These wonderful plants are often mistakenly called geraniums. They are all part of the same family but whilst geraniums are hardy garden plants, pelargoniums originate from South Africa and are therefore not frost hardy.
I adore scented leaf pelargoniums and this is one of my favourites! Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ has light green, hairy leaves which are cordiform in shape and strongly rose scented. It has pale, pinky mauve flowers which are carried in small umbels over a long period from early summer through to autumn. This plant has a height of 30cm and a spread of 40cm although I have grown these significantly larger at home. P. ‘Attar of Roses’ has an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS.
Pelargoniums will need bringing in during the winter to protect them from frost. They should be watered sparingly during this period (about one egg cup full a fortnight) and they should be given enough space to allow adequate airflow. Any flowers during this period should be nipped out as flowering throughout the winter will simply exhaust the plant
In my opinion pelargoniums can be best appreciated in pots. In this way, they are raised nearer nose level and can be brushed past or the leaves rubbed for that astonishing release of fragrance.
Now, to the kitchen!
These leaves should not be eaten but their fragrance can be imparted into sugar, jellies and cakes with ease. Firstly, bruise the leaves. Then layer one inch of sugar in a jar, covering with leaves, adding another inch of sugar, then leaves and so forth until the jar is full. Leave the jar in a sunny spot for 2-4 weeks for the full flavour to infuse into the sugar. Remove the leaves and then use the sugar in baking or icing in the usual way.
Rose scent is particularly good when added to apple jelly. Infuse the leaves in boiling water and set aside for a few minutes. Remove the leaves, bring the water to the boil again and then use in your usual jelly recipe.
Rose scent also marries well with peaches and melon – the perfect summer combination!
Lastly if planting out in pots, it is best to stick to one variety per pot for maximum impact. The larger the pots, the better!