Garden Diary - July 2018

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Scented Geranium Day at Wave Hill

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Another plant themed day at Wave Hill. This one, with its guided walk in the herb garden and a cooking demonstration has a focus on scented geraniums. Except, what we are calling scented geraniums are, in truth, pelargoniums. The difference my be of more interest to botanists than the casual home gardener but it goes like this. Technically, the true geraniums are native to China, parts of Europe, part of the United States. Their flowers have 5 petals, all the same size. What we casually call geranium are technically pelargoniums. Their flowers have two upper petals that are usually larger than the lower three. Most are native to southern Africa and are, as you would expect, quite tender to frost. Summer window boxes are often filled with vivid red pelargoniums. But we call them geraniums. Confusing? Sure. But the ones to appreciate and enjoy today are the pelargoniums whose leaves have the fragrance of roses or lemons, peppermint or apple, citrus or nutmeg, or . . . But you will have to take my word for this as I cannot photograph fragrance.

We meet outside the shop (where scented geraniums are for sale.)
Charles Day, senior horticulturist, leads us to the herb garden.

Two large pots of scented geranium welcome us to the herb garden.
Pelargonium ×fragrans 'Variegata', a nutmeg scented variegated

pelargonium / geranium. Provide well drained soil,
a sunny location, and bring it indoors for winter.

The other luxurious pot is Pelargonium 'Cy's Sunburst',
named for Cyrus Hyde of Well Sweep Herb Farm located
in Port Murray, New Jersey. Tiny, lemon scented leaves

are filigreed, edged with gold.

Wave Hill gardener Gelene Scarborough guides us in the herb garden as we fondle and sniff 16 or more scented geraniums.

And that's a modest number - there are many that smell sweetly of roses, several citrus scented, and many, many more. Attar of roses may be made from rose petals, and it is expensive. Rose scented pelargoniums can be field grown, mowed back by machinery, and distilled to make rose scented essential oil. These aromatic oils are used for flavoring food, as fragrances for soaps, lotions, cosmetics.

What's more, some scented geraniums may be trained as topiary, as was done with this dainty small leaved variegated Pelargonium crispum variegatum 'Prince Rupert'. I was ammused by the notation on a label, "Do Not Pinch" to protect its standard form from inadvertent mishaps.

It is one of two pots of scented geraniums brought
into Armor Hall and used as decoration for the cooking
with scented geraniums event following our garden tour.

First, chef Stephen Rosenberg presented us with

geranium-infused lemonade. Remember, it is the oils produced by the leaves that has the fragrance and flavor. Leaves were steeped in a sugar syrup, then strained. Lemon juice and grated zest, water added, refrigerate. Refreshing, but I'm not sure I could distinguish what the lemon geranium leaves added above and beyond the lemon zest and freshly squeezed juice.

The same might be said of the delicate citrus-scented geranium cookies with lemon glaze. Pleasant to eat, both the one I sampled at the event and the one I brought home.

I have myself used scented geranium leaves to flavor apple jelly, which on its own has a very delicate, light taste. If memory serves I used Pelargonium tomentosum, the pepermint scented geranium. Added geranium leaves to the hot apple extract, added sugar and heated to the gel point, fished out the leaves before bottling. Another batch was made with Pelargonium capitatum 'Attar of Roses'.

Next culinary event will be on Sunday, 19 August. Panna cotta is a rich Italian dessert that pairs perfectly with seasonal ingredients. Wave Hill exclusive caterer Great Performances Executive Chef Robert Valencia will demonstrate a simple panna cotta recipe, then amp it up with ripe, summer fruits and fragrant herbs. Sample several creative combinations, then go home with recipes for your own decadent desserts. Free with admission to the grounds.

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