Gardeners worldwide know that white just goes with everything and beautifully enhances the colours of surrounding plants. Great English garden designer, Vita Sackville West, started the trend in 1930 when she planted a white border at her home at Sissinghurst Castle. The border still stands today and has inspired generations of gardeners. Essentially, gardens are all about colour - the flowers, foliage, walls, gates, pottery, furniture and even artwork. Gardens are like our very own sanctuaries and they enhance our quality of life as well as helping our homes look even better!
White flowers provide a sense of coolness and calm that temper the summer heat and also glow when you view them in the evening and at night. If you are using your patio or lapa after dark, make sure you add an abundance of white flowers and silver foliage plants nearby. This will enhance your summer outdoor entertainment area while also creating a gorgeous white Christmas feel.
Tip: Don’t forget the firm favourites like Iceberg roses that come with the bonus of a gentle fragrance.
The garden in November is usually filled with a rich colour palette of late spring blooms. The bold and beautiful Hydrangeas are part of this glorious mix and never fail to wow us, year after year. Their local name is Krismisroos and they remind many people of the coming holiday season. Conveniently, Friday 27 November is Black Friday - a day where many shoppers look forward to buying bargains as Christmas gifts. Look out for specials at your local GCA Garden Centre and enjoy getting ready for the festive season. Life is a Garden, so go ahead and decorate yours!
Here are some planting tips for your beetroot seedlings:
Tip: Fertilise lightly with a 2:3:2 or equivalent organic fertilizer i.e. that is not high in nitrogen as too much nitrogen will encourage mostly leafy growth. Water sparingly since overwatering encourages leafy growth and bolting (flowering and not producing a vegetable). Beetroot also grows well in combination with blood sorrel Rubus sanguineus.
Neat to know: A century-old companion planting method used by the Iroquois, an American tribe, was called the Three Sister’s planting. The Three Sisters planting technique utilises corn, climbing beans, and squash or pumpkin. Each plant serves a purpose in this design. The corn or mielies provide the climbing (pole) for the beans and the beans add nitrogen to the soil. The squash or pumpkin protects all the sisters by using its large leaves to shade the soil, to reduce weeds and keep the soil moist. Try it for yourself!
Mole crickets are very destructive pests that tunnel below the surface of the lawn and cause widespread root damage.
An important part of pest control is to correctly identify the pest. Mole cricket can be heard chirping at night when they are most active. The adults are golden brown and about 2,5 to 3,5 cm long with large mole-like front claws combined with oversized, lobster-like heads and bodies similar to common brown/black crickets. The nymphs, or babies are about 1cm long and are miniature look-alikes of the adults.
Tip: An easy soap water drench helps confirm mole cricket activity. Mix 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid with 5 litres of water and soak the damaged area with a watering can. Mole cricket adults and nymphs will come to the surface as the soapy water penetrates their tunnels.
Signs and damage: Although the damage starts in spring it is often only noticed in summer when dead and dying patches appear on the lawn as the grass turns brown.
Control: The hard work is over. Now that you have identified the pest you can visit your local GCA Garden Centre for more advice and organic control solutions.
NB: Once you have the treatment, always read the product labels and follow the instructions carefully, including guidelines for pre-harvest intervals in edible gardens.
Crotons have striking leaf colours, which makes them very popular as landscaping and hedging plants in frost-free coastal regions. Indoors, their bright colours are sought after and add a distinctly vibrant, young tropical flavour. They require bright light and do well on a sunny window sill.
Tip: Allow the soil to dry out between watering as they do not like to be over-watered and enquire at your local GCA Garden Centre for an appropriate plant food.
Celosia, or cockscomb, is one of the most vibrantly coloured summer annuals. If you like to be bold and playful in the garden, cockscomb is made for you. There are two types of celosia, one with an arrow-like feathery plume for a flower and the other resembling the almost heart-shaped hump of a cock’s comb. Both are lots of fun and create a lovely tropical green backdrop around a pool or entertainment area where they can enhance a vibey party atmosphere.
Tip: Celosia is generally a non-fuss plant that is easy to grow.
In most regions, roses are or should be sprouting for their second flush in November. In cooler regions of the country and in the Western Cape, they are at the height of their beauty. Regular dead-heading not only provides a neat look in the garden, but it encourages quality new sprouting. A monthly application of fertiliser brings even more blooms. .
Edging rose beds with dwarf marigolds is another option of keeping pests away from the roses as their roots have an anti-nematode action.
Watering should never be neglected at this time of rapid growth.
Lawn: If you want a green lawn for the holiday season, now’s the time to fertilise. This should be done every six to eight weeks in the growing season.
Garden: Remember to water in the early morning or late afternoon – we need to be sustainable water-wise gardeners. Start mulching the beds to keep the water at root level cool.
As the humidity increases, look out for an increase in fungal diseases such as the different mildews on susceptible plants. Spray accordingly or visit your local GCA Garden Centre for organic advice.
South Africans really do know how to bloom - literally in this case, as we take over the international stage with the world’s first evergreen, cold hardy, purple re-blooming Agapanthus. Bred locally by Andy De Wet and Quinton Bean of De Wet Plant Breeders, the Poppin' Purple® var ‘MP003’ Agapanthus recently won BEST NEW PERENNIAL at the world's leading trade fair for horticulture, IPM ESSEN 2020!
Agapanthus is a popular South African plant, undoubtedly one of our indigenous botanical gems with its clusters of blue or white... and now POPPIN’ PURPLE flowers. Agapanthus fill so many gardens and are so much part of our South African landscape that we take for granted just how spectacular they really are.
The beauty of our country's unique and striking flora, teamed with the creativity, passion and scientific attention to detail of Andy and Quinton, widely regarded as the best ornamental plant breeders in South Africa, ensured that South Africa blossomed on the global stage with this accolade, beating a total of 60 submissions from the biggest and best plant breeding nurseries world-wide.
Our local legends, Andy and Quinton from CND Nursery, The Aloe Farm and De Wet Plant Breeders, are well-known for their new hybrid plants including other award-winning Agapanthus such as Fireworks and Twister. Fireworks has recently been awarded a place in four major international competitions, including 3rd place for New Plant of the Year at the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show and Best in Show at the HTA National Plant Show U.K. 2019.
Purple flowers represent dignity, pride and success, and that's exactly what the Poppin’ Purple agapanthus has brought to our country.
The flowers of Poppin' Purple are a striking shade of purple and plentiful in quantity, making this a stunning yet sustainable feature in any garden, terrace or balcony. Poppin’ Purple is faster growing than other varieties , the mature height is approximately 60cm high x 45cm wide. Filling a garden with intense shades, it re-blooms throughout the year and is water-wise and durable.
“Flowers don’t tell, they show.”
Happy autumn and a merry March, maintenance month! It’s time to prepare those beds for some annual autumn planting and sow them seeds for the new season. Get busy in the garden and give your seedlings a nutritious head start.
You should work in about 3 to 5cm of compost into the soil, as well as, a handful of bonemeal or superphosphate per square metre. This will ensure that plants have all the nutrition they require to get off to a great start. Give your soil nutrients so that the plants in your garden have the ability to become strong and healthy. Use a general fertilizer like a 2:3:2 or one that contains more potassium such as 8:1:5.
Autumn means it’s time to start sowing winter and spring flowering annual seeds. Some of our favourites to sow now are:
Sweet Peas: Their seductive fragrance in the garden or as cut-flowers in the home is like no other. The seed is generally available in mixed colours, which are a gorgeous mix of mostly pastel colours, for both dwarf and climbing varieties. The climbing Sweet Peas will need a sunny spot with supports to climb up – like a trellis, fence or an arch. Sweet peas will be happiest with their roots are in cool, moist soil, so it is a good idea to plant low-growing annuals in front of them to keep the roots shaded, mulching will also work well. The secret to fabulous Sweet peas starts with the soil preparation. Dig over a trench of soil, next to the supports, to the depth of a garden fork and add plenty of compost and preferably manure too. Add a handful of bonemeal or superphosphate per square metre, also sprinkle a handful of Dolomitic or Agricultural lime per running metre and dig it in. If possible, use a pencil to make holes and drop them in at the correct depth, then close them up to shut out the light. Keep the area well watered.
Tips: Soak the seeds in water overnight before planting to soften the seed covering. Sow at about 2 weekly intervals for a longer-lasting show of flowers. To encourage bushy growth, cut off the tips of plants only when they are about 15 to 20cm tall (and not sooner). Don’t forget to feed your plants regularly.
Pansies: Are a winter and spring flowering favourite for the sun. Their colourful blooms are available in a wide range of single and bi-colours. They can be used as massed flower borders, in pots and window boxes or as fillers between spring-flowering bulbs. Pansies typically have large and medium-sized blooms while their smaller flowering “cousins” Violas have dainty little flowers. The larger flowers are showy and suited close to entertainment areas or pathways. The medium-sized Pansies and Violas often have more flowers and are a hit when used as a massed display in the garden.
Primulas: Fairy Primroses, (Primula malacoides), are still a favourite for winter and spring flowering colour in the shade. They have dainty, tiered flowers and are available in white, lavender, rose, pink and a darker pink/purple. White primulas will brighten up shady patches the most and show up well in the evening.
Sow, sow & sow: Calendulas, (Calendula officinalis) have edible “petals” that look super sprinkled on winter soups. Iceland poppies are available in stunning mixed colours – choose cultivars with strong stems for windy gardens. A few others include; alyssum, Livingstone daisy, godetia, schizanthus, stocks and snapdragons for the sun and lobelia for semi-shade and foxglove ‘Foxy’ for semi-shade to shade. (Tip: Before sowing always check the sowing time on the back of the seed packets for your region’s best sowing months).
What to Plant
Garlic: There is nothing better than cooking with fresh produce from the garden and Garlic bulbs are available in garden centres at this time of year. Simply prepare a sunny bed with compost and a plant starter and plant the individual cloves about 10 to 15cm apart and about 3 to 5 cm deep, making sure that the pointy side faces upwards. If your soil has poor drainage then plant them in raised beds or even containers. Garlic wards off many pests with its pungent smell and is, therefore, a great addition to any veggie garden. (Garlic is not well suited to very humid, hot areas of the country).
Pelargoniums: Bush geraniums, (Pelargonium x hortorum), and ivy or cascading geraniums, (Pelargonium peltatum), are still some of the “jewels in the crown” of our indigenous plants even though they have been heavily hybridized. Geraniums are one of the most rewarding garden plants and are ideally planted in containers on your patio in a sunny to semi-shade position. Geraniums love to be moist but not wet. Give them a weak but regular, (preferably weekly), liquid feeding.
What to Spray – to protect your happy place
Amaryllis caterpillar/worm: Keep a lookout for wilting leaves or flowers on any of the lilies like arum lilies, amaryllis, agapanthus and clivias. Inspect the plants by pulling the leaves open to reveal the “middle” of the plant above the bulb - the Amaryllis worm is normally easily spotted in this area if they are the culprit. They may be between the epidermal layers of the leaves or openly chewing close to the base of the leaves and flower stalks. The base of the leaves will also become slimy, smelly and pulpy. Ask your local garden centre for a recommended spray.
White grubs: The adult chafer beetles lay their eggs in the lawn and the grubs that hatch feed on the lawn roots and underground stems. The lawn or leaf blades start to wither and die in patches. If you want to confirm your suspicions, you should be able to easily pull up pieces of lawn and see the large, fat white grubs curled up in a c-shape. Ask for advice at your garden centre and treat as recommended
Roses: Roses are prized cut flowers. Hybrid tea roses have the longest stems and are great for picking, especially when a long stalk is preferred. Fragrant roses add that extra sensory dimension too.
Inca lilies, (or Peruvian lily): Also known by their botanical name of Alstroemeria, Inca lily blooms are best harvested by firmly holding the flowering stem close to the base and twisting the stem as you pull it upwards. This will help the detach the flower from the underground stem and promote further growth and flowering.
Snapdragons: Most snapdragons, (Antirrhinum majus), are either slightly or moderately scented which is great if you like to cut flowers from the garden or one can place them close to the home. Snapdragons love the sun and varieties range from tall, (over 60cm tall which may require staking), or as short as 15cm for the dwarf ones, and come in a range of beautiful colours and colour mixes. They are long-lasting in the garden and will grow through our mild winters and flower into spring.
Calibrachoa: This is a trendy treasure that has yet to be discovered by many gardeners, calibrachoa, (Calibrachoa ‘Goodnight Kiss'). This is a trailing plant, that gets covered in hundreds of small bell-shaped flowers that are quite dazzling. They are the first choices for planting in containers and hanging baskets for gardeners that have had them before. Although sun-loving, in very hot areas they will do better in a semi-shade. They are available right now in shades of violet, blue, pink, red, magenta, yellow, bronze and white as instant colour plants in pots and hanging baskets. They can be pinched back for a time to time to encourage bushy growth and more flowers.
Tip: Feed calibrachoa with a liquid fertiliser regularly to encourage healthy growth and flowering.
Roses are simply spectacular in autumn! To ensure quality blooms into the winter, continue with regular preventative treatments/spraying for black spot, beetles and bollworm. As the days get shorter, the roses start to go dormant and withdraw food from their eaves. To compensate for this and to provide enough food for new growth and flowers, fertilize with rose food – your local GCA garden centre will advise you on the best option. Regular watering is very important if there is insufficient rainfall.
One of the best ways to save water in the garden is to hydro-zone the plants in your garden. Hydro-zoning means that you position plants in the garden, or in containers, according to their water requirements so that we do not use any more water in any hydro-zone than the plants positioned there require. We, therefore, group all plants that like the most water together and these are commonly known by your garden centre staff as 3 drop plants, those that require a medium amount of water 2 drop plants and the water-wise, low water requirement plants as 1 drop plants. Where possible keep the 3 drop zone to a minimum – perhaps around a swimming pool or entertainment area, and in the same way make the 1 drop zone the largest area of your planted garden, (since paved areas effectively constitute a 0 drop zone). There is no better time to start than today – have fun and save our precious water.
Compost: Compost is the equivalent organic gold to the garden! With all the autumn leaves combined with the vegetable kitchen waste, it is a great time to start your compost heap now. Lightweight and easy to use compost bins are readily available at your local GCA garden centre, to fit even the smallest of gardens. Ask for compost accelerator at your garden centre and add this to the various layers of compost being added.
Tips: Avoid adding any plants that are diseased or pest-ridden, as well as weeds with seeds or seed heads on them. Lawn clippings should be thinly layered between other layers of waste otherwise they will rot and form a slimy mess in the bin.
Its time to lift and divide summer flowering perennials. Here are some examples of the most common ones: agapanthus, wild iris, (Dietes bicolour and Dietes grandiflora), penstemon, campanulas and asters. Most perennials start to decline in vigour from being too close to one another after several seasons of pushing fresh outward growth and therefore require division, (normally only once in 3 to 5 years), to “refresh their vigour or growth. Simply cut the foliage back by about two thirds, lift them carefully form the soil and then divide them by hand or by using two garden forks, (back to back). Split up into fresh, healthy-looking clumps and plant them in well-prepared soil that has compost and a plant starter so that good root growth is initiated. Water well.
Cut back all summer flowering perennials that are looking tired. Pay attention to salvias, daisies, lavender and fuchsias.
Frangipani, (Plumeria rubra), grows well in full sun in the tropical and subtropical areas of the country. If you are looking for that tropical island feel in your garden, this small tree will certainly give “the look”. They withstand drought and bloom profusely from late spring through summer and into autumn. There is a wide range of beautifully coloured flowers that are richly fragrant. They are easy to grow and little attention, flourish in almost all soil types.
Hot tip: It may still be too hot to plant spring-flowering bulbs. Good advice would be to buy them while they are available and store them in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator and plant out when the weather cools down in a month or two.
In a world of constant hustle and bustle, the trend forecasters at Pantone thought everyone could do with a little time out. So they have announced that the Pantone colour of the year 2020 is Classic Blue. In a press release from Pantone they give the following rationale for their decision:
“As technology continues to race ahead of the human ability to process it all, it is easy to understand why we gravitate to colours that are honest and offer the promise of protection. Non-aggressive and easily relatable, the trusted PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue lends itself to relaxed interaction. Associated with the return of another day, this universal favourite is comfortably embraced.”
Life is a Garden echo this sentiment and what better way to bring in the colour blue in your world, than in your garden. It so happens that blue flowers attract butterflies and bees, and this means your garden will become a sanctuary of nature and an escape for your psyche. Surround yourself with calm and confidence and add these plants to create a splash of blue to your outdoor palette.
Cool down on hot summer days with a sea of Agapanthus in shades of blue. Agapanthus is also known as the Lily of the Nile and comes from the Greek words “agape” meaning love and “Anthos”, meaning flower. You’ll fall in love with the Dwarf Agapanthus 'Tinkerbell'. It has variegated leaves and clusters of pale blue flowers. Agapanthus 'Blue Velvet' has deep cornflower blue flowers with a velvet sheen. Grow agapanthus in broad sweeps in the landscape, in indigenous gardens, grouped in borders, as edgings along paths, and in large pots. Their robust root system is suitable for holding soil on banks.
The colour blue is associated with the sea and sky and evokes peace and tranquillity. That’s why this colour is so effective in calming your mind. The Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) is available in a few smaller varieties such as Buddleja ‘Buzz’ and Buddleja ‘Lo and Behold’, which are hybrids of our indigenous varieties and have more colours available in blue, purple and cream. They are tasty nectar-producing plants which attract butterflies. These nectar-feeding insects will add charm and beauty to your garden and will, in turn, contribute to some restoration of the natural ecology of life in urban gardens. Butterflies have long proboscises to reach down into flowers to obtain the nectar on which they survive.
Torenia, or Wishbone Flowers (Torenia fournieri) are flowers for semi-shaded spots and 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. Plant in rich, well-drained soil, and water regularly. Torenias make good companions with other shade lovers, such as impatiens and bedding begonias. Begonias with white, red, light or dark pink flowers with bronze or green leaves make pretty ribbons of colour along paths, in massed plantings, window boxes and containers.
Salvia Black and Bloom (Salvia nemorosa) creates waves of tranquil blue bushes. These popular perennials have unusual black stems and are happy in partial to full sun areas. They parade large well-branched bushes with strong-coloured flowers. Because the blue colour aids in concentration and helps your mind in a meditative state, adding more blue flowers to your garden will help you re-centre your thoughts and focus for 2020. Create a reflective space with blooming, Salvia Mystic 'Spire Blue' with their long spires of dark blue flowers. They bloom throughout summer and attract happy butterflies to lighten up your mood. Be sure to add the proud Salvia 'Victoria' with its upright flower spikes parading indigo-blue flowers above the foliage.
Like the cat that’s got the cream, Clerodendrum myricoides ‘Ugandense’ (commonly known as the blue cat's whiskers) are born to stand out. In summer, these dainty, two-tone blue flowers are striking features of this medium-sized evergreen shrub. They are ideal for planting in the background of a shrubby border. It bears masses of pleasant blue flowers in summer, and bees love them. You will soon be surrounded by the happy, buzzing noise of their visits. Their fruits are frugivorous birds’ favourite and your garden will become the coolest hangout for nature’s little busybodies, while adding a little whimsy in the concrete jungle.
Our indigenous cobalt blue blossoms of the Cape-forget-me-not (Anchusa capensis) are charming easy-going plants. They require minimal care and grow in most soils. They are hardy and survive on very little water, which makes them our water-wise choice for dry summer regions. They are happy with the basics: well-drained soil and full sun areas, and will pop up again and again, perfect for any South African garden.
Lobelia is part of the Campanulaceae family and has over 300 species. The most common species in our gardens is Lobelia erinus. L. erinus, native to southern Africa and thrives in varying climates and topographies. This easy-to-grow plant enjoys the full morning sun, and they will appreciate a little afternoon shade. They prefer soil that is rich in organic matter, so you must add compost to the soil before planting. Keep the soil moist but not sodden and pay particular attention to watering if in pots or baskets. Lobelia do not like to get thirsty! The Lobelia (Curacao Compact Blue) are stunning planted in striking hanging baskets.
Although blue flowers are hard to find in the natural world, you can always find inspiration and advice from the friendly staff at your local GCA Garden Centre. Return some classic blues to your garden this summer and design a space of quietude. With touches of blue, you can create a serene escape from daily stress where you can recharge your mind, body and soul. For more gardening inspiration visit www.lifeisagarden.co.za
The Agapanthus (Agapanthus africanus) and Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) charm lies in the unique nature of their vibrant colour patterns and undemanding low maintenance life cycle.
Agapanthus (Agapanthus africanus), also sometimes referred to as African lily are one of South Africa's best-known garden plants. Their strap-like leaves and striking blue or white flowers make them favourites in plant borders as well as in containers. Agapanthus is a very undemanding, low-maintenance plant and will survive the elements thanks to its water-storing root system.Plant them in full sun in composted, well-draining soil and water once a week.
Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) is a sure favourite in South Africa with its abundance of huge ball-shaped and lace-capped flowers, blooming from November to late summer. They come in a stunning variety of colours from intense red to pink to blue to white and often bicoloured depending on the soil pH. They are shade-loving plants, (they like the morning/ late afternoon sun) and do best in well-drained fertilised soil. Keep them well watered and to intensify their colour, feed them regularly.
Chat to the experts at your local GCA Garden Centre for the best Agapanthus and Hydrangea food.