved in on their own. I did think that the contrast in leaf shapes was interesting.

Wild geraniums with wild strawberry.
Wild geraniums with wild strawberry.

Actually, I don’t mind. Wild geranium is the North American native hardy geranium, a fine plant for the front or middle of the border. It has white or lavender flowers, blooming earlier than most other hardy geraniums. It has attractive, deeply cut, dark green leaves. The leaves may whither some in a sunny spot, but they will come back.

Wild geranium with lavender flowers.
Wild geranium with lavender flowers.

If the geranium were to squeeze out the salvia  (‘May Night’, ‘Blue Hill’, and ‘East Friesland’), that would be another matter, but I think the salvias can hold their ground. Similarly, the wild strawberry will keep itself going around and through the geraniums.

Have you ever “removed” a plant only to have it come galloping back? And did you mind?


46 Comments on “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?”

  1. I like the mix you have going there!! Coincidently when we were out on a walk my husband stopped to tell me that he really liked a patch of wild geranium that we saw. I made a note of it as he doesn’t always stop to point out flowers to me! I find it so funny when plants switch things up on us! I have had fun seeing plants pop up in various areas far from where they were originally planted…my knot weed for example was always a very well behaved guy (I know that is not usually the case) and I have so enjoyed this plant for its foliage but he is now making himself well known…probably carried by the wind and our crazy squirrels! I will be interested to hear how the story goes for you! Happy Gardening! Nicole

  2. I have a similar geranium that spreads everywhere! (G. phaeum) But one plant I just can’t get rid of is my Achillea… it was supposed to be pink and turned out yellow, and it was supposed to grow to max 60cm but reaches about 1m 60cm! I have dug it out (or thought I had) twice and it returns every year! This year it got the Chelsea chop and I’m hoping it will at least stay at its current 70cm or so!

  3. We planted an agave which apparently was very happy where we placed it. It had lots of pups and kept spreading. A few years ago when we decided to redesign that bed so we removed them, so we thought, but they kept popping up because we missed some roots. It took a few years to completely get rid of them. Another plant that ends up all over our garden is Northern Sea Oats. I am constantly pulling up shoots in the most obscure places.

  4. Oh, that question makes my back hurt just thinking about it. Two plants just about did me in and they did require cortisone shots for my back. Lirope and Pachysandra. They now pop back up periodically all over the place, and I dig each and every one out. 🙂 I do love perennial geraniums though. And, I love the titles for your posts.

  5. Until I read this post, wild strawberry were my nemesis. Suddenly, they’re not so bad any longer. I DO have a few wild geranium but so far they haven’t taken over. OH – I just remembered black-eye Susans! (At least that’s what I think they are.) Now THEY really ramble!

    • When we moved here I started attacking the wild strawberry that was established in a few places. Then I asked myself: why am I doing this? The strawberry looks better than vinca or (blech) pachysandra. So soon I was actually planting wild strawberry and encouraging it to spread.

  6. I’ve also got some wild geraniums, but they’re currently battling for supremacy with some type of very hardy spreading daisy. Hopefully they’ll spend much time and energy competing with each other and won’t try to run roughshod over the rest of the bed.

  7. The way you planned for the geranium to weave it’s way through your plantings is masterful! They knit the beds together and their repetition creates rhythm. I have a similar plan with impatiens glandulifera, a reseeding annual of which I pull thousands every year. Each year I think it should be totally eradicated but then a few stay because they’re so sweet in bloom and the cycle repeats itself. At least they create a lot of biomass for the compost heap.

  8. Yarrow! I thought I had pulled it all out last year, but it’s back. It seems to be rather neat and well behaved at the moment, so I’m letting it stay and see what happens. Maybe I’ll like it better if it’s just less?

  9. You inspired me to buy geraniums as I read about them and saw pictures, most, in your blog. So, I got a hybrid this year — Rozanne. Oh! I am in love with that plant. It blooms profusely after it establishes and the flowers are purplish and blue and so intricate and delicate.

  10. Geraniums are definitely the zombies of the plant world – they are the undead, and will rise again, whatever you do to them ! They never accept “No” for an answer, and will do just as they please ! I wish just a little bit of their fighting spirit could be handed on to those plants in the garden that curl up and die without putting up any resistance ! Yes, I’m talking to you, Alstromeria, and you, lavender !!

  11. Hi Jason, it always seems to be the case that the plants you want struggle while the ones you don’t want are happily self seeding and propagating their way round the garden despite best efforts to remove them. I haven’t had this happen yet, but when it does, I’m wondering what plant it will be.

  12. I have geraniums and wild strawberries growing together, too — but in my case it’s a non-native, G. x cantabrigiense, that likes the same conditions as the strawberry. I have some G. maculatum in my garden, but it doesn’t thrive and spread the way yours does.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: