SG551: Robin Parer and The Plant Lovers Guide to Hardy Geraniums

Robin Parer is the author of The Plant Lover’s Guide to Hardy Geraniums. Robin is also the lovely owner of the Geraniaceae Nursery, located in Kentfield, California. Robin is a wonderfully knowledgeable plantswoman,  She is a generous teacher and a thoughtful spokeswoman for the geranium family - both hardy geraniums and pelargoniums (the later being the plant group most people incorrectly refer to as geraniums).  In fact, even after interviewing Robin, I still slip and refer to pelargoniums as geraniums! Robin explains the origins of taxonomy confusion for these plants. Undoubtedly, Robin understands this plant family better than almost anyone on this side of the globe.  I like to think of Robin as the modern day mother of the geranium family. In typical mom fashion, when it comes to hardy geraniums and pelargoniums, she loves them both the same. 

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“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson.

Plant Lovers Guide to Hardy Geraniums

Interview Questions

Your nursery is named Geraniaceae. How do you help folks pronounce it?

Time Stamp: 12:35

What’s the best part of owning and operating your own nursery for 33 years?

Time Stamp 13:30

Do you have a busy season or do you grow year-round and sell year-round?

Time Stamp: 15:00

People get confused when talking about geraniums, because the term is applied to many different plants. How did the whole mess with terminology in the geranium family happen?

Time Stamp: 16:10

First, let’s talk about the plants most people think of as geraniums, but are actually pelargoniums. Let’s try and help the audience determine what is a pelargonium.

Time Stamp: 23:25

So, the focus of this interview is on the hardy geraniums. Why did you decide to go with the hardy ones?

Time Stamp: 28:40

The true hardy geraniums would be great in native gardens, right?

Time Stamp: 32:10

Why are geraniums called crane’s-bills or stork’s-bills?

Time Stamp: 33:15

In one of my favorite gardening blogs, Per Joy, the author Joy wrote a great post about hardy geraniums. In it, she wrote something that I’d like to get your reaction to, “I have found that sometimes,  when I suggest a specific type of Geranium on a client’s planting plan, during the planning stage of a garden design, I get the feedback;” I don’t really like geraniums” . They are inevitably thinking of their Grandma’s clay pot of orangey-red mop heads, and are simply looking for something different for their own garden.” Thoughts?

Time Stamp: 38:15

Geraniums are truly versatile plants, and they’re survivors too aren’t they?

Time Stamp: 40:15

I listened to a recent interview that you gave with Jennifer Jewell. You said that hardy geraniums appeal to gardeners who subscribe to the belief that it’s a sin to have any bare ground in the garden. How do hardy geraniums play a role in the garden and in garden design?

Time Stamp: 41:30

I have a friend and the minute her johnson’s blue geranium is done blooming, she cuts it to the ground. Does that hurt the plant?

Time Stamp: 44:25

Now, your book features great garden designers, but you also get a lot of feedback from your customers. It’s sort of like citizen science results. What are some of the standout stories that you’ve heard from your customers?

Time Stamp: 46:40

Your book divides hardy geraniums into 9 categories. The first is Rock Gardens & Containers. What are some of your customer favorites from this category? 

Time Stamp: 49:50

The second category was Ground Covers. I love these. I thought geranium macrorrhizum would be great for a Northern gardener. Thoughts?

Time Stamp: 53:00

The other thing I’m curious about is the rigorousness of these ground covers. What is in your regard some of the more rigorous hardy geraniums?

Time Stamp: 58:45

Shade was your next category. I loved this section. However, you’re not talking about having completely no sun for these hardy geraniums, right?

Time Stamp: 59:40

Jen McGuinness from Frau Zinnie asks if there’s any shade hardy geranium that she can grow underneath her black walnut tree.

Time Stamp: 1:01:25

The next section is called Scramblers & Crawlers. The one that caught my eye was called Jester’s Jacket. Tell us a little bit about this.

Time Stamp: 1:07:45

After the geraniums are done blooming, you’re left with a lot of foliage. What are some of the standout leafs that look appealing in the garden?

Time Stamp: 1:11:35

The fifth section is called Borders & Beds. I love the simple geranium joy in this section. It’s so innocent!

Time Stamp: 1:14:10

I have to ask you too. There’s the geranium delmatican, what’s the origin of that name?

Time Stamp: 1:19:45

There’s a section devoted to Tuberous-Rooted Species and I had such a difficult time embracing these guys. They seem very finicky. I had no idea these existed.

Time Stamp: 1:21:00

The 7th category was for Annuals and Biennials. I also didn’t know there were Biennials! Do you get a lot of demand for these?

Time Stamp: 1:23:55

Well, the last two categories are for the North American and South American species. Drawing from both of these categories, what geraniums stand out the most to you?

Time Stamp: 1:26:00

Can hardy geraniums be used as cut flowers? Do they make a good cut flower?

Time Stamp: 1:29:30

Let’s talk about propagation before we close the show.

Time Stamp: 1:37:00

Are these true geraniums endangered?

Time Stamp: 1:39:05

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Jennifer Ebeling
Jennifer Ebeling is a proud Minnesotan and U of MN alumni. Gooooooo Gophers! Each week, Jennifer produces and hosts Still Growing - a gardening podcast dedicated to helping you and your garden grow. The show is an in-depth interview format. Guests featured on the show share a passion for gardening and include authors, bloggers, professional gardeners, etc. Listeners and guests of the show can join the Still Growing community on Facebook. It's a place to ask questions, share garden stories, interact with great guests featured on the show, and continue to grow and learn. Jennifer and her husband Philip have four children, a big golden lab named Sonny, and live in lovely Maple Grove, Minnesota. P.S. When she's not teaching her four kids a new card game - or teaching them how to drive a car - Jennifer loves inspiring individuals and groups to maximize and personalize their home & garden.
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