Happy holidays is the theme and sentiment this month across much of the world. December, for some, is a time for relaxing and taking in the beauty of their summer gardens, while for others it means time to have fun giving TLC to their indoor, patio and garden plants. It is exciting to spruce up the home, patio and garden during this season of family time. Ask your family for gardening gifts that you may have eyed at your local garden centre. Plants are living gifts that will last for years in the garden – the type of gift that keeps on giving! Life is a Garden, so get the family in on it too!
Add some zing to your cuisine these holidays with the following herbs:
Mint: A sprig of mint foliage is currently an all-the-rage addition to mojito cocktails, gin, other home-made cordials, as well as other trendy sundowners. Mint has very fragrant leaves with a fruity, aromatic taste.
This easy-to-grow groundcover prefers well-drained soils and good, regular watering. They are prized in the kitchen and as a landscaping plant in the garden.
There are many mints to choose from, here are some popular ones:
- Spearmint for savoury dishes
- Peppermint for desserts
- Apple mint for drinks
- Chocolate mint with liquors
- Garden mint in salads, with lamb, peas, zucchini, fresh beans, marinades, fruit salads, cold soups, cheese and more.
Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to see these and other mints available.
Tip: For those of you that like spicy dishes there is even a “Hot mint”, which is also called Vietnamese coriander.
Neat to know: Young leaves are tastier than old leaves. The key to keeping the plant healthy will be to harvest sprigs regularly to stimulate new young shoots.
Did you know?: Although best eaten fresh, sprigs can be left for a few days in water, mint leaves can be frozen or air-dried.
October is the month of flowering profusion with the queen of flowers, the rose, putting on a glorious first flush of blooms in the Highveld. Roses have also become synonymous with Garden Day, happening on Sunday 11 October this year. Since Life is a Garden, let’s spend some quality time celebrating our green sanctuaries on Garden Day, regardless of their size – potted window sills and patio planters deserve a little celebration too.
The “grow to eat” concept of shortening the food chain time from soil to plate is growing in popularity. Edible gardening is easy and fun, regardless of the size of your space. Life is a Garden, so if gardening means a few potted plants, so be it!
It’s always exciting to try out new varieties. Here are a few amazing new squashes to tempt you:
- Lemon sun squash is a patty pan that produces sweet and tender fruits on vigorous plants. The male flowers are also perfect for frying.
- Easy pick gold and easy pick green squash are smooth textured no-fuss zucchinis.
- Butterbaby squash is a small, sweet butternut that can be grown up a trellis to save space.
- Honeynut squash is another mini butternut that has exceptionally sweet fruit, is easy to germinate and produces high yields of fruit.
- If you want to try something funky then sample the vegetable spaghetti squash. It has unique flesh that separates into long, clear strings, which resemble pasta. It has a slight crunch with a mild squash flavour and can be used just like spaghetti. It’s the ideal way to get small children into eating veggies and also the perfect vegan spaghetti.
Tip: Don’t forget to include a South African favourite, the gem squash or squash Rolet or Little Gem. Continue spraying for fruit flies and codling moth.
Looking for festive plants to add to your holiday décor? Christmas themed flowers aren't just a lovely gift for your loved ones. They also add a hint of magic and sparkle to your home, addng onto that Christmas spirit filled with good cheers and compliments to your festive preparations. Consider adding the poinsettia (Christmas star) and Amaryllis (Christmas flower) to your festive deco prep.
Beautiful flowers undoubtedly help bring the Christmas spiriand good cheer like beautiful flowers for Christmas. There are a few standard Christmas plants and flowers that you may like for your home this holiday.
The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) - also known as the Mexican flame leaf or Christmas star is abundant in nurseries and homes around South Africa during Christmas time.
This common garden plant actually flowers during winter, however potted varieties are specifically grown for the festive season and are available in a variety of intense colours. So, don’t be surprised if the poinsettia plant in your garden doesn’t flower over Christmas.
- Their red foliage is commonly mistaken for a flower but actually, they are coloured bracts.
- The actual flower is the yellow in the centre of the bracts.
- They prefer being kept in bright light which ensures that they maintain that lovely red leaf colour.
- They can even tolerate morning sunlight. A spot on a patio or covered area will be perfect, as long as there is no afternoon sun.
- Try to keep them out of droughts and cold winds.
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum), known as the Christmas flower, typically bloom around 5 weeks after being planted (during the warmer months). For this reason, amaryllis make a wonderful gift at Christmas time. They can also make effective centrepieces for the Christmas dinner table.
Amaryllis do well in most soil types, provided they get adequate drainage.
With the 9th of October being ‘Garden Day’ and October being ‘Rose month’ – what an opportune month to celebrate gardening!
Your roses should be producing their first flush of perfect blooms and the sun is still not too scorching – allowing the blooms to last longer. Spring is also the ideal time to select and plant new rose bushes in your garden. These are some of our favourites:
- Ingrid Bergman POULman unfading red
- Memoire KORfuri unspoilt white, fragrant
- Zulu Royal DORient mauve, fragrant
- King David TANmarsal bronze
- South Africa KORberbeni golden
Pop in to your nearest GCA Garden Centre for more inspiration and supplies.
What to Sow
As soon as the soil warms up in mid spring, you can start to sow all your summer veggies, including beans, sweetcorn and tomatoes. Two of your main “must haves” for your summer salads are cucumber and celery.
- Cucumber seeds should be sown in composed enriched soil in a sunny site. When flowers start forming, feed with potassium-rich organic fertiliser. Support plants well so they can climb upwards, even when the cucumbers get large. This also protects the cucumbers from slugs. Harvest /cut the cucumbers off the plant when they are still quite young, avoiding the skin becoming hard. Regular harvesting encourages a more continuous production of
- Celery needs rich, moisture-retentive soil which is achieved by digging in plenty of compost. Sow in shade or semi-shade. Feed weekly liquid feed in mid to late summer. Plants should be spaced 20cm apart and kept moist. You can cut stems frequently as required.
What to Plant
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) - one of the easiest and most rewarding bulbs to grow, amaryllis produce showy, trumpet-shaped blooms that add a flamboyant touch to your garden or home. Often referred to as the Christmas flower because they typically bloom around five weeks after being planted (during the warmer months).