The so-called ‘bleakness of a midwinter garden’ is a total myth, as many plants (whether indigenous like aloes, or exotic like camellias), flower with abundance in winter. Pretty foliage reigns supreme too, as the colour spectrum of plants like conifers, coprosmas, nandinas and leucadendrons intensify spectacularly in cool temperatures.
Shades of green
Colour makes the world go around but green (a colour too!) grounds us to the goodness of Mother Earth giving us a sense of wellness and peace. Create a little “pause architecture” this month on your patio and indoors with soft décor items that have bold botanical prints, and lots of indoor trees such the narrow leaf fig (Ficus binnendijkii), fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata), weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) and the cute pseudo bonsai called Ginseng Ficus (Ficus retusa) – all of these are high fashion and very tough indoor plants, which anyone can keep alive, and which are the perfect gift for Father’s Day. All you have to do is to supply good light, a dust-free atmosphere and watering only when the soil has dried out completely, and they’ll do just fine.
Smart greens for mass planting
Add a permanent ‘wow’ factor to your garden with the following top sellers as recommended by GCA garden centres across the country:
Scotch moss (Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’) – a very popular grass alternative which forms a moss-like carpet with bright, neon yellow foliage. Very dainty white flowers appear in spring. Perfect for full sun and remember, it does not like to be too dry or too wet.
Braai rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Barbecue’) – Evergreen and with and upright growing habit and strong, straight stems which are perfect to use as skewers for the braai. The leaves have a remarkable flavour and aroma and the blue flowers appear in mass. Perfect for low hedges.
Tanika grass (Lomandra longifolia) – this tough and drought tolerant ornamental grass is evergreen with soft, fine foliage in a fresh green shade. Small yellow flowers appear in spring. It is frost resistant, enjoys sandy soil, and is a perfect companion plant to provide shade to, and cool others in a meadow garden. This highly recommended grass reaches a height and width of 60cm to 65cm. It’s perfect for mass planting in full sun or light shade.
Flax Lily (Dianella revoluta) – These compact, tuft-forming grass-likes, have blue-grey foliage and produce masses of purple flowers in summer. They prefer full sun, don’t require much water and need very good drainage. Perfect for mass planting in modern landscapes with a mature height and spread of only 30 – 40cm.
Rose care for June
June is a perfect month to take leave from your rose garden as the plants are dozing, needing very little care.
- Water once a week or once every two weeks.
- Folks in winter rainfall areas can still spray every two weeks against rust and blackspot.
- Feeding the plants in subtropical areas will encourage more flowers. Also spray against aphids.
- Plant new roses or replant old ones if necessary.
Fertiliser: Go shopping for fertiliser to feed your winter veggies. Your favourite GCA garden centre will be able to recommend the correct one for you.
Saving: Water retention products have become very important (if not critical!) to gardeners. The latest products include lightweight expanded clay aggregates. Other products are in the form of granules or powder, which can be worked into the soil to be of an advantage to the plant. Ask for them at your favourite GCA Garden Centre.
Super soils: The latest range of commercial potting soils contain peat and aqua plus (water saver) and are highly specialised growth mediums for citrus, bonsai, herbs, hydrangea pink and white, hydrangea blue, fynbos, orchids, cactus and succulents, roses, plus acid and universal blends. Make sure that you buy the right formulation for your special container plants.
Primroses (Primula Polyantha) or Fairy Primula (Primula malacoides) are synonymous with winter and spring gardens. These tough annuals grow quickly and easily in spots with semi-shade. They are ideal for mass planting amongst spring-flowering bulbs, for edging, or in containers. Dainty stems with white, rose, pink, lavender or purple flowers appear well above woolly bright green leaves. They reach a height of approximately 20 – 25cm.
Intensely cheerful and top trend!
The winter-flowering Persian violet (Exacum ‘Princess’) won’t stick around forever, but while it is there, it will capture your heart. It has a mounding growth habit and produces a cloud of purple, lavender blue, or pure white flowers with a delightful fragrance. Keep it in bright, indoor light and ensure that the soil is always moist. To keep a humid atmosphere around it, place the plants on a tray filled with a little water and some pebbles for the pots to stand on.
It is prime time for pretty cyclamens too. The silver marbled foliage perfectly sets of the bright and cheerful blooms, resembling dainty butterfly wings, and are available in a wide range of colours. Cyclamens prefer bright, indirect light. They are fussy about water – allow the plants to dry out between watering, but not to the wilting stage. Rather water gently from the bottom, than dousing the whole plant, to prevent rot. Clean up old leaves and spent blooms.
Time for beautiful lilies
The bulbs of all kinds of lily hybrids are for sale now and should be planted immediately after you have purchased them. Plant them in bold clumps between winter annuals or small shrubs and groundcovers to keep their ‘feet’ in the shade while allowing their ‘heads’ to grow into full sun. Hammer in some bamboo plant stakes next to the planting hole of each bulb to be able to stake them as they grow.
- You can start pruning deciduous fruit trees, like peaches and apricots, shrubs and trees for quality fruit, neatness and shape at the end of the month. Do not prune those that will flower in spring, like Cape May Bush (Spiraea), mock orange, ornamental prunus and bushveld bride (Dombeya rotundifolia).
- Regularly pinch back winter annuals like pansies, violas, and snapdragons to promote bushy growth and more flowers.
- Conifers grow actively in winter and can be lightly sheared to encourage denser foliage. This is the time (May to end Aug) when the conifer aphid is very active and it is best to drench the plants with a suitable insecticide which contains either Imidachloprid or thiamethoxam as active ingredients.
- Cut back ornamental veldt-like grasses such as pennisetum hybrids, muhly grass, Aristida juncea junciformis and zebra grasses.
Think about the birds
Top up bird baths regularly with fresh water and hang a few pine cones filled with a mix of peanut butter and bird seed amongst the branches of your trees. Also invest in a feeding table on which you can leave pieces of fruit for those feathered friends who love sweet stuff and might not find it from a natural source in the neighbourhood. If you are not sure how to go about attracting birds to your garden, visit your nearest GCA garden centre for advice.
- Plants that are dormant now, particularly deciduous plants, love to be planted at this time of the year, as it gives them time to settle in before re-wakening in spring. Plant new roses, vines and fruit trees and especially deciduous blossom trees like flowering peach, plum, cherry, quince and crab apple. The bees love their spring blossoms.
- Aloe times! Compact aloe hybrids bred by our own aloe experts, produce wonderful winter colour and fit into even the smallest garden. Look out for ‘Bushwhacker’, ‘Little Joker’, ‘Peri Peri’, ‘Porcupine’ and ‘Hedgehog’ at your local nurseries.
- Mini petunia (or Calibrachoa) is a close relative of the petunia with small, trumpet-shaped flowers in a stunning array of bright colours. These ‘new age’ hybrid’s claim to fame is its uniform and dense growth habit and cheerful flowering performance. Allow them to cascade beautifully in hanging baskets in a sunny spot and remember to water regularly.
- Don’t be tempted to play sports on a frosted lawn, as this encourages the growth of moss and algae.
- Water the lawn every two to three weeks if you do not have water restrictions and mow as needed.
- Keep Clivias fairly dry now as this will initiate flower spikes.
- Prune vines, plum and apricot trees at the end of June and spray with lime sulphur. Do not use last year’s supply as it will have lost its potency. Buy fresh stock and use only on plants that have become completely dormant.
- If there has been a bout of cold, dry wind, give your garden a deep drink early in the morning to allow the plants to dry off during the day. Winter-flowering plants and especially camellias and emerging bulbs must be watered regularly to for a long-lasting flower display.
- Bedding plants like primulas, pansies and poppies are starting to flower and need regular feeding.
- Protect tender leafy vegetables against the cold with frost cloth.
- Loose paving stones or bricks can be the cause of a bad fall. Go over these paved areas to replace broken pavers and also fix loose bricks.
- Focal plants like New Zealand flax (Phormium) and Cordyline are eye-catching in a winter landscape. Neaten them up by removing the old flower stalks and leaves.
- Palms will look much nicer too if you remove (where possible) their old leaves.
- In subtropical climes, you can feed paw-paw trees. Water them well before and afterwards. Lemon trees should also be given a feed (one should feed garden citrus trees four times a year in September, January, April and in June or July, and those in pots, more regularly with a foliar fertiliser). Correct yellowing leaves with a micro-element mixture.
- Watch out for winter grass (Poa annua), an annual weed which germinates on lawns in winter. It is normally visible as small clumps of bright green grass with fine brown seed heads, overwintering in damp, shady areas. Remove by hand or use a weed killer. If the problem isn’t too bad, leave some of these grass weeds with their seeds for the birds to feast on – they love it!
- Move veggies in containers to a spot where they can enjoy the best winter sun.
- If your gravel areas are smothered in weeds and the gravel keeps on disappearing into the soil, it might be a good idea to rake the stones onto a heap away from the area. Next, lay down a layer of weed matting – a strong membrane sold by the roll – which allows water and air through, while smothering germinating weed seed. This material also prevents gravel chips from sinking into the soil.