One of my favorite hardy geraniums, growing in many different places in my garden, is Geranium x oxonianum. This is a naturally occurring hybrid of G. endressii and G. versicolor. It has funnel-shaped clear pink flowers and a habit of sprawling outward from a central clump of foliage, with long flowering arms that drape themselves over nearby plants. The first G. x oxonianum that I added to my garden was identified as ‘A.T. Johnson’ and had the silvery pink flowers for which that variety is known. I later added other varieties, including one that was labeled as ‘Wargrave Pink’ (which is actually a named variety of G. endressii) and one labeled as ‘Claridge Druce.’ Both of these had salmon pink flowers (and, in fact, I could never tell them apart). Later, I got a division from a friend of a plant also identified as ‘Wargrave Pink,’ but which has much deeper pink and more deeply veined flowers. (This may actually be G. endressii.)
Over time, I have given up trying to distinguish these geranium varieties from one another. The various plants have been divided and moved around several times; and in some cases their roots have become intertwined so that I sometimes have what seems to be a single plant with both silvery pink and salmon pink flowers (see From Two Plants to One: My Own ‘Hybrid’ Geranium).
I have always assumed that these hybrid plants had sterile flowers and could only be propagated by division. So it was quite a surprise this June to discover two small clumps of Geranium x oxonianum growing among the goldenrod at the edge of the blue and yellow border. Since this is one of the few flower beds in which I never planted G. x oxonianum, these could only be self-sown seedlings. Some reading in Peter Yeo’s Hardy Geraniums (Timber Press, 2001) enlightened me. I discovered that Geranium x oxonianum is not sterile – although, as is typical of hybrids, the offspring won’t necessarily be the same as the parents. I also learned that these plants can project their seeds to considerable distances from the parents, and that Geranium x oxonianum varieties are difficult to sort out because they combine and recombine so readily.
My new plants have the clear pink funnel-shaped flowers that I love so much, and they seem to be the silvery pink color that I prefer. The only mystery that remains is why these first seedlings appeared more than a decade after I first planted G. x oxonianum in my garden. Whatever the reason, I am delighted to have them. I will leave them to grow where they are for now, but these unexpected seedlings are destined for homes in my new front garden.