Indigenous fairy tale trees Industry Expert Q&A

life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous, Botanical boss
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous

September’s Topic: The local magic spring brings
Theme: Indigenous fairy tale trees  

Industry Expert: Brett Hughes
Garden Centre: Tree Factor in Limpopo  

 

Calling all tree-loving landscapers and gardeners – are you ready for a gust of sensational wind through your branches? Our industry expert, Brett Hughes from Tree Factor, has treated us to a simply divine spread of wisdom and passion with an equally magnificent tree selection! Spring is 100% bringing that local magic.  

1. Your stunning variety of trees and “greening the way” for SA approach is truly inspiring and awesome! Please tell us more about your philosophy and why trees are so important/beneficial?

As a horticulturist for the past 35 years, I have seen the deforestation in our own country today, despite the world’s plight on the current carbon footprint and efforts to plant up highways and urban areas. There are particular points that I would like to make in this regard – not purposefully highlighting the destruction, but in an effort to showcase the undesirability thereof.

 

Firstly, we have organisations like SANRAL – stripping trees on the side of our roads and highways by the kilometre, sometimes only marula trees being kept but destroying all the other hardwoods, which is not desirable. And then we get Eskom who eliminates every single tree within 20-30m of every powerline – that’s millions of trees being taken out annually. There’s also the mining industry, who are not under pressure anymore to rehabilitate like they used to. I think the councils are trying to put their efforts into planting trees, but again, I don’t think government is giving them enough budget to plant trees and to support our industry enough. There is definitely some effort needed to help and put pressure on government to get the local councils involved in tree planting again.

The local magic spring brings September Botanical Boss

life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous, Botanical boss
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous, Botanical boss

The season of renewal is upon us, bringing in hope and fresh positivity. Spring is Mother Nature’s reminder that even after periods of hardship, the storm will always pass when we embrace and trust in the great cycle of life. Turn to your garden for some uplifting enchantment as we explore the stunning local magic spring brings this September. Life is a Garden, with help from our industry experts - Random Harvest Nursery and Tree Factor, have complied a list of SA’s most unique and unusual plants and trees.  

Indigenous fairy tale trees

 

 Sweet and special - The Snuffbox tree (Oncoba spinosa) 
  • Appropriately named after its local use for snuff making by crushing the edible hard-shelled fruit. The fruit is round and shiny red-brown in colour.  
  • They grow to a height of 3 to 4 metres, have a non-invasive root system, and will flourish in full sun with sandy, loam soil. 
  • Trees are valued for their dramatic white flowers that have a special melon-like scent, making them a perfect choice as a fragrant ornamental too.  
Odd and extraordinary - The Sausage tree (Kigelia Africana) 
  • After treating us to a blood-red/maroon flower show that hangs off branches in long panicles, sausage-shaped fruit are an equally amazing sight. 
  • The smelly flowers, which bloom all night, attract pest-controlling bats that pollinate them. The sausage fruit is actually a huge berry and can grow up to 5m and weigh an astonishing 6.5kg’s! Beware – these sausage berries are not for humans human consumption but many garden visitors will feast on them.  
  • Grow these trees in full sun with composted soil that is slightly acidic to neutral.  

 

“Ultimately, I believe if we don’t start planting trees in urban zones we’ll never catch up. If everyone plants at least one or two trees in their lifespan, it will make a huge difference” – Brett Hughes, Tree Factor.

Plant Moms Botanical Boss

life is a garden, nurturing, garden, plants, nature, flowers, greenery, indoor, water
life is a garden, nurturing, garden, plants, nature, flowers, greenery, indoor, water

Plant Mom Addition 

May is for the plant moms! Embrace becoming a botanical boss and dig your way into the world of plant parenting with confidence. Celebrate Mother’s Day with a new addition to the family or gift mommy dearest something to help with that empty nest. Follow Life is a Garden’s guide to successful indoor gardening.

life is a garden, nurturing, garden, plants, nature, flowers, greenery, indoor, water

Seasoned plant moms

If you’re looking for a plant that says “this isn’t my first child”, these three high-maintenance favourites will glamorously show off your expert parenting skills. 

  1. Moth orchid

Tantrums about: could be anything but especially overwatering.  

Bribe it with: patience, loose bark potting mix, indirect sunlight, humidity, scheduled watering. 

  1. Maidenhair fern

Tantrums about: not being able to watch you shower. 

Bribe it with: misting, dappled light, and humidity. Also, some time outdoors where it can see the sunset. 

  1. Calathea

Tantrums about: being the only child and open spaces.

Bribe it with: bright, indirect sun, well-draining soil, lots of friends to increase humidity, and a shallow container (short-root syndrome). 

life is a garden, nurturing, garden, plants, nature, flowers, greenery, indoor, water

First-time plant parents 

When gifting or homing a plant as the first indoor offspring, go for these three easy greens that don’t always need to be the centre of attention. 

  1. Snake plant 

May give glares when: irritated by too many water kisses. 

Give pocket money and: only one or two waterings during winter and almost any light condition. 

 

  1. Spider plant 

May give glares when: it’s too hot to play inside  

Give pocket money and: well-drained soil, indirect light, occasional pruning of playful spiderettes.

  1. Pothos (Epipremnum)

May give glares when: grounded and unable to go anywhere. 

Give pocket money and: a hanging basket or trellis, a little pruning, and a chance to dry out between watering. 

 

Indoor growing guide

Regardless of what you are planning to grow, here are our top tips for successfully raising your bundles of joy indoors. 

DIY Pot-posh Birdbath

We’re obsessed with birds – watching them frolic in the garden, discovering new species in the area, looking forward to returning friends, and enjoying the feeling of fulfilment from helping to care for our wildlife. This DIY is an easy, economical solution to a fancy birdbath, allowing you to go as sophisticated or simple as your budget allows. In addition, Life is a Garden’s pot-posh birdbath gives the DIY enthusiast a real time to shine as there are so many ways to play, design, and decorate. Before we begin, let’s talk about the fabulous featured elephant in the room – birds!

 

Birds with benefits
  • Conservation is everything: First and foremost, as gardeners, we have the power to take conservation into our own hands. Become a wildlife warrior and eco-ambassador by providing a much-needed safe oasis for our flyers threatened by loss of habitat.
  • Pest control: Certain bird species will enjoy a tasty snack after their drink. Aphids, scale, mozzies, spiders, flies and other insects are easily taken care of by local heroes such as white-eyes, chats, barbets, thrushes, robins, warblers, shrikes, woodpeckers and hoopoes.
  • Pollination deluxe: Some flyers are excellent pollinators, helping to produce even more flowers in your garden, which in turn attracts other essential pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Our indigenous sunbirds, sugarbirds, and Cape white-eyes are at your service.
  • Weeds away: South Africa’s waxbills, finches, fire finches, canaries and bronze manikins are seed-snacking winners.
  • Property plus: Add value to your property by boasting a colourful variety of wildlife. A bird-attracting garden makes your property more appealing and increases investment value.
  • Education: With so many friendly flyers around, take the opportunity to research your local bird species. Educate yourself, loved ones, and the kids!
  • Stress relief: Be it morning, midday, or at sunset – watching the birds is always a pleasing and calming activity that promotes well-being and decreases stress.

Indigenous South Africa

Our local lovelies are bred for SA’s climate and attract a glorious variety of wildlife.

August in the Garden Checklist An extraordinary, rewarding August

With the great winds of change upon us, dare we say the smell of spring approaches! All your hard work this winter will soon pay off as August comes to reward the garden with extraordinary blooms in gorgeous hues for every mood. There’s one more month of cool-season stunners to enjoy with daisy bushes leading the pack. Make sure to tick off your maintenance checklist and begin prepping the lawn for September. Edibles are exciting in August too and there’s much to sow and munch on. Hold onto your hats and let’s glide right in!

 

Fulfilling flowers
Strikingly crazy for daisies

Colour blast your way through the wind and immerse outdoor beds in bold and brave daisy bushes. The vivid variety of daisy blooms will pop off brilliantly against the winter landscape and are simply stand out additions to the  garden. Daisies flourish in containers, beds, and borders that receive full sun. Bushes can be sown and/or planted in autumn for a vibrant August gust of colour. Here are seven striking inspirations:

  1. Cape daisy (Osteospermum): Indigenous and water-wise in deep shades of many magical colours to choose from, flowering from spring to autumn.
  2. Marguerite daisy (Argyranthemum): Blooms attract butterflies, available in pretty coloured hues for every mood that flower from spring to autumn. Single and double flowers available.
  3. English daisy (Bellis perennis): A fast grower and spreader with uniquely rounded red, white, and pink flowers, blooming in masses from winter to spring.
  • Golden daisy bush (Euryops chrysanthemoides): Compact and evergreen with bright golden-yellow blooms peaking from autumn to spring.
  • Livingstone daisy (Mesembryanthemum): Dark centres blend into radiant shades of pinks, purples, orange, yellow, and crimson. Flowering begins in August, peaking in September.
  • Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum): Cheerful and quick-spreading with robust all-white petals and a yellow centre.

July Checklist Gardening Checklist

July is all about colourful comforts in the garden and enjoying the hearty harvest winter has to offer. Keep your beds looking lush with a sensational selection of flowers available from your GCA Garden Centre. Don’t forget your July maintenance to help your garden stay in top shape and ready for the last cold stretch. Enjoy the journey with your landscape and take some time to appreciate the remarkable changes of Mother Nature.

 

Beat the winter blues
  • Surround yourself with colourful comforts available at nurseries now: primose, alyssum/lobularia, violas, pansies, verbena, Primula malacoides, Primula obconica, Primula acaulis, and ornamental kale.
  • Robust succulents: Aloe Hedgehog, aloe Ferrox, and aloe Speciosa.
  • Gems: Krantz aloe, Basuto kraal aloe, nandina, viburnum, camellia, holly and Elaeagnus.
  • Indoor babies: Move indoor plants to warmer parts of the house if needed. Also check that your plants are getting enough light.

A flying reminder: Help the birds out and ensure your birdbath and bird feeder is well-stocked. Food is scarce for the flyers during the winter months.

Everything edible
  • Garden centre treasures: Fig, olive, grape, cherry, peach, plum, and apple trees are available at GCA Garden Centres from July.
  • Harvest now: Horseradish, asparagus, celeriac, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and waterblommetjies.
  • Split & divide: Divide your asparagus and rhubarb now for a larger yield and remember to mulch well after transplanting.
  • Support: Stake broad beans and Brussels sprouts to give them more support and increase growth.
  • Feed: Remember to feed your winter veg seedlings with nutritious fertilisers and compost. Also, feed your spring bulbs and clivias now.
  • Mulch up: Much beds well to retain warmth and moisture.
  • Water down: Be careful of overwatering during winter every 3rd day should be sufficient.

Top tip: Use bird netting or frost cover sheets to deter birds while also allowing light and air into the veggie garden.

July in the Garden All that glitters is gold, yellow, orange, and red!

Life is a Garden

Let’s celebrate Nelson Mandela Day on 18 July in style by showcasing – the gorgeous, golden-yellowStrelitzia, appropriately named after Madiba as ‘Mandela’s Gold’. It flowers beautifully this time of year and is an amazing feature plant. Also, Aloes are out with striking spears of yellow, orange and red, adding some much-needed warmth to our gardens and patios during these cool July days.

The global lockdown was indeed a rather scary experience, but it also presented a golden lining with some much needed time for humanity to reflect on our impact on the natural world. How chilling it was to observe the rapid decrease in air pollution, the abundant return of many animals to urban areas, and the increase in sea-life activity around the world. Hopefully, this will help us all to deepen our appreciation of Mother Nature and whole-heartedly celebrate the International Day of the Conservation of Mangrove Ecosystems on 26 July, and World Nature Conservation Day on 28 July.

Trending – Life is a garden with water-wise Aloes

Gone are the days that Aloes were only seen on road trips as large shrubs growing on mountain slopes. We have a huge variety of spectacular Aloes bred for our patio pots and gardens. Breathe warmth into your winter garden and attract sunbirds and bees at the same time. Aloes range from dwarf forms like ‘Peri Peri’ and ‘Hedgehog’ to the multi-coloured ‘Charles’ and ‘Ballerina’, the rich colours of ‘Fireball’, ‘Andy’s Yellow’, ‘Gold Sparkle’ and many more. These sculptural plants have interesting leaf shapes and colours such as ‘Freckles’,which has grey tones and speckles, and Aloe striata, which has stunning pink-lined flat, grey leaves.  Treat yourself by visiting your local GCA Garden Centre and choosing one that blows your hair back.

 

Best veggies to grow in the winter

It may be a bit late to make a start on some of these veggies right now, but you can always plan for next winter too:

  • Baby spinach, which is all the rage in cooking and in salads, is available to sow from seed and plant from seedlings almost throughout the year.

June in the Garden Midday gardening with monsters, berries and birds

June in the garden – Midday gardening with monsters, berries and birds.

Winter has arrived, but luckily our days are still blessed by lovely, lunchtime sunshine in most parts of the country. This is the perfect time for a little midday gardening and a braai with the family.  For an enticing entertainment area plant seedlings like fairy Primulas for a dazzling flush of colour. Hanging baskets are back and add a wonderful variety of vibrant texture to your patio. When the party moves indoors, dragon trees and delicious monsters are a great choice.

Friday 5 June is World Environment Day. Celebrate your surroundings by thinking about our feathered garden friends. Birds often find it difficult to source food in the colder months, but we can lovingly assist them by putting out bird feeds. Beautiful seed feeders, suet, fruit feeders and even bird pudding can be found at your nearest GCA Garden Centre. Nesting logs will encourage Barbets to nest in your garden. In addition, any of these would make an ideal gift for Father’s Day on Sunday 21 June. You could also consider a bonsai plant and bonsai accessories as a Father’s Day gift.

June in the Garden feed the birds
June in the Garden - Fathers Day Bonsai
What to Sow

It is a good time to sow Dianthus spp. also known as pinks,  as their flowers are mostly pink, salmon, dark pink or white with bi-colours of lavender, purple and reds also available. Their flowers have a spicy fragrance and they belong to the same family of plants as carnations. One of the larger Dianthus is the specie we know as Sweet William, (Dianthus barbatus) which has bigger flowers and a spicy fragrance with hints of cinnamon and cloves. Sweet William is available in both single and double blooms and are biennial (flower in the second year) and self-seeding.

Pinks need at least 6 hours of sun per day and prefer to be watered on the soil, as water on the leaves may cause mildew spots.

May the bush be with you African Gardens

Nothing says proudly South African quite like a braai in the bushveld, a couple of cold ones between friends, and a silhouetted Acacia tree at twilight. This May, bring the bush to your own backyard and make every weekend a reason to get out and enjoy the aromatic, African air. Fall in love with a wonderful variety of indigenous plants, which are low maintenance, naturally water saving, and easily accessible for your next gardening project.

Letting the landscape speak

Before cutting down that old tree or removing those rocks, why not use the existing landscape and architecture to your advantage? Leafy ferns and trees with bulging roots add a lovely variety of texture to your garden. Indigenous thorn trees may not be the best picnic spot, but a simple pallet pathway leading to a cosy hammock or bench, may just bring out your garden’s natural beauty. Building a fire pit from collected rocks is cost efficient and effortlessly evokes that rustic, unrefined, bushveld feeling. Make the most of uneven areas by surrounding your boma with a sandpit and wood stumps for stools. Using different sands or pebbles bring even more texture into the space, making decorating easy by showcasing bold, dead tree features and a couple of ambient lanterns.

Bulking up your bush

 The thing about indigenous plants is that they love space, depth, and lots of ferny friends! Planting “bulking” shrubs, ferns, and creepers together create excellent and easy space fillers, impressive barriers, and even pretty cloaking devices to disguise those dull walls and fences. Including some striking Crane Flowers (Strelitzia reginae), a fragrant Gardenia bush (Gardenia augusta), and a few evergreen Kei-apple shrubs (Dovyalis caffra), will not only fill gaps in your garden, but may well surprise you with their easy to maintain, effortless beauty.

Therapeutic gardening for good health

In a fast-paced world dictated by technology we have a tendency to turn to the natural world for solace. The calming character of nature has been known to humans for centuries and has recently developed into a new area of study – therapeutic horticulture. Although horticulture was used as far back as 2000BC to promote calmness, official studies into the mental benefits of gardening began in the 19th century. Since then, greater research has begun to suggest gardens are not just good-looking, they can be beneficial to our physical and mental wellbeing.

What is therapeutic horticulture?

The Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association (CHTA) defines Horticultural Therapy as a formal practice that uses plants, horticultural activities and the garden landscape to promote well-being for its participants. Some studies suggest that mental health and wellbeing can be greatly improved through the use of horticultural therapy as views of nature have positive, psychological responses, physiological impacts (lower blood pressure, reduced muscle tension), and a reduced need for medical treatment occurs. Even garden soil alone has been shown to be beneficial to wellbeing just by breathing in, playing in or digging in dirt.

Physically, gardening is a great way to stay fit and active. Whether you have a large lawn to mow or a small herb garden to tend, every activity can improve fine motor skills, balance and endurance. Along with physical benefits, studies have demonstrated countless mental benefits that stem from the peaceful nature of gardening and the purpose of facilitating the growth of plants.

What makes a therapeutic garden?

Therapeutic gardens are designed with the visitor in mind. Each area is created to facilitate interaction and engage the senses to allow for a more complete immersion into nature. Accessibility is therefore a priority, encouraging easy gardening or physical interaction with the plants. A visitor or the gardener themselves should be able to see or study, touch, smell and even taste the plants while hearing the sounds of nature around them.

October in the Garden Celebrating Gardening

With the 9th of October being ‘Garden Day’ and October being ‘Rose month’ – what an opportune month to celebrate gardening!

Rose month

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).

Bring health and life to your garden Garden paradise

Contribute your own little piece of Eden to the Earth and invite the buzz, whir and tweet of some colourful little guests that will appreciate it as much as you do. The beautiful colours and scents that attract these special creatures are also a treat for your own senses.

Edibles in your Garden

Cape Gooseberries (Physalis edulis) is a quick-growing annual or perennial fruit plant that originates in South America. It has been grown extensively in many parts of South Africa for the little golden berries that are produced in abundance, on bushes that can reach a height of about 1m.

Gooseberries are a worthwhile fruit to grow in your garden as they are excellent for making jams, jellies, desserts, chutneys and wine.

Grow them from seed, in almost any, well-drained soil – they even cope with poor or impoverished soils. Position them in full sun in an open, exposed area where the plants can literally grow wild. You can grow them all year round in frost-free climates.

 

Bedding Besties

For summer colour in abundance, Nemesia (Nemesia strumosa) and Twinspurs (Diascia integerrima) make the best of indigenous friends.

Nemesia (Nemesia fruticans) - The flowers resemble little snapdragon flowers and are dusty-pink or mauve or even whiter in colour - decorated with bright yellow. Used mostly as a flowering bedding plant and as an ornamental pot plant. Various colour forms are available from specialist nurseries.

Plant in well-drained soil, enriched with compost in a sunny position.

Twinspurs (Diascia barberae)- a dainty little perennial plant originating from the Drakensberg mountain range. It produces numerous upright stems growing to 30cm tall. The tubular flowers are rich salmon pink in colour. They grow best in full sun and look spectacular in rock gardens, especially tucked into joints and cracks between large rocks.

Garden vision – Let your garden vision board bloom Must Love Gardening

Does the idea of spending an afternoon in a tranquil and breath-taking landscaped garden sound enticing? Well, with our help you’ll be digging in and transforming your garden into a haven just in time to have it ready for the festive season. Whether you’re looking to create a staycation spot or an entertainer’s dream, we have some tips that will help you get started.

Start with a vision

To begin, you’ll need a better understanding of the canvas you have available to work with. Take a walk around your garden and make a note of the sunny areas that would benefit from sun-worshipping plants and flowers. Also, pay attention to the shadier areas that might be ideal for you to convert into your peaceful escape or a lively entertainment area.

Once you have an idea of the space you’re working with, it is time to get the creative juices growing.

Stepping into paradise

Plants and flowers are an obvious first thought when thinking about your garden, and it is essential to have an idea of the types of flowers and colours you’d like to see dotted around this space as well as possible areas where you can plant trees and shrubs.

Having mapped out your flora you’ll have a better idea of where you want to place inviting pathways that lead you to explore your garden and soak up the beauty and fragrances that will linger around every corner. There are various paving and stepping stone options available to meet a variety of tastes.

Pots and a decorative bridge can be used as a focal point adding additional charm to the garden. Water features are also attractive additions to any garden and the soothing sound of water falling adds an element of calm to the environment. They also attract birds to the garden to further enhance the outdoor experience.