2018-05-31 / From The Garden

Geranium Brilliance for Summer

By Cynthia Gibson

Nano white and Calliope lavender rose geraniums. Nano white and Calliope lavender rose geraniums. Pelargonium, which we commonly call geraniums, are no longer simply clusters of red flowers with scalloped round green leaves; they are now bursting with outrageously colored leaves and are the easiest of summer flowers to grow.

Geraniums love full sun, water and fertilizer, so you can just add soil and plant them in a pot or buy them pre-potted. They are a favorite in window boxes, planters, tubs and pots of every shape and size.

Most nurseries are now selling the bright Day-Glo pink and purple geraniums, and there is also a “Calliope” geranium that is hot pink and red.

Pelargonium cultivars are divided into six categories: regal, angel, ivy-leaved, zonal, scented leaved and unique. Let’s take a look at each type.

Regal are bushy evergreen perennials and shrubs with rounded leaves that are sometimes lobed or partially toothed. They produce single flowers in shades of mauve, pink, purple or white and can be grown for both outdoor and indoor display.

Angel are similar to regals, but they are more compact and bushy.

Ivy-leaved are trailing evergreen perennials with stiff fleshy leaves and single or double flowers used for hanging baskets or containers.

Zonal are upright, bushy, succulent stemmed perennials grown for their single or double flowers and are most commonly used for bedding displays.

Scented-leaved are shrubby evergreen perennials and shrubs that are mainly cultivated for their scent and distinctly lobed, toothed variegated leaves.

Finally, there are unique shrubby evergreen perennials that do not fall into the above categories.

Each of these categories has a geranium that is a bit different. “Clio” is an ivy-leaved trailing geranium. Their delicate blossoms are beautiful and flutter in a light breeze. They are reddish pink, but ivy-leaved geraniums known for their lacy type flowers also come in shades of pink, red, purple and white. They are perfect for a hanging pot or a huge olla.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Scented-leaf geraniums, which have delicate flowers, are among the most over-looked geraniums. Not only is the unusual pink or white flower beautiful, but the leaves are scented. When rubbed between your fingers, the leaves release the fragrance of lemon, orange or hazelnut. You can bake with these leaves and make a delicious lemon-scented pound cake.

These geraniums will sprout during the summer from a small bush into a 2-by-2-foot plant.

The lemon variety is excellent for planting around a patio, terrace or pots, as their fragrance repels mosquitoes. They can be dug up, potted and kept in a sunny window all winter. Just give them a boost of fertilizer and water them weekly. They can then be returned to the outdoors in spring.

Our local nurseries have excellent varieties of geraniums in all these categories. If you like impact and a difference in color, the geraniums with multi-colored leaves are for you. They add a great accent to a series of potted outdoor plants and stand out in window boxes.

Look for “Mr. Henry Cox,” “Warren North Emerald,” and “Flower of Spring.” The last of these is a classic green and white variegated, lobed leaved geranium with rich red flowers. It is a knockout.

Geraniums have come a long way. They are perfect for the home or a summer house, and they add a personal touch to a summer rental.

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