Gardening naturally stimulates our senses: the smell of wet soil, the sound of a cooing dove in the distance, the feeling of warm sun kisses on our skin, and early morning dew drops so fresh we can almost taste it! Children, however, may need a little more encouragement to engage with nature in this way. Luckily, Life is a Garden is bringing you some inspiration this August to create an indulging sensory experience for your kids, filled with adventure and exploration. We’re talking all about stimulating your child’s senses through a natural playscape environment in your own backyard or school playground.
Sight: A great attention grabber is through striking visual stimuli. A garden that looks visibly interesting with a variety of colours, textures, and a few intriguing items should get their curiosity going. Create an obstacle course by incorporating different sized tree stumps or rocks as stepping stones over some dangerous lava looking succulents and spikey grass. An outdoor dollhouse or treasure chest under a tree may further inspire imaginative play.
Plant picks: Rooiblaarplakkie (Kalanchoe sexangularis) is a hardy succulent, perfect as a lava substitute. Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are big, bold, and beautiful cut-flowers. Starlight grass (Anthericum) brings in strong texture and contrast for the rugged garden warrior.
Sound: Incorporating both natural and man-made sound stimulation is easier than you may think. A DIY hand shaker project with some dried seeds or stones inside empty spice bottles may motivate the kinesthetically inclined child to engage their sense of sound. Wind chimes will become an ambient focal point during the August winds too. A water feature may help to encourage more gentle playtime and promote an awareness of subtle and calming sounds. Alternatively, you could even start a buzzing bee hotel for the gogo-loving garden explorer!
Smell: Encouraging kids to literally stop and smell the roses is so important in cultivating an ethos of appreciation and conservation in the new generation. Thankfully, engaging their sense of smell is rather easy to achieve with such an aromatic variety of plants available. Creating a DIY potpourri experimentation station is a hands-on strategy to develop their noses while opening up a space for real connection and engagement with organic floral scents.
Plant picks: Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia) for kids who like to get right under and in there. Plumerias (Frangipani, Pua Melia) are as pretty as their perfume. Picking petals from Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is fantastic for fine motor skills. Rosemary, Lavender, and Mint are tried favourites too.
Taste: Grouping edible flowers, berries, and herbs together in a large container allow kids safe and easy access to taste and explore some home-grown goodness. Creating a little chef station nearby will not only engage and develop taste buds, but can also be used as an opportunity to instil responsibility and purpose. Get the kids to pick herbs for dinner, give them the chore of watering the edible garden, or simply allow them free reign to cook up some tasty herb, berry, and mud cakes for the fairies and gnomes.
Plant picks: Basil is a taste explosion and good for stimulating little pallets. Gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa) are fun to pick and loaded with nutrients. Wild Malva (Pelargonium culallatum) is a colourful treat because who wouldn’t want to eat a flower! And of course, there are strawberries, which have come to please even the fussiest of eaters.
Touch: Let’s reward curiosity by welcoming your child’s obsession to touch everything! A row of varying sized and angled PVC pipes against a wall provides endless opportunities for car races and hours of poking and prodding through the openings with pretty much whatever they can get their hands on – and that’s exactly what we want! Expose them to even more textures with a little squirting water feature and a variety of spikey, smooth, fury, and rough foliage.
Plant picks: Most aloes are nice and spikey with enough hardiness to withstand a little educational probing. Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) is a lovely choice for something fury. Try bringing in some Asparagus Fern (Asparagus plumosus) for a fine-feeling climber between your pipe-play wall.
Independent play and opportunities for exploration-based discoveries are an important part of childhood. Can you imagine what this sort of sensory playscape environment, filled with cool stuff, would have meant for you as a child? From edible gardens to wind chimes and treacherous lava floors, there is something to appeal to every child’s interest and all their senses. No one knows your child like you do, so put those creative green fingers to work and remember - if you build it, they will come!
Life is a Garden has put together a few tips on how to create a bee-friendly garden and do your bit to save the VIP’s – (very important pollinators)!
Learn more here: Bee Friendly Garden
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)