If you are at all familiar with this blog, you may recall last Christmas when we did a Christmas Bloging Blitz, in anticipation of the big day. We posted a blog every 2-4 days about how we celebrate Christmas at Andrew’s Legacy on the North Fork of Long Island. This included recipes, crafts, decorations, where to buy trees, etc. It seemed to go over well and we thought we might try to do a Garden Blogging Blitz. Anyone who has ever blogged knows there is a lot to creating just one entry, writing, organizing, finding, taking and adjusting pictures, so it’s a big undertaking. But although we don’t have a huge piece of property, we have a garden on every square inch that a garden can be had and we think it deserves a blitz. We hope to include recipes that involve the bounty of herbs, fruits and vegetables that we get from the garden, new varieties of plants, resources on where to get them, garden crafts and cultivation tips.
We start the blitz with a very popular plant: the geranium, or pelargonium, a tender perennial used in the north east as an annual, or wintered over indoors. There are many different types of geraniums, we use the zonal (so called because they usually have a dark band running through the leaf and to help distinguish them from the “cranesbill” geranium,) scented, fancy leaved and balcony (or balcon) types. Each is specially suited for a different use in the garden. Another variety worth mentioning is the Martha Washington geranium. They have large showy pansy-like flowers and are generally considered florist plants because they only flower in the cool weather and temperatures are often manipulated in the greenhouse to get them to bloom. After an impressive show, lasting a month or so, most gardeners are left with a fairly boring green plant the rest of the year.
Zonal geraniums are the ubiquitous nursery favorites. Their thick, fleshy stems enable them to hold water, and some obscure varieties are almost like succulents, so they tolerate some draught and bloom their heads off all season, but require deadheading to keep them looking neat. Up until recently, they could only be started from cutting, but hybridizers have achieved success in creating varieties that can be grown true from seed. They can be grown in part shade, but tolerate full sun, and the more sun, the more flowers. We bring our favorites in for the winter and take cuttings in the very early spring.
We use scented geraniums in the herb garden and on the back deck, where people brushing by release the scented oils. Some types we grow are Rose, Nutmeg, Apple and Lemon. There are literally hundreds of different scents. Different varieties grow in different ways, but most have insignificant flowers. Some have variegated leaves. An essential oil is extracted from Rose geranium, we dry it for a fragrant potpourri and occasionally make an interesting jelly from it.
Fancy leaved geraniums provide a vast array of different shaped and colored leaves. Their habit is similar to zonal geraniums and they do flower, but not as showy as the zonals. Leaf effect may differ depending how much light they get. The leaves can be colorful and an interesting effect can be created when combining them with Coleus.
Finally, Balcony geraniums are designed for hanging baskets and window boxes. They are very popular in Europe and our favorite for the southern-facing wire baskets on the front porch. Their profuse spidery flowers cover the plant all season as they dramatically cascade several feet over the side of the basket. There are three different sizes. Another trailing variety of geranium is the ivy-leaved geranium. The leaves are larger and shaped like ivy, the flower heads are denser, flowers larger, but flowering is not as profuse as the balcony geraniums.
Geraniums are easy to grow indoors and out. They are usually grown in pots, but also do well when planted directly into the ground. They can be bothered by white fly, and lack of air circulation or over-watering can make them susceptible to botrytis blight, often misdiagnosed as powdery mildew. But beside that they are very hardy and easy to grow.
Most varieties can be found at your local nursery. But if you are looking for something specific you can try: http://www.logees.com/Geraniums-or-Pelargoniums/products/75/, http://www.gardenharvestsupply.com/ProductCart/pc/-c711.htm, for a vast array of scented geraniums, try: http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/pelargoniums.htm and for the best balcony or ivy geraniums try: http://www.wheelerfarmgardens.com/
Some of the beautiful Martha Washington geraniums sold at Logees.
The leaves of this fancy leaved geranium “Skies of Italy” are intensely multi-colored. The form is easily recognizable, but the coloration of the leaves are unique.
This dramatic terra cotta urn features a chartreuse leaved fancy geranium in front and a magenta flowered zonal geranium in the back combined with “Creeping Jenny,” Euphorbia “Diamond Frost,”, and two types of Coleus and New Guinea Impatiens.
The rust colored centers of this fan-leaved fancy geranium complements the rust colors of the spike-leaved Cordalyne.
A profusion of spider like flowers cover this balcony geranium “Princess Balcon.”
A wide variety of geraniums, from scented to zonal as well as fancy leaved are being wintered over in the greenhouse.
This container garden makes good use of variegated fancy leaved geraniums and many colorful blossoms of the zonal geraniums.
Green and chartreuse leaves of an orange flowering fancy leaved geranium contrast nicely with the purple foliage and fruit of an ornamental pepper.