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Scented Geranium ‘Mabel Grey’
Botanical Name: Pelargonium X citronellum
Scented Geranium ‘Mabel Grey’ is a large rambling plant with a woody base and an upright growth habit. It may reach up to 1 meter high and 60 cm wide, growing even bigger in its native environment. The light green leaves fan out into a large palm shape, with deeply serrated edges and visible darker green veins. The pink flowers are pretty and have purple marks brushed onto the two larger upper petals. The foliage has an intense lemon scent akin to lemon sherbet.
Scented Geranium ‘Mabel Grey’ was reportedly discovered in Kenya in 1960. However, some reports suggest that it is native to South Africa. Regardless of its origins ‘Mabel Grey’ has been used as a parent for many lemon scented geraniums. ‘Mabel Grey’ is considered one of the strongest lemon scents except for Scented Geranium ‘Lemon Tart’. In fact, the leaves from both varieties can be used in the base for lemon cheesecake, tarts and other deserts.
Pelargonium General Notes
Pelargoniums are evergreen perennials, sharing many common characteristics with the Geranium species. They range in height from 30- 100cm and may be categorized based on varying leaf shapes, such as crinkled, oak or fern leaf shapes. The leaf colour may vary from deep to light green, with flowers generally held in loose clusters. Most prefer to grow in full sun and they are also drought and heat tolerant. However, some varieties do require some shade and moist conditions where possible. Many grow near streams in their native habitats, but generally ‘less is more’ is a good guideline for watering these plants. They do not like to be damp at all.
This group of plants were initially catalogued by Linnaeus into the same Genus as Geraniums, but were separated into separate genera in 1789. Pelargoniums were taken to England in 1631, but it is likely they were transported to Holland in the earlier 1600’s. Since early times various varieties have been developed and many are now cultivated commercially for the essential oils used in perfumery and aromatherapy.
The Pelargonium genus is one of five in the family Geraniaceae, which has over 800 species. This includes the separate Geranium genus, which often causes confusion since ‘geranium’ is also used as a common name for the many Pelargonium species and cultivars. There is thought to be 270 species of Pelargonium, with 219 being native to South Africa. Among these, there is a number of genera or subtypes of pelargonium based on features such as leaf type. Of this selection about 80% are native only to select areas in the southern regions of South Africa. The remaining 20% are found in Australia, New Zealand and a few select areas such as Madagascar and Eastern Africa. There are now cultivated varieties all over the world, most with origins in South Africa. The true Geranium species is a hardy group of plants native to North America and Europe.
The Geranium plant family is an important food source for certain Lepidoptera species in their native regions. For more information on our other Scented Geranium listings.
It prefers full sun and good air circulation to prevent leaf drop from mildew. This plant has low water needs so dry, well drained soil is ideal. Soil may be poor to average, although some fertilising may be useful. This variety will do well in containers where it may be pruned to keep the plant at its desirable size. Pruning will also help to encourage branching and control height. The plant itself is a good candidate for topiary and the woody stem supports the plant well. The flowers are ideal for posies and pot pourri.
Most pelargoniums enjoy full sun, dry conditions and poor to average soil, with little enrichment. However, some do prefer moist, semi shade positions with well drained soil, so it is best to check the variety in question. Most pelargoniums will grow well in containers and hanging baskets. Many large to mid size varieties may be pruned to accommodate the size of the container. It cold regions, Pelargoniums may be taken indoors or treated as an annual if this is not possible. Although not very tolerant of frost, some plants may die down and return when the weather warms in spring. This plant may be propagated by tip or stem cuttings taken in autumn or spring. Seed may be sown at almost any time of the year, especially in warmer climates.
Pelargoniums are usually suitable for culinary use, particularly the leaves and flowers. They may be used for herbal teas and to sweeten and scent desserts such as cakes and jelly. The most common used are those with rose, lemon, and peppermint scents. Leaves may be cut and placed in ice cube trays for later use in iced tea or other suitable cold drinks.
A tea infusion may be made using 3 teaspoons of freshly chopped leaves, or 1 teaspoon of dried leaves and 1 cup (250mls) of boiling water. Let the leaves steep, strain and then drink as needed. There are several varieties suitable for a tea infusion, but it may be a matter of taste.
Many South African varieties of Pelargonium have a history of traditional medicine use by local tribes. General traditional use has included treatment for digestive and respiratory ailments, wounds, burns, ulcers and abscesses, cold sores and sore throats. The active chemicals are slightly astringent so they are good for skin care, oily skin, and cleansing the pores. Overall the pelargonium species are seen as having value for creating a relaxing and uplifting feeling, while calming nerves, anxiety and aiding depression. There is also value for use in premenstrual tension and for those who are seeking an essential oil for creating a soothing and balancing effect on the body. Different varieties may have different effects.
The strongly scented Rose Geranium, Pelargonium graveolens, is one of the best plants in this genus for traditional medicine use. Several active chemicals, in this species, have been determined to be beneficial for having antibiotic effects and nerve pain relief. Research has also indicated it is helpful for nerve pain associated with shingles. It is also thought to have a soothing effect on the skin when used to bath rashes, skin irritations or simply used in bath water.
Other UsesMany of the scented pelargonium species and varieties are cultivated especially for their use in perfumery, aromatherapy and massage therapy. Rose Scented Geranium is often used as a substitute for the more expensive Rose of Attar. The oil is extracted from the leaf and stems of the plant.
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