Lessons from red geraniums

My mother-in-law recently shared a story with me about her red geraniums, and it got me thinking about geraniums and what they can teach us about life.

She lives in a climate where geraniums are perennial (not always the case where I live). Many years ago, a gardener who had beautiful geraniums gave my mother-in-law four cuttings from her plants, and for years, my mother-in-law kept them in pots and trimmed them or broke off stems when they started to outgrow the pots. But then she decided to start planting them in the ground at her home and her church. She also began giving away cuttings from neighbors and friends (and friends of friends) who asked for them. She told me she feels like the Johnny Appleseed of geraniums.

I love this story for many reasons. One is that I love geraniums, especially red ones. I love their smell and their fuzzy stems and their cheerful blooms. As I said, geraniums don’t always come back from one season to the next where I live, and when they do, they’re usually much punier than the first year:


Though the blooms were larger last year, I’m still happy for this geranium to have come back this summer.

I managed to buy a really strange variety this summer and have been disappointed with how sparse they look. I guess I just prefer the big clomps of blooms that I get with standard geraniums.


The new variety of geranium I planted this year isn’t my favorite, but I still like the pop of color they add to the front porch.

I love her story because it was a response to one of my blog posts, and her response to my writing is one of the things I cherish about her. She is always so encouraging and excited about what I’m working on. Her sharing this story was a way to connect with me and let me know she cares about my vocation and my avocations. I do not take this for granted.

I also love this story because of the lessons it can teach us about what we share with others, not just in the garden but also in life. In the case of my mother-in-law, she took a gift and multiplied it, sharing her talent for gardening and a gift of beauty with others near and far. She could have kept them all for herself, but she reached out with a gift to others.

For those of you who garden or have yards to care for, imagine the difference between a neighbor who shares beautiful flowers with you as opposed to the neighbor who – through neglect – shares weeds and tangled mess with you. Or maybe you’re the neighbor sharing the poison ivy vines? (I don’t judge: poison ivy can sprout up quickly and in the most expected places!)

In this same way, we choose what we share in life, too. We can share flowers or weeds with everyone around us in the way we speak to them, treat them and even ignore them. We can put up a thorny exterior that keeps others away from us, or we can be soft and fuzzy and inviting like those geranium stems, and cheerful like their blossoms.

I hope you’ll take a moment in the coming days to think about what you share with others. If you need a tangible reminder of what you want to share, put a red geranium on your front porch to remind you each time you leave your house that only you can choose what you give to the world.

8 thoughts on “Lessons from red geraniums

  1. Pingback: In the gardens of my friends | The Flourishing Tree

  2. Pingback: Neglecting the riotous garden | The Flourishing Tree

  3. Beautiful analogy. I’ve got two over-sized hanging pots bursting with old-variety red geraniums right outside my front door, so I’ll take your advice and let them remind me to share beauty and good cheer. May your mother-in-law’s influence be multiplied a hundred fold 🙂

    • Thanks, Tracey. I’m so glad you already have red geraniums by the door to remind you of this as you go out into the world. My mother-in-law emailed me after this post to let me know she’s inspired to go plant more geranium cuttings at her church. I’m sure they’ll look beautiful there.

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