Leaf IV: Satisfaction

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Small things can bring great satisfaction.

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Velvety, fragrant herbs offer leaves both beautiful and delicious.  I eat them mostly with my eyes, but both the sage and scented geranium can be used for cooking or for tea.  Many fry sage leaves in a little olive oil for a savory garnish.

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Their volatile oils perfume the air on hot summer days.  Scented geraniums carry many sweet fragrances, from rose, to citrus, to mint. Their leaves may be large or small, serrated or smooth.  But all are wonderfully fragrant and hold their fragrance as they dry.

Rubbed against our skin, they protect us from mosquitoes as we work in the garden.

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Brought indoors in a vase, their scent fills the room.  These exquisite leaves fill out a bouquet with summer flowers as beautifully as they fill a pot or a border in the garden.

They love the heat and take off when many other garden plants begin to wilt.   Site these beauties in full sun, and watch your satisfaction grow.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Satisfaction

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Tri-color sage

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Leaf:  Illumination
Leaf II:  Celebration
Leaf III: Decoration

 

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In A Vase On Monday: Good Enough to Eat….

August 29, 2016 vase 005

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August feels like a very ‘green’ month; especially here in coastal Virginia where we are totally surrounded by green trees, vines, lush green lawns, billowing green Crepe Myrtles and other rampant growth.

From Lamas in early August, to Labor Day weekend in early September, our world remains vibrant and green!

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Sunset, yesterday, from the Colonial Parkway.

Early evening, yesterday, from the Colonial Parkway.

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You can watch some plants literally grow hour to hour and day to day, given enough water.   If you ever wondered what it would feel like to live in a hot-house or conservatory, welcome to a Virginia August!   This is the time of year when we seek the cool, green shade of large trees and vine covered trellises to help us through the relentless heat.

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Herbs in our August garden.

Herbs in our August garden.  Our swallowtail butterflies love the chive flowers.  This clump remains one of their favorite stops to feed.

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And so it feels appropriate to cut cool green stems from the garden today.  I’ve cut an assortment of herbs for their fragrant leaves.  The burgundy basil flowers and white garlic chives serve only as grace notes to the beautifully shaped, textured and frosted leaves.

Much of this arrangement is edible.

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Except for the ivy vines, a little Artemesia and a stem of Coleus; you could brew some lovely herbal tea or garnish a plate from the rest of our vase today.  There are two different scented Pelargoniums here, including P. ‘Grey Lady Plymouth’,  and African Blue Basil.

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To make this arrangement feel even cooler, it sits in a cobalt blue vase from our local Shelton glass works on a sea-green glass tray.  A moonstone frog rests nearby.

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The vase was made locally by John Shelton of Shelton Glass Works here in Williamsburg.

The vase was made locally by John Shelton of Shelton Glass Works here in Williamsburg.

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Today’s vase is so fragrant that my partner commented as soon as the stems came into the room.  It is a spicy blend of rose scented Geraniums and sharp Basil, with an undertone of garlic from the chive flowers.  It makes puts me in the mood to mix up a little ‘Boursin Cheese’ with fresh herbs from the garden, and serve it garnished with a few chive blossoms!

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August 29, 2016 Vase2 005

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Appreciation, always, to Cathy of ‘Rambling In the Garden”  for hosting ‘In A Vase On Monday’ each week.  I admire the dedication of flower gardeners all over the world who faithfully clip, arrange, and photograph their garden’s bounty each Monday.  Cathy is in the pink again today, with some beautiful lilies she has grown this summer.

I hope you will click through to Cathy’s post and follow some of the links to enjoy today’s beautiful arrangements.

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 Woodland Gnome 2016

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Near Yorktown on the Parkway, just before sunset last night; the inspiration for today's vase....

Near Yorktown on the Parkway, just before sunset last night; the inspiration for today’s vase….

 

Let It Live

Pelargonium x hortorum "Mrs. Pollock" can't be found in garden centers ever spring, and is worth saving over the winter.

Pelargonium x hortorum “Mrs. Pollock” can’t be found in garden centers every spring, and is worth saving over the winter.

 

Geraniums, likes so many plants we purchase as annuals each spring, are actually  tender perennials.  This means they  will live indefinitely.

A true annual lives only to produce its seeds.

Once it has fulfilled its purpose in life, the plant, like a fragile moth, will only decline and die.   Think of cornstalks after the harvest and you will understand.

Have you ever seen a corn stalk put out a second round of flowers and ears of corn?  Of course not.

But many of our favorite ornamental plants, like geraniums, may live on for many years, if simply kept from freezing over the winter.

Like a Bougainvillaea in Southern  California, it will grow and bloom so long as it has light, warmth, and moisture.

This variegated geranium is also worth saving.  It has bloomed all summer under tough conditions.

This variegated geranium is also worth saving. It has bloomed all summer under tough conditions.

A  scented geranium; zonal or bedding  geranium, Pelargonium x hortorum; or an ivy leaf geranium, Pelargonium peltatum, will grow large and strong over time, giving many flowers.

We often don’t see an individual geranium plant reach its potential, because we discard our maturing plants each autumn with the first frost, and begin a new with little seedlings or cuttings each spring.

This rose scented geranium has grown into a massive shrub over the summer.  These sometimes overwinter in the ground for us here in Williamsburg.  These root easily in soil, and cuttings may be the best way to overwinter a plant this large.

This rose scented geranium has grown into a massive shrub over the summer. These sometimes overwinter in the ground for us here in Williamsburg. These root easily in soil, and so cuttings may be the best way to overwinter a plant this large.

 

It is surprising  to compare what our  one year old and our two or more year old geranium plants look like this November.

The plants I found space for in the garage last autumn looked positively bedraggled by spring.   Yet, when watered, fed, and set back  outside; they all bounced back to beauty within a month.

 

This massive basket spent last winter in the garage. We brought it back inside on Friday evening before the weekend storm.

This massive basket spent last winter in the garage. We brought it back inside on Friday evening before the weekend storm.

Those overwintered  plants have been covered in flowers non-stop this summer.

The plants I purchased in little 4″ pots this past spring grew and bloomed.  None of them died.  But none of them ever grew to “spectacular,” either.

They kind of limped along.  Now I understand that like many other perennials, geraniums will grow more vigorously and bloom more generously as they age.

This is a hard time of year for gardeners. 

We’ve been busy and attentive to our gardens all summer.  And now as the days grow shorter and cooler, some of us are looking forward to a brief break and a rest from the endless round of watering, trimming, feeding, weeding, mowing, and general involvement of the last several months.

Many of us feel a bit overwhelmed at the sheer volume of potted plants we might want to overwinter, and wonder how to possibly take care of them all inside for the next several months.  While we hate to see them die, it is hard to figure out what to do with them all.

August 7, 2014 garden 023

But there easy, no-cost ways to keep tender geraniums through the winter. 

There are basically three ways to overwinter a mature geranium plant.  (A fourth strategy would be to take and overwinter cuttings, discarding the parents.)

Which method you’ll choose must be based in how much space you have, how much winter sun light you have inside your home, and how much “fussing” you’re willing to do to over winter your plants.

Purchased in late April in tiny pots, these geraniums can be dug out of the large pot which has been there home this summer, and brought insid for winter storage.

Purchased in late April in tiny pots, these geraniums can be dug out of the large pot which has been their home this summer, then  brought inside for winter storage.

 

The first, easiest way, is to clean up your currently outdoor potted geranium plant, trim it back a bit where needed, and set  it inside your  warm, sunny, living space.

Keep it watered all winter and let it survive inside.  You may or may not get blossoms, depending on how much light you can provide.  I’ve seen geraniums blooming in January when kept in a sun  room.

The second way is to bring the whole potted plant inside to a partially lighted garage or bright basement.

So long as there is some light, and temperatures stay above freezing, the plant can survive with minimal moisture.

Geraniums can go into a “dormant” state,  with little or no new growth, and remain alive for many weeks.  Although the leaves may drop off, life remains in the roots and stems.

Break the dormancy in early spring with water, more warmth, and brighter light.  It is wise to cut the plant back by 1/2 to 2/3 when bringing it inside for this sort of storage.

 

July 7, 2014 opening flowers 011

The third method is one I’ve never tried.

It again relies on the plants’ ability to go dormant for a while without actually dieing.  This is the method if you don’t have space for pots inside.

Dig your geraniums before the first frost, and shake the roots free of soil.  Trim back long roots and long stems.  Keep the bare root geranium in a garage or basement over the winter.

Most instructions for this sort of storage suggest hanging the plant, upside down with twine, in your basement.  Of course the leaves will shrivel and drop away.  Some of the stems may even die.

An ivy leafed and a scented geranium share this pot with a eucalyptus

An ivy leafed and a scented geranium share this pot with an Eucalyptus

 

Take the plants down about once each month and soak them in water for an hour or so, to keep the plant from drying out completely.

Rehang the plants after each soaking,  until early spring.  Re-pot each plant in fresh potting mix and place it in light and warmth to break dormancy.

The plant should respond and begin growing again within a few weeks.

June 19 garden 008

Why go to such trouble to overwinter geraniums?  I can think of at least three good reasons to make the effort:

1.  Geraniums are better plants in their second, and subsequent years.  You’ll have a bigger, brighter, more floriferous plant next year if you keep it this winter.

2.  Your special cultivar may not be on the market next year.  Plants come and go in fashion.  I get frustrated each spring looking and looking for plants which simply are not offered locally.  Finding it in 2014 in no way guarantees the shops will have it in 2015.

3.  These plants add up in expense.  A single geranium plant may cost $5.00 in a 4″ pot.  However, how many do you plan to purchase?  This adds up very quickly.

Overwintered plants may be easily harvested in early spring for cuttings.  A little effort adds up to considerable savings over replacing all of your geraniums each spring.

June 19 garden 010

Now that we’re down to the brass tacks of November, and imminent frost anytime now in Williamsburg; I’ll be tending to my geraniums.

These were last on the list of plants to bring in because they truly don’t mind cool weather.  It is frost and freezing temperatures which kill them… not the low 40s and upper 30s we’ve had thus far.
And the more I think of it, the more I want to try to save.  Is it compassion, thrift or greed? 

June 19 garden 012

 

Hard to pin it down.  But, I’ll bring in as many as we can find a spot to keep over the winter.

Woodland Gnome 2014

 

June 19 garden 011

Herb Garden

Garlic chives come into bloom beside Thyme and a Muscadine grape vine.

Garlic chives come into bloom beside Thyme and a Muscadine grape vine.

“My love affair with nature is so deep

that I am not satisfied with being a mere onlooker, or nature tourist.

I crave a more real and meaningful relationship.

The spicy teas and tasty delicacies I prepare from wild ingredients

are the bread and wine

in which I have communion and fellowship with nature,

and with the Author of that nature.”

Euell Gibbons

 

 

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Garlic chives remain one of the easiest of herbs to grow.  Plant in full sun, keep them moist, and they will grow indefinitely.  A perennial herb, the stand of chives grows a bit larger each season.  All parts of the plant are edible, and leaves can be snipped year round to season in cooking.  Chives are especially nice mixed with cream cheese or sour cream.  Their flowers may be cut for arrangements, cut and used as a garnish, or left to delight the bees.

Thyme grows as another spreading, perennial herb which enjoys full sun.  It blooms sometimes in summer, and it is a favorite for cooking.  A good cheese spread may bee made with chives, thyme leaves, and perhaps a little garlic, minced Rosemary, and freshly ground pepper.  Mix these into any combination of soft cream or goat cheeses.

Grape leaves make tasty wraps for various fillings.  Our favorite are Greek dolmades, which are stuffed with a mixture of rice and herbs, then steamed.  Grape leaves may be eaten raw in salad or added to sandwiches.

 

Basil grows here beside scented Pelargonium.

Basil grows here beside scented Pelargonium.

Basil leaves remain our favorite summer herb.  Eaten raw on a sandwich, pureed into pesto, or cooked with tomatoes, their distinctive flavor sings “summer,” even when enjoyed in February.  Their flowers are edible and may be enjoyed as cut flowers or as a garnish.  Stems of  Basil, mixed in with other flowers in a vase, perfumes the entire room.

Basil

Basil

Scented Pelargoniums are not only edible, they dry beautifully.  Lemon, orange, or rose scented geraniums, as they are called, may be added to home made mixes for tea, used as flavor in baked goods, or may be dried and preserved for their fragrance. Their flowers are edible and may be used to garnish cupcakes.  Some Pelargoniums survive the winter for us in Zone 7B.  They die back to the ground, but will sometimes come back from their roots in late spring.  They are happiest in full sun with moist soil.

Chocolate mint in bloom

Chocolate mint in bloom

Plant all of the mints in full sun.  They prefer moist soil, and will spread madly over a summer.  Every part of the plant may be eaten fresh or dried.  Used mainly to flavor beverages, mints are wonderful fresh or dried in tea.  A stand of mint in bloom remains busy with every sort of bee and wasp enjoying the feast of nectar.  This chocolate mint has beautiful, distinctive foliage and smells like minty chocolate candy.

Pineapple Sage, Pineapple Mint, and Rosemary enjoy this end of the butterfly garden where they get sun.  All appreciate moist soil, and will return each spring.

Pineapple Sage, Pineapple Mint, and Rosemary enjoy this end of the butterfly garden where they get sun.   All appreciate moist soil, and will return each spring.

A garden may be appreciated by all of our senses, including taste and smell.  These wonderfully fragrant herbs contain healing oils and compounds, in addition to their delicious flavors.

Although not a traditional vegetable garden, an herb garden allows us to consume a bit of what we grow and use the plants in many different ways.

Salvia officinalis, 'Tricolor' is delicious.  This perennial culinary herb is added to many savory dishes.  Individual leaves may also be fried in butter or olive oil  and used as a tasty garnish.

Salvia officinalis, ‘Tricolor’ is delicious. This perennial culinary herb is added to many savory dishes. Individual leaves may also be fried in butter or olive oil and used as a tasty garnish.

Whether bringing cut herbs and flowers indoors to enjoy, making sachet packets to keep moths out of our drawers,   blending our own tea, or cutting herbs to add to our food; we come to know these beautiful plants better through frequent use.

Salvia officinalis, 'Berggarten'

Salvia officinalis, ‘Berggarten’

Perennial herbs generously offer themselves up season after season, and once planted, remain with us so long as we tend the garden.

Rose scented Pelargonium with Pineapple Sage and Rose

Rose scented Pelargonium with Pineapple Sage and Rose

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

 

Herbs: Scented Geraniums

April 7 2014 006

 

This morning Linda Lucas, a Williamsburg Master Gardener, talked to our neighborhood  garden club about herbs.  We all discussed what a terribly rough winter it has been here for herbs.  Rosemary and Lavender plants which have weathered several recent winters died out during this one.  Our Bay trees have taken a hard hit, and many need to be replaced.

I am taking a very slow and patient approach to everything  in the garden this spring.  I still believe we may have at least one more bout of extremely cold weather before warm weather settles in for good.

 

Bronze fennel overwintered in our garden, and has begun good strong growth this spring.  Not only is this a delicious herb, it is a host plant for swallowtail butterflies.

Bronze fennel overwintered in our garden, and has begun good strong growth this spring.   Not only is this a delicious herb, it is a host plant for swallowtail butterflies.

Many of my beds still have a light covering of leaves.  The Ginger Lily stalks still lie where they fell, mulching their tubers.  And, I haven’t cut back a single Rosemary or Lavender this season.

Cutting back herbs is an important part of their care.  Long lived herbs like Lavender live longer, and look better with two or three annual shearings, where at least a third of the plant is removed.

But, I’ve learned the hard way that cutting back too early, before the last freezing weather,  can kill a plant which has survived the winter.

Comfrey has shown itself in these last few warm days.

Comfrey has shown itself in these last few warm days.

And so I’m waiting.  And watching to see  signs of new growth on woody stems, what is poking up out of the ground.

Inspired by the conversations this morning, I headed out to the Homestead Garden Center this afternoon to look over their herbs one more time.  They have had an excellent selection this spring, and I’ve already  bought out their first shipment of a certain cultivar of scented geranium last week.

Lemon balm purchased at Homestead as a birthday gift for a friend.

Cat nip purchased at Homestead Garden Center as a birthday gift for a friend.

With a friend’s birthday later in the week, which I promised to honor with some herb plants, I had some shopping to do!

While many of the warm season annual herbs, like Basil, aren’t widely available yet; hardy herbs, like Parsley, Rosemary, Germander, Savory, and Thyme have shown up at garden centers and big-box stores.

In honor of spring, I will write a few posts featuring some of my favorite herbs.

We all grow herbs for a variety of reasons.  Most of us cook with herbs, and some use them for healing.  Many of us enjoy the fragrance living herbs bring to the garden.

This cat mint overwintered out in the garden.  It was one of the earliest perennials to awaken this spring.  With gorgeous blue flowers, this plant will grow to 3' or more if planted in the ground.

This cat mint overwintered out in the garden.   It was one of the earliest perennials to awaken this spring. With gorgeous blue flowers, this plant will grow to 3′ or more if planted in the ground.

Although most herbs need at least six hours of direct sun a day, I’ve found them a valuable part of our Forest Garden.   I don’t just grow herbs I’ll use in cooking. We also grow a variety of other herbs for their beautiful leaves, flowers, and form.

Most herbs aren’t very fussy about soil, don’t require a great deal of fertilizer to grow well, and can withstand some degree of drought and heat.  In fact the so called “Mediterranean herbs” like Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, Germander, Marjoram, and Savory prefer poor, somewhat dry, alkaline soil.  They thrive in full sun, and too much water will drown their roots.

Perhaps the most pressing reason we have planted more herbs than anything else lately has to do with critter control.  You see, deer not only avoid nibbling on herbs, but the herbs’ strong fragrance often serves as a deterrent to prevent deer from grazing  other plants growing nearby.

Purple culinary sage is one of the easiest herbs to grow.  It will grow to about 18" tall and wide within a season.

Purple culinary sage is one of the easiest herbs to grow. It will grow to about 18″ tall and wide within a season.

The Lavenders and Rosemaries I planted around new roses last summer didn’t keep the deer completely away from them, but I believe it gave some measure of protection to reduce the grazing.

I learned this autumn that scented geraniums do an excellent job of keeping deer from grazing plants they protect, and over the winter I’ve had nearly 100% success with using garlic cloves in pots of flowers to keep deer from nibbling at our Violas.

As the days grow longer and warmer, you are probably browsing the garden center herb displays as avidly as am I.  So I’ll begin this series of posts on herbs with a bit of information about my current favorite, scented geraniums.

This rose scented geranium grows in a pot next to a rose bed.  Planted here with Alyssum, also strongly scented, it will fill the pot within a few weeks.

This rose scented geranium grows in a pot next to a rose bed. Planted here with Alyssum, also strongly scented, it will fill the pot within a few weeks.

Scented Geraniums

Technically known as Pelargonium species, there are over 200 cultivars of scented geraniums.   Although grown primarily for their beautiful and fragrant leaves, most have small, but delicate and lovely flowers.  Fragrances commonly available include Citronella, the most common which has a lemony smell; rose, mint, apple, ginger, nutmeg, cedar, strawberry, coconut, orange and lime.

I tend to grow mostly rose scented geraniums, and there are several different cultivars with different leaves available which smell like roses.

Rose scented geraniums often have variegated leaves.  I particularly like this large cultivar with burgundy markings.

Rose scented geraniums often have variegated leaves.  I particularly like this large cultivar with burgundy markings.

Although you purchase a little 3″ or 4″ pot in early spring, these plants can grow quite large in a single season.  Depending on the cultivar, your plant may be 4” tall and wide by September.  In our Zone 7B, and even in Zone 8, plants left outside over the winter will die back to the ground.  Plants can be overwintered in bright or medium light inside.  I have been delighted to discover those geraniums left out of doors coming back from the roots for the last several springs.

I grow scented geraniums both in pots and in garden beds.  They weave beautifully around other plants, and are especially nice grown around roses.  Work a little compost into the planting hole if planting into the ground.  Use a good quality potting mix if planting in pots.  I top dress the soil with some Osmocote, and then a mulch of gravel whether planting into a pot or into the garden.  I also feed every few weeks with a dilute solution of Neptune’s Harvest.

This summer I plan to plant up some arrangements with scented geraniums, annual zonal geraniums, and ivy geraniums all in the same pot.  This should give a beautiful mix of color, scent, and interesting foliage in a really big, but easy to maintain potted garden.

This geranium has grown large and rangy in the reduced light of our garage over the winter.  I've already taken cuttings from it once, and likely will again.

This geranium has grown large and rangy in the reduced light of our garage over the winter. I’ve already taken cuttings from it once, and likely will again.

Pelargoniums are enormously easy to root.  Cut off the tip of a branch, at a leaf node, and dip it into rooting hormone powder.  Then stick this little cutting into any good, moist potting mix, and wait for new roots to grow.

It isn’t necessary to cover the cutting, apply bottom heat, or do anything fussy and meticulous.  These are hardy plants which want to live.

I haven’t had great success rooting Pelargoniums in water.  The stems often rot before roots grow.  I’ve learned to root them in potting soil, although a mixture rich in sand or vermiculite might work even better.

Rooting cuttings

Rooting cuttings

I love cutting stems of Pelargoniums to use in summer flower arrangements.  They make wonderful filler both because they are beautiful, but they also make the bouquet more fragrant.  When they are in bloom, they are an especially nice addition to an arrangement.

The leaves can be harvested, washed, dried and used in tea and other cooking projects.  Dried leaves can be layered in an air tight container with sugar.  After a few weeks, the sugar is nicely flavored.

Use their flowers to decorate cakes.  Slice the washed leaves into small slivers to add to stir fries, rice, puddings, cakes,  or add to lemonade or cocktails.

Dried leaves make an excellent base for potpourri because the leaves lose very little volume when they dry.  Dried leaves can be stacked between linens or used in bureau drawers to scent cleaned laundry.  The volatile oils are very strong in most varieties.  While they freshen, they offer protection from moths.

April 7 2014 010

The volatile oils of scented geraniums make them a good insect repellant.  When going out into the garden, pick a leaf or two of citrus scented varieties and rub on your exposed skin as a non -toxic repellant.  Then tuck the crushed leaf into your pocket or hat for even more lasting protection.

Scented geraniums are the first herb I’ve planted this year, after parsley.  I’ve scattered them generously, especially in areas I want to protect from deer.  I’ve taken cuttings from two which overwintered in the garage, and I’ll keep my eye out for new growth coming up from the roots of scented geraniums which remained outside over the winter.

Two citronella scented geraniums planted to offer some protection to this Oakleaf hydrangea, which is just beginning to leaf out for spring.

Two citronella scented geraniums planted to offer some protection to this Oakleaf hydrangea, which is just beginning to leaf out for spring.

We had  long stretches of very cold days and nights, but these are tough plants, and I hope to see them return from the roots, for another year in our forest garden.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

April 7 2014 004

 

 

 

 

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