Geum ‘Can-can’ is a fitting name for this lovely Geum. It has 5 rows of frilly petticoat-like petals in a warm soft yellow, all suffused with peach. The centre of each flower has a big boss of yellow stamens tipped with brown anthers all ringed around with the red styles in the middle. Flip the flower over and you find it is washed over in a lovely apricot shade with a dark red calyx and stem. All in all its enough to get you grabbing your skirt and bursting into song.
Geum – avens
Geums have long been cultivated, Our native wood avens, Geum urbanum, being a stalwart of medieval herbalists.
It is rare to see wood avens in the garden, but the related water avens, Geum rivale and the South American Geums chiloense and G. coccineum along with their hybrids and cultivars are reliable additions to the border.
Geum rivale forms a dense spreading crown topped with a dome of hairy foliage. From this base, the flowering stems rise up and bend over with drooping bell shaped lemon flowers. Geum rivale ‘Lemon Drops’ is very close to the wild type. In contrast, Geum chiloense forms a less dense crown from a single rootstock. Furthermore, the leaves are longer and the flowering stems are also longer and more branched with more open, outward-facing flowers. These flowers are flaming red. Hybridisation has produced many cultivars of intermediate habit and colour. In fact Geums are extremely promiscuous. Consequently, if you grow more than one type you are sure to get all sorts of hybrids seed themselves in your garden. Geum coccineum is similar to Geum chiloense.
Geum rivale has been used medicinally for many of the same complaints as Geum urbanum.
The name of the Genus ‘Geum’ derives from the Greek ‘geno’ = to yield a pleasant odour or alternatively from the Greek ‘geyo’= to stimulate. This refers to the pleasant clove-like aroma that comes from the freshly dug up roots of wood avens. As a result of this, roots were used to flavour Ausburg Ale and to make cordials against the plague.
Geum rivale – Water avens, Drooping Avens, Cure All, Water Flower, Indian Chocolate. The latter 3 of these names are all of North American origin.
Geum coccineum – Scarlet Avens,
Geum chiloense = Geum quellyon