Geraniums Mean Home. Geraniums Mean Love.

JpegThe memory of walking up the steps to my great-grandmother’s bungalow as a young girl is still vivid to me now.  Every summer the wide, cement porch railing would be filled with geraniums.  The lush greenery topped with clusters of brightly colored flowers waved in the warm air.  Geraniums mean welcome to me.

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I have a dream of going to Italy.  One day.  One day.  In all of the pictures I see of Italy, there they are.  The trailing, fiery red blooms hugging ancient stones and leading the way to the cucina door.  Geraniums.  Geraniums mean home to me.

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I gathered them at the farmer’s market years ago.  These are maybe five years old.  They have grown and become enormous specimens.  They have followed us on our adventures and hog the south window.  They wait for late spring like I do to be set back out on the porch.  Geraniums mean sit a spell and relax to me.

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Today is our wedding anniversary.  I heard him sneak out of the house at 4:00 am.  Past the geraniums that were still asleep, but I was not.  He drove all over town looking for a place that was open so he could bring me flowers before heading to work at five.  He says I have made this house a home.  Our forever home. I have filled it with flowers and unusual plants.  Poinsettias bloom red in the windows.  Towering aloes and tiny bamboo.  I want to make this house a home to him because he has made it home for me.

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As he approaches the door after a day of work and passes the pots of geraniums I hope they speak of home.  When guests arrive and marvel at their display of bright pinks and romantic reds, I hope they feel welcome.  One day we will travel to Italy and see the geraniums and think of ours at home.  We shall sit on the porch and count our blessings, sweet tea in hand, and watch as the geraniums reach for the sun and glimmer in the summer day.  And when I am passed, I hope the sight of geraniums reminds my grandchildren of climbing the steps to a place they were loved.  Geraniums mean love.

 

Autumn Houseplants

 

20170920_143750The night air dipped and rose the past few weeks and autumn is certainly in the air.  The houseplants have all been lazily sunbathing all summer (with me) on the front porch.  They love the fresh flow of water from the hose each day and the sun shining on them.  I snap off any leggy parts and remove dead leaves.  Any bugs and diseases that jumped on from being cooped up last winter are gone.  Yet, the thermometer lowers steadily in the night.  At 50 degrees I start covering the plants with a large sheet before I go to bed.  The days are still gloriously warm and they just need a little extra cover under the stars.

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But when that fateful forecast shows 45 degrees at night, everyone has to come inside. Party over.  By the end of summer a lot of the plants have grown.  Trim them into proper shapes and transplant them into bigger pots.  I put a little soil on the bottom, place the whole plant and dirt in the new pot, then top with fresh potting soil.  Water thoroughly and let sit in the sun a bit longer.  There should be holes in the bottom of your pots.  Soggy feet are the death of many a houseplant.  They should be able to drain completely.

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Meanwhile, inside prepare a spot with a nice west, south, or east view-preferably south- and place drip trays or old plates where you want your plants.  Carefully bring in each beautiful specimen.

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The plants will go from daily to every other day waterings to once a week now.  Water until it leaks into tray.

I don’t have typical houseplants, myself.  I have two poinsettias, two Ephedra plants, two jasmine plants, a bamboo, an orchid, a few little succulents, a unique aloe, a behemoth aloe, a coffee plant, and four large geraniums.  The ginormous plants have followed me from place to place for years and some are new.  Last year I overwintered a tomato plant someone gave me in the south window.  It grew a little and when I put it out into the soil this last spring it sprung to life in heaves of mass foliage and huge ripe tomatoes.

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You can have anything as a houseplant.  They just need light, the right amount of water, they enjoy a cup of room temperature coffee per month (no kidding), and talking to them doesn’t hurt either.

(The plants are getting to know the kitten…not thrilled I’m afraid!)

 

Geraniums on the Porch (memoirs and present)

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We sit on the balcony each evening watching the clouds.  The Creator paints and creates as we watch and laugh and point out different animals and characters.  We see the same things in the clouds, and the illustrations dancing across the sky above the mountains from this third floor view helps us wind down.

The balcony is my respite.  No doubt done with the city and missing my feet on the earth but this little abode in the sky makes a lovely garden and peaceful place of thought and memory and gift.  The bare root roses bought for dollars create a lovely garden in their brightly colored pots.  The lavender flows over its spot and the Christmas poinsettia happily flaunts green.  The transplanted comfrey and horseradish root strongly and the gooseberry, mini roses from the grocery store, the rosemary that barely made it though the homeless trek, the mint, curry, catnip, Jerusalem artichokes, and chives all spread out, face the sun, and thrive.  The gay petunias beckon the hummingbird.

And the ones that have been with me the longest, the geraniums.  They are large and lush and have survived everything along side us, from house to house, and shop to balcony, their colors rich in the summer heat.  My great grandma would be impressed.  She always had geraniums on the porch.  I would pass them as I walked up the steps and to the door where I never knocked.  And there she would be in her chair in the corner.  Smiling, excited to see me, always wanting a kiss, her love for me so evident, her small frame hugging mine.

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We would walk along her row of roses, always taller than me, their fragrance rich with summer and future memories of past.  Her yard seemed so big.  Her house quaint and tidy filled with relics and memory and life.

I went to a friend’s house for dinner last week.  She lives in Washington park, one of the places I grew up.  I rode my bike past her house a million times with my best friend, Susan, I bet.  The beautiful old cottages and bungalows all similar in their individual layouts.  I walked up the steps and noted the imaginary porch swing, knocked.  And through the door I entered and did face the fireplace and mantle, the two small windows above it with beveled glass, the couch, the corner where Great grandma’s chair stood.  The same floor plan as hers, situated just blocks away, and my breath was taken as my eyes moistened and there I stood eleven years old, gangly and tall in my all encompassing grandma’s house.  I saw her stand and squeal that I was there.  I saw us at the dining room table, plants behind us lining the south window, drinking sweet iced tea and enjoying hours of rummy, where I obtained my title of rummy queen.

How she would be thrilled with my roses and geraniums.  Now we sit watching a bear emerge from the depths of the sky and an old eagle flying by, our sights set on getting to a homestead respite of our own.  Soon.  Our feet firmly on the soil of earth and our spirits restored to freedom and homestead.  We breathe in the fumes of the city streets and post rain scent.  And look upon the roses and geraniums and flowers that Mother Earth has lent.

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My Favorite Easy To Grow Flowers

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.