Gardening with Laurie: Geranium chosen flower of the year
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Every year the National Garden Bureau selects a flower of the year. The prerequisites for their choice include popularity of the flower, how easy it is to grow, how widely available it is, if it's genetically diverse and that it's versatile.
This year, the group has selected the geranium as their flower of the year. One thing I find interesting is that the plants we call geraniums are in fact not geraniums.
The flowering plants we call geraniums are actually cranesbills, but that's a subject for another article. The proper name for the flowers we commonly refer to as geraniums is pelargonium.
There are four basic types of pelargonium, the common or zonal, the regals and angels, the scented leaf and the ivy leaf. I love all types, but if I could only grow one type it would be the scented leaf varieties.
Just as their name implies these plants are very fragrant. I've often read that scented leaf pelargoniums are considered living potpourri plants.
Unlike the other members of the pelargonium family the scented leaf pelargonium is not grown for its flowers, but for its scent. You don't have to wait for this plant to bloom to provide you with a fragrance.
The scented leafs are always wonderfully fragrant, with or without blooms. The scenteds bloom small flowers unlike their other family members.
Scent leaf pelargonium have hairy foliage that come in several different leaf shapes, texture, color and variegation. The actual fragrance comes from small beads of oil that are produced in glands at the base of the leaf hairs.
Scenteds are very easy to grow indoors or out. In the house they will like an indirect sun lit room. Outdoors they will need afternoon shade to full shade.
Their soil does need to drain well and only water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Over watering can cause soil borne diseases and soft growth.
Under watering can lead to slower growth and yellow wilted leaves. Never let potted scenteds sit in a saucer of water.
Except for a few compact varieties most scented pelargoniums grow to make large plants. Scenteds need good air circulation so do not crowd them when planting.
Feed your plants monthly during their warm weather blooming period. Scenteds are heavy feeders of magnesium. A teaspoon of Epsom salt sprinkled on the soil and watered in each season will provide enough magnesium to keep the plant happy.
Scenteds can become leggy in their growth if not pruned on a regular basis. Occasionally snipping off two to three inches of tip growth will help give the plant a fuller shape.
Place the cuttings in a vase of water to enjoy their fragrance. Cut scented stems also make beautiful additions to other cut flower arraignments.
Many of the scenteds can be used in different recipes. You can line the bottom of greased cake pans with the leaves before pouring in the batter. The leaves are also used in vinegars, salads, jellies, marinades, punches and teas.
With more than 200 different varieties of scents such as orange, rose, apple, lemon, ginger and so many more, there surely is one that you'd love.
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all your weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to email@example.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.