November in the Garden

Summer is about colour – everywhere! Old favourites are in full bloom so you need more of them. The best news is the availability of modern dwarf hybrids of many perennials and edibles, which can be planted and enjoyed in the smallest of spaces!

On trend – containering

Container gardening is gaining popularity by the day and what’s not to love about it?

  • you can garden in small spaces – even indoors;
  • you can take your garden with you if you move home;
  • you can change your garden according to the seasons or if you get bored with it;
  • you have perfect control over the soil
  • from the traditional and pretty decorative pots, to gumboots and repurposed wooden pallets, the variety of different containers you can use is endless.

GCA garden centres are stocked to the rafters with everything you need to really get stuck into containering – you will find top quality soil mediums, a wide range of pots, drainage chips, suitable plants in variety, (very few plants are not conducive to growing in pots in any case!), water soluble fertilisers, water retention products and very decorative mulches. (Pssst… Coming into the festive season, look out for red and green-coloured mulches!)

You can feed yourself royally from pots

Plant blueberries, strawberries and Cape gooseberries in large pots. Look out at garden centres for ‘The Patio’ range of veggies like ‘Roma’ (a container tomato), a mini-butternut called ‘Honeynut’, and the golden zucchini ‘Easy Pick’.

To health with blueberries!

They say that the blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is one of the world’s super foods due to a high concentration of antioxidants, and luckily for us, good blueberry varieties are now readily available – just in time for those scrumptious summer smoothies. Plant them in full sun in a space which will allow for a mature height of 1,5m and a spread of up to 2m wide. You can however, also plant them in a large pot. Blueberries like moist, acidic soil so mulch them with acid compost or pine needles, and feed them with a fertiliser formulated for blue hydrangeas.   

Smart planting

Brachyscome Fresco Candy – tons of bright magenta blooms cover these mounded plants all season long. ‘Fresco Candy’ is ideal for containers and garden beds. The plants are sensitive to overwatering, and for optimal performance, can be fed with a slow release fertiliser to encourage blooming. Plant these beauties in full sun. They reach a height of between 15 to 30cm and width of 15 to 20cm.

Petite and huge blooming beauty – dwarf Inca lilies are magnificent for the garden and suitable to grow in containers too, as they reach a height of only 30-35cm. They flower profusely from spring to autumn and can be found in a wide range of bright colours. These shorty’s can, just like their taller family members, be picked as long-lasting cut flowers.

Hydrangeasbrighten up shady areas with glorious hydrangeas, which will now be available in flower. Colour in between them with impatiens, begonias and browallia. Hydrangeas love dappled shade, rich loamy soil and lots of water. If you want to grow them in pots, place them on the Southern side of the house for early morning sun and afternoon shade.

Plant camels for a dry garden

The following waterwise beauties are recommended by your GCA nurserymen:

Yucca ‘Sapphire Skies’ – the striking, narrow, stiff, baby blue leaves are shorter than others of the species, and form a dense crown atop an elegant single trunk. Use as a bold architectural element in containers or waterwise borders. A showy spike of white flowers emerges at maturity. Evergreen.

Plumbago Royal Cape – huge clusters of vivid deep blue flowers cover this sprawling, vine-like shrub most of the year. It is a reliable evergreen and can be used as a groundcover, bank cover or container plant in frost-free areas.

New Zealand Rock Lily (Arthropodium cirratum) – the New Zealand Rock lily is well-known not only as a perfect shade plant, but also as an excellent coastal plant. This is a clump-forming, herbaceous perennial. It has soft, lush, lime green foliage which brings form and colour to any garden bed. The strap-like leaves surround masses of delicate, starry white flowers which occur on a flower spike approximately 60cm in height, and in abundance in late spring to summer. This is a hardy and maintenance free plant.

Statice (Limonium perezii) – an evergreen perennial that forms a rosette of large, leathery leaves. It grows in the sun in most soils as long as it is well drained. It is drought tolerant once established, but needs regular watering when newly planted. This is a reliable low maintenance plant. You only need to remove the old foliage to keep the plant tidy and looking good. The Statice plant flowers year-round but has more flowers in spring and summer. It has large clusters of bi-colour blooms on stems ranging from 15-60cm tall. These flowers are purple-blue and white and have a papery feel to them. The flowers last forever and are excellent cut flowers – both fresh and dried, as they retain their colour. Remove the old flowers to encourage new flowers to develop. Butterflies and bees love the flowers.

Hardy bedding bestie – Portulaca!

Portulaca grandiflora varieties are annual succulents flowering their hearts out in summer to autumn. They mature at around 15cm in height and 30-40cm in width. The reddish coloured stems are prostrate and green cylindrical leaves are arranged in clusters around the stem and pointed at the ends. Both the stems and leaves are thick and fleshy.

The flowers, formed at the tips of the stems, are rose-like in appearance and have either single, semi-double or double petals. The colours tend to be bright such as scarlet, orange, yellow, pink and white, although there are some cultivars that have been bred to have a more pastel palette.

The best uses for this plant include the following: in a rockery, between stepping stones as groundcover, or in a hanging basket. The trailing habit of this plant makes for an ideal companion in containers, as it will spill over the edges magnificently. Portulaca enjoy sandy, well-draining soil and a hot, sunny position.

Mozzie busters

Mosquitoes are attracted to body odour, and repellents work by masking the body’s scent to keep mosquitoes at a distance, especially if they don’t like the smell. That is why the leaves of some aromatic herbs work so well. To be effective, however, it is necessary to rub the leaves onto the skin, because it releases their fragrance and leaves the oils on the skin. Try these in pots on your patio:

Lemon balm has lemon-scented leaves which keep all biting insects away. It does best in full sun.

Citronella geranium has a strong fragrance. This hardy perennial grows 80cm high and wide in full sun. Bruise the leaves to release the fragrance. 

Sweet basil is not a favourite for mozzies. Rub fresh leaves on your skin as a repellent. The leaves also have an antiseptic action which relieves itching from bites or stings. Basil, especially perennial basil, repels flies too.

Roses for all…

If you want to add more roses to your garden, plant the favourites which gardeners all over love: ‘South Africa’, ‘Kissing Ayoba’, ‘Red Ayoba’, ‘Pearl of Bedfordview’, ‘Purple Glow’ and ‘Germiston Gold’.

Bug patrol

Infestations of red and two spotted spidermite have the following symptoms: Fine, pale mottling with small reddish or two spotted mites on the underside of leaves and stem. In severe cases, a fine silk web will be apparent and leaves lose their green colour. Leaves fall off and such weakened plants may die. Treat with an oil based insecticide.

Remember Diwali, the festival of lights and delight

This festival is celebrated by our Hindu friends on November 7th and if you want to give a perfect gift as a token of life and remembrance, make it a Money Tree (Pachira aquatica), otherwise known as a Malabar chestnut. This is an elegant plant to grow indoors in bright, indirect sunlight.

Bro’s growing in the air!

Airplants (Tillandsias) are part of the epiphytic bromeliads which live off moisture and nutrients in the air. Their roots are insignificant and the hard leaves are mostly grey or white and covered in small scales, which absorb water and food. Probably the most well-known air plant is Spanish moss or old man’s beard (Tillandsia usneoides), often seen hanging like grey curtains from tree branches. But, there are more than 400 species of these very collectable plants which are so easy to grow. Buy some at your local GCA nursery and display them on pieces of bark on your patio.   

Food for the wild ones

Keep on planting for birds, bees and butterflies. Wild dagga, (Leonotis leonurus) September bush (Polygala myrtifolia), Egyptian star (Pentas lanceolata) and the wonderful Buddleja ‘Buzz’ range of dwarf butterfly bushes are highly recommended to make your garden come alive!

Inland gardening
(Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)

  • Plant some Eucomis bulbs now for a spectacular show of pineapple-like flowers in late summer.
  • It is prime time for hydrangeas, gardenias and fuchsias. If yours are not at their best, feed them with a water soluble fertiliser and renew the mulch around them.
  • Plant out a fresh crop of sweet basil and also sow some seeds to ensure lots of these aromatic leaves for summer salads and pasta dishes. Remove all flowers as they appear to ensure good quality leaves, and to stop the plants from setting seed.  

  • Prune jasmines, banksia roses, deutzias, and spiraeas after they’ve flowered.
  • Prune lightly those shrubs suffering from hail damage, and treat preventatively with a fungicide.
  • Prune azaleas for neatness after flowering. Then give them a feed, water and mulch to help them set buds for the next flowering season.
  • Prune ivy geraniums after a first flower flush. Keep on feeding them regularly to encourage another flower flush.
  • Beware the lily borer (a black caterpillar with yellow bands) which bores into the hearts of Clivias, Agapanthus and Arum lilies. Signs of activity are decaying leaves and dying plants. Treat early or preventively with a registered insecticide containing pyrethrum or pyrethroid

Coastal gardening
(Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)

  • Fynbos like buchus, leucospermums, ericas, and proteas can be pruned after flowering. Also prune confetti bushes quite hard.
  • Stop lavenders like Lavandula stoechas from becoming woody, by pruning them just after a flowering spell – this will keep them healthy and around for longer. Prune about two thirds of the growth away, and never into old wood.
  • Keep emerging summer bulbs moist and start feeding them with bulb fertiliser as soon as their leaves begin unfolding.   
  • Stake tall perennials to stop them from toppling in strong wind.  
  • Visit your nearest GCA nursery for all the latest agapanthus varieties to add to your collection. It is also a good month to plant star jasmines, hibiscus, carnations, aquilegias, rudbeckias, echinaceas (coneflowers), gardenias and bougainvilleas.  

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