Hang in there gardeners! Your beloved, outdoor sanctuaries will soon be open. While you wait for your post-pandemic indulgence at favourite GCA Garden Centre, let’s take this time to rejoice in this beautiful and envied continent of ours. May is Africa month with African Day on the 25th of May. We will also celebrate World Bee Day on 20th May, and then the International Day for Biodiversity on May 22nd. Moms are also in the spotlight this month for Mother’s day on Sunday 10th May, and Life is a Garden highly recommends you spoil her with a little green treat.
With so many festivities, let’s revel in our African sunshine and plant some of our spectacular indigenous seeds and bulbs this season!
For kids of all ages: Moms love flowers, especially the hand-picked kind. If you have any of the following good cut-flowers blooming in your garden, they would be perfect as your Mother’s Day gift bouquet:
Tall flowering Dianthus, Carnations, Snapdragons, Larkspur, Alstroemeria or Sunflowers. If you don’t have these in the garden, you could always buy a few plants from your local GCA Garden Centre. The plants and their flowers will last for a long time - even till next year and then they’ll be ready for picking again.
Hot Tip: Pittosporum branches, leather leaf ferns, Aspidistra leaves and a variety of other plants, like those in Autumn berry, such as. the Pyracantha, can be added to your bunch of flowers too.
For the big kids and dads: Our indigenous wild banana plants (Strelitzia nicolai) are trendy additions to the new leafy-look, ideal in high light areas indoors, or as pretty patio plants. This plant is a stunner and even more so when planted in a lovely pot. Make sure mom stays modern and get her some wild bananas.
Hot tip: There are many beautiful orchids, cyclamen and other stunning plants available at your local GCA Garden Centre, just waiting to delight Mom this Mother’s Day.
What would sausage and mash be without peas? Peas are also one of the few veggies that kids enjoy eating, especially when combined with corn. If you love peas, you will love fresh, home-grown peas even more. They are just so easy to grow from seed or seedling. Offer the climbing peas a variety of support to climb up, plant with a little compost, feed regularly, and hey presto, there you have your own home-grown peas.
Hot Tip: Peas are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, including vitamin C and vitamin E, and more.
Some of the best seeds that can still be sown are indigenous beauties, which honour our African heritage with a parade of colourful flowers. These are:
Gazanias, Livingstone daisies (Mesembryanthemum), Scabious africana (the indigenous cape scabious or pincushion), and Namaqualand daisies (also called African daisies).
May is also a good time to sow Calendulas. Their perky orange and yellow flowers are great in plant borders and their edible flowers also make them a winner in the herb and veggie garden.
The month of May is an ideal time to sow shade grass and cool season seeds. They can provide the following solutions and more:
There are beautiful indigenous bulbs that rival the Ranunculus, Daffodils and Hyacinths, [M1] especially once you take the time to get to know them:
Sparaxis or harlequin flowers prefer well-drained, composted soil in the sun or partial shade. Striking flowers that are often marked with a contrasting colour in their centre are good cut-flowers. These plants do well in the garden but are also excellent container plants.
Tritonia, also called blazing stars, offer a lovely range of spring-flowering colours - from bright orange to salmon, cream and white, and are also great cut-flowers. Make sure that you plant them in very well-drained soil, positioned in the sun or in semi-shade.
Lachenalias have cheeky and brightly colourful hyacinth-like flowers. Most hybrids have sweetly scented flowers that start flowering in winter. Good drainage is essential, so add some sand to poorly drained soil to increase the drainage. Their flowers are also great in vases.
Hot Tip: Don’t complete your bulb shopping before you’ve purchased bulb food. Before you go, take peek at the following other indigenous bulbs that are really something special and worth looking at:
Ixia’s star-shaped flowers produce a riot of colour in spring, flourishing in a sunny or semi-shaded bed or container, especially when mass planted
It’s time to plant in the cool season with the 4 P’s. P is for princess and poppies, pansies, petunias and primulas - the royalty of our winter and spring annuals, which are now available as seedlings at your local GCA Garden Centre:
Hot Tip: Regularly remove spent blooms from winter annuals, especially Iceland poppies, pansies and violas, to encourage more flowers.
Hot Tip: Tie sweet peas to their supports and remove tendrils or side shoots to encourage the nutrients in the plant to be used on necessary growth, and later, flowering.
Clean up perennials by removing any brown or dead leaves. Remove flower stalks from the summer and autumn flowering ones. Mulch them up with a little compost and water regularly.
The following Summer flowering bulbs require a little TLC at this time of year:
Do you eat in winter? We sure hope so! And we hope that you remember your winter and spring-flowering bulbs and annuals need food too! After all, they’re growing furiously at this time of year and need a little extra nourishment. Use a fertilizer that is rich in potassium since this will not only promote flowering or fruiting, but also make the plants healthier and stronger against the cold, pests, and diseases. A selection of liquid and granular/pelleted fertilizers are available to choose from at your local GCA Garden Centre.
TIP: The annual stocks and larkspurs benefit from extra nitrogen for growing and flowering through winter. Ask your local GCA Garden Centre for advice on a liquid fertilizer that will do the trick over the next month or two.
Have you planted water-loving starlet (Spiloxene aquatica) in your water-feature? If you have, you would notice that from May, this indigenous “star” is peppered with little white, twinkly star-like flowers with bright yellow centres. Its spiky dark green, needle-shaped leaves grow up to 30cm long, making it a dazzling plant for a sunny spot in the pond, or water-feature.
Tip: If you have limited outdoor space, any waterproof pot can be turned into an exciting water feature for the patio, balcony or garden.
Rose blooms may be picked with long stems. If the plants are in full leaf, continue to adhere to a spraying programme where watering may be reduced. It is a good time to plant winter flowering annuals like pansies, poppies, or compact snapdragons, on the edges of rose beds.
Hot Tip: If the following perennials have stopped flowering, now is a good time to split or divide them.
Michaelmas daisies (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii formerly known as Aster novi-belgii, have fine foliage and tiny daisy flowers borne on long stems. They are great cut-flowers and available in a range of purples, pinks, and white.
In frosty areas, it is best to water between 10 am and before 2 pm. If you keep the roots of roses and many other plants moist, they are able to withstand light frost much better than dry plants.
Jack Frost will soon surprise you in frosty regions, especially the very cold Free State areas, closely followed by the Highveld, so start protecting your susceptible plants with frost cover. Frost cover allows the light in, while protecting the plants at the same time. Ask for it at your local GCA Garden Centre.
Hot Tip: To add gorgeous Autumn colours to a medium or large garden, consider planting a Liquidamber (Liquidamber styraciflua), or some of the smaller Maples in modest gardens.
If you’re in the Cape, make the most of your abundant winter rainfall by harvesting water from the roof. Check and clean your gutters, which may be clogged up with leaves.
Hot Tip: In coastal and lowveld areas, feed granadillas with a nitrogen and potassium combination fertilizer. You can ask for advice at your local GCA Garden Centre.
Let us nurture our planet Earth by using sustainable practices and nourishing our soils so that they can continue to produce healthy food for us all. Besides the fact that there is no planet B, we have good reason this month to pamper our planet because Tuesday 7 April is World Health Day and on Wednesday 22nd it is Earth Day, as well as International Mother Earth Day. How about celebrating these days by eating healthily and planting any plant that will make you happy, and the Earth a better place to live in.
Namaqualand daisies or African daisies, (Dimorphotheca sinuata), are just so easy to sow, easy to grow and WOW, what a show they make in late winter and through spring. This indigenous plant needs full sun for the flowers to open. The seed is mostly available in shades of orange, yellow, and salmon mixed or white. They are conveniently available in larger packets which will cover more of your garden. Don’t forget to buy and plant the seed now because this is one of those plants that has gardeners rushing to their nearest garden centre when they see them in full, glorious bloom, only to be told that they should have been planted in April. Sow in-situ i.e. directly into the beds.
Another indigenous plant the Livingstone daisy or Bokbaaivygie, (Mesembryanthemum criniflorum orDorotheanthus belliidiformis), is also a winner and a firm favourite of many gardeners. (Some seed suppliers label these seeds as Vygie mixed). Their satin-textured daisy-like blooms, require a sunny position for them to open’ They are available as mixed colours of white, yellow, orange. cream, pink and crimson. The iridescent colours are jolly and uplifting. Plant as an edging, tumbling over walls or the edges of containers. Seeds can be sown in-situ. Like Namaqualand daisies, Livingstone daisies are often available in larger packets and are also easily scattered, or directly sown.
Tip: Water lightly, preferably every day, until the seeds germinate. The light watering will ensure that you do not wash the scattered seeds away.
It is also time to sow the ever-popular fairy primulas, (Primula malacoides), and wildly popular pansies, (Viola wittrockiana). Primulas planted en masse in shady areas produce a stunning meadow-like feel, they attract butterflies and are available in colours mostly ranging from white through pink, lavender and even dark pink or “red”. As with pansies, they have multiple uses in the garden, in potted containers or hanging baskets. Primulas, and especially pansies are best sown in trays and transplanted into the garden later. Pansies are cheerful and irresistible when it comes to filling sunny areas for Winter and Spring colour.
It is good time to plant roses since they will establish themselves before Winter and be ready to “take off” in Spring.
A whole range of amazing Winter and Spring flowering bulbs are available to snap up right now at your GCA Garden Centre, with tulips, daffodils and hyacinths normally only arriving in May. Indigenous Freesias are scented and are therefore best placed near a door, window or entertainment area where their fragrance can be appreciated. Choose Ranunculus for a stunning show of bright colours. Soak Ranunculus “claws” in room temperature water overnight for best results and plant them with their “claws” facing downwards.
Tip: On the highveld, it is best to wait until the night temperatures have started to fall, i.e. later in the month or into May before planting most of the bulbs.
Protect your conifers from cypress aphid by visiting your local GCA Garden Centre to purchase the best solution for preventative treatment. The aphids are active on the conifers between April and August. The Autumn and winter damage they do to the plants only shows on the plant from September onwards when the aphids have already moved away.
Continue feeding your cool season lawns since they are evergreen and will need the nutrients to ensure a healthy green lawn for Winter. This is also the best time to sow cool season grasses for an evergreen lawn or as an over-seeding of lawns like Kikuyu that brown off in the cold regions during winter.
If you do not have Bacopa, (Sutera cordata), in your garden, perhaps now is the time to try a really rewarding plant that is one that will quickly creep into your heart. Unless planted in a hanging basket, the plants are normally quite small in the nursery and together with their tiny white, pink lavender or blue flowers they may not look like much, but once established they are a visual treat with their long stems dripping in a dainty profusion of blooms for months on end. They are a great groundcover often recommended for sun but seem best in semi-shade in our climate and look superb when cascading over the rim of a container or over a wall. Bacopa need regular, consistent watering to maintain their health especially when flowering. Adding a water-holding agent to the soil will benefit the plant since the soil will hold water for much longer and hold fertilizer in the soil too. Ask for advice at your local GCA Garden Centre. Several different water-holding agents are available to be used when planting trees or containers and especially hanging baskets that tend to dry out quickly.
April and May are a good time to plant celery, (Apium graveolens), which is a cool-season plant and does not do as well in the very hot parts of the country, (don’t plant it out if the weather is still very hot). Celery is a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins which have incredible health benefits. It’s a great snack for low calorie diets. Celery enjoys organically rich soils. It likes to be kept moist and is a heavy feeder, so prepare the soil well and water and feed regularly. Plant in the sun, (from seedling trays), in the hotter regions try to shade it during the hottest part of the day. Planting celery could be a good way to encourage Easter Bunny visiting your garden this year. Remember to look out for Easter Bunny on Easter Sunday 12 April.
Tip: The darker celery stems have the most intense, delicious flavour.
Did you know? Celery has been grown for hundreds of years and is favoured in cuisines around the world. A rudimentary variety of species of celery was even found in King Tut’s tomb.
There are a whole range of Winter/Spring veggies and flower seedlings available to plant now in your local GCA Garden Centres. Schizanthus or poor man’s orchid, (Schizanthus x wisetonensis), is a particularly pretty, cool season annual that is not used nearly enough in our gardens. It prefers semi-shade in our climate, has delicate, fern-like leaves with masses of multi-coloured blotched and speckled orchid-like flowers. They like well-drained soil and the tall blooming stems are ideal as cut-flowers. Look out for them in seedling tray or colour bags/pots in your local GCA Garden Centre.
Cut often for the vase, if not remove the dead flowers regularly and look out for fungal infections such as Black Spot and Powdery Mildew. Adding a balanced fertilizer like 5:1:5, overcomes the natural start of dormancy and ensures flowering n Winter. Keep on spraying to avoid defoliation due to Black Spot infection.
Tips for your garden in April:
You can sow the following veggie seed this month; beetroot, broad bean, cabbage, carrot, celery, garlic (cloves), kohlrabi, leek lettuce, onion, parsley, parsnip. Peas, radish, swiss chard and turnip. In coastal KZN and the lowveld you will exclude onions and can add the following to the above list; brussels sprouts, capsicum, cucumber, brinjal, bush beans, pumpkin, runner bean, tomato and marrows. Tip: Prepare the soil well with plenty of compost and be a champion of stainable gardening practices.
Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soil - Mario Quintana.
Without bees there would be very few flowers and even fewer fruits and vegetables since they are our superhero pollinators. If you would like to add more yellow flowering plants to your happy place and attract bees at the same time, here are some ideas: Calendulas, Pansies and Iceland Poppies for winter, yellow flowering Hibiscus, yellow flowering Aloes, Marigolds, Golden Rod, (Solidago spp.), Gazanias, Yellow Clivias, Rudbeckia hirta, Portulaca, Nasturiums, Euryops, Arctotis, Bulbinella and Vygies.
Alternately, if you would like to add blue flowering plants to your happy place and attract butterflies at the same time, here are some ideas: Cornflower, Borage, Lobelia, Blue Michaelmas daisies, Delphiniums, Pansies, Buddleia davidii, Agapanthus, Penstemon, Larkspur, Scabiosa, Plumbago, Wild Peach (Kiggelaria Africana), Geraniums, Ribbon bush (Hypoetes aristata) and Duranta “Sapphire Showers”.
Pentas (Pentas lanceolata), has large clusters of gorgeous, dainty star-like flowers that bloom almost all summer long and attract bees, butterflies and sun birds. Pentas are medium sized semi-hardy shrubs that grow to about 2m in frost free regions and around 1m in areas or moderate frost. They are equally well suited to being planted in a garden bed or in pots. The flowers range in colour from lavender to red, pink or white. Plant this lovely shrub in full sun and in moist, well-drained soil.
Tip: Remove spent blooms to encourage further flowering.
Barberton daisies (Gerbera jamesonii), have showy flowers in the most beautiful, eye-catching colours. They make for fabulous indoor plants and are exquisite gifts for Valentine’s day or any other occasion. Tip: water around the edge of the pot and not close to the stem.
Deadhead blooms i.e. remove the faded flowers and disbud Hybrid Tea roses by removing side buds so that the remaining bud/s grow larger and stronger. Water up to 3 times a week in the heat. Fertilise your roses and spray with the recommended products fortnightly against black spot, beetles and bollworm.
Dress up your pond or water-feature by placing plants in the water or in a wet (bog) garden alongside it. One of the showiest water plants is our own indigenous arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica), with its large leaves and large, striking, bold white blooms. Most garden centres will have a variety of water-loving plants – here are a few favourites to look out for: Acorus gramineus ‘Variegatus’, Cyperus marginatus, Cyperus papyrus ‘Nana’, Phalaris arundinacea, Juncus tenuis ‘Blue Dart’ and for larger water-features Cyperus papyrus.
Try and harvest rainwater during the rainy season. Direct pipes extended from house gutters not already attached to storage tanks, directly into swimming pools and ponds when they require refills.
With the 20th 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:
Pop in to your nearest GCA Garden Centre for more inspiration and supplies.
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.
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). For this reason, amaryllis make a wonderful gift at Christmas time and can also make gorgeous centre-pieces for the Christmas dinner table.
Amaryllis do well in most soil types, provided they get sufficient drainage. Plant in a sunny or semi-shade position and for the best results, give your amaryllis some bulb food every two weeks. These beauties are perfect for pots, and can be planted in groups in your garden.
As they retreat into dormancy at the end of the warmer months, you can decrease watering and leave them in the soil throughout the various seasons. Do not stop water them until all of their foliage has receded.
Star Flower or Egyptian star cluster (Pentas lanceolata) - a fast-growing, small to medium-sized herbaceous shrub with light green foliage. Pentas comes in a variety of colours, including pink, red, mauve and white. The beautiful flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds and make great cut flowers. The shrub grows quickly in full sun or semi-shade and vary in height but the modern hybrids are lovely compact bushes, growing +-100cm tall and +-30cm wide. Plant them into rich, well-drained soil. Cut off the dead flowers regularly to encourage re-flowering or continuous blooms.
There are many types of broadleaf weeds that can get their roots into your lawn. Clear out and control weeds in lawns, by using a selective broadleaf weed killer that is safe for use on established lawns.
Chat to a specialist at your nearest GCA Garden Centre for advice on the various products available and what would work best for your needs.
Growing your own veggie garden is both fun and rewarding. Ready for harvest in October are: asparagus, broad beans, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, lettuces, rocket, spinach (Swiss chard) and spring onions. The perfect ingredients for some very tasty and creative summer salads and veggie dishes. If you don’t have your own edible garden established yet – it is never too late to start.
It’s not hard to see why October is “Rose month” as you enjoy your roses in all their glory.
Water deeply at least once a week - for roses to flourish it’s best to water them twice weekly giving them 15mm of water each time. Roses that were fertilised in mid-September should be fertilised again in mid-October or early in October if September was skipped. This encourages root activity and new leaves and flowering stems to sprout. Only use the recommended amount of granular rose fertiliser.
To prevent aphids, bollworm, thrips, powdery mildew and black spot, spray fortnightly with the correct organic spray.
For quality blooms, disbud hybrid teas by removing side buds out of the leaf axles beneath the terminal bud. Remove spent blooms; not only will your rose bed look tidier; this also encourages the production of new quality stems. If you’d like long stemmed blooms for the house, don’t cut more than half of them on a bush.
Visit your local GCA for advice on the best products to use to meet your needs.
On Sunday, 20 October 2019 we will celebrate Garden Day. Instead of working in your gardens – this is a day to put down your garden tools, invite family and friends around, relax and celebrate your garden with them. Flower crowns are a beautiful way to celebrate your garden. Making and wearing the fun and colourful accessory is a great way to show off your garden blooms. Pick a few flowers from the garden and make your own flower crown.
(Gauteng, Free State, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)
(Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)