Gardening: Enjoy geraniums - you have more than 2,000 to choose from!

Torbay Weekly

Now that the flower patch is in full flirtation mode and displaying everything it’s got to snatch our attention with bright colours and glorious contrasts, it's worth mentioning one of the journeymen of the garden.

All the bright stars - like the emerald and festive gerberas and bright, multi-coloured zinnia mammoth - need flowers to give them background and context.

A geranium always reminds me of a granny’s porch, they have much more to offer than their scent which is as unmistakeable as it is polarising, in my opinion.

Personally I'd describe it as fusty or what I imagine to be the smell of dusty polish.

This might have something to do with the church having several in the chapel as a child.

Since then I’ve learnt that they have so much more to offer outside being a pot plant.

There are more than 300 species of geranium and almost 2,000 variations that have been bred or even reproduced as natural hybrids.

Take your pick from the wide spectrum of colours available from blues, purples and reds to pure white.

Geraniums will be in flushed in flowers for most of the time between mid-summer and autumn, some will even flower in spring, so they are definitely on the list of gardeners' friends.

Even the flaming red variety look like light-filled rubies from a distance when grown in hanging baskets.

Geranium Kashmir white will gently shake on the breeze but is tough as old boots.

It will give you unfailing blooms spread across a small bed or rockery.

As its name suggests, it is native to Kashmir and is common in the mountains although I've never been myself.

Its foliage is interesting and quite unlike traditional geranium leaves. They are spiky and more like carrot leaves than something from deepest Pakistan.

Another ‘oldie but a goodie’ is Geranium maderense which is among the largest and brightest varieties.

It doesn't hold back by growing to almost two metres and spreading just as far.

They grow blousy, pinky-purple flowers with dark eyes at the centre.

Every flower is intricately structured and beguiling with all that carmine red detail drawing you in.

You might want to buy this from a garden centre as a mature plant as they only flower after two years.

Mind you, I’m still waiting with baited breath for my garden bergamot to flower after planting it from seed.

Some geraniums will look stunning growing through other plants or as is often seen, at the base of shrubs to cover bare earth if that’s your thing.

Geranium rozanne is synonymous with this technique. Its purple and violet blooms are big enough to catch the eye while their foliage keeps the earth covered and keeps the dreaded weeds in check at the same time.

A word of warning is that the geranium, like many of us, isn't frost hardy and needs bringing in by mid autumn after a tidy up of dead foliage.

The closely related geranium, the cranes bill, might even be present as a weed in your garden and this variety - typical! - can cope with the frost.

Once inside, they can be potted up with a bit of compost and light and they'll be ready to go again once the risk of frost has passed.

Being so drought tolerant as well as heat tolerant they'll manage all winter if warm enough.

I'm often seeing what look like discarded geraniums in their root ball in the back of hedges or in broken pots that seem to be almost immortal and, with a bit of love and affection, can have new life breathed into them for a few more years.

Such is their distinct scent they can be located with beagle like accuracy at times.

I’d at least have on geranium in your garden and you have more than 2,000 to choose from. No rush.