The Cottage Smallholder

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Scented geraniums are a must for every summer garden

Photo: Lemon scented geranium

Photo: Lemon scented geranium

Seraphina’s pelargoniums have survived the winter in window boxes in Cambridge. I was stunned when I spotted this the other day when I arrived to decorate her dining room. She chose the grey shade  (Pacific Breeze) in the Dulux Light and Space collection. The room looked stunning, soft and bright. Like walking inside a shell.

Knowing Seraphina, I think that she had forgotten the pelargoniums. We have sadly lost all of ours. A collection that we’d kept going for years. Carefully potted up each autumn to over winter in the greenhouse. Even though the greenhouse is well ventilated, they have all succumbed to mildew.

So this is will be the first summer that we’ll not be proudly potting up our collection of beautiful old ladies.

Perhaps the mildew spores were already resident in the greenhouse – just waiting to leap on board? I’m going to give the greenhouse a really good spring clean. I use a solution of Citrox oganic disinfectant (does not harm children or wildlife) and water. I think that I might spray the gravel with a weak solution of Bordeaux Mixture (anti fungal treatment that was developed in France to treat fungal diseases on grape vines).  It’s classed as an organic treatment if the solution is weak.

And at Easter, Jalopy and I will gently nose out of our drive in search of scented geraniums. These are essential for the best of summer scents. We like to plant them beside the front and back doors of the cottage and bask in their clear fragrance when we pass by. They do need to be mixed with other more showy plants for a decent display as the flowers of scented geraniums tend to be diminutive.

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  1. Belinda

    Fiona, have you ever cooked with your scented geraniums?

    Stephanie Alexander ( of The Cooks Companion fame)uses rose scented geranium leaf in one of her recipes.

    Notify me by email if you want me to find the recipe for you.. I think its her Journal which I have here.

  2. I have a heated greenhouse, so my geraniums have survived the winter. I try to keep it at a minimum of 40F/4C, but it has got down to less than 1C this winter – but no ill effects. However, I do keep a fan (no heat) running *all* the time, and a 1kW heater only coming on with a thermostat, as needed. I think keeping the air moving all the time prevents a lot of problems of damp corners, cold spots and the like.

    But I am aware that I am lucky to have mains power supplied to the greenhouse, which I did years ago, when it was legal for someone like me to do it. In fact I know what to do, having had the training, but as I don’t have the relivent certificate, it would be now be illegal for me to do the job.

    As I have mentioned on my blog, I currently only have two scented pelargoniums at the moment – the third one died last year. They are “Attar of Roses”, and one I heartedly endorse, “Lemon Fancy”, a strong Lemon Sherbert scent I really like. The former has been in flower all winter (and last summer), the latter was about to flower last week, so I expect to see the flowers tomorrow.

    A near local supplier to me with a good range is the Vernon Geranium Nursery (follow links to scented leaved geraniums)

    By the way, on your story about the dish cloth, the money you had (1/6) is equivalent to 7 1/2p, not 15p as you stated. The 6d (tanner) which survived so long after decimalisation, was 2 1/2p, whereas the shilling coin continued in circulation, equivalent to the 5p coin until the time when all the 5p/10p coins were withdrawn and new,smaller versions issued a few years ago.

  3. All my geraniums died this winter in the green house 🙁 I love geraniums, they make you garden look like a slice of the Med’. So lovely. You can plant them in antthing from a soup can to the most beautiful pot.

    They still manage to make me smile. Simply lovely

  4. kate (uk)

    Scented pelargoniums really do not like to be in damp air or below 5 in the winter-so an unheated greenhouse with condensation is not the best place for them: the older varieties can take down to 5, newer varieties start to succumb at around 8 degrees C( bitter experience…lost all mine one year too) : I have some very tender species pelargoniums that get very seedy and a bit mildewy even at 8 and like to spend the winter right on top of the heater in the warmest driest bit of the conservatory toasting in the warm air as it rises past them.None of them like wet feet in winter- in fact you can dry older plants right out and just leave them frost free then water and re-start into growth in spring, but it is rather scary doing that!

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Bridget

    You are so lucky! Our lemon scented geraniums suddenly got the bit between their teeth and turned into small shrubs a few years ago. We were delighted.

    I envy you your frost free climate. A hedge of these would be bliss!

    Hi Allotment Blogger

    We have a greenhouse but didn’t think to add a bit of heat during the deep freeze this yea r(we did when we first had our greenhouse four years ago but the mild winters have spoilt us 🙁 ).

    Now I’m kicking myself.

    Hello Mrs B

    Thanks so much for writing about our blog. I spent a very enjoyable sojourn on your blog. Thank you.

    Hello Kate (uk)

    Thank you! So far our year has been a bit bumpy.

    Hi Magic Cochin

    Thank you too. I’m really sad about our pelargoniums but clearly I did something very wrong and need to research this.

    This year our greenhouse was not frost free as we thought that we didn’t need the heater any more as the winters are now so mild 🙁

  6. magic cochin

    I’m sure I’ll have a few spares for you to add to a new collection. It will be fun finding some new ones – the herb plants stall on Saffron Walden market usually has some good ones. And Paugers Plants just near Wickhambrook on the Bury St Eds/Haverhill Road is also a good place to try – their plants are great value and quality.

    Is your greenhouse frost-free? Our scented geraniums have survived in the greenhouse, but outside we’ve lost quite a few plants which have been in the garden for years – Hyssop, ‘Balm of Gilead’ (cedronella canariensis, I think), and the beautiful Myrtle has brown tips to all its branches.


  7. kate (uk)

    Don’t worry- you will have pelargoniums- just have to get my greenhouse in order….

  8. Hello. I love your blog. I’ve been using your recipes for quite a while. I’ve just posted about you on my blog – Thanks for sharing your adventures! Mrs B.

  9. Allotment blogger

    That’s very sad. We lost ours to frost about two years ago, which is one reason I have a greenhouse now!

  10. Bridget

    Hi, I have a huge lemon geranium/pelargonium in my garden, it grows really well here in Northland, NZ, I have to keep chopping it back it gets so big! The scent is just divine, especially when the plant is wet from rain. Also it’s really easy to propagate from cuttings, I’m planning to put in a long hedge of them down our driveway.
    Shame about the mildew getting yours, hope you can find some more plants soon.

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