All over the country, geraniums flaunt their red and scarlet, rose, pink, and white blooms with a gay abandon that few other plants can rival. In boxes on city fire escapes and rooftops, in window boxes on surburban and country houses, in tubs and pots on terraces and patios, and in hanging baskets of the porches of summer cottages, they are beloved and cherished plants-a welcome symbol of warmth and hospitality. For sheer impact of color, they cannot be surpassed.
Geraniums are also great favorites in Europe, where red- and pink-flowering zonals, the common types, are commonly treated as bedding plants. In western and northern European countries, they are widely planted in window boxes and in pots and tubs at doorways of city and country gardens. Along the Mediterranean, where geraniums are hardy, zonal types develop into mounds that are six feet tall and equally broad. Ivy-leaved kinds clothe banks and slopes and cascade like waterfalls from balconies, rooftops, and garden walls.
This widespread planting is easy to understand. Not
only is the geranium a spectacular flower, but it grows almost everywhere with ease, blossoming under neglect and surviving where other plants fail. Though it prefers and needs sun to bloom, it tolerates shade, where it is usually handled as a foliage plant. What it resents is too much moisture and a rich diet. Kept too wet, the leaves turn yellow; given a heavy soil, one high in nitrogen, plants go to foliage and flower sparingly. Even at that, geraniums are amazing plants that will perform admirably under a wide variety of growing conditions.
Actually, the name geranium is incorrect, for these free-flowering shrubby plants are members of the genus Pelargonium. The Greek word, meaning stork-bill, refers to the slender, curving form of the seed pod. Nevertheless, geranium is the commonly used name for the members of this interesting clan.
Far from uniform, the genus includes types that are herbaceous, shrubby, deciduous, annual, biennial, perennial, stemless, long-stemmed, tuberous and fibrous-rooted -all of them well suited to container gardening. Even if you choose no other plants, you could have a varied pot garden of single and double zonal, fancy-leaved or variegated, scented-leaved, ivy and Lady or Martha Washington geraniums (also called show or fancy geraniums), not to mention a few oddities of cactus and climbing types.
Zonal, Fancy- and Scented-leaved
The zonal geranium is characterized by dark circular markings on the rounded green leaves. Double types dominate the trade and are offered by florists in the spring for planting in gardens and window boxes. You will like such pinks as Mrs. Lawrence, Fiat Enchantress, and Pink Abundance. Olympic Red is excellent, as is Better Times, an outstanding dark crimson.