July is the time to put winter-flowering colour into your garden.The shortest day of the year takes place in the fourth week of June. From July, days become longer and the plant sap begins to rise. As the metabolism of your garden increases, take time out to plant up the garden with late winter and spring-flowering plants.
What can you plant in you garden this July? Top of the list are the indigenous aloes which bring a blaze of fiery colour into the garden with their spires of red and orange flowers. Their bold foliage and striking shapes also add interest and accent to the garden.
The majority of Aloe species are indigenous to Africa, and a large number are indigenous to South Africa. They range from the 6m-tall tree aloe (Aloe arborescens) to low-growing hybrids such as the new Aloe ‘Pink Blush’ which has textured, dark green and light green leaves with raised pink ridges and orange flowers. While most aloes have upright spires of tubular flowers, some have softer heads of flowers (A. striata) and a few have pendulous flower heads (A. variegata and A. distans).
Aloes also look good in the Afro-Japanese garden or the desert garden. The rounded shrubby aloes such as the krantz aloe and Basuto kraal aloe are lovely in a tropical or Mediterranean-style garden. Try planting aloes along the pavement side of a boundary wall - they need very little care or water and their bold shapes will show up to perfection against a plain wall. All aloes make ideal rockery plants - site the stem aloes at the top of the rockery to show off their bold form.
Bedding plants will provide colour during the winter months. Remember to place tall-growing plants at the back of the bed, and low-growing ones at the front.
In a sunny border, try a yellow, white and blue colour scheme with marigolds, blue petunias and white pansies. Or fly the flag with black pansies, red snapdragons, blue lobelia, and just a touch of white and yellow!
The trailing growth habits of bacopa, lobelias, alyssum and petunias make them good plants for hanging baskets. Petunias interplanted with pansies in a harmonising colour and with a touch of white alyssum make a lovely container planting. The early spring osteospermum are also in flower. Look out for the yellow, white and lilac varieties.
For sunny parts in the garden and rockery ornamental kale, kalanchoe and indigenous members of the daisy family will give many days of bright colour. The African daisy (Namaqualand daisy), hybrid gazanias and arctotis are hardy and drought-resistant.
Shrubs for colour
There are loads of colourful winter flowering shrubs that can be planted in corners of the garden that need perking up. If you have a shady garden, consider the range of indigenous plectranthus. The decorative pink-spur plectranthus (Plectranthus fruticosus) will reach 2m in height. Look out for the various hybrids in shades of mauve, blue and pink.
If you are looking for an exotic blue spur flowers, look out for the Zulu spur flower (Plectranthus zuluensis) which flowers from October to June with a peak in April. Attractive cultivars of this species include ‘Oribi Gorge’ with light purple-blue flowers, ‘Sky’, a low-growing (1m) shrub with dark purple-blue flowers, and ‘Umgai’, a taller (2m) shrub with dark purple-blue flowers.
The most exciting of the plectranthus varieties is ‘Mona Lavender’, a hybrid bred at Kirstenbosch in the late 1990s. Mona Lavender has dark green, glossy leaves with intensely purple undersides with sprays of lavender flowers dashed with purple markings. Ideal for borders or in containers at entrances, on patios or as a balcony feature plant.
July is also a great time to replace old woody lavenders and rosemary with the latest range of young better-shaped bushes. Both are ideal for low hedges that divide up the garden into romantic rooms.
Finally, July is a great time for brightening up the garden with flowering pelargoniums. “No other South African group of plants has been welcomed, or contributed more to the world of gardening than the pelargonium, better known as geranium,” says local gardening writer, Joan Wright. Plant the ivy pelargonium varieties on slopes and use zonal pelargoniums for impact colour around patios and pools.