Will this year be the year you slow down and smell the roses? Will you carve out some space to savour your life’s journey and to touch base with nature? Sharing your world with plants is surely the best way to find and maintain a healthy, balanced life and a visit to an accredited garden centre will yield any number of ideas to inspire you.
A shaded garden is a retreat from the heat of summer and also a refuge from the stresses of a busy lifestyle. Perhaps a beautiful old tree has grown so well that the lawn and other plants are now struggling in the soil underneath it? Raised beds or containers filled with top quality potting soil, a hammock or reading chair and, of course, the right plants will transform the space into a restful glade. While green is marvellous to evoke a sense of refreshing coolness, shade gardens need not be limited to foliage plants – many plants will flower happily in dappled shade.
Euphorbia hypericifolia is covered with a mass of dainty white flowers on slender stems from spring to the end of autumn, even in partial shade. It can survive heat and dry conditions, but not frost, so bring plants indoors for the winter. Team this rewarding plant with bedding impatiens to add a little fizz to your peaceful shade area.
Agapanthus and alstroemeria plants are water-wise, easy to grow, and thrive in the shade, but flower best in sunshine. This makes them perfectly suited to partially shaded edges of the shade garden, where their long flower stems can head outwards to bask in the sun. There are a few rather different agapanthus species and your garden centre will advise on the best for your part of the country. Like agapanthus, alstroemerias (also known as Peruvian or Inca lilies) make great cut flowers. They flower profusely, and in such a wide range of colour combinations that it’s difficult to decide which to include.
Of course, not all leaves are green. Coleus plants are renowned for the fascinating colours (reds, yellows, pinks, purples and creams), colour combinations and colour patterns of their leaves. They thrive in the shade and will transform a circle of raised beds around a tree into a rich oriental carpet of colour for the summer.
An open, mixed-plant type garden that includes easy-going, butterfly- and bird-attracting plants, is a joyful, uplifting place to be. The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is celebrating 100 years of protecting our floral heritage and we can join the party by including some of these wonderful plants in our gardens.
Brunia albiflora, with its coffee scented flowers, will flourish in a sunny meadow-like space. White flowers appear above the dark green foliage from late summer through autumn – just give it a little protection from frost in the cold areas.
Is there anything more South African than proteas? Red and pink proteas and flame-shaded pincushions (Leucospermum) are spectacular in the vase – fresh or dried – and hybrids have been developed especially for home garden cultivation. Staff at accredited garden centres will know which varieties are best for your particular garden’s conditions.
What is a meadow without a rose or two? Include firm favourites like Iceberg, Just Joey or Double Delight, or consider old-time Heritage roses for something different. Daylilies too, thrive in every part of the country, love our sunshine, and lift the spirits with their continuous production of richly shaded flowers.
An absorbing, creative, hobby helps clear the mind of everyday cares and brings a sense of perspective back into one’s life. Let’s look at collecting…
Scented leaf pelargoniums have hybridised into hundreds of varieties of fragrance, leaf shape and flower colours. They’re easy to grow and collect, and scent adds an important dimension to the enjoyment of plants. Leaves can be harvested for any number of old-time home uses such as pot-pourri, linen freshening sachets (remember ouma’s tussie-mussies?), scented candles, bath sachets and hand creams. In the kitchen, whip up delights like rose-geranium after-dinner fondants, peppermint-geranium iced-tea, and apple- or spice-scented muffins.
Succulents also lend themselves to the passion of collecting. Strangely shaped crassulas, rosette-form sempervivums in shades of red and green, echeveria in grey and pink rosettes, and the huge variety of sedums – they come in so many different shapes, sizes and colours that it soon becomes impossible to resist scouring garden centres everywhere for that ‘just one new one’. Succulents generally grow slowly and thrive on the neglect of an owner with a busy career. They’re also ideal for creating miniature gardens – as small as a shallow bowl – for those who have an inner landscape designer waiting to be unleashed.
Living plants trap and use carbon dioxide and pollutants and give off the oxygen which humans need to live. Plants in the home or office make these much healthier and more invigorating places to spend your time. Good garden centres stock containers and plants to suit every decorating scheme, and staff will offer advice on different plants’ light and air requirements and how they can be used.
Bright window areas are often good places to grow more traditionally ‘outdoor’ plants and hanging baskets add vertical interest without taking up surface space. Hook indoor baskets in a sheltered place on the patio or balcony to treat them to the occasional ‘outing’. Try mixed plantings of, for example, petunias and alyssum to enjoy, close up, the delicate flowers and fragrances. The rambling growing habit of these plants makes them particularly attractive, flowing over and down from a hanging container.
Euphorbia hypericifolia and Coleus are also great indoor plants. Spacious, well-lit atrium, entrance or entertainment areas, are perfectly complemented with a large container and tall accent plant. One variety of Cordyline banksii has attention-grabbing pink and purple striped leaves and if it outgrows its position, can easily be relocated to the patio or shade garden.