Fynbos on the patio for winter rain regions Industry Expert Q&A

august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity

Topic: Fynbos and friends
Theme: Biodiversity and fynbos beds/containers for winter rainfall regions
Industry Expert Garden Centre: Arnelia Nurseries - https://arnelia.co.za/  

 

If you are a gardener living in a winter rainfall region – this Q and A with Arnelia Nurseries is your next must-read. Learn how to perfect your fynbos beds, utilise natural predators for pest control,  successfully grow in containers, and find out which top plants are suited for your area.

1.Out of all our stunning South African plants, what makes fynbos stand out for you?  

 Fynbos generally is adaptable and with an understanding and appreciation of the basic growing requirements, one is assured of success and a great deal of pleasure.  The variation in colours, foliage, heights, and the potential use of so many different varieties make fynbos in the garden a must-have.   

august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity
august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity

2. We love the fact that your nursery specialises in Proteaceae varieties. Could you please tell us about the biodiversity benefits of growing these indigenous plants? What kind of wildlife visitors do you get the most of on your farm?  

The Cape Floristic region is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world and Proteaceae are the flagship of the Cape Flora. I think getting people to grow these indigenous plants in their gardens allows them to bring a piece of the famous Cape Flora home and hopefully create more awareness of the wonderful biodiversity that exists on our doorstep. Beyond creating awareness, planting fynbos has the benefit of attracting indigenous wildlife. On our farm, we have a lot of sunbirds as there is always something in flower to keep them interested. It is really special to see. Growing these plants in the city creates a space for all the animals, birds and insects to flourish where they would usually have no habitat and stay hidden. Fynbos helps to conserve and maintain our amazing biodiversity.   

 

3. To sustainably protect our wildlife, do you have any eco-friendly pest control suggestions for gardeners looking to begin a fynbos growing journey and are there any specific pests they should be looking out for?  

Usually, having a garden with a large variety of different indigenous plants attracts a wide range of birds and insects to your garden. Having a wide range of insects and birds usually brings with it natural predators that will help control the pests in your garden. So, the best pest control advice is to let nature sort itself out. The biggest pest and disease issue with fynbos plants is probably root rot diseases. These are generally quite widespread in soils. Unfortunately, there is no cure for root rot diseases so it usually doesn’t help dumping a whole lot of fungicide into the soil, hoping to cure a sick plant. Often root rot issues are more a problem where people tend to overwater their plants or in areas where the soil does not drain well. So generally, not overwatering a plant will create a plant that is much tougher and resistant to other pest and disease issues. 

 

august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity
august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity

4. As your nursery is based on the West Coast, which receives winter rain, could you please recommend your top five fynbos varieties to grow in beds and what makes them stand out plants for you?   

Fynbos is very diverse and has so much to offer in foliage, colour, texture, flowers, and even fragrant foliage.  If you plan your garden correctly, you can attract a variety of wildlife, have colour straight through the year and a waterwise garden all in one.  There are so many varieties to name because they all have their special attributes to offer. 

Some of our favourite varieties in no specific order: 

Leucadendron Harlequin 

Protea Little Prince 

Leucospermum High Gold 

Aulux Bronze Haze 

Agathosmas (Buchu) 

august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity
august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity

5. If you had to design a glamour-inspired fynbos bed for beginner gardeners (in winter rainfall areas), which plants would you suggest and how would you arrange them? Are there any specific growing hacks to support the success of such a bed? 

Taking into account how much space you have available:  

Back:  Leucadendron Safari Sunset and Burgundy Sunset. 

Middle: Leucospermum Ayoba Pink, Calypso Red and Ayoba Red.  

Filler plants:  Erica abietina, sparmanii, cerinthoides  

Scented plants: Agathosma cilliaris and apiculata or Leucospermum Sweet Lucy 

Groundcover:  Leucospermum Hullabaloo 

 

In winter rainfall areas, proteas are best planted out into the garden and into permanent containers in autumn (April and May), once cool, moist weather has definitely set in. Before planting, the chosen site should be cleared of all growth and individual holes (at least 40cm deep) prepared for each plant. At planting, don’t add any bone meal or other forms of phosphorous or compost to the planting hole. Any organic material with high levels of phosphorous or a high pH should be avoided 

The recommended planting distance is 0.65m for species that attain a maximum height of 2m and those exceeding 2m are planted at a distance of 1m. Smaller species, such as Agathosma and Serruria can be planted 0.5m apart. After removal from the pot, be sure to place the plant at the same level it was in the container and disturb the roots as little as possible. Firm the soil around each plant and water well.  

In summer rainfall areas, proteas are best planted out immediately after the frost period has passed (in August and September) while the air is still cool. Proteas like to be planted in groups providing mutual support during strong winds. Keep the soil cool with mulch such as pine needles that will add to the acidity of your soil. 

august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity
august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity

6. Are there any advantages of growing a fynbos specific bed? What would be a motivator to inspire gardeners to start one?  

Members of the protea family are essentially social plants, although there are some exceptions. Many of the species growing in their natural habitat occur in close proximity to one another, forming close-knit communities. The individual plants protect one another from prevailing winds and form a dense cover that prevents compaction, keeps the soil cool, and reduces the rate of evaporation. In cultivation, growing Proteaceae in association with other fynbos plants such as buchus, ericas, phylicas and restios, creates a pleasing effect and lengthens the life of plants. Most fynbos plants are relatively short-lived in cultivation and have to be replaced from time to time.  Proteaceae have the same watering needs, soil requirements and general care so would be best to keep them all together. 

august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity
august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity

7. Are there any fynbos and protea varieties that are particularly suited for container growing? Do you have any advice for patio planting to share?  

Yes, there are many varieties that do well as container plants.  Things to remember are that the plants are not able to look for their own water or food.  Always choose a container that will be big enough for the plant when it is fully grown.  Always cut the plants back after flowering to keep them short, compact, and disease-free. This will also promote flowers for the next season.  Before planting make sure the container is in the correct spot as it might be troublesome to move afterwards. 

Arnelia’s favourite container plants per Genus:
Leucospermums: Ayoba Red, Ayoba Pink, Calypso Red, and Sweet Lucy 

Proteas: Little Prince and Roupe 

Leucadendrons: Senorita, Red Devil, Harvest, Harlequin, and Amy 

Ericas: Abietina, Fairy Bells, Cerenthoides, Sparmanii, and Serruiras (Blushing Brides)

august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity
august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity

8. Are there any other general handy hacks and maintenance practices you could share with our gardeners?  

It is important to plant your fynbos in full sun. It is well-known that especially Leucospermum fails to flower if planted in complete shade. Those from the winter rainfall area require excellent air circulation and cool nights and cannot tolerate high humidity in summer. 

A soil with more than 30% clay in the top-and sub-soil is not recommended for the planting of most Proteaceae even though species of Proteaceae also grow on Bokkeveld shale, which has a high clay content, but generally in cultivation fynbos don’t survive in heavy clay media, and in such conditions, one needs to plant on slopes or create soil mounds into which acid compost has been thoroughly mixed; the addition of gypsum will assist in separating the clay particles.  Remember Proteaceae takes about 18months to establish and in that time need regular deep water depending on the weather more in summer and less in the winter due to the rain. 

When you cut your plants back always make sure you sterilise your secateurs, especially if cutting a plant with a disease as this is how most things spread in the garden. 

august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity
august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity

The team from Arnelia Nurseries have certainly spoiled us with so much fynbos wisdom. Head down to your GCA Garden Centre and see which of their plant recommendations are ready to come home with you. While you are there, check out the birdbaths and critter houses for sale in preparation for your wildlife visitors. You can also access our GCA Garden Centre locator here: https://www.lifeisagarden.co.za/category/garden-centres/  

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