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Geraniums shine at Jackson garden event
By Norman Winter
Geraniums were among the showiest plants at the recent Jackson Garden and Patio Show. Exhibits had just about every color and kind you could want, including scented ones. Judging from the carts going out the door, they were a hit with the shoppers, too.
Large containers of geraniums welcomed visitors to front doors in landscapes all over the state last year. Whether a container is all geraniums or mixed with other spring-bloomers, these are showy flowers that can be admired from a great distance.
One of the showiest at the show was a series called the Brocades. They have cream and green variegated leaves with a dash of red or orange that matches the bloom on top.
Another series that caught everyone's eye was the Exotica. Here you find leaves that may be maple-shaped or have creamy variegation. You also will find flowers that are rose form and apple blossom in color -- like a designer geranium. But I can't call it that because there is a Designer series known to be one of the best landscape performers. Some of the most intensely colored blossoms are in this series.
At California Pack Trials in the past, the Showcase series -- with colors like deep scarlet and bright cherry -- have garnered the most attention from photographers. These colors are just about guaranteed to motivate you to try geraniums again at your home.
Geraniums' preferred site in Mississippi receives full sun until just past noon, then a little protection in afternoon shade. You will find success with geraniums in these light conditions, coupled with well-drained, fertile soil.
To prepare your soil, loosen it 8 to 12 inches deep, and add 2 to 3 inches of organic matter. Add about 1 pound of a 12-6-6 fertilizer per 100 square feet, and rake the soil smooth.
Geraniums are heavy feeders, and many gardeners do not apply enough fertilizer to meet the plants' nutrient needs. We can feed every two weeks with a diluted water-soluble fertilizer like a 20-20-20, or apply a granular, controlled-released fertilizer every four to six weeks. When it is time to deadhead old flowers, don't just clip the cluster. Pinch or break off the flower stalk at the base.
Beyond that requirement, deciding on how you will use them is all that is left. Geraniums look great in a variety of gardens. We can use them on their own in beds, edging a perennial border, mixed with other annuals or in patio containers. One of the prettiest displays I have ever seen was in a window box. Red and white geraniums were alternated with cascading asparagus fern.
I like Ivy geraniums (Pelargonium pelatum), but no one should expect them to be New Gold lantana and bloom through August. Still, they will provide weeks of unparalleled beauty in a hanging basket.
One other group overlooked and underused is the scented geraniums. There are several species of these, such as Pelargonium odoratissimum apple, P. crispum lemon and P. nervosum lime. Scented-leafed geraniums give off their fragrance as you gently brush against them. They open up a whole new world of geranium growing that is more like herb gardening.
These geraniums are grown for potpourris, sachets, jams, jellies and desserts. You can find other species that give off the fragrance of strawberry, apricot, almond, peppermint and nutmeg. These were offered in greater quantity than before at the Jackson Garden and Patio Show and found favor, or should I say flavor, with the shoppers.
You've got a lot of choices for plants this spring, and you may want to add a few geraniums this spring in the landscape or those special containers by the front door.