Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pelargoniums For Scent

When I first opened Bergamot and Ivy, I took a working vacation to the superlative Logee's greenhouses. A seminar on ornamental horticulture had been offered by Horticulture magazine, hosted by the wonderful Logee/Martin family. The snow was heavy, but inside the glasshouses, another world awaited the lucky participants. We were fortunate enough to have Joy Logee Martin give her recollections of another era in ornamental estate horticulture and specialty garden shows. She spoke of a particular show, I believe it was the Philadelphia flower show, in which she had a collection of scented Pelargoniums on display. By the end of the show, the greedy visitors had pinched cuttings off her show plants. She was so saddened by the state of her plants that she dumped the ragged pots in an unused greenhouse and forgot about them. The cool temperatures and short day length in the abandoned greenhouse spurred the Pelargoniums into full bloom. Nature took control and generations of hybrid ,fragrant seedlings where the lucky result. Most people in the United States call them Scented Geraniums, a separate family of mostly hardy garden plants. They should be called by their correct name to alleviate confusion. The gravel floor of the glasshouse provided the perfect nursery for all the cross pollinated seedlings emerging in the spring. This fortuitous accident has led to an amazing array of fragrances available to the hobby grower. There are gooseberry scented, nutmeg scented,old spice scented...along with the traditional rose and lemon scented plants. Along with the fragrances, floral forms were also created to delight the grower. Most scented Pelargoniums have intriguing, smaller blooms-the perfect compliment for the strong scents. Cool, bright conditions in the winter and a warm sunny summer spot will give you pleasure throughout the year. You can use the leaves to scent drawers, toss them in the dryer to freshen clothes--even bake with them for a special treat. I love to collect the more unusual forms, there's always one I've never seen before...the latest is an apricot scented plant that I just couldn't say no too...Even tossing them in a hot tub can give you a natural aromatherapy lift you couldn't get anywhere else. A sandy moisture retentive soil and a tight pot will do them fine, and if you're inclined, they can be raised from cuttings in no time. The popular Citronella mosquito plant is a member of this diverse family,and does indeed repel the nasty insects.

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