A candy shop of fragrances could be clustered on your patio, your windowsill, or in your garden. Plant and grow one of the most beloved plants, the scented geranium. You’ll reap the rewards and benefits with minimal care on your part. The 2006 herb of the year, as announced by the International Herb Association, scented geraniums stand in the limelight. If you haven’t tried growing them yet, now is the time to try a few varieties of the over 200 while nurseries have plenty in stock to celebrate the leafy ladies of fragrance.
Scented geraniums belong to the genus pelargonium, cousins to the common geranium. Grown more for their fragrances and uses than the beauty of the flower, you’ll discover them easy to grow from seedlings or small plants purchased at a nursery. The attractive leaves come lacy, deeply cut, full, or ruffled in variegated and solid greens. Small blossoms, not completely insignificant, range in color from deep pink to pale lavender to white. But it’s the scents that steal the show. Scented geraniums fill the memory with lemon, lime, rose, peppermint, strawberry, coconut, nutmeg, even chocolate goodness. Easy to grow, they are not winter hardy so must be brought indoors for the winter. Planting them in containers is a wise idea unless you call zone ten home or you don’t mind digging them up after a season of glorious growing. Less transplant shock occurs if they are potted in containers.
Gather your favorite containers, potting soil, rocks, stones or shards of clay pots, and a watering can filled to the brim. Clay or terra cotta pots are by far the best pots to use. They allow for the escape of excess water and don’t topple over as easily as plastic. The patina of age can be clearly seen on the pot unless you scrub it. I don’t mind the deposits of mineral and salt on the outside or even a bit of algae and in fact I prefer an old looking pot. It exudes character enhancing the plant it holds. If the pot does not have a drainage hole place stones or shards of old pots in the bottom. Toss in the soil. Push the plant down into the soil, making sure the roots are spread. Now top off with more soil. It’s truly that easy. Be sure to water, but remember water leaches nutrients so do fertilize. A good time-released fertilizer from a nursery will do just fine. What kind of scented geraniums are out there for you to take in and adore? Let’s take a look at some old time favorites.
Attar of Rose
There was a time when I dreamed, schemed, and nearly stole to get my hands on one of these rose scented beauties. The scent is a heady and powerful rose that lends itself to the romantic notion of far away places and exotic dunes. Could this be the rare rose oil that was sought after? It’s not certain that it is, but it is fun to grow with its tri-lobed light green leaves, flowers that range from pink to lavender. Use it for culinary purposes or for potpourris.
Grey Lady Plymouth
Another rose scented geranium; its leaves are sage green in color with a fine line of white outlining each leaf. It has a compact look that sits well in pots. An old time favorite not to be missed, enjoy the tiny pink blossoms and use it in cooking and in potpourris.
Rober’s Lemon Rose
Ernest Rober introduced this little gem in the 1930s. The lemon rose scent it carries is well loved. The leaves are thick and irregular with lavender flowers. A rigorous grower, use it to create a fragrant area in the garden as well as in potpourri. Stay away from using it for culinary uses.
The apple geranium comes from a lineage that harks back to the 1700s. Low growing with round medium green leaves it flowers profusely with white blossoms on long stems. This characteristic makes it suitable for hanging baskets and when a breeze catches it the scent of apples wafts through the air.
Include French Lace in your list of must have scented geraniums for its dainty green leaves that are cut deeply and variegated with white. The elegance of this plant is intensified by the lavender flowers it shows off. Stake and trim French Lace into a lovely topiary.
Imagine yourself dining at Victorian party. Set at each place is a small crystal bowl filled with water and inside is a small green leaf floating about emitting a burst of lemon each time you dip your fingers in. The scented geranium, Fingerbowl, describes what it was used for in bygone eras. Its crinkled green leaves, fragrant with lemon can be used in potpourris or in cooking. It’s a hard working plant that deserves a spot in your garden.
Just as you would think this geranium releases a spicy nutmeg fragrance when the leaves are bruised tenderly between fingers. An abundance of tiny white flowers cover this plant with distinctive leaves of grey-green and reddish-brown splotches. Make a fine garden border or used it in hanging planters.
The large green leaves variegated with white are what draw us to the scented geranium variety, Snowflake. Another rose scented variety, it seems to have a confused past but it’s certainly a lovely addition to a modern garden. Just a word of caution, the variety in varigation may be due to poor growing conditions because once near perfect conditions prevail this plant may become all green again.
The list of lovelies could go on and on and I’ve only touched on a few. The fun is in self-discovery of a variety that you never knew existed with an unexpected scent like chocolate, lime, or cinnamon. Keep in mind that the fragrances are varied and what smells like chocolate to one may not to another. Also growing conditions play a part in the development of the scents. Go wild, go crazy and plant a few scented geraniums in a sunny location whether it’s in pots or in the garden.