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May 20, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Spring 2013 issue

Spring – the bringer of flowers

Words: Marika Azzopardi

Photography: Alan Carville

One of the most beautiful gifts which nature brings us at this time of the year, perhaps to compensate for the bitter cold we had to endure during winter, is the gift of flowers. During spring, when flowers are at their best, the self-same flowers which we saw standing somewhat coldly in the flower shops during winter, take on a brighter stance and a more colourful visual impact. They beckon us to purchase yet another bouquet to fill up those boring dismal corners around the house. Perhaps it is the light, perhaps it is our mind-frame set towards a fresher take towards life, but certainly, the flowers which grow so profusely in spring-time are there for all of us to enjoy.

Having a flowering pot with live flowers, rather than cut flowers in a vase, is another option that allows us to see the plant bursting from uniquely green foliage out into full coloured blooms. The magical transformation is for us to enjoy. A trip to Green Suppliers Ltd in Burmarrad is a great way to freshen up our visual experience what with all the lovely flowers ready for us to buy, pot and all. Amassed together for maximum effect are the geraniums, one of the very first flowering plants which I learnt to enjoy and grow pretty easily. By many considered just another ‘ordinary’ flower, the geranium is a typical Mediterranean flower that is perhaps created by Mother Nature, purposely for those whose green fingers are somewhat lacking in green skills.

My first book about growing plants dedicated practically an entire chapter to guiding readers on effective ways of growing geraniums. Probably out of print by now, this is a 1969 edition of Thalassa Cruso’s hardback version of ‘Making Things Grow’. Although the author lived in the US region of California, the climate there is actually quite similar to Malta’s and her description of what to expect by way of geranium behaviour, quite fits what happens here. Assigned to the section on aromatic plants which flower in late spring and early autumn, the geranium and its varied sub-species is described in some detail.

Scented geraniums have scented leaves rather than scented flowers with peppermint, rose and lemon fragranced variations. There are zonal, variegated and miniature geraniums, there are ivy-leaved varieties, and then there are the regal geraniums or pelargoniums which are considered the crème de la crème of geraniums. With this knowledge firmly in hand, I can safely ask Wigi Micallef, the owner of Green Suppliers Ltd, more about the kind of geranium stock he has in his nursery.

“Geraniums are a regular favourite with customers at our nursery. People know that geraniums are happy in most locations where there is good light and sunshine. Balconies, window boxes, gardens, landscaping, sun-blessed courtyards... geraniums are happy in most of these places. The potted varieties are content growing in small pots because they like having their roots contained. When planted in the ground, it is good to have them growing close to each other. The trick to having bushy geraniums with plenty of flowers is to pinch them back every so often. People interested in growing lovely geraniums should ask the nursery personnel to show how the pinching back procedure is done without harming the plants. It is a simple trick which can make all the difference to the amount of blooms produced. Then again, not too much water and removing the dead flower stalks to urge the plant to produce more flowers…” Whether you like red, purple, pink, salmon, white or variegated flower bunches, the onus is on enjoyment with a capital E.

Then come the next easy lot of potted flowers to enjoy at this time of the year – the petunias. These deceptively delicate looking flowers are anything but delicate and are surprisingly well suited for our strong Mediterranean sunshine. My preference for petunias is when they are placed in hanging baskets but these tend to dry out far more rapidly than those which are planted in planters or ground soil. As Wigi Micallef explains, “Petunias suffer strong wind, so any planters which are likely to be overcome by strong gusts of wind, should be placed in sheltered locations until the wind calms down. Eventually petunias become somewhat long and leggy as summer proceeds. The best solution to revert to a thickly foliaged plants, is to cut the plant back drastically and feed it well. You will be rewarded with new growth and fresh flowers after a short while.”

The fact that petunias come in white, pink, purple, red and variegated colours, means that there is ample scope for mixing and matching on balconies and along courtyard walls or even on window-sills, closer to our lives. Many people like to purchase more than one colour at a time and create a rainbow of delicacy to enjoy during these months. Indeed both geraniums and petunias require very little attention and so are ideal for those of us with little extra time to dedicate to our flowers. At least, we can dedicate that time to watching them bloom.

Contact Louis Micallef at Green Supplier Ltd, Flower & Plants Growers, Mdawra Road, Burmarrad. Enquiries: 2157 1428

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