We’re suckers for a bit of fragrance. We’ve been patiently awaiting the return of one of our favorite farms to the local markets, but we were lucky enough last week to visit the farm in person and preview this season’s selection of scented geraniums! We first met Marie Susa of Susa farms at the Palo Alto, CA farmer’s market last spring and purchased lime and coconut geranium plants (that ended up being some of our favorites in the garden all through the summer). Though Susa Farms also grows and sells amazing herbs, tomatoes and other perennials, their scented geraniums are real standouts amidst the rest of the farmer’s market fare.
What makes these geraniums more amazing than other garden variety potted plants, you ask? To begin with, the flowers and leaves come in an array of shapes, sizes, and colors, while the scented geranium line-up reads like the menu at 31 Flavors. Varieties include rose, mint, apple nutmeg, apricot, oak, peach, and ginger. Instead of fragrant flowers, scented geraniums actually have oily leaves that release strong scents when the heat gets cranked up or you brush against them. Marie suggests planting a few next to a walkway or door so a bit of scent is released when you brush past them. They also hold up well as cut greens (clipping them is good because it prevents them from getting too leggy) and add beautiful texture to arrangements.
Geranium oils can be strong and long lasting; oil from the rose scented geranium is often used in place of rose oil when making perfume. (Our favorite scented geranium use: wash and dry some clipped leaves, cover with an inch of sugar and let it sit for a week and you’ll have your own fragrant sugar to use in baking and beverages.) Scented geraniums are also fun and super easy to propagate by clipping a stem right above the first node from the bottom and sticking it in some moist soil. With the right amount of sun, water, and tlc you will have your own tiny plant started in just a few weeks.
CLICK HERE for more scented geraniums from Studio Choo
Marie was kind enough to give us a tour of her greenhouses on the 50 acres of land she runs with her husband, John, and a herd of feral cats on our recent field trip to Half Moon Bay. Although she started out selling eggs and cut flowers from the farm at local farmers’ markets, it was when she started growing herbs that Marie really found her niche. What began as a growing experiment inside an unused rabbit hutch quickly bloomed. Two greenhouses later, Susa Farms is now well-known for growing a variety of sweet smelling goods including varieties of eucalyptus, fragrant herbs, and Marie’s scented geraniums. (We tried not to be too jealous of these happy kitties, warming themselves in the sun amongst all the sweet smells. See if you have any luck.)
One of the things we enjoy most about writing this column is the opportunity to meet and talk to other small business owners who are really passionate about what they are doing. We talked a bit with Marie about how her farm is surviving the current economy and against gigantic garden center competitors and found an answer we’ve heard from many small businesses; carry/create unique products, be good to your customers, and do what you love. Susa farms specializes in unique varieties that you don’t see on every supermarket/chain store shelf and each is planted and cared for by Marie and John (and the greenhouse kitties).
If you would like to sample Susa Farms’ geranium menu (and you really should), you can visit them for opening day this Saturday at the Palo Alto Farmers’ Market (8am-12pm, May-Dec) and Sundays at the Burlingame Farmers’ Market (8am-12pm, April-Dec).