BY NORMAN WINTER, TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
The Garden Guy is boldly going into August with geraniums blazing. I could also say I am going into August with Boldly geraniums blazing. It wasn’t too long ago that August and geraniums in the South would have been the definition of a garden oxymoron. Boldly geraniums have changed all that.
You might be wondering how that could have happened. It’s like horticultural science gone magical wherein ivy geraniums and zonal geranium were crossed, giving gardeners a supercharged plant. No longer do we have to be jealous of the West Coast, where geraniums grow like weeds.
The Garden Guy is trying a new selection out in 2022 called Boldly Coral. This is where I teased with the reference to blazing. This color is a HOT coral — so vibrant it could have been called electric coral — it is impossible to go unnoticed. I am growing all of mine in mixed baskets or containers and with a variety of partnerships.
Like the others in the series, Boldly Coral will get about 12 inches tall with a 20-inch spread. I am using white partners like Diamond Snow euphorbia to give a blast of contrast. The Diamond Snow also gives a somewhat delicate texture even though it too is a trooper in the August heat.
My favorite white partner is the Superbena Whiteout verbena. The two together create a complementary competition for exquisite beauty. In fact, as I looked through my camera lens it was a wow of a moment as my eyes opened to the nature that was revealed. I suppose I am leaving off the best part: This container also has Superbells Grape Punch calibrachoas, creating a dazzling patriotic display.
Another surprise is the visit by both spicebush and eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies. A lot of butterflies will visit non-nectar flowers to pause and bask, all the while keeping their proboscis rolled up like a hose. In the pictures I have been able to take, the proboscis has been uncoiled and inserted into the flower. Perhaps geraniums like Boldly play a more important role than just giving us exceptional beauty.
Geraniums are considered heavy feeders, and this is an area in which I am found lacking more often than not — except this year. I have been feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer every other week, which is probably still on the short side considering the amount of rain and supplemental irrigation the containers have been receiving.
Another important aspect of geraniums is the removal of spent flower stalks. The plants are like little flower factories, and removing the stalks is important. (You can already see I am not talking deadheading or clipping.) Once the flower stalk is finished blooming or has little left, then simply go to the bottom of the stalk, where it is attached to the stem, and push it downward, snapping it off. You’ll be back in the flower business in short order.
Most of us treat geraniums as annuals, but there are ways to save them, returning to the garden in the spring. If this is something you would like to explore, I urge you to find Boldly geraniums on the Proven Winners website, where they give detailed options for keeping your plants for years to come.
Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.