Monday, November 28, 2011

Pelargoniums - Are They The Gardener's Best Friend?

I have to admit that I used to look down upon pelargoniums.  (We all call them geraniums, but they are not geraniums.  Geraniums look like this and are another very useful plant, but more about them another time.)  

Not to put too fine a point on things, they are decidedly common – you see them everywhere!  But I have realised there is a good reason for this – they are the most hard working and least labour intensive garden plant I can think of for our conditions. 

When we started gardening at Shoestring the narrow strip at the front of the fence looked as though it was going to be a bit of a problem, rather hot, dry and sunbaked.  I decided to fill this area with the “cheap and cheerful” variety of plants, daisies and tough perennials, things which were virtually indestructible and capable of looking after themselves.  No coddling or pampering here, thank you very much!  It has turned out to be the most colourful part of the garden and the results have been great for so little work. 

The most surprising thing has been the way that the pelargoniums have all thrived and prospered.  Most of them have been unceremoniously plonked in the earth as cuttings and as if to give thanks for their chance at life they have without exception survived and flowered madly.  They are happy to rub along with all the other plants and there are climbers, sprawlers and upright bushy ones.  They come in so many forms and colours, and of course there are the ones with the variegated leaves – my personal favourites.

Also the blood red one looks spectacular. 

I am not so keen on the mauve climber but any plant is a good plant in the front garden and none of them will be excluded. 

The fragrant ones have perfumed leaves – for instance, rose, peppermint and nutmeg scented.  Plant them by a doorway or path where you pass by often and can release the fragrance easily by picking and crushing a leaf or two.

 Rose scented

They are great for drying and using to scent linen and instead of sulking if you give them a vigorous prune they take it as a compliment and grow back better and bushier than before.    

Now that I have developed a cunning plan for guerrilla gardening in the city I am taking lots of cuttings from the pelargoniums at Shoestring and will transplant them when they have taken root, I can’t wait.