The Underground Internet

The Underground Network

We’ve been so spoiled with rain this summer and there’s certainly been no shortage of lush greenery in the garden. March has its own almost-autumn adventures in store with intelligent ornamental grasses leading the pack. It’s time to unearth the internet underground, prep cool-season herbs, and keep an eye out for some pesky bugs. 

 

Networking, smart grass 

Plants have a secret language underground that allows them to ‘talk’ to each other. Communities of plants network amongst themselves to transfer information about the environment, share nutrients, and even provide help to other plants in distress. This underground internet is an essential part of all forests and flourishing landscapes everywhere. 

Instead of growing plants alone, rather go for a community of intelligent ornamental grasses that will adapt and multiply, filling up barren spaces and creating the ultimate abundant look. 

Try these fantastic fountain grass varieties:

  • Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’, ‘Rubrum’ and ‘Vertigo’
  • Pink muhly grass 
  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ (Zebra grass) 
  • Carex ‘Frosted Curls’
  • Coman’s ‘Khaki’
  • Festuca ‘Silver Eye catch’ 
  • Indigenous restios like Elegia tectorum (Cape thatching reed)

Top tip: Collect seeds from flowering grass to keep as birdfeed for our beloved hungry winter visitors. 

Did you know? Mycelium is the multicellular vegetative body of fungi. Think of it as an underground root system that super-charges the sharing of information and nutrients to the entire plant network. Mycelium grows outwards, looking for water, nitrogen, carbon, potassium (and more), which is then transported back to plants around the garden. Incorporating some super mycelium into your landscape is easy. Edible, non-toxic mushroom grow kits are available at GCA Garden Centres with simple instructions and access to all resources needed. 

Pink muhly grass
Carex ‘Frosted Curls’

Uncapped Earth Wi-Fi

Maximise your plant network with these fuss-free, friendly perennials: 

  • Long-flowering - acanthus, campanula, centranthus, diascia, gaura, Japanese anemone, kangaroo paw, nepeta, rudbeckia and echinacea.
  • Drought resistant - armeria, artemisia, bergenia, felicia, eryngium, salvia and penstemon.

4 Season Gardening Goals

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Life is a Garden has compiled an easy-to-follow, 4 season gardening guide to help you sow, grow, and eat all year round. Enjoy another year in the garden and never miss an opportunity to plant your favourite veggies and flowers. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for those pesky pests! 

Summer (December, January, February)

Pretty plants 

  • Grab seed packets of show-stopping violas, primulas, pansies, snapdragons, ornamental kale, poppies, wildflowers, sunflowers, gazanias, and dianthus.
  • Towards the end of summer, you can sow calendula, cosmos, daisies, violas, primula, pansies, snapdragons, ornamental kale, gazanias, poppies, wildflowers, Bellis, dianthus, and marigolds.
  • Seedling trays for quick colour include petunias, impatiens, calendula, dahlias, verbena, alyssum, cosmos, marigolds, nemesias, and dahlias.
  • For picture-perfect cut flowers, harvest your roses, cornflowers, hydrangeas, carnations, delphiniums, lilies, gladiolus, sweet peas, cosmos, gypsophila, agapanthus, sunflowers, and geraniums.

Top bulb tip: Buy flower bulbs for the new season but don’t plant them just yet. Wait for the weather to cool down and prepare the soil with well-aged organic matter before planting.

Everything edible 

  • In January, sow from seed or plant from seedling treys: dwarf beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflowers, celery, lettuces, leeks, radishes, rocket, spinach, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, celery, eggplants, peas, potatoes, and pumpkins.
  • You can harvest beans, beetroot, capsicums, chillies, courgettes, cucumbers, eggplants, garlic, lettuces, onions, and tomatoes this month.
  • In February, you can sow beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflowers, celery, kale, leeks, lettuce, radishes, rocket, spinach, Swiss chard, coriander, parsley, Brussel sprouts, peas, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
  • You should be able to pick passion fruit, strawberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches, plums, and apples during your last month of summer. 

Top fruit tip: Once nectarines, peaches and plums have finished fruiting, prune the plants to shape, and remove any dead or disease-infected branches.

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gardening, gardening guide, gardening tips, seasonal gardening, gardening for beginners, spring gardening, summer gardening, fall gardening, winter gardening, garden maintenance, plant care, garden design, gardening ideas, seasonal plants, gardening techniques, gardening advice
gardening, gardening guide, gardening tips, seasonal gardening, gardening for beginners, spring gardening, summer gardening, fall gardening, winter gardening, garden maintenance, plant care, garden design, gardening ideas, seasonal plants, gardening techniques, gardening advice
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Quick Maintenance

  • Mulch all beds and containers well to improve water retention and keep the soil moist.

Sylvia Pass Garden Centre

Johannesburg

Contact Us

Address: 59 Fredrick Str, Observatory
Tel: 066 285 3507
Email: sylviapassgardencentre@yahoo.com
Website: N/A

Trading Hours

Tuesday – Friday: 08:30 – 16:30
Saturday: 08:30 – 16:30
Sunday: 08:30 – 16:30

About Us

We are a family run Garden Centre specialising in the finest quality Organics as well as great quality plants sourced from some of the best growers in our industry.

The beauty of bee keeping

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F is for Fearless February! Dare to do something different and come buzz on the wild side with Life is a Garden as we explore the beauty of beekeeping. Whether you live on a plot or farm, townhouse or flat – the enchanting world of beehives, honey extraction, bee courses and baked goods are all available to you. Here’s the basics to get you going. 

 

Beekeeping has a few rules 

Before we fly on, there are specific by-laws for beekeeping stipulated by the Metropolitan Municipality Public Health. You can’t own a hive on your balcony in the suburbs, for example, but you can go on an epic beekeeping course and tend to a hive away from home. For our plot and farm dwellers to have sufficient space, here is a brief overview of the current laws:

  • No person may keep bees on any premises unless that person is the holder of a permit authorizing that activity and every beehive is situated –
  • A minimum of five metres from any boundary of the premises.
  • A minimum of twenty metres from any public place or building used for human habitation or from any place used for the keeping of animals.
  • The bees are kept in an approved beehive and the beehive is kept in an area inaccessible to children and animals, kept in the shade at all times, and supplied with a source of drinking water within five metres of the hive.

 

It is important for beekeepers to register with The South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO) so that your set-up is in accordance with the regulation standards. This is to ensure all bees live a happy life and to prevent accidents or injuries to your neighbours. Now that we’re all clued up, let’s look into the benefits of starting a beehive and what treasures could be yours! 

Charming Arches

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Flowering and edible arches are arguably one of the most stylish and elegant features of a garden. Ideal in large spaces where a focal point of interest is needed, over entrances as a dramatic touch, or in small gardens where a compact cluster of blooms steals the show – arches are full of charm and for everyone! Follow Life is a Garden’s top aching tips and plant picks to get cracking on your first New Year’s gardening project.

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Good advice for getting started 

Here are a few important factors to consider when purchasing or building an arch.

  • Take careful note of the size of the space where you would like to grow your edible or flowering arch. How much sun does this space receive? Is there enough room for the plant to expand as it grows? 
  • Where will your arch steal the show most and what is your vision? Consider which other accessories will complement the structure such as a cute table and chairs nearby for tea, garden lights along a walkway that lead to the arch, or perhaps an additional flower bed all around the arch. Flowering arches are also excellent wildlife attractors and privacy shields. 
  • What material is your arch made of? Some plants get heavier as they age, requiring stronger support. If using a wooden arch, remember to use a weather-resistant sealer that won’t harm your plant. If you are using a metal arch, remember that extreme weather may also burn/freeze delicate flower varieties. 
  • Can you reach the top of your arch? Pruning your ramblers, scramblers, and climbers are essential to maintaining a nice and neat shape to your arch. Make sure you have a long ladder and access to all sides of the plant for shape pruning. Similarly, if you are growing an edible arch, make sure you have enough space to harvest. 

January Gardening Checklist

January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list

Tidy up time

Neaten borders and beds, turn over the compost heap, and mulch well after weeding. 

January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list
January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list

Festive trees

Plant wild gardenia (Gardenia thunbergia), Henkel’s yellowwood (Podocarpus henkelii ), and Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Gold Crest’.

January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list
January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list

Homegrown herbs

Plant mint, rosemary, thyme, chives, basil, and rocket.  

January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list
January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list

Try this: Grow different coloured basil between your petunias and other flowering annuals. Go for purple basil (spicy-scented with purple leaves and pink flowers), ‘Siam queen’ (green leaves with square purple stems), and ‘Magical Michael’ (compact and bushy with purple and white flowers). 

Harvest delights 

Harvest strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, and celery.

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Waterwise tips

  • On hot days, mist houseplants like ferns and orchids to provide extra humidity.
  • Punch holes in the bottom of plastic bottles and place them in shallow holes around plants. Fill with water to give seedlings slow-release moisture.  
  • Use a soaker hose rather than a sprinkler and water early morning to reduce wasteful evaporation.
January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list
January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list

Pest patrol 

  • Remove old flower stalks and dead material around the base of spent perennials to prevent mildew and red spider mite.
  • Spray roses against black spot, mildew, and aphids.  
  • Watch out for hawk moth caterpillars feeding at night on impatiens, arum lilies and fuchsias. Remove them by hand.
  • Be aware of lawn caterpillar infestations and treat with eco-friendly pesticides from your garden centre. 

Top pest tip: Spray early morning or late afternoon to avoid harming garden helps, like bees and ladybugs, that may still be active. 

January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list
January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list

Small Spaces

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Utilise your space and get creative with explorer plants that love to climb and crawl. There is still plenty of gardening to be done in compact gardens, on the patio, and all around your balcony. Don’t let space restrictions limit your green fingers this new year.

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Best trellis trailers 

Creepers and climbers will go to town on any wall, pillar, or arch where trellis support is possible. Consider these indigenous showstoppers that are low maintenance and naturally adapted to our climate.  

  1. Pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana) in full sun. They boast an abundance of fragrant lilac-pink flowers. 
  2. Flame creeper (Combretum microphyllum) in full sun. They are truly spectacular with flaming crimson flowers. 
  3. Cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) in full sun. They bare tubular blooms in red, orange, yellow, and salmon.

Top tip: Arches, beams and pillars are a climber’s dream. Secure some wire around these structures and let your explorer plants do the rest. This is gardening and living décor achieved with simplicity and style.

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small space gardening, urban gardening, container gardening, balcony gardening, compact gardening, limited space gardening, vertical gardening, indoor gardening, small garden ideas, tiny garden solutions, apartment gardening, small space landscaping, creative gardening, space-saving gardening, gardening in urban areas, patio gardening, small garden design, maximizing small spaces, gardening tips for small areas, potted plants

Grow a gallery

If you’ve got a barren wall, decorate it with life! Get the look:

  1. Secure a few vertical growing containers against a wall.
  2. Upcycle some large frames with character and texture, secure them around the containers. 
  3. Half fill your pots with compost and potting soil from your nursery.
  4. While you’re there, grab these lovelies to grow in your gallery:

Shaded babes - fuchsias, wild iris, September bush, and impatiens. 

Sun lovers - black-eyed Susan, climbing snapdragons, verbena, and geraniums. 

Try this: Go for a sophisticated succulent look by pairing potted rock roses with elegant white frames. Scatter white pebbles around your succulents to really bring out their eyes.

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Hacks to upsize your small space 

  • Outdoor mirrors will help make your area appear larger.
  • Suspend your furniture to save floor space.

Hybrid Hydrangeas December Notebook

Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties

Your summer garden is in for a real treat with these three show-stopping new hydrangea hybrids in bloom now. 

  1. Magical revolution (Hydrangea macrophylla magical) is an absolute must-have. This compact, bushy, deciduous shrub bares clusters of flowers that change colour as time passes. Every day is a magical experience with a rainbow transformation of hues to look forward to. 

Grow guide: Semi-shade or full sun, moist but well-drained soil, good for containers, beds and borders. Disease hardy but look out for red spider mite and scale.

Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties
Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties

2. Endless summer (Hydrangea macrophylla) has a name that says it all. A truly special cultivar has arrived with the superpower of blooming on both old and new wood, resulting in a flower show all year round. An added bonus is that plants are hardier to colder climates too. 

Grow guide: Semi-shade is best but will tolerate full sun if the soil is kept moist. Good for hedging and as cut-flowers with resistance to pests and disease.

Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties
Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties

3. Oakleaf (Hydrangea quercifolia) is a medium-sized bush with large, cone-shaped clusters of simply gorgeous blooms (up to 30cm long). The cream-white flowers will turn pink as they mature and can be enjoyed even until mid-winter, complimented by burgundy foliage. 

Grow guide: Dappled shade during midday is best although they perform better than others in dryer climates. Keep soil fertile and moist, look out for mildew.

Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties
Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties

Hydrangea pruning tips

  • There are 2 main groups of hydrangea pruning requirements so be sure to ask your garden centre assistant about the type you have.
  • Group 1 plants (old wood) bloom on last year's growth and need to be pruned in late summer. 
  • Group 2 plants (new wood) bloom on fresh growth and should be pruned in early spring after the frost. 
  • Pruning branches as leaves emerge in spring will result in multiple smaller flower heads as opposed to fewer larger clusters.

Posh nature pools

Garden Pools, Natural Pool Design, Eco-friendly Gardening, Sustainable Landscaping, Aquatic Plants, Water Features, Garden Water Conservation, Wildlife Habitat, Garden Pond Maintenance, Organic Pool Design, Biodiversity in Gardens, Natural Swimming Pools, Water Gardening, Ecosystem Balance, Garden Oasis

Picture your next swim; chemical-free and full of life - that’s the sort of posh pool we’re after! Success means different things to different people, but we’d like to think that a living pool is one of those grand stamps of achievement and style for the gardener. Known also as eco-pools or Earth pools, these swimmable (and often drinkable) mini wetland-lakes are the perfect waterway back to Mother Nature. Get connected and join Life is a Garden with top South African experts as we splash into the magical world of biofiltered, living water! 

 

Swap the chlorine for nature’s green

An eco-pool uses a biological filtration system instead of chemicals to clean the water. A biological filter uses natural processes, microorganisms, and selected smart plants. With the correct ecosystem in balance, biofilters actually purify water better than pool chemicals!  Although such chemicals are designed to kill living organisms (like bacteria and algae) they don’t actually remove other harmful substances like ammonia and phosphates. 

Biofilters, however, are able to remove ammonia, phosphates, and nitrogen from the water so that algae struggles to grow, resulting in water that you can even drink! Biological filters, or biofilters,  include plants and beneficial microscopic life, like good bacteria, plant plankton, and zooplankton (small good-guy animals). Aiding this process is water which is constantly filtered through a sand/gravel filter along with a powerful pump to trap any algae and insoluble material in the water.

Did you know? You can easily convert your existing pool into a natural pool as conventional set-ups are very well suited for conversions. There is a selection of creative and inspiring options to help you transform your pool into a living wetland wonderland, just be sure to seek expert advice and professional services.

Garden Pools, Natural Pool Design, Eco-friendly Gardening, Sustainable Landscaping, Aquatic Plants, Water Features, Garden Water Conservation, Wildlife Habitat, Garden Pond Maintenance, Organic Pool Design, Biodiversity in Gardens, Natural Swimming Pools, Water Gardening, Ecosystem Balance, Garden Oasis
Garden Pools, Natural Pool Design, Eco-friendly Gardening, Sustainable Landscaping, Aquatic Plants, Water Features, Garden Water Conservation, Wildlife Habitat, Garden Pond Maintenance, Organic Pool Design, Biodiversity in Gardens, Natural Swimming Pools, Water Gardening, Ecosystem Balance, Garden Oasis

Will I swim in a swamp?

No. A regeneration grow zone with plant life and a gravel bed is built adjacent (and still connected) to the primary swimming area, which is kept open and clear like a standard pool.

The super-fun summer garden December in the Garden

December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Summer Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips

It’s holiday season, and a jolly good reason to celebrate! Live life to the fullest surrounded by the ones you love and a gorgeous garden to host them all in. Life is a Garden’s got a fully loaded, super fun summer entertaining and planting guide to get you in the spirit of things this December. 

Warm welcomes

Wet vines from the garden can be transformed into gorgeous decorative wreaths, which you can secure onto your front door. Try ivy varieties, grapevine, and big num num (Carissa macrocarpa) with ornamental grass strands that’ll maintain colour for longer too. Add to the friendly vibes by adding a textured welcome mat available from your GCA Garden Centre.

Try this: Once you’ve gotten a solid run from your wreath, tie it onto a tree branch and hang some birdseed feeders from it. 

December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Winter Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips
December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Winter Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips

Eternal sunshine

Solar lights are the best-kept fun secrets this summer. Light up your pathways with lanterns, accentuate your trees with spiralled fairy lights, and make the patio pop with spotlights highlighting your gorgeous container beauts. Solar jars are also a sure win, to which you can add glass stones for extra sparkle. Solar jars look super magical when added to fairy gardens and scattered around beds.

Always lit tip: Wrap battery-operated fairy lights around your front door DIY wreath for added evening ambience as guests arrive.

December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Winter Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips
December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Winter Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips

Inquisitive kids

Keep the kids entertained and educated with a ‘Find that bug’ quest. You can easily create a printable worksheet for your kids and their friends listing the goggas to be discovered in your garden. Alternatively, there are several local apps to be downloaded, which kids can use to identify their discoveries. Why not get them all to give a fun little presentation about the bugs afterwards!

Handy helpers top tip: To bring in friendly flyers and pest-munching bugs, check out this article: (link to that other article we did about bug/bird-friendly gardens) 

December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Winter Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips
December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Winter Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips

Happy house plants

Consider playing with poinsettia (Christmas star) and amaryllis (Christmas flower) as part of your festive décor prep.

A passion for poinsettia

Poinsettia Care, Holiday Plants, Poinsettia Pruning, Seasonal Flowers, Indoor Gardening, Poinsettia Varieties, Flower Care Tips, Poinsettia History, Festive Floral, Garden Decor, Poinsettia Myths, Christmas Flowers, Colorful Foliage, Poinsettia Facts, Plant Care 101

Poinsettias, also known as Mexican Flame Leaf, are traditionally associated with the festive season owing to their bright colours and sweet charm. With a selection of vibrant pink, red, white, cream, purple, yellow, orange, and bi-colours on the market, your holiday collection would be incomplete without one of these sweethearts. Join Life is a Garden as we explore this fiery foliage plant further.  

Did you know? The ancient Aztecs used poinsettias to make red dye, and they turned to poinsettia sap to control fevers.

Poinsettia Care, Holiday Plants, Poinsettia Pruning, Seasonal Flowers, Indoor Gardening, Poinsettia Varieties, Flower Care Tips, Poinsettia History, Festive Floral, Garden Decor, Poinsettia Myths, Christmas Flowers, Colorful Foliage, Poinsettia Facts, Plant Care 101
Poinsettia Care, Holiday Plants, Poinsettia Pruning, Seasonal Flowers, Indoor Gardening, Poinsettia Varieties, Flower Care Tips, Poinsettia History, Festive Floral, Garden Decor, Poinsettia Myths, Christmas Flowers, Colorful Foliage, Poinsettia Facts, Plant Care 101

Humble beginnings

The legend of the poinsettia dates back to 16th century Mexico and tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. An angel appeared and inspired her to gather weeds from the roadside and to place them in front of the church’s altar. Crimson ‘blossoms’ sprouted from the weeds and grew to become beautiful poinsettias.

Try this: If you want your poinsettia to grow larger and even more spectacular, plant them out in your garden below a tree or shaded area. Plants can quite easily grow up to 3 metres tall when given enough room and in the correct environment. 

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Flamboyant foliage we love

In South Africa, poinsettias are a common garden plant that flowers during winter. Potted varieties have been specifically grown for the summer season and are available in a variety of intense colours. The plant is synonymous with the upcoming holiday season, making a bold statement that will last for months!

Grow them in full shade or indoors with plenty of good light. Plants must be protected from the hot summer sun if it is to flower. Only water a poinsettia when the soil is dry to the touch. Water until water seeps out the bottom of the drainage holes. Although poinsettias do not like to dry out, they also do not like to sit in water.

Three Steps To Becoming A Water Warrior

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Responsible water usage is multifaceted: we’ve broken it down into three steps to make it easy.

You might assume that the beautiful open gardens on the pages of this magazine all require a river of water to keep them at their peak. Actually, many of them have been planted and are managed with responsible water use at heart. These tips will help you to plan your own show garden without emptying lakes to keep them alive.

1. Reuse Water

Water is a finite resource, so use it more than once.

  • Grey water – don’t pour water down the drain. Water from baths, showers and the laundry can be used in the garden.
  • Cooking water – when you’ve boiled veg in the kitchen, strain the veg and use the cooled water in your garden – it’s full of nutrients. 
  • Harvest rainwater – all that water falling on your roof should be harvested, saved and used during dry spells.

 

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2. Plant With Water In Mind

Choose the right plants and you won’t have to worry as much about water

  • Hydrozone – grouping plants according to their water use, known as hydrozoning, is a smart and efficient approach in gardening that can help conserve water. 
  • Choose succulents – succulents have been designed by nature to survive long dry spells. Embrace this with a succulent garden. There are hundreds of spectacular options including aloes, spekbooms, echeverias, crassulas, sedums, Haworthiopsis, vygies and so many more. 
  • Keep it hardy – tough, hardy plants give clues with their appearance. Grey or silver foliage helps them to reflect light, keep cool and use less water. Hairs on leaves or a waxy coating also reduce evaporation. Many waterwise plants have square stems that increase the surface area for better water absorption.
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3. Save water

There are a number of things that you can do to use water more efficiently.

Water Warrior Sustainable Solutions: Reuse and Waste Not

Whenever you use water, try to make sure you don’t just use it once. Here are some ways you can stretch every drop of precious H2O.

Let the Water Warriors show you how…

Whenever you use water, try to make sure you don’t just use it once. Here are some ways you can stretch every drop of precious H2O.

There’s a finite amount of water on earth, meaning that every drop we use has been used countless times before and will be used countless times again. That’s why it’s important to keep it unpolluted, and to use it as wisely as possible. Here are our top 3 water recycling tips:

 

Veggie Water

Kitchen water is not recommended for use in gardens – except for the water you use to steam or boil veg with. That is brilliant for the garden, because it will actually contain nutrients that have leached out of the veggies.

So, the next time you treat the kids to boiled broccoli, save the water, let it cool down and then water your plants with it.

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Grey Water

‘Grey water’ refers to the relatively clean wastewater that comes from basins, showers and washing machines. It’s not water that comes from toilets and dishwashers, or kitchen water that contains things like oils and fats – that’s called black water.

Grey water is perfect for use in the garden, but the first step is to harvest it. The most basic way to do this is to scoop it out of the bath or catch your shower water in a tub, or you can divert the waste water from baths, basins, washing machines etc into a tank or straight out into the garden via a hosepipe.

 

Grey water tips

Choose appropriate cleaning products: Use environmentally friendly and biodegradable soaps, shampoos and detergents.

Direct grey water to plant roots: Grey water should be directed to the soil around the root zone of plants rather than the leaves. 

Succulents: Water Warrior Heroes

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Nature has provided plants with a number of adaptations to save water. Spot these traits and you’ve found a water warrior winner.

Succulents

In plant terms, a succulent is a plant with fleshy leaves or stems that it uses to store water in. Each leaf is a little JoJo tank that adds up to enough water to get the plant through from one rainfall to the next. Since we live in an arid country, there are hundreds of succulent species that spring to mind, but here are three succulents to look out for:

Aloe: From the tiny guineafowl aloe (Aristaloe aristata) to the massive tree aloe (Aloidendron barberae), there is an aloe for just about every role in the garden, although most gardeners would prefer something in between these two. The spectacular hybrids are very popular, like Aloe ‘Porcupine’ and Aloe ‘African Sunset’. 

Crassula: There are over 200 Crassula species, but the most popular garden crassulas in South Africa are the jade plant (C. ovata) and the fairy crassula (C. multicava). The former is an attractive shrub while the latter is a beautiful, petite groundcover. 

Portulacaria: The spekboom (Portulacaria afra) is a hugely popular shrub to small tree, offering delicate pale green leaves perched on red stems that mature to grey. The leaves are edible too! It comes in a few forms, from upright to sprawling, and some varieties have pale, almost golden leaves.

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Grey or silver foliage

Grey or silver foliage is often seen in drought-tolerant plants, as the lighter colour operates as a natural sunblock, helping to reflect sunlight, thereby reducing leaf temperatures and lowering water loss. This is often paired with other water-saving characteristics such as succulent leaves. Here are three grey/silver plants that won’t let you down during a hot summer:

Coleus neochilus: Blue coleus, formerly known as Plectranthus neochilus, has to be one of the toughest plants out there.

Water-Wise Plants For Your Kitchen Garden

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Summer is here, and while that usually means rain, it can also mean long periods of sun beating down on your garden. Here are the plants most likely to survive!

 

Give Them A Good Start

Even plants that are classified as water-wise need a good start in life. Give them that, and when they’re established they will be fully equipped to deal with whatever the sun throws at them.

We recommend a good-sized planting hole improved with a top-quality organic fertiliser, some bonemeal for root development, and some added organic matter in the form of compost.

Once planted, make sure to give the plant a really good watering and then repeat this until the plant is well established. Mulch around the base of the plant will make it even more resilient.

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The Herb Garden

Herbs are for more than just windowsill gardens – some of them can be incredibly effective and beautiful in a water-wise garden. Here are some herbs that will shrug off the sun to thrive in dry conditions:

Oregano is a staple in Mediterranean and Italian cuisines, its pungent, earthy flavour used widely in all manner of dishes. It loves well-draining soil and full sun conditions, and needs space to spread – it will form a low, bushy mound that will need to be clipped so as to not become leggy.

Sage gives us a clue as to how it copes with dry conditions – its silvery-green leaves. Plants with silver or grey leaves are often very drought hardy, as the lighter colour reflects sunlight, reducing the temperature of the leaves and therefore the amount of moisture they lose. Sage is very useful in the kitchen, but it deserves its place in the garden for its handsome appearance alone.

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Chives are drought tolerant once established, and are a more useful herb in the kitchen than they are credited with.

Grow hardy herbs in containers for your braai Become a water warrior

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Water is a scarce commodity and has to be used in the most efficient way to get the most out of every drop. One of the easiest ways to conserve water is to grow plants right next to your braai that you can pick fresh to add flavour to meals and by having them in containers, very little water is used.

Wick Watering

There are containers available now that have a very efficient watering system that uses a wick – usually a rope or fabric – to carry water from a reservoir to the roots of the plants where it’s most useful. It works using capillary flow that can move water slowly from the water source upwards. These types of wick watering systems mean that plants are often able to last without watering for weeks at a time.

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Container Growing

Containers are a great way to grow herbs, veg and fruit and manipulate the soil medium to use as little water as possible. By using good quality potting soil with added water-absorbing crystals, vermiculite and good compost, you ensure that watering times are reduced, but the plants are still happy. Also grouping plants with similar water needs will go a long way in reducing water consumption.

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Handy Herbs Use Less Water

Making the right herb choice is another way to save water. These are just a few tasty herbs that need little water.

Rosemary – needle-like leaves are a sign that a plant is drought-resistant. Rosemary is one of those plants that once established needs very little water. In a container, it needs watering when the soil is just dry on the top. 

Thyme – this herb thrives on neglect which includes minimum watering. Also, the more you cut it, the more it grows.

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Origanum – another tough herb that grows well with rosemary and thyme for a mixed container.