Happy holidays is the theme and sentiment this month across much of the world. December, for some, is a time for relaxing and taking in the beauty of their summer gardens, while for others it means time to have fun giving TLC to their indoor, patio and garden plants. It is exciting to spruce up the home, patio and garden during this season of family time. Ask your family for gardening gifts that you may have eyed at your local garden centre. Plants are living gifts that will last for years in the garden – the type of gift that keeps on giving! Life is a Garden, so get the family in on it too!
Add some zing to your cuisine these holidays with the following herbs:
Mint: A sprig of mint foliage is currently an all-the-rage addition to mojito cocktails, gin, other home-made cordials, as well as other trendy sundowners. Mint has very fragrant leaves with a fruity, aromatic taste.
This easy-to-grow groundcover prefers well-drained soils and good, regular watering. They are prized in the kitchen and as a landscaping plant in the garden.
There are many mints to choose from, here are some popular ones:
- Spearmint for savoury dishes
- Peppermint for desserts
- Apple mint for drinks
- Chocolate mint with liquors
- Garden mint in salads, with lamb, peas, zucchini, fresh beans, marinades, fruit salads, cold soups, cheese and more.
Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to see these and other mints available.
Tip: For those of you that like spicy dishes there is even a “Hot mint”, which is also called Vietnamese coriander.
Neat to know: Young leaves are tastier than old leaves. The key to keeping the plant healthy will be to harvest sprigs regularly to stimulate new young shoots.
Did you know?: Although best eaten fresh, sprigs can be left for a few days in water, mint leaves can be frozen or air-dried.
Rosemary: A favourite herb! Many of us would use much more rosemary in our food if we had a plant or two growing in the garden. Rosemary can be used in a multitude of dishes including roast vegetables, poultry, lamb, stews and soups. In addition, this herb also adds a lovely savoury flavour to vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Tip: Use sprigs of rosemary fresh or hang up bunches and allow them to air-dry and then store them in an airtight container in the cupboard.
Neat to know: Rosemary is a beautiful evergreen shrub with blue flowers. There is the unusual prostate Rosmarinus officinalis ‘McConnell’s Blue’ and the upright Rosmarinus Tuscan Blue or braai rosemary.
Dill: Dill Anethum graveolens is a landscaping winner due to its fine feathery texture. It is a favourite in European and Asian cuisines and a must when paired with fish on the braai. Dill is commonly used to enhance the flavour of salmon, potatoes, stews, soups, with green beans and yoghurt-based sauces, and for pickling. Try adding some dill to your next summer salad and enjoy a little exotic taste!
Tip: Sow seeds every few weeks into early summer. In this way, if you are planting dill to use for pickling, you will have an on-going supply for when you harvest the veg you wish to pickle!
Something amazing! Dill is a host plant for the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly and also attracts beneficial insects like wasps and other predatory insects to your garden. Dill for the win!
Elf on the shelf
Let’s go gardening with Elfie:
Poinsettia hammocks: Take two poinsettias and sling a DIY hammock between their pots. Elfie can use this to relax and enjoy watching you and the family during the holidays (while also keeping an eye out for naughty behaviour).
Harvesting your watermelons: Yes, if you sowed your seed early, you should have watermelon ready to be picked, hooray! Hello, healthy dessert for Elfie and all!
Climbing up Amaryllis: Let Elfie see how far up the flowering stalk of your Amaryllis he can climb. Apparently, he’s quite an agile fella!
Dare to be different this Christmas
Everyone is welcome at Christmas, regardless of religious affiliations, and even if you simply enjoy the sentiment of gift-giving, there is a tree for you! Besides, what’s more awesome than enjoying the look on your child and loved one’s face when you finally nailed it! There are both large and small artificial and living Christmas trees to choose from. We don’t always need to choose a traditional Christmas tree, so let’s have a look at some of the options:
- The indigenous bushveld gardenia (Gardenia volkensii) is a shrub with glossy green foliage and an interesting, arching branching pattern. Sweetly-scented white flowers open at night with attractive egg-shaped fruit. They are slow-growing and therefore wonderful focal plants for small gardens, patio pot plants or even as bonsai specimens.
- Henkel’s yellowwood (Podocarpus henkelii) is an indigenous tree with dark green needle-like drooping leaves and a fairly pyramidal shape, making it a popular choice as a multi-purpose tree.
- For those of you that prefer a smaller, table-top tree, the gold crest conifer or Cupressus ‘Gold Crest’,is a striking indoor or patio Christmas tree that can later be planted out into a sunny spot in the garden or left to grow in a pot for next year. They enjoy a sunny spot in the garden or patio.
Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to view the various Christmas trees available. You may even be surprised to find tree lights and décor at some of them.
Get creative these holidays
There are many plants that are very useful to make your own fresh décor with. Here are a few easy tips for those finishing holiday spirit touches that’ll certainly impress your guests. family and may make you the envy of your friends:
- Use the pliable branch ends of our indigenous willow (Salix mucronate) to make a beautiful fresh wreath. Decorate it with pinecones or Christmas décor as a door wreath or eye-catching table centrepiece.
- The foliage from leylandii conifers (Cupressus leylandii) or butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) and geraldton wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum) are also great to use as floral décor of any kind. You can make floral arrangements as table runners, candle wreath décor, or add Christmas décor to them.
If you don’t have these plants in your garden, then take a trip to your local GCA Garden Centre. Remember that once you plant them you will have a constant source of fresh plant décor from the growing plant.
What’s cracking at your GCA Garden Centre?
Make good use of the holidays and day trip to your local GCA Garden Centre. Keep an eye out for new colours and varieties of pretty perennials like:
- Achillea (yarrow) with its fine fern-like foliage and waves of flat multi-blooms.
- Cape fuchsia (Phygelius capensis) is an indigenous “shady lady” that looks shy due to her gorgeous clusters of hanging trumpet-looking flowers.
- Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) is regal and attention-grabbingly tall, ideal for that damp spot in the garden.
- Penstemon is an easy-to-grow perennial that is so rewarding with stunning flowering spires.
- Daisies (Argyranthemum) nowadays are so compact and remarkably peppered with hundreds of buds and flowers on one plant – that’s what we call them flower power!
Tip: As with most new things, new plant varieties are often superior to their predecessors in a range of different ways, such as being more disease resistant, flowering for longer, producing larger blooms, or even a new flower colour. Don’t be shy to ask your local GCA Garden Centre salesman to show you all the new plants they have in stock for the season, you won’t regret it!
Let’s assess, yes?
December is an ideal time to consider new directions in the home or garden. You can begin implementing changes and improvements while you are still on holiday, or you can carry them over as New year’s resolution.
Are you getting the best from your garden? Consider who uses the garden the most and what you use the space for. Are you utilising your lawn and planting beds? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
- Do you have enough lawn for the kids to play cricket on or for your fur-babies to frolic? Lawns give the garden that wholesome “green” feeling and allow for lots of fun and games in the garden, especially when the family comes together. No kids, no pets? Well, then perhaps you should consider a low maintenance gravel garden instead of a time-consuming lawn.
- Could you fit a treehouse for the kids, an outdoor dolls house, or a fort? You could decorate the area with fun garden ornaments, a little bridge perhaps, or even get the kids to plant bright flowers and easy-to-grow veggies.
- Is it time to think about healthy living and extend your edible garden into the main garden? Absolutely! Adding veg like cabbage and spinach into your garden beds makes quite an impact! Olive trees and dwarf citrus lollipop trees are also very trendy in place of ornamentals. Having more veg also means more to cook with AND more to give away to other hungry tummies in need.
- Is there a spot in the garden that waiting for a cosey bench or hammock? A spot in the shade for reading or facing the sunset for lekker sundowners chats? Ready-made garden arches and cute gazebos are also available to create an intimate garden room feel in both small and large gardens.
- How about a place for a fire pit? Marshmallow braais, a little drumming and singing under the African sky, and some storytelling and laughs between friends – now that’s what we’re talking about!
- There’s nothing to match the tranquil and soothing sound of a water feature. Is there a space you’ve always wanted to transform? A little aquatic touch will defiantly do the garden justice. Your local GCA Garden Centre has plenty of models for you to choose from.
Tip: A simple coat of paint on your inner garden walls can have a huge influence on the atmosphere in your garden. A dark olive or dark green paint can make the walls seem to disappear.
Have fun with family and friends in your garden this December! Treasure every moment as though your Life is a Garden, and plant flowers and food wherever you go.