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COL Nature's list of plants and flowers with complex aromas and flavors is almost endless. In the world of herbs, scented geraniums are similar. While each individual variety might not be so complex, there are enough varieties to allow you to choose just

Whether you prefer apple, coconut, nutmeg, pink champagne or one of the other 230-odd varieties, there are plenty to choose from.

Scented geraniums are actually not true geraniums; they are members of the species Pelagornium. They're considered tender perennials. Outside, they wither at the first frost, but if kept inside they'll continue to thrive.

Scented geraniums are actually well-suited for growing in pots or cascading from hanging baskets because they like crowded, but not bound. They always prefer warm conditions, bright, direct sunlight and good drainage --they even prefer to be kept a bit dry. Be careful not to over fertilize them, because too much nitrogen will lessen a plant's fragrance.

I like to plant scented geraniums along the edge of a path. Their fragrances will be released when someone walks by and brushes against the leaves.

This pathside position also allows quick and easy access to the plants so to keep them trimmed back. Otherwise scented geraniums tend to get leggy. There's great diversity among the varieties in the shape of their leaves, color of blossoms, blooming time and intensity of fragrance.

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I love Lady Plymouth, a light, rose-scented geranium, for its large, snowflake leaf pattern. It makes a great garnish for fruit platters or cookie trays. Despite its fancy name, it doesn't have much of a fragrance.

Another personal favorite is lime-scented geranium. It has very tiny leaves, shaped like curly maple leaves. Their fragrance is sharp and undeniably citrus. An added benefit of the citrus scented geraniums is that they contain citronella, a known mosquito repellent.

I also enjoy peppermint varieties, which make a wonderful contrast in the garden and a tasty addition to tea.

In the kitchen, scented geraniums can be used to make sweet syrups for candies or drinks. Rose-scented varieties are good for flavor jellies. Leaves of almost any type can be steeped in milk to extract their particular flavor such as cinnamon or apricot, and then added to custards, puddings or sauces. Or, add fresh leaves to fruit dishes or try whole or chopped lemon-scented leaves in tea cakes for a hint of citrus. It's also fun bury the leaves in a sugar jar, scenting the sugar. Seal the jar tightly and place it in sunlight, turning occasionally. Sprinkle sugar on cookies, custards or cakes.

In addition to their many culinary uses, scented geraniums are used to make perfumes, potpourri and aromatherapy treatments for skin, insomnia and depression.

Scented geraniums can be found at your local florist.

Keep those questions coming by sending to Christine Schlueter, 19276 Walden Ave. Hutchinson, MN 55350 or e-mail rcschlueter@yahoo.com

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