May in the Garden

Tie a knot somewhere to remind you that it is Mother’s Day on Sunday 12 May. Take Mom to a GCA garden centre to spoil her with graceful Phalaenopsis and stunning Cyclamens – both in flower now!

Top of the pops

Here are some recommended top sellers for autumn:

Obsession – Get totally obsessed with the glorious Nandina domestica‘Obsession’, an intensely coloured upright growing nandina with fiery red young foliage which is retained all year while the plant is actively growing. Mature foliage is deep green. Nandinas are known for their striking autumn colours, hardiness, and many uses in a garden. Use ‘Obsession’ as a low hedge, in pots, or as a filler shrub in a border and remember that they are very giving and forgiving plants. Mature size is approximately 60 x 70cm.

Trending: Grow your own coffee tree indoors! The coffee plant (or rather tree!) botanically known as Coffea arabica, can earn you kudos from coffee snobs if you can manage to grow it successfully in your sitting room as an indoor plant.

  • Why should you try it?

It is a very ornamental novelty plant with dark, shiny leaves and fragrant white flowers. If all goes well, it can soon become a large plant, but it can luckily be pruned into a manageable level which commercial coffee growers often do. If you want to try your hand at this pretty plant simply for bragging purposes, (you will only get a harvest of beans after a number of years), plant it in a good-sized pot in slightly acidic soil, which drains very well. Water well and spritz it regularly in hot weather, as it loves high humidity. Keep it in good light but not in hot spots, as it likes cool growing conditions. If you are still unsure about the right growing conditions, just remember that the coffee tree naturally grows in the shade of other trees in tropical East Africa.

April in the Garden

Folks in South Africa are lucky to have two ‘spring’ seasons every year – the traditional spring in September when plants from the Northern hemisphere flower, and another one in April when many of our own flowers abound. Now is the time to spend long hours in our gardens, planting and sowing with abandon!

On the menu for sunbirds 

Keeping the theme for Earth Day on 22 April 2019 in mind, which is to “protect our species”, we give you an annual menu to encourage sunbirds to your garden all year long. The plants suggested are naturally indigenous and April is a perfect time to plant them:

For summer: Plant a dwarf coral tree (Erythrina humeana) which covers itself with scarlet red “pokers” drenched in nectar. Also go for summer flowering aloes like the very pretty Aloe cooperi, with apricot flowers with green tips.  

For autumn: Wild dagga (Leonotus leonurus) – the velvety bright orange flowers resemble huge rain spiders sitting at the ends of each stem. Their rich nectar is irresistible to butterflies, bees and sunbirds. This large shrub will supply colour throughout autumn. There is also a form with creamy white flowers, which is well worth planting.     

For winter: Any winter-flowering aloe specie or hybrid will do to attract many other bird species as well, but the centerpieces should be the other coral trees. The coastal coral tree (Erythrina caffra) is a large tree, producing magnificent flowers smothered in nectar. The smaller, common coral tree (E. lysistemon) is equally generous with spectacular flowers, but more suitable to smaller gardens. The broad-leaved coral tree (E. latissima) will produce its pretty blooms from late winter to spring. Every frost-free garden should at least have one of these species. For colder gardens there is the local mountain bottle brush (Greyia sutherlandii) and woolly bottlebrush (Greyia radlkoferi) – perfect and showy for small gardens with well-drained soil.

March in the garden

Early autumn is like an alternative spring and March is actually the best month to plant new trees and shrubs. It’s logical – whatever you plant in this temperate month, will have the whole autumn and winter to establish before bursting into new growth in spring, which removes the possibility of the plants having to deal with replanting shock. So, get to it – get in the garden!

Trendy planting… 
Be part of changing the face of gardening by planting trialed and tested, hardy plants which need less water. These are in stock at your local GCA Garden Centre.

  • Social garlic – The hardy and easy-to-grow social or wild garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) has always been a popular indigenous perennial. Grown for its bountiful mauve flower clusters on tall stems, its greyish-green strap-like leaves emit a garlicky odor. Flowers, leaves and stems are edible and can be used for their flavour, as well as garnish. Wild garlic has traditionally been used as a medicinal plant, and is also planted to deter snakes and aphids. It is a water wise plant to include in the herb garden, or to be used in mass as border plants.

New exciting varieties include:

‘Himba’ – purple-violet flowers with a prominent yellow-orange crown, medium green foliage and vigorous, upright-mounding growth habit.

‘Ashanti’ – tight, full flower clusters of bright lavender-pink flowers that have a slightly darker crown and tube in the centre of each flower. 

  • Crape myrtle ‘Black Diamond’  – ‘Black Diamond’ is a new variety of the old favourite Pride of India (Lagerstroemia indica) which has survived many dry summers all over the world! This revolutionary new series, which has stunning near-black foliage, crowned with masses of vibrant blooms, is no exception. It is low-maintenance and drought tolerant, and simply beautiful! Available in a wide range of colours, including Black Diamond ‘Purely Purple’, ‘Mystic Magenta’, ‘Lavender Lace’, ‘Best Red’ and ‘Pure White’.

February in the Garden

Time to play around with heat-hardy plants and containers. Make your way to a GCA nursery today and stock up on commercial soil mixes, drainage chips, decorative pebbles, pots and start playing with lots of funky plants!

Trending: Bro’s in the air
Air plants have fascinating forms and they grow without soil, attached to virtually anything from pieces of wood to fishing line to suspend them from the air – you can even glue them onto different objects. Air plants are members of the genus Tillandsia which descends from the pineapple family. Many of them grow naturally on trees where they attach themselves on branches and can often be seen hanging from trees, like the mystical old man’s beard (Tillandsia usneoides). Contrary to popular belief, air plants actually do need moisture and nutrients to grow properly, and do not live on air alone. Buy some of these beautiful and collectable plants and care for them by using a mist sprayer. You can even soak the whole plant for a few minutes, but allow it to dry off well before displaying it again. Do this regularly in very hot weather as air plants like humidity in the atmosphere. Place them in a sheltered spot away from direct sunlight and ensure that there is good air circulation around them.    

Get ready to plant the toughest!
One of the questions most often asked in a nursery is, “what can I plant in my pot?”. Well, GCA nurseries all over have all the answers (and the plants!) to back this up. If you want something really pretty, dramatic, long-lasting and hassle-free, go for the following suggestions:

‘Lipstick’ is a succulent hybrid Euphorbia with large, bright pink flowers, distinctive lime green foliage and soft thorns. It can be used as a pot plant or in the garden in warmer areas.

How to grow and get your 5-a-day

Summertime is the most celebratory season of all. The days stretch happily into the night and the sun rises earlier. Appetites are satiated with fresh veggie nibbles, ice cream, and the juicy flavourful sweetness of summer fruit. Fresh snack veggies from the garden are the best. What’s better than eating your 5-a-day? Growing them yourself. All you need is a little patch of garden and a few other basics from your local GCA Garden Centre.  

What you will need to grow your own 5-a-day veggie garden:

  • Carrot seeds
  • Radish seeds
  • Lettuce seeds
  • Tomato seeds
  • Cucumber seeds
  • Seedling trays or egg boxes
  • Seedling growing mix
  • Vermiculite
  • Stakes and budding tape for the tomato plant
  • Compost
  • Fertiliser (for veggies)
  • Name tags and/or label for garden

Let’s get growing:

Step 1: Grow your seedlings in trays

Each seedling tray needs its own label or sign to remind you which veggie you planted in each tray. Start by filling each cup of the seedling tray about ¾ of the way with seedling mix. These vegetable seeds are all very small, they don’t need to be buried in a hole. Instead, sprinkle a few (4 or 5 seeds) onto the seedling mix in each cup. The seeds must then be covered with vermiculite.

Step 2: Getting the seeds to germinate

The soil should be kept moist, the easiest way to do this is with a spray bottle rather than water. Light morning sun will encourage the seedlings to germinate quickly.  

Step 3: Transplanting seedlings into the garden
After a few weeks, you will see little green leaves appearing. Keep them hydrated and make sure they get a few hours of gentle sunlight every day. Once your seedlings are a couple of centimetres tall, they can be transplanted into the garden.

Step 4: Prepare the planting area
The day before you plant your seedlings, water the soil in the area you’ve selected, thoroughly.

January 2019 in your garden

Another new year, and there are 365 gardening days ahead so let’s get to it, and get up and garden!  

Smart planting
GCA nurseries all over the country recommend the following all-rounders as their best sellers for smart planting in January:

  • ‘Kaleidoscope’ is a dwarf Abelia grandiflora hybrid (70 x 90cm) with ever-changing foliage. The new growth in spring is bright yellow around the edges with light green in the centre of the leaves. In summer, the brightyellow changes to golden yellow, and the centre of the leaf turns deep green. In autumn, the yellow turns bright orange, and by winter it burns a fiery red. With its compact growth, ‘Kaleidoscope’ is the perfect feature plant for small gardens and is guaranteed to give you years of joy. Abelias are frost and cold hardy, fairly wind resistant, and they grow well in coastal gardens.
  • Little leaf boxwood (Buxus microphylla ‘Faulkner’) is a tough, evergreen shrub. This compact, upright growing plant with its dense coat of oval-shaped, bright green leaves (which sometimes have a coppery sheen) is a much-loved container, hedge or topiary plant. It likes full sun to light shade, regular water and will flourish in cold, frosty gardens, as well as the hottest and windiest gardens at the coast.
  • ‘Little Ruby’ (Alternanthera dentata LRU30) is a perfect, mounding ground cover with a compact habit and trendy deep burgundy foliage with ruby red reverse. This plant loves humidity, but can also tolerate frost better than other Alternantheras. Plant it in sheltered areas if there is a danger. Good for full sun and light shade. Mature plant size ± 35 x 60cm.

Along cool waters…
As January is a hot month, we keep close to our cooling ponds and water features. If your water element is a bit sparse on the vegetative side, consider the following plants to add some pizzazz:

  • Paper Reed ‘Little Giant’ is a new and compact form of Egyptian papyrus with sturdy green stems that are topped with large tufted “mop heads” making it ideally suited to smaller gardens.

Create an indoor jungle paradise – with the lovely delicious monster (Monstera deliciosa)

The new style everyone loves for their interiors is a show of exciting jungle leaves. The refreshing greens are eye-catching and uplifting – the perfect way to start the new year. Green is also an easy colour to decorate with, it goes with any other palette. It’s no wonder this new fashion has taken the world by storm!

Jungles galore decorate the walls, the shelves, the bathrooms, even the gardens of the trendiest homes and offices. The lush greens and bright leaves are irresistible – perhaps it’s some instinctual recognition of our ancient humanoid roots and recognition of our early habitats. Perhaps it’s just a modern-day style winner. Either way, ‘jungling’ your indoor space is the hottest decor trend. The ultimate ingredient to put that forest fun into your decor is the delicious monster (also known as the Swiss cheese plant).

How to incorporate the delicious monster into your decor
There are different ways to incorporate the delicious monster into your decor. You could make it super real with actual plants, use pictures, or other delicious monster-related merchandise. The actual plants will require a little ongoing work, they’re easy to grow and assist in air purification in the home. You can even use the leaves in a vase, as part of a floral decoration, or on its own for the gorgeous green jungalow look.

How to grow delicious monsters indoors
As gorgeous and jungle-like as they are, delicious monsters need a fairly constant indoor temperature, ideally around 23 or 24 degrees during the day. Ensure they have a spot that will give them those conditions.

Delicious monsters also enjoy areas with lots of light, although direct sunlight is not necessary. During spring and summer, they enjoy liberal water once a week, thereafter, you can halve their watering. To prevent waterlogging their roots, check the soil before you water them.

December in the Garden

Have a green Festive Season this year by substituting the boring old gifts like soaps and socks, with plants and gardening products that will add lasting value to the lives of loved ones.

What mom needs…

Mandevilla ‘Cosmos White’ is a lovely climber which has super big white flowers with a yellow throat. It blooms non-stop and is perfect for mom’s garden, growing over a trellis or an arch, but also stunning on patios and balconies in a pot. This mandevilla requires little water and prefers a location with full sun or partial shade.

What dad needs…

To turn the garden’s organic waste like leaves, grass clippings, and prunings into compost, dad needs a smart compost bin and handy compost activator to speed up things. To recycle all food waste safely and to improve the quality of the garden soil even more, he will also need a bokashi composter and a packet of bokashi bran or liquid bokashi.

What grandma needs…

Gran will love some colourful Coleus hybrids to turn her shady garden’s floor into a tapestry of leaf colour. Coleus plants are regarded as summer annuals since they do not take kindly to cold and frost. They are available in the flashiest leaf colours and are super simple to grow. Plant them in compost enriched soil in light shade, and do not overwater.

What brother needs…

Boys love the macabre, like plants which are carnivorous, so beaker plants (Sarracenia), which attract and “catch” insects will be a super choice. They must be kept in a sunny and warm spot in pots containing real peat. The pots must always stand in at least 2cm deep water as the plants like to be wet all the time. Repot them every year into fresh peat and never ever fertilise them as it can kill them.

3 ways with strawberries in the garden

Strawberries are one of nature’s most wonderful foods. Filled with antioxidants and lower in sugar than most fruits, they’re a wonderful addition to a healthy balanced diet, especially for growing children. Growing strawberries is easy and it’s lots of fun, which is why it’s the ideal growing project to get the young ones outdoors and keep them productive. These activities are designed to keep children busy during the festive holidays and the end-results can be used as gifts.

Personalise the activities by choosing different plants and selecting planters and pots that resonate with the style you are looking to achieve. While strawberries are always exciting plants to grow, more ornamental choices are possible too. Succulents, like the Echeveria range, are low-maintenance and will continue to give you beautiful results. We have selected strawberry plants as an example because they are iconic and who can resist the sweet temptation of strawberries?

Instead of the regular strawberry patch we typically see in gardens, let’s try some fun and interesting ways to incorporate these plants in our outdoor design this festive season. We have a few different creative ideas for you to choose from when it comes to strawberry planting.  

Making a wall of strawberries

A wall of strawberries uses a gutter as a planter and suspends these delightful plants midway up a wall. It’s a great way to add beauty to the building while it offers children the opportunity to taste the sweet rewards of growing their own food. It’s an ongoing project as the plants will require tending and the fruits will require harvesting. It’s the perfect task for kids!

What you will need: 

  • Guttering with the ends glued on (cut to size and drill a few small drainage holes in the bottom). The gutters used in the demonstration were cut to 110 cm in length.

November in the Garden

Summer is about colour – everywhere! Old favourites are in full bloom so you need more of them. The best news is the availability of modern dwarf hybrids of many perennials and edibles, which can be planted and enjoyed in the smallest of spaces!

On trend – containering

Container gardening is gaining popularity by the day and what’s not to love about it?

  • you can garden in small spaces – even indoors;
  • you can take your garden with you if you move home;
  • you can change your garden according to the seasons or if you get bored with it;
  • you have perfect control over the soil
  • from the traditional and pretty decorative pots, to gumboots and repurposed wooden pallets, the variety of different containers you can use is endless.

GCA garden centres are stocked to the rafters with everything you need to really get stuck into containering – you will find top quality soil mediums, a wide range of pots, drainage chips, suitable plants in variety, (very few plants are not conducive to growing in pots in any case!), water soluble fertilisers, water retention products and very decorative mulches. (Pssst… Coming into the festive season, look out for red and green-coloured mulches!)

You can feed yourself royally from pots

Plant blueberries, strawberries and Cape gooseberries in large pots. Look out at garden centres for ‘The Patio’ range of veggies like ‘Roma’ (a container tomato), a mini-butternut called ‘Honeynut’, and the golden zucchini ‘Easy Pick’.

To health with blueberries!

They say that the blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is one of the world’s super foods due to a high concentration of antioxidants, and luckily for us, good blueberry varieties are now readily available – just in time for those scrumptious summer smoothies. Plant them in full sun in a space which will allow for a mature height of 1,5m and a spread of up to 2m wide.

September in the Garden

September in your garden

As Margaret Atwood so finely put, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt”, we couldn’t agree more! The birds are chirping, the days are getting longer (and warmer!) and it’s the perfect time to do a happy dance and get into the garden. Get up and garden!

Trending – Gym in nature!

Giving yourself a good workout in the privacy of your own backyard is much nicer and cheaper than taking out a gym contract, and you don’t have to force your ‘love handles’ into unbecoming lycra!

While you are getting fitter and trimmer with pruning, weeding, composting, raking, digging, planting and mowing, your garden will reward your spent time and perspiration with lush growth and great harvests of flowers and edibles. Another advantage is that spending time outside in the sunshine and fresh air, has a positive influence on your psychological health as well – it relieves stress and depression too.

Smart planting in September

Cape thatching reed (Elegia tectorum): This graceful restio specie is found from Clanwilliam in the Western Cape to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape and naturally grows in moist, sandy dongas. The plant is, however, quite hardy against frost and dry conditions and will grow virtually anywhere. It is a fast grower with a rounded, tufted growth habit and can reach a mature size of about 1,5 m high, with a spread of 1,5m – 3m. The reed-like stems are dark green and smooth with dark brown bracts. Slender, compact flower spikes with brown bracts appear in autumn.   

Hebe ‘Sunset Boulevard’ flowers heavily with bright purple and pink, from spring far into the summer. This plant and all the many other veronica (Hebe) varieties, are irresistible to butterflies. It grows into a beautiful bright green sphere of about 80cm high and wide.

Glorious Gerbera (Barberton Daisies) in spring

The icy touch of winter is melting away. The blossoms of spring are slowly waking up, answering to the warm call of the changing seasons. Bright green buds and the emergence of new leaves add freshness to the world outside. It’s the time of plentiful opportunities and renewed energy, and, to make the most of it, you have to heed the call of the garden and immerse in its wonder.

Patio gardening is a rising trend, and for good reason. The patio forms the perfect bridge between the comforts of the indoors, and the beauty of the outdoors. It has the unique ability to encompass the best of both worlds. For this purpose, indoor Gerberas (otherwise known as Barberton daisies) are ideal. Garden centres have realised how popular these bright blooms are, and have responded to the demand. “Pre-made” whole blooms are available for purchase, already potted and arranged into sets.

Barberton daisies are available in a fantastic variety of colours, all of which are bright and bold. For the best effect, choose a few colours that work well together. Barberton daisies grown together in a bouquet-effect are marvellous!

How to grow Barberton daisies successfully

Barberton daisies are subtropical plants, but they survive most areas of South Africa fairly well. They prefer areas that stay above 6 degrees at night, although they do withstand light frost. If you live in a region that experiences frost, it’s best to plant your Barberton daisies in a shady spot.

They love the sun and happily withstand the full force of its heat. Barberton daisies thrive in North-facing areas that are rocky, fairly dry, and sunny. That said, however, if your patio contains glass and windows, it’s best to be aware of the glass’ reflection as this can scorch the flowers. Fortunately, planting Barberton daisies into pots holds an added advantage – you are able to move them as the seasons change.

Beautiful Balcony Gardening in August

With spring on the horizon it’s time to prepare your home and garden for an intense colour invasion.

Balcony and/or patio gardening is the ideal place to start! With balcony gardens, the focus is on creating a ‘wow’ in one or many containers, which can vary in all shapes and sizes. Balcony and patio containers can be positioned anywhere sunny – typically, they’ll either get morning, afternoon or mid-day sun, depending on their position relative to your home. Windowsill plantings also fall into this category, so let your mind run wild with all the possibilities! No matter how big or small your home – balcony gardening is an option for you!

August is early-spring, and an excellent time for planting! Balcony containers positioned close together, or inside the house, will be less vulnerable to last minute cold snaps – although frost cover may be required if your containers are exposed to the elements.

Vivid flowering colour options are vast and varied, but there are three absolute winners that we’d like to focus on:

Osteospermum varieties

More commonly known as Cape Daisies, Osteospermums are perennial plants grown for their exceptional flower displays. The typical daisy-type flowers are produced in profusion from early spring and continue till well into autumn. The wide range of colours and intricate petal shapes make each variety unique in some way or other.

Osteospermum plants are indigenous to South Africa and characteristically, the blooms ‘close’ at night, and their colours seemingly intensify when in full bloom on hot sunny days.

Osteospermum Serenity Blushing Beauty combines golden yellow blooms with a purple/pink centre. This new introductions offers a warm, romantic touch to containers and pairs particularly well with Osteospermum Blue Eyed Beauty (or any other Osteo’s!).

Osteospermums are at their peak in August – visit your closest GCA to see the stunning and vivid range on offer.

August in the Garden

Awesome August has arrived, which means it’s almost time for a spring awakening… You will see on crispy August mornings new mint-green leaves sprouting, and bees and butterflies zooming over swathes of daisies turning their heads to the sun. Wake up and make your life a garden!

Go crazy with daisies!

No other country in the world can lay claim to the same sensational indigenous late winter and early spring colour that we can, with our fantastic Osteospermum hybrids, sold under the collective name of Cape Daisy. These ground-covering plants are loved by butterflies and thrive in full sun. They are spectacular in window boxes, in mixed containers or in single patio pots.

For a mass of cheerful flower faces, few plants beat the beloved daisy bush (Argyranthemum frutescens). Every year more hybrids and colour variations appear, with each one seeming to be more floriferous and more compact than its predecessors. They are perfect for sunny patios, balconies, pool sides, or anywhere that a typical sense of spring awakening could be celebrated. Daisy bushes are at their most colourful in cooler months but flower repeatedly in summer if they are looked after well with ample water, feeding and a light clipping after a flower flush.

Hot tip: Give your old pots a new lick of paint before planting them up with your daisies or invest in new clay pots roomy enough to allow them to grow into large cushions of flowers.  

Waterwise daisy – Golden daisy bush

It’s almost impossible to be upset about anything if you are standing in front of the golden daisy bush (Euryops pectinatus) in bloom – this indigenous shrub is just too cheerful! On a bright sunny day, the hundreds of butter-yellow daisies stand out against dense foliage and catch your eye from afar (and those of pollinators like bees and butterflies too!).

July in the Garden

July in the garden will be cold and dry in some regions and cold and (hopefully) wet in others, but winter can never be boring if we dip into our treasure chest of saucy succulents and splendid shrubs which are dressed in their best right now. So, let’s plant lots more!

Melt the ice with these hot sellers   
Winter-flowering aloes like the trusty Krantz aloe (Aloe arborescens) grows from sea level to the highest mountain tops and sets winter gardens alight with its bright orange-red flowers. Birds and bees adore the nectar-rich blooms too.

If you want to choose a very dramatic plant for a large container, choose the sculptural and very striking Tree aloe (Aloidendron barbarae). This aloe is a perfect focal plant for the garden as well but, needs space to grow in as it can reach a height of 15m. Expect pink flowers in winter. There are plentiful and pretty new aloe hybrids of all sizes to choose from as well. Enhance your aloe collection with other types of succulents like crassulas, kalanchoes and sedums, which are equally pretty now, even if not in flower. Their foliage colours intensify and with their strong structural forms, it is hard to ignore them in a winter garden.

Fine planting is fynbos!
Heritage plants like proteas, pincushions, blushing brides, and cone bushes are common stock in garden centers nowadays, so do plant some of your own. In a natural habitat the members of the Proteaceae family grow in poor, well-draining soil with a low pH (slightly acidic – between 5 and 6). The plants prefer hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters, but many will grow well in summer rainfall areas too.

Bad drainage is a recipe for disaster, although some species and cultivars are more tolerant of heavy soil than others.

June in the Garden

The so-called ‘bleakness of a midwinter garden’ is a total myth, as many plants (whether indigenous like aloes, or exotic like camellias), flower with abundance in winter. Pretty foliage reigns supreme too, as the colour spectrum of plants like conifers, coprosmas, nandinas and leucadendrons intensify spectacularly in cool temperatures.

Shades of green
Colour makes the world go around but green (a colour too!) grounds us to the goodness of Mother Earth giving us a sense of wellness and peace. Create a little “pause architecture” this month on your patio and indoors with soft décor items that have bold botanical prints, and lots of indoor trees such the narrow leaf fig (Ficus binnendijkii), fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata), weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) and the cute pseudo bonsai called Ginseng Ficus (Ficus retusa) – all of these are high fashion and very tough indoor plants, which anyone can keep alive, and which are the perfect gift for Father’s Day. All you have to do is to supply good light, a dust-free atmosphere and watering only when the soil has dried out completely, and they’ll do just fine.

Smart greens for mass planting  
Add a permanent ‘wow’ factor to your garden with the following top sellers as recommended by GCA garden centres across the country:

Scotch moss (Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’) – a very popular grass alternative which forms a moss-like carpet with bright, neon yellow foliage. Very dainty white flowers appear in spring. Perfect for full sun and remember, it does not like to be too dry or too wet.

Braai rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Barbecue’) – Evergreen and with and upright growing habit and strong, straight stems which are perfect to use as skewers for the braai. The leaves have a remarkable flavour and aroma and the blue flowers appear in mass.

Sexy Spinach

Sexy spinach is not only full of flavour, but full of goodness too! It’s high in iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and is low in calories – so good for the waistline too 😉 What most of us eat as spinach is usually Swiss chard because it is so much more available, being easier to grow, heat tolerant and more productive. The Swiss chard varieties are ‘Fordhook Giant’ which has dark green leaves and broad, white midribs, ‘Lucullus’ which has long, light green leaves, and ‘Bright Lights’ which has red, yellow or orange midribs and dark green leaves.

Growing
Swiss chard and spinach are among the easiest vegetables to grow. They germinate easily, don’t take up much space and are easy to harvest. But, they are gross feeders and if you want to harvest on a continual basis regular feeding is the secret for success.  

  • Prepare and enrich the soil before planting with generous amounts of organics as well as bonemeal for root development.
  • Both vegetables can be sown in situ. Swiss chard can also be sown in seed trays as it transplants better than spinach.
  • Keep the soil moist during germination – about five days.
  • Seedlings should be spaced, or thinned out, to about 20cm apart.
  • Feed with a liquid fertiliser about two weeks after germination and once a month after that, or more frequently if you are harvesting regularly.
  • Succession planting is recommended (this means planting another crop in the same space once the first crop has been harvested).

Harvesting
One of the most compelling reasons for growing your own spinach is that it wilts so quickly and shop bought produce cannot match the quality of freshly picked leaves. Leaves should be ready for picking about 8 weeks after sowing. They can be cut or twisted off at the base of the plant.

May in the Garden

The mild month of May is a perfect time to add new plants to your autumn garden. Plant some winter and spring beauties on ‘Workers’ Day (you will be at home on the public holiday on 1 May!) and see how smart plants can ‘work’ for you in the seasons to come…

Trending – ‘Colour blocking’

Colour blocking is a fashion trend which originated from the artwork of Dutch painter, Piet Mondriaan. He used clean, and simple lines, and solid colours opposing each other on the colour wheel. This trend works very well in the garden too, if you plant bold patches of opposing, but complementary colour combinations. An example: blue delphiniums paired with bright orange calendulas. You can even add a little grey in there by using bold swathes of silvery grey sedge grass (Festuca). Midnight blue and bright yellow is another good combination and you can do this by planting a mass of dark blue pansies set off by bright yellow violas. If you’re not sure about this concept, visit a top GCA garden centre’s seedling tables and flowering perennial displays (many indigenous daisies, diascias and nemesias are flowering now), where you will clearly see which colours go together well. Colour blocking doesn’t stop with plants – you can paint a background wall in a contrasting, but complementing colour, to the plants near it.

Spoil mom!

Mother’s Day is on Sunday 13th May. As moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) are always available in bloom and stay that way for months on end, why not spoil your mom or grandma with a beautiful specimen to keep her company with its floral elegance throughout winter? You will find the widest variety and healthiest specimens at your nearest GCA garden centre. They will also have smart cover pots in stock to display it in.  

Get creative in the garden with a teepee trellis

You are never too young to develop your green thumb with a spot of gardening. Inspire your kids to get into the garden this Easter, and start growing their own plants with this nifty teepee trellis project. This project is a great after-school activity for you and your child and can be used to grow a variety of vines, such as the Mandevilla seedlings featured in this activity. The teepee trellis can also be used to grow a number of edible plants, such as runner beans, peas, and tomatoes, depending on the time of the year. Encouraging your children to grow their own vegetables is a fantastic way to teach them about living off the land. They can watch their food grow from a seedling and end up on their plate.

What you will need:

  • Some dowelling rods
  • Some string
  • Mandevilla seedlings
  • Budding tape or cable ties
  • Scissors
  • A spade
  • A rake
  • Some bonemeal, a handful of fertiliser and half a bag of compost, in a Trug or wheelbarrow

Let’s get started:

The day before:

Step 1: The first step is to prepare the soil for planting and this needs to be done the day before the activity. Choose a nice big area where you and your child can plant the Mandevilla seedlings and get it ready together, by aerating the soil and adding compost, fertiliser, and bonemeal. Finish off by raking the soil level and watering it well.

 

  • On the day:

    Step 2: To begin the activity you’ll need to make a teepee trellis in the area that you and your child prepared for planting the day before. Help your little one arrange the dowelling rods into a teepee shape and get them to hold it in place while you tie them together with string.

    Step 3: With the teepee in place, your child can then dig holes just in front of each dowel, providing enough space for the Mandevilla seedlings.