Friday, August 08, 2014

Geraniums: celebrating the commonplace

Until a couple of years ago, I had always lumped geraniums into that group of trailer trash flowers--carnations, impatiens, petunias--that Big Box stores and uninspired landscapers inflict upon horticulturally sensitive souls. With such diversity of plant life available, why bother with geraniums? They are boring and clichéd. And they smell funny.

But then I went to France.  Specifically, I went to Alsace, the eastern region of France that borders the river Rhine.  This is the country of geraniums, half-timbered buildings, and Riesling wine. Geraniums could be found in every window box: sometimes the classic red flowers, other times shades of pink, coral, or white.  There were grand blossom-loaded shows as well as more modest displays.

Clockwise from upper left: Colmar, Abbey Mont St. Odile, Riquewihr, Abbey Mont St. Odile, Colmar, Hunspach, Colmar; Center: Colmar

And the bounty was not limited to private houses.  In the Alsatian countryside, even farm wagons, cemetery crosses, and memorial chapels deserved a decking out.

Clockwise from upper left: Aschbach wagon, Oberroedern cross, Aschbach chapel 

So I kept this celebration of the commonplace in mind when I was setting up my containers this summer.  By the back door--the private area that's just for friends and family--I tucked together a big pot of zonal geraniums. A deep red glazed planter now holds a load of Tango Salmon geraniums. Somehow, this tidy, hard-working, and proudly unimaginative display feels right (and, dare I say, stereotypically Alsatian).

No comments: