Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Mightly Scented Geranium!

photo courtesy of Flickr user @theManWhoSurfedTooMuch
From the Garden: The Mighty Scented Geranium!

    Happy fall! Autumn is one of our favorite seasons for gardening, and among the many plants we focus on this time of year is the lovely, mighty, scented geranium!

    Scented geraniums are much different from the ‘boring’ geraniums you might be used to! Members of the Pelargonium family, these plants are unique in that their distinct aromas emerge from their leaves, not flowers. The leaves have a scent gland located at their ‘base’, and lightly ‘crushing’ or squeezing the leaves results in a release of the oils that give these plants their unique smell! They flower with small white, pink, and occasionally yellow buds, but the leaves - with interesting shapes and texture and aroma - are the real stars of the plant. Scented geraniums originated in Africa, and made their way to Europe sometime during the 1600’s; the Dutch East India Company was trading them by the 1650’s, in fact.

    These are  remarkably easy plants to grow: give them full to partial sun and average to little water, and they will thrive! Seriously, that’s all it takes! The only real requirement they have is for good drainage, which is a must: their roots do not respond well to staying damp or wet.  Outside of that one fact, they are super easy to grow; we like to tease our clients that it would take a lot of effort to kill these plants! What we love best about them is that if they start to look a little ‘leggy’ or spindly, you need to only cut them back and they will flourish, coming back with a vengeance. Likewise, they are very easy to grow from cuttings, so once you have one thriving, you can easily grow your own additional plants, or give them away as gifts.  They do great in pots, hanging baskets, and mixed into your garden beds; throw them into your herb garden or veggie garden for a great, edible, addition of smell and color!

    Scented geraniums have a wide variety of uses. They can be dried and used in potpourri or sachets, and even added to your bath! In the kitchen, they can find their way into teas, flavored syrups, and jams. Some bakers line the bottom of cake pans for subtle flavor, while others use the leaves of these edible plants to garnish and decorate. You can flavor sugar with scented geraniums: alternate laters of sugar with leaves in an airtight container, let it sit for a week, and soon enough you will have flavored sugar to use in baking! Plus, in addition to of all of their many uses, they bring great aroma and texture and interest to any garden.

    There are many, many varieties of these plants, as many as 80, in fact! Currently, Johnnye Merle’s stocks a few of our favorites: coconut - which we adore for not only the amazing aroma it produces but also the delightful little flowers that pop up in the spring - is by far our favorite. We also love peppermint - known for it’s broad, fuzzy leaves, we have one growing outside our front door, in fact! - apple, nutmeg, and chocolate. There are also rose, lemon, lime, and apricot ‘flavors’, and several varieties that are bug repellants as well!

    Stop by our gardens to pick a few up and check them out! We sell them in small, 4” sized containers, making them a fun, affordable addition to your garden AND kitchen!

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