Up until very recently I have loved to loath old-fashioned types of geraniums. You know the ones – with that hideous smell, which makes some people sneeze or gag. The intensity stemmed from my childhood, when Nana had them planted all over her garden on the dry, barren clay banks of her garden at the head of Akaroa Harbour.
Every time a friend would pop over and admire her garden they would be sent home with a pile of cuttings, often including geraniums. As her apprentice, she would ask me to hold them, but the aroma would give me a sneezing fit and seemed to linger on my fingers for hours. But I sucked it up, as I adored my nana.
Last season, however, I did a massive U-turn. I started growing geraniums in pots and in parts of the garden that struggle to get enough water and attention – basically in areas the hose doesn’t reach and in which the soil is so barren and hard I can’t get a fork in. And they flourished, so much so I am no w a convert – as long as I do not need to go near them or touch them, we get on just fine.
Geraniums are one of the most widely grown and highly regarded flowers in the world. Little else can match them for durability and flower power throughout the year, blooming for over nine months, and in some cases in a sheltered spot all year round.
Plant breeders have gone mad and bred piles and piles of new hybrid varieties. Many flower for longer, have brighter-coloured blooms, the growth habits are more compact and they seem to be more disease resistant as well. Many also self-clean, so that when the flowers finish, the old blooms just fall off and new flower stems appear. These geraniums thrive in sunny, dry spots, and are ideal for those of us who may forget to water their pots.
5 ways to use geraniums
- Patio pots, planters and window boxes
They thrive as container plants and, in most regions, flower from October until winter knocks on the door in June.
- En masse
Create colourful bedding displays. Allow 50cm between plants.
- Hanging baskets
The tumbling and groundhugging varieties make brilliant basket cases. Make sure the basket has plenty of root room.
- Walls of colour
Look for the climbing varieties to cover banks and walls in cloaks of colour. Initially, they may need support to help them cling.
- Indoor plants
Every now and again, rinse them under the hose or shower to freshen up the leaves and they will more than likely bloom all year round.
Treat them mean
Sounds terrible, but the less you feed geraniums, in terms of fertiliser, the better they seem to bloom. Therefore not a lot of extra food is required.
Geraniums for free
Geraniums easily root from cuttings or snippets taken from plants. Simply remove the lower leaves and place into a glass of water or pottle of seed-raising mix and within four to six weeks roots will appear.
Off with their heads
Pluck the tips out of ne w plants to encourage more side branching. These tips can be used as cuttings.
Did you know?
Numerous types of geraniums exist, well over 400 species; a few include ivy, zonal, regal, cranesbill and numerous cultivars and named hybrids.