Pity the poor gardener when it comes to the geranium. There are seed geraniums and zonal geraniums. There are Martha Washingtons and Regal geraniums. And all of these aren’t geraniums at all! Botanically they’re actually pelargoniums. The real geraniums are perennials! Confused? Don’t worry too much about it. Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’ is an excellent plant for rock gardens or edging along borders. The bright magenta-pink flowers nearly cover the foliage from late May until early July. There are a host of good perennial geranium species and cultivars that perform similar work and as a group the hardy geraniums deserve more garden space, but ‘Max’ is one of the best in my humble estimation.
Nuts and Bolts
Like most of the cultivars of this species ‘Max Frei’ forms a low, compact mound no more than six to eight inches tall and 15 to 18 inches wide. It grows best in full sun but will tolerate some shade. Like many geraniums it can stand drier soils but performs best in average soil with regular moisture. Deer don’t seem to like this plant. The species name, sanguineum, refers to the bright red colour which the foliage takes on in the fall. Blooms are small but profuse. The foliage is very finely cut, making for a lovely contrast with the blossoms floating above. The plant is very winter hardy to -40 deg. C.
Plant it with….
‘Max Frei’ can form a spectacular carpet of magenta-pink when planted in mass on a bank or in a large border. The effect is equally impressive in fall when the foliage turns to red. In a mixed border the blooms combine well with cooler blues from plants like Salvia ‘Caradonna’ or ‘May Night.’ Another good combination is the blue-grey Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass) underplanted with ‘Max Frei.’ Bright whites make a good partner. For an intriguing mix interplant with Cerastium tomentosum (Snow in Summer) or Thymus pseudolanuginosus (Wooly Thyme).