When approaching Great Grandma’s house after school, the riotous red geraniums greeted me first. Their clusters of happy petals waving softly in the breeze. Geraniums equaled Great Grandma’s house. Geraniums are synonymous with large glasses of iced tea and hours of playing rummy.
In my books about the Italian countryside the open windows of the stucco houses are always decorated with pots of colorful geraniums. Faces to sun, waving their arms in the air, welcoming folks home.
Geraniums are annuals, so every year I left them in their pots on the porch, and they died over the winter. I read about rooting pieces of the plant, or storing the plant. As a mom of young children, anything extra that had to be done with plants was not going to happen. Most fell under canopies of snow.
Three years ago at the farmer’s market I purchased two pots of geraniums. They graced the steps of the porch and gave an air of summer. At the end of the season, I moved them indoors and placed them on the dining room table facing the south winter sun. They flourished. In the spring, I repotted them, moved to a new home, and put them on the porch again. They had doubled their size. They were fabulous.
I brought them in again and they doubled their size again while spending their winter vacation indoors in the south and west windows.
I use an organic fertilizer (Old Age Grow) maybe four times a year. I cut off wild and crazy stems that threaten to smack bystanders. I attempt to keep them tame. Give them a larger pot. The leaves start to brown near the bottom of the plant and the edges turn a bit by the time it is warm enough to put them back on the porch. Currently they are being nibbled by an adorable infant goat.
Some years back I was a caregiver for a gentleman named Al. He had fabulous stories of his time as a scientist during the war. He was kind and a gentleman. He enjoyed sitting on the balcony of his apartment. On it sat a pot of petunias that were under a bit of distress. I watered them and dead headed the passed flower heads. He called me the next day astounded. The whole plant had come back to life and fresh blossoms danced on his balcony. Petunias are very easy to grow.
My petunias are in their third year. A discounted six pack of flowers for ninety-nine cents from Walmart at the end of the season. I thought they would be pretty in the pots of herbs that I transplanted and brought into the house for winter. I certainly did not expect them to live this long! Water, occasional organic fertilizer, and dead heading, plus a lovely south window will keep flowers indefinitely blooming. They move to the porch in the summer, into the window in winter, and thrive.
Great Grandma and my grandparents used to live next door to each other. Their back yards were filled with rose bushes taller than I. Thick with aromatic roses of all colors, their yards were enchanting and definitely a special place. I tried for years in vain to grow roses, each and every one died. I figured the women in my family had special gardening powers and I should just give up. I overheard a woman talking to another and said very sweetly, “It is a pleasure to grow roses in Colorado.” You will not hear that too often about any other crop. Colorado is a constant learning experience and challenge.
My only exception had been a small potted mini rose plant that Doug had bought me from the grocery store. I planted it outside and years later it was three feet high! It is an inexpensive way to grow roses. Just get a pot from the store, enjoy it indoors, and then transplant it.
We have very hot summers here so I found that roses are happier on the west side of the house or the east side of the house where they can get a slight reprieve from the sun.
Dig a hole a foot deep and fill with water. When the water has dissipated, add the rose bush. Cover with soil and slightly tamp it down. A little coffee and water helps get it started. Dead head rose heads (we use the roses in medicine) for possible new growth. Leave the heads in the fall so that rose hips form. These are used for arthritis treatment.
Of course, tulips and daffodils are always welcome after a long, cold winter. Deer adore tulips, nearly as much as I do, and will eat them promptly, but daffodils are poisonous so wildlife leaves them alone. Fabulous. I even forced them inside this year. Not as stunning as their outdoor explosions, but a lovely moment in February.
Growing flowers is a lovely way to incorporate aromatherapy and beauty into one’s every day life.