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Growing Along the Trail: May Wild Geranium

Thus far in my native plant journey, I have shared stories about the noticing the plant for the first time, sometimes with a childhood memory attached. This plant has no such nostalgia for me, however, it still holds great joy. It's no secret that the Spring ephemerals are some of my favorites, and I always feel like I haven't had enough time with them once they die back. Wild Geranium begin to bloom as the early spring flowers are fading, and they often remind me that beauty is still to come despite my sadness at the loss of trillium, hepatica, and trout lily.

Wild Geranium is also known as Cranesbill, as the shape of its seed pods resemble--you guessed it--a crane's bill. I liked the idea of this flower because most people are familiar with geraniums in some way--usually as a hybrid annual that fills our pots and window boxes in summer months.

What I discovered in my research is that much of what we refer to as "geranium" is not truly of the geranium genus at all. So those tall stems crowned with red and white flowers, surrounded by frilly leaves at the base are not geranium after all, but a Pelargonium, and in Ohio are usually grown as annuals. In common terms, true geranium are often referred to as "hardy geranium" because some of them can be grown perennially here. So my common connection kinda backfired on me while also providing a fascinating learning opportunity!

The wild geranium, Geranium Maculatum, is a true geranium. (Sometimes wild flowers have names that are misnomers, but not in this case thankfully.) I have one in my own garden now, thanks to a day at the Native Plant Festival hosted by my local park district. I volunteered, helping folks transport their new plant friends to their vehicles. When someone came by with a wild geranium, I made sure to get one for myself. The park combined educational programming with a unique opportunity to shop only native plants in a concentrated area. I learned a lot just chatting with staff, volunteers and vendors.

These plants are super versatile, and will spread (in a healthy way) to make a beautiful carpet in the spring. I was excited to add it to my garden. It can tolerate full shade or part shade, and some say it can even grow in full sun if you keep it moist. I love adding the plants the Lord made for where I live because it feels like I'm paying respect to His design. It's submitting to His plan for the land, while still maintaining the creative oversight He has given. So I mix natives and non-natives, learning slowly how to tend the plants that were meant for this place.


Back in the Studio

It took me awhile to come up with a piece inspired by this plant, mostly because I had not quite found the right vintage piece to go with this project. As usual, my local antique shop (the one where I have a booth) came through for me, and I found this fun hexagon pink patch. I started thinking about how I could create a transition from the very geometric structure of a quilt square to free-form applique that was more true to life. This is my second piece that transitions like this, and I still have a lot to learn and test. I loved playing with the flow of techniques though and I can't wait to finish. I was hoping to finish before the blog post, but it's a large piece.

Transitions are heavily on my mind, as I find myself in my own season of transition, and as I think about how to incorporate more native plants in my gardening. There's always the place you were, and then there's where you want to be. Figuring out the in-between can be the most difficult. I think this piece will capture this struggle while drawing attention to the beauty of it. There's something amazing about the contrast of all the straight lines becoming wild. So often I have trouble naming pieces, but this time around I knew as soon as I had the design down: Wilding Geranium. What in your life is wilding? Maybe a garden, maybe a job, maybe just you? For me, I think it's all of them. I'm still in the Lord's hands, but I am learning slowly that the lines we draw are not the lines he draws. As I lean into that, lean into trust, there I find the peace that passes understanding. ~~~

Check back later to see the finished piece!


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