Quick colour for the holidays

Enjoy entertaining this holiday season in a beautiful and colourful summer garden.

If you are at home these summer holidays, there are quick ways to perk up your garden. If time is limited, focus on the entrance to your home, on paths and beds nearest the house, and on the patio. Visit your local garden centre and select trays of seedlings or bagged plants already showing blooms that will provide you with stunning colour within a short space of time.


The Entrance

Welcome your visitors with pots of brightly coloured flowers. Pots can be different sizes and shapes, but group them together for greater impact. If the entrance is sunny, choose from marigold, salvia, nicotiana, petunia and vinca, with trailing lobelia and alyssum to soften the edges of pots. The Madeira series of Marguerite daisies (argyranthemums) are compact growing and very floriferous, making them ideal for containers.



Plants suitable for shady entrances include hydrangeas in half barrels or large pots, and in smaller pots, fuchsias, bedding begonia, New Guinea impatiens and the wishbone flower (torenia), summer’s answer to the pansy. Torenias are compact (30cm) bushes with dainty flowers of blue, purple or pink with yellow throats, suitable for edgings, beds, hanging baskets and window boxes.

Near the House

Buy bags and pots of flowering annuals and perennials in flower and plant them in gaps in the border. If time is running out, then simply drop the bags into the gaps, but remember to water bags regularly in dry weather.

Bushes of Marguerite daisies (argyranthemums) in flower are useful for filling gaps. Instead of planting singly, plant close together in groups of three. White Shasta daisies, agapanthus in white and shades of blue, and day lilies are great companions in a border.

Alstroemerias (Inca lilies) are beautiful perennials with a long flowering period and a choice of many colours. Taller varieties will need staking. ‘Princess’ alstroemerias are compact growing and useful for edging beds and for containers. They are attractive grown with day lilies and roses in similar shades.

Plant flowering seedlings closer than the recommended spacing for an immediate effect and use them imaginatively. Instead of a single row, three rows of dwarf yellow marigolds will make an eye-catching broad ribbon of colour alongside a path or as an edging to a border. Or you could weave rusty-red, bronze and gold marigolds of similar height to make a rich and colourful carpet.

Alyssum, a favourite of bees, spreads sweetly scented carpets of white, pastel pink, lavender, violet and purple flowers in six weeks from seed. For even quicker results plant alyssum seedlings. Alyssum needs a sunny position, as do gazanias. These hardy plants come in red, orange, pink, yellow, cream and white and are suitable for beds, pots and rockeries.


If you like vibrant and bold colours and plants that withstand heat, you can’t do better than light up the border with bold groups of celosia with silky feathery plumes of pink, gold, orange, red or maroon.

Salvia cultivars are splendid massed in sunny borders. Select colours to suit your garden. Use copper Phormium tenax ‘Rubra’ or ‘Chocolate Baby’ as accent plants among scarlet and red salvias. Cream, salmon, purple and lavender salvias are easy to place among plants of similar shades in a mixed border.

New Guinea impatiens provide lush foliage and abundant blooms in many different colours such as lavender, peach, pink, red and white. These plants prefer a partly shaded spot which receives morning sun but will tolerate both full sun and shade. They make ideal container plants on the patio.

As an alternative to impatiens, plant bronze or green leafed bedding begonias with flowers of white, red, light or dark pink in partial shade or morning sun, along paths and in clusters in the front of flowerbeds. Two other annuals for semi or light shade are coleus, grown for its colourful foliage, and pink or violet-blue flowered torenia.



Large containers overflowing with plants are more eye-catching and require less watering than small pots. Grouping pots is more effective. Add water-retentive granules to the potting soil to retain moisture. Because they are continuously on show, plants on patios need to be deadheaded, old foliage removed, and fertilised regularly. Water daily during dry weather.

Pots of scented dwarf gardenia, Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata), liliums and nicotiana will add to the enjoyment of sitting outside. Both ivy leaf and zonale pelargoniums are suitable for pots and hanging baskets, and don’t forget scented pelargoniums with leaves that when crushed smell of rose, citrus, nutmeg or peppermint.

Wooden half barrels can be used as planters to give a ‘country cottage’ look, and are also in keeping with Cape Dutch architecture. Vertical metal containers suit a contemporary style, and are very effective when planted with ornamental grasses, bamboos, Cape restios or cordylines.


A green and gold colour scheme always works well, especially if a variety of leaf shapes and textures are incorporated. A successful combination could consist of Carex ‘Variegata’ with green and gold grass-like leaves, yellow petunias, dwarf yellow daisy bushes, and Helichrysum petiolare‘Limelight’ to flow over the edge of the container.

Grow pink and deep blue petunias in cobalt blue pots to add a touch of drama, and scented lavender in mauve containers. Another attractive combination would be mauve angelonia, Petunia ‘Blue Lace’, blue-grey foliage of festuca, edged with trailing purple lobelia and verbena.

Hydrangeas, dwarf gardenia, Acorus ‘Variegatus’ with grass-like leaves, coleus, ferns, fuchsias and impatiens would all be suitable for pots on a shaded patio. To flavour and garnish dishes, place pots of culinary herbs such as basil, sage, thyme and mint near the braai area.


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