Sunday, 1 September 2013

Bountiful balconies

'Geraniums' in Grimentz
Window boxes cascading with flowers is an expected summer site in alpine villages. Over in Austria they even give you a tax rebate to encourage you to plant-up your balconies. Here in the Val d'Anniviers the local commune plants tens of thousands of flowers every year - they hang in baskets along the side of the road, in niches and fill hollowed out logs next to fountains. Neighbours vie with each other as to who has the best display - some get creative with their planting - mixing blue and white lobelia, with yellow sunflowers, marigolds and nasturtiums.
Flowers fill every available vessel - including an old boot
Top choice of flower are the red varieties of pelargonium - easy to grow and lovers of sun they also tolerate dry conditions (ideal for those who forget to water their window boxes). However, it's quite tender and come the first frost the whole lot will be reduced to a brown sludge. Native to South Africa - this plant was first discovered and brought to Europe by English gardener and plant collector, John Tradescant, in 1633. Originally the pelargonium was classed as part of the geranium family, but as the numbers and varieties grew the two got reclassified into separate groups. Today there are over 200 species of pelargoniums and over 420 species of the hardy geraniums. Pelargoniums are not just pretty they are also valued for their oil and are used in perfume, medicine and aromatherapy.
Pelargoniums - top choice around here for window boxes

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