There are dozens of cultivars and great diversity
of leaf shapes, textures and shades of green. Leaf shapes can
be palmate, finely dissected or rounded, and the surface may be
smooth or fuzzy. Some varieties have silvery or variegated
foliage accented with white, gold or cream. Flowers are often
small and have five petals—two upper and three lower. They
bloom in clusters of white, pink or lavender with darker
markings on the two upper petals.
A geranium’s scent may be strong or subtle and
perceived differently by one person or another. ‘Nutmeg’ has a
spicy, pungent scent unlike culinary nutmeg. Likewise, the
pleasing scent of ‘Old Spice’ is not reminiscent of the popular
Rose-scented are the most popular
Rose-scented geraniums are among the most
popular. ‘Dr. Livingston’s Skeleton Rose’ is named for its
narrowly dissected leaves. ‘Rober’s Lemon Rose’ has a tomato
leaf shape and a combination of rose and lemon scents.
‘Variegated Rose’ has a green leaf with a thin white margin, and
‘Mint Rose Variegated’ has variegated green and white leaves and
a mint/rose scent.
The deeply cut foliage of ‘Pungent Peppermint’
adds interesting texture to mixed plantings. ‘Chocolate
Peppermint’ has green leaves with a dark brown blotch in the
center. ‘Wooly Peppermint’ has a trailing habit, dark green,
fuzzy leaves and sprays of white flowers. Consider it for a
spiller in your mixed container.
There are many choice varieties of intensely
lemon-scented geraniums. ‘Mabel Gray’ is tall with sharply
pointed leaves, while ‘Frensham’ has fan-shaped leaves.
Pelargonium crispum has small, crinkly leaves, upright habit,
and is often trained as a standard.
Other classic scents include apple, coconut, lime
and strawberry. Whether you are just getting started or want to
add to a scented geranium collection, local herb societies and
specialty herb growers are likely to have some selections for
you to choose. Twenty varieties will be available for purchase
from the Penn State Master Gardeners at the Garden Marketplace
at Shady Side Academy Senior School ice rink on April 20.
While scented geraniums are delightful in the
garden, many varieties become splendid in your kitchen.
Fragrance becomes flavor.
The flowers can be added fresh to a fruit or
mixed green salad, or you can choose to sugar them to decorate
cakes and breads.
The leaves are more versatile. They can be used
fresh or preserved in many ways for later use. Grind fresh
leaves with sugar in a food processor and stir into a fruit
Syrup from Scented Geraniums
Make simple syrup of equal parts sugar and water.
Boil to dissolve and reduce somewhat. While hot, add up to an
equal amount of leaves. Cool, strain, and store up to two weeks
in the refrigerator or longer in the freezer. This syrup can be
used in drink recipes and to enhance sorbets and granitas.
Infuse the flavor into sugar by layering clean,
dry leaves with sugar in a sealed container. Shake every few
days for a few weeks. Remove the leaves and store in an
airtight container. Use to flavor your tea or in baking.
Making jelly is a fun way to preserve the flavor
of scented geranium leaves. A staple at the Edible Flower Food
Fest (July 18 at the Buffalo Inn, South Park) is Rose Geranium
Jelly made from leaves of ‘Rober’s Lemon Rose.’ Here’s the
Rose Geranium Jelly Recipe
4 cups fresh or bottled apple juice
2 cups packed, fresh rose geranium leaves,
washed (‘Rober’s Lemon Rose’ is my favorite variety)
4 tablespoons bottled lemon
5 cups sugar
6 ounces liquid pectin
Bring apple juice and leaves to a boil in a large
saucepan. Cover and then remove from heat. Steep overnight at
room temperature or up to 3 days refrigerated.
Strain into a 4–6 quart deep saucepan. Press on
the leaves to extract all flavor, then discard the leaves. Stir
in lemon juice and sugar and bring to a full boil over high heat
and boil 5 minutes. Add pectin and return to a full boil,
stirring constantly. Continue to boil for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and skim off any foam. Ladle
jelly into hot sterilized jars, leaving ¼-inch head space. Seal
with new lids and metal rings. Process for 10 minutes in a
Store vacuum-sealed jars in a cool, dry, dark
place. This jelly continues to solidify for several days.
Yields 6-plus half pint jars.
Lyn Lang and Susan Marquesen are Penn State
master gardeners. Ms. Marquesen is also a Penn State master food
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