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Vermont Garden Journal: Geraniums

05/11/12 5:55PM

I'm Charlie Nardozzi and this is the Vermont Garden Journal. I've always try to get creative on Mother's Day with unique gifts for mom, but this year I'm going traditional. I'm giving her geraniums. Pelargoniums have been know as old fashioned flowers, but they're really making a comeback. With new leaf and flower colors, geraniums will surprise you.

Pelargoniums are a diverse group of South African plants. One species features scented leaves of rose, lemon, apple, ginger and coconut just to name a few.  There are some species with ivy, oak, or grape-shaped leaves. Some geraniums are used in cooking and others medicinally. But the group I want to focus on are the zonal geraniums. These bedding plants have long been relegated to the classic white, pink and red flouncy balls sitting a top a 1-2 foot tall green plant. Now there are varieties that will dazzle you.

A true yellow colored zonal geranium has been the holy grail of breeders for years. 'First Yellow', a new variety just released from a Germany, meets that goal. It has pale, butter colored, airy flowers on compact plants. You may have to hunt for it because it may be in short supply this first year.

The real revolution in zonal geraniums is with the leaf colors. 'Vancouver Centennial'  has fan-shaped leaves marked with a blotch of deep maroon in the center, and a thin margin of bright chartreuse around the edge. It has orange-colored, star-shaped flowers and only grows one foot tall making it perfect for a container. 'Black Velvet' has black centers in the leaves with brilliant scarlet colored flowers. 'Mrs. Pollock' features tri-colored leaves of pale yellow, green and red with orange flowers.
To grow these geraniums plant in full sun on well drained soil. Although they can take a chill, they don't like wet feet.

Now for this week's tip, protect broccoli transplants from cold nights with a floating row cover. If young broccoli plants get exposed to cold temperatures they may button or form small heads prematurely on young plants.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about heirloom tomatoes. For now, I'll be seeing you in the garden!

First Yellow geranium
Vancouver Centennial geranium
Black Velvet geranium


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