Gardening for love!
Gardeners love nothing more than to be busy about the business of growing plants and we relish every moment we can devote to the love affair that is our garden.
We all know how to spoil our loved ones with beautiful red roses on the specific day of love in February but how, in this Valentine’s month, can we share our passion with others around us?
Love the planet
What better way to show love for our planet than to practise water-wise gardening? There are many effective ways to save water – rain water tanks, soaker hoses, irrigation systems, and lots more – and a rain garden is surely one of the most beautiful ways of all to conserve water.
Rain gardens do require some initial digging and they also require some important observation of the garden areas and surrounding buildings during the wet season to see where runoff and down pipe water pools – or where runoff water could easily be trapped and collected. The idea is that a large shallow hollow is dug and landscaped near where storm water collects, or where storm water flows away across an area of the garden. The bowl-type area – which is then planted up with flowers and shrubs – will catch and hold this excess flow of rain water for a day or two as it gently soaks away into the slightly sunken garden.
Plant the rain garden with plants like arum lilies, that don’t mind wet feet for a few days, in the middle, wettest part. Plant other more drought resistant plants like day lilies and alstroemeria outwards towards the higher and dryer edges of the bowl. The dug out soil can be placed to ridge along one side of the rain garden, and planted as a rockery or with succulent plants that need particularly good drainage. If the rain garden is sited in a shady area, you could fill it with a variety of plectranthus plants. This water-loving, yet drought-resistant, genus is an absolute treasure in the autumn garden when these tall, medium and low growing plants flower in showy masses of white, pink and purple.
Love the neighbourhood
Create a garden outside your property gates to share some beauty with neighbours and other passers by. Indigenous plants are easy to grow, easily maintained and usually thrive in local climates. Fast-growing Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) planted against the boundary wall or fence will soon form a screen and serve as the backdrop to your pavement garden. It flowers in all shades of yellow, orange, coral and red and is a great magnet for butterflies and bird life! Include one or two insect attracting plumbago shrubs into the backdrop for white or blue flowers that the insect eating birds also love. If there’s a tree nearby, the plumbago will soon scramble up into that too. For the foreground, and for year-round colour, plant a selection of proteas, brunias, agapanthus, dietes, succulents and aloes. Your nearest accredited garden centre will advise just which plants will thrive best in your area.
You can also grow vegetables and herbs in your pavement garden. Leafy spinaches, tasty basil, sprawling squashes, and rambling baby tomato plants look good and are great for passing pedestrians to treat themselves to small shares of the crop – this certainly will inspire others to grow edible gardens too!
Love new gardening friends
Many garden centres offer a coffee shop or restaurant facilities. Start, or join a garden-enthusiasts club and make a commitment to meet at your local garden centre once a month to enjoy light refreshments in beautiful, inspiring surroundings.
Plan these gatherings to be informal chats about highlights of your gardening month and to share gardening tips and suggestions for new planting and maintenance ideas. Before you leave, stroll around the gardening centre to see what’s new and what’s hot, sign up for an interesting talk, a flower display or pruning demonstration scheduled for hosting by the garden centre – there’s usually lots on offer.
Return home every month stimulated, invigorated and with a couple of new plants and lots of fresh ideas to try in your own garden.
Love near and dear
Share your love of gardening by bringing living gifts of plants to family and friends on every festive occasion. Easy to care for pot plants are a wonderful way to introduce the love of plants to others, and fragrant gardenia in a pot can stand at the door of an apartment balcony or in a tiny enclosed patio as it scents the summer air. Carex hachijoensis is a graceful flowing grassy plant that pretends to be a waterfall cascading over the edges of a container indoors or on a shaded stoep.
Bring gardening to an elderly or physically-challenged loved one to table-top gardening through the art of bonsai. Japanese maple is readily available from good garden centres and the fine leaves and relatively fast growth habit make it attractive and rewarding for the new or old enthusiast to work with. Maple also works well to create bonsai landscapes, complete with tiny bridges and figurines, as well as many-treed bonsai ‘forests’.
Sometimes it’s just right to love yourself and to treat yourself to that amazing ‘toy’ that will help take your gardening to another level. Think about a hot house.
There’s an amazing array of uses for which a green house or hot house can be used for in the home garden. They’re available from a few clip-together sections just enough to be attached to an outside wall with space for a cushioned chair and a shelf to create a tiny winter-time sunroom for both the gardener and tender plants.
Hot houses are also the first step to a focussed interest on climate sensitive collections of plants such as orchids and ferns. They’re great to get spring seedlings started early in the season and to grow tender plants and vegetables over an extended period of time. In South Africa’s climate, greenhouses are fitted with air vents in the sides and roof to accommodate our summer temperatures and, of course, the enclosed environment makes for very water wise growing!