Posts Tagged ‘ birds ’

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

Posted on: July 6th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
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. There are a few small-leafed varieties to choose from. Young leaves of larger varieties of Swiss chard, (spinach) are also used as tender baby spinach.

TIP: Add some vibrant colour to the veggie garden by using Swiss chard Bright Lights which has brightly coloured stems.

  • Be the envy of your friends by growing some trendy Microgreens to garnish any dish – it is easy-peasy and oh, so very quick! Microgreens are a variety of young vegetable and herb greens that are picked at the first true leaf stage. They often have an intense aromatic flavour that varies with the mixture of plant greens used. Sow the mixture of your favourite seeds in pots or troughs/trays on a sun-receiving windowsill, on the patio or in veggie garden beds. In most cases, within a week or two of germinating, the young leaves are ready to start harvesting.

TIP: Remember that by sowing a little extra seed when doing your regular veggie seed sowing you can also keep a little patch aside for Microgreens.

  • Spring onions are always welcome in the kitchen and their unique flavour is sometimes just what is needed. They require very little space and are fun to add into mixed containers on the patio or balcony. The seedlings are available for planting in between other plants and besides being easy to harvest, they create wonderful textural contrast.
  • Cauliflower loves the winter temperatures and if you are gardening on the cold highveld and have not yet planted any, you still have the chance if you do it now. Because July and August can heat up quickly, choose the seedlings of either the Romanesque, (a trending green cone-looking variety), or one of the small head varieties like Mini Me which will mature faster.

TIP: It’s time for thyme – yes, this herb likes the cool winter months and is a wonderful pairing with most of the winter veg. Again, grow in a pot or add to a mixed container if you are short of garden space.

Spray

If your Aloes have small grey ridges or bumps forming on the leaves it probably indicates an infestation of scale insects. Take a picture or a sample into your local GCA Garden Centre and allow them to recommend a spray that will not burn the tender, succulent Aloe leaves. For scale insects on other plants spray with a recommended organic spray dilution.

TIP: Avoid spraying the soft, new leaves of ferns and tree ferns with as some sprays can damage them.

 

Prune

Life is a garden – so let’s get on with life and prune our roses now in July before their buds start swelling. Buds swell in early to mid-July in the Lowveld and at the coast, and during August in the Highveld. Pruning is a labour of love from you to your roses and will give them the vooma they need for strong, healthy new growth and reduce the number of flowering stems, resulting in an increase in flower size for the coming season.

Shopping list: For best results, here is the equipment required:

  • Pruning shear: With sharp, clean blades – a great new sharpening device is available at most GCA Garden Centres.
  • Long-handles loppers: Or a small saw – folding bow saws are space-savers and inexpensive.
  • Gloves
  • When you visit your local GCA Garden Centre also ask their advice on the necessity of sealing and spraying the plants after pruning – the advice on products may vary especially from frosty to frost-free regions.

Recommendations:

  • Improve the soil fertility after pruning so that the roses can perform at their best – feed with bonemeal and compost. Other specialist rose fertilizers can be recommended by your local GCA Garden Centre for use thereafter.
  • Pruning has some basic steps that can easily be learned by either attending a pruning demonstration in your area or by simply watching videos on our YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yLT23aLiRs
Bedding plants

Ode to the edible pansy: Pansy flowers can freeze completely at this time of year due to the frost and then as the sun thaws them out in the morning, they defrost and smile up at you, hence the Afrikaans name “gesiggies”.

Both pansies and the smaller Viola, from which the pansies originate, produce adorable flowers that are hard to resist. They produce masses of charming flowers over a long period, making them the most popular choice for sunny spots in the winter garden, in pots, or even hanging baskets on the patio. If planted late in winter it is advisable to plant them in semi-shade to protect them from the harsher spring sun. Both pansies (Viola x wittrockiana), Violas (Viola cornuta) and Viola tricolour “heartsease” make for the prettiest edible flowers for decorating pastries, garnishing cocktails, soups, and even lemonade. Violas are a more delicate garnish while the pansy flowers crystallise very well and can also be eaten as sweets or used to decorate ice-cream.

Pansy’s claim to fame:  Their name in French, “Pensee”, means loving thought, and if a lover was near (and a bouquet of pansies was as well) the lovers could communicate without talking.

Edible Calendulas: Calendulas flowers can be eaten whole, however, the petals are the tastiest part of the flower, with the white section that joins to the flower base removed. Their colourful petals lift the colour and mood of a salad, while their spicy flavour is used to garnish and season curries and soups.

Edible flowers are great fun to use as garnish and you may already have plants in the garden that you did not know have edible flowers.

Blooming right now

Winter/Spring flower power

The power of colourful flowers is undeniable. Primulas, poppies, Calendulas, pansies, Violas, Dianthus, Alyssum and Petunias love the warm, dry Highveld winter weather. They should be in full flower in your garden right now, that is, if you planted them in Autumn. If not, they are all still available in seedling trays and possibly colour bags/pots to be planted in a sunny part of the garden, patio pots or hanging baskets. You’ve got the flower power waiting at your local GCA Garden Centre.

TIP: Keep up the watering and regular fertilizing of your flowering and veggie annuals.

Winter/Spring flowering shrubs

Camellias and azaleas, sometimes labelled with their botanical name Rhododendrons, are both spring flowering, acid-loving plants. They will benefit from mulching with acid-compost and most importantly, be sure to water them consistently, as opposed to constantly, until and through flowering. If you do, you will prevent bud drop in the Camellias and the buds browning off and not opening in Azaleas.

Tip: Special acid-loving food is available for both the Camellias and azaleas but should not be used during flowering.

How is your garden’s bone structure?

Prune, projects, plan and take the plunge (the 4P’s).

July is a great time in the garden to be doing projects that you don’t get time to do during the rest of the year. It is also a good time to assess the garden’s “bone” structure. The natural architecture is pronounced in the colder regions where frost-sensitive plants are covered, roses pruned and deciduous trees and shrubs lay bare in the garden. The revealed cone structure of your garden allows you to assess the projects necessary to fix shortcomings and make exciting new changes to the garden. This can include pruning back tree branches to open the view or because they are shading over other plants. It also could include a variety of hard landscaping projects, for example, creating a new stepping-stone pathway to a secluded seating area.

Put on those gumboots, take the plunge and spend some precious time with your cute goldfish doing pond maintenance. Clean the pond, the filter, re-pot water plants and make sure to skim any potential leaves from blocking the filter and pump manually or with a surface skimmer.

TIP: July is an ideal time to plan your spring planting and summer garden.

 

Inland gardening

Water-wise

Be water-wise and use the fallen autumn leaves to mulch your beds. This not only saves on dustbin space but is great for conserving moisture and warmth in the soil.

What’s in a name anyway?

The Cypress Aphid, Conifer Aphid or the Italian Aphid all describe the same aphid that has done considerable damage to conifers in South Africa over the last 30 years. They infest and actively attack certain conifer varieties in the autumn and winter months.

Identify: To check your conifers, open the foliage with both hands and look closely at the young stems. The aphid is larger than others but camouflaged since it looks just like the bark and will not move unless disturbed.

Treat: If your plants are infested, ask your local GCA Garden Centre for the recommended spray or drench and continue applying until the end of August.

Coastal gardening

Lowveld and in warm frost-free coastal regions

Short back and sides: Prune back and tidy up many of the garden shrubs and climbers before they put on new spring growth.

Sow: Asparagus, peppers, beetroot, carrots, cucumber, brinjal, globe artichoke, melons, Swiss chard, tomato, marrows.

Indoor living decor: Make sure that the indoor plant leaves are dust-free and open the windows and doors in the warmth of the day – stale air encourages pests and diseases.

Bird buddies: Clean birdbaths and fill with fresh water. Clean and fill bird feeders. Put nesting logs up for the new breeding season.

Western Cape, winter rainfall regions

Sow: Asparagus, beetroot, broad beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, leek, lettuce, onion, parsley, parsnip, radish, spinach and turnip.

With Life is a Garden, winter is never dull or boring. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre and dress-up your space for a spectacular spring.

For more gardening tips and information, visit Gardening trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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

Posted on: May 21st, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
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. Use a slow-release fertilizer in your bed preparation or fertilise regularly for best results.

Claim to fame: The new-age Dianthus varieties flower for up to 6 months!

Tip: Removing the spent blooms (dead-heading) is very important if you want to encourage further flowering.

June in the Garden - What to Sow

Continue sowing leafy greens like spinach, lettuce and beetroot which are all very easy to grow. They are also a great choice for kids to sow as an introduction to the fabulous and fun hobby of gardening.

  • Spinach is a superfood. It is loaded with plenty of nutrients and is low-calorie to boot! It won’t be long for you to start using the baby leaves for salads. Spinach dips and other recipes are easily obtained online – and don’t forget that spinach makes a divine quiche.
  • Lettuce will be ripe and ready for spring and summer salads if planted now. Lettuce leaves are being used more and more as a carb-free wrap alternative.
  • Beetroot is gaining popularity as a superfood with the juice being used in an increasing number of drinks. The leaves are hot and trendy as salad greens.

Tip: 16 June is Youth Day – share your gardening wisdom and enthusiasm by inspiring new, little green fingers. This is your opportunity to show children how to plant these easy-to grow veggies.

June in the garden
June in the Garden
Life is a Garden
Pick edibles

Reap your rewards by picking the veggies that you sowed or planted a few months back:

  • Cabbage is so versatile in its culinary uses; they are an amazing addition to any home-made soup and are the hero in coleslaw and stir fry.
  • Cauliflower is considered one of the healthiest foods on Earth. It is fabulous as a banting substitute for rice or pastries, and besides when paired with cheese… who can resist an easy to make, cauliflower au gratin?
  • Brussels sprouts are high in nutrients and rich in antioxidants. They are trending in recipes from hot dips, to creamy gratin and crunch salads.
  • Broccoli is just so diet-friendly and healthy. The growing trend is to harvest it with a 10 to 15cm long stem.
Life is a Garden - June in the Garden
Life is a Garden - June in the Garden
June in the Garden - What to Pick
June in the garden - what to pick
Posh blooms

Ranunculus, or  Ranunc’sas they are fondly referred to, can be planted from pots if you forgot to buy the claws/bulbs when they were on the shelves with the rest of the Spring flowering bulbs.. Phew… we seldom get a fantastic second chance like this! The brilliantly coloured flowers of ranunculus are often compared with looking like a crepe-paper, origami masterpiece.

Tip: How marvellous for us that they are long-lasting cut flowers too.

 Bedding besties

Primulas are the queens of the winter and spring shaded garden. Lucky for us, there are three stunning types of Primula to choose from:

  • Fairy Primulas(Primula malacoides) are still available in seedling trays, ready to create a splendid display of colour in your shade and semi-shade areas.
  • Primula acaulis, or primroses, are available in seedling trays and pots. These striking large flowers may be either pastel or brightly coloured with a dark central eye. If you want to add some excitement to your garden, then mix them up in a bed. They will be to your garden what balloons are to a party – colourful, fun and uplifting!
  • Primula obconica is a long-flowering plant with attractive, large rounded leaves and clusters of flowers that stand clear of the leaves with flower heads that resemble mini hydrangeas. These Primulas are mostly sold in pots for patio use or garden planting.
June in the garden - bulbs
June in the Garden - bedding besties
Trees

If you have trees and shrubs that need moving, this is the best time to do so. You may want to open your view or separate plants that were planted too close together. Plants need adequate light and air circulation for good growth. Palms, Cycas, cycads and small to medium-sized conifers, deciduous shrubs and trees will have the best chance of success. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to get the correct advice, tools and products that are necessary to maximise your transplanting success.

Trending indoors

Indoor plants are high fashion and are being used to decorate all rooms in the house, especially the living areas and kitchens. Score some points on the trend barometer by going leafy indoors. Large leaf plants are trending in large and medium-sized pots. Here are some hot favourites:

  • Philodendron selloum, often just called selloums, have large, shiny, deeply lobed leaves. Selloums and their close relative, the delicious monster (Monstera deliciosa) are hot, hot, hot! Place them in high light areas in the home or patio.
  • Sanseviera spp. Known also as Mother-in-law’s tongue, is back in fashion. New varieties are more colourful and eye-catching. They are very contemporary in style, waterwise, and generally as tough as nails.
  • Stromanthe ‘Tristar’ has large green and white variegated upper leaf surface colours with pink and maroon undersides. The strong contrasting colours make a visibly interesting and attractive plant. Tip: Stromanthe love the coastal humidity and are best misted during the day inland. They do well placed on top of, or near a tray of pebbles with water between the pebbles.
  • Draceana marginata, or dragon tree, is a popular feature plant. It can grow in moderate light conditions and is rather easy to care for. A spot with good airflow will be beneficial.

Tip: Indoor plants will all benefit from regular feeding – consult your local GCA Garden Centre.

 

June in the garden - trending indoors
June in the garden -trending indoors
June in the garden
June in the garden
What to feed

Feed your winter and spring flowering annuals and bulbs while they are actively growing. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for a recommended fertilizer that will promote both growth and flowering.

Rose care

As large shrubs and trees mature, they might start shading your roses too much. Their roots can also start robbing nutrients and water from your roses. June is the best month to move threatened roses to a new, prepared bed in a more sunny spot.

Let’s be Waterwise

Set your garden alight with a Fire Sticks plant (Euphorbia tirucalli). It resembles sea coral with pencil-like upright leaves. They are very noticeable in winter when they change from lime green and yellow colour to having flaming red and orange tips.

Tip: If you need to cut or prune this plant, take care to not let the milky latex-like plant sap touch your skin, and especially do not get it into your eyes as it can be very harmful. All parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested.

June in the garden - Waterwise
Inland gardening

Paving the way - Winter is a great time to get creative with pathways and paved or gravelled areas. Now is the time for you to put in practice what you have seen and longed to have – like a beautiful pathway or extend an entertainment area. Your local GCA garden centre has a range of pavers, pebbles, gravels and plants that can allow your dream garden to become a reality. Remember to use a weed-suppressing fabric under paved areas and to set the pavers on a cushion of river sand so that it is stable.

Tip: It is also the best time to do maintenance in the garden. If its cold outside, put your jumper on and jump to it!

Hot trend alert: Gabion landscaping is all the rage. This makes use of wire and steel gabions, mostly filled with river pebbles or dump rock as the structural, hip element. They allow for exciting height changes in the landscape, as well as being a fashionable bold feature to contrast soft plantings.

Hot tip: To celebrate and tie in with World Day of Desertification and Drought on Wednesday 17 June, plan to plant waterwise succulents around your fire pit. Fire pits are fast becoming a regular feature in suburban gardens.

June garden. start paving
Gabion landscaping
Prune hydrangeas

Pruning your Hydrangea macrophylla, the regular mophead hydrangea, will increase its vigour and increase the size of the blooms, especially if you have not pruned for many years.

  • Step 1: Identify stems that have not flowered yet. These can be cut back slightly to about 2 or 3 buds from the top of the stem to just above strong, healthy buds.
  • Step 2: Now go through the shrub and cut back about a third of the stems to about two-thirds of their length, and the rest by about a third to half their length to ensure healthy buds.
  • Step 3: If there are any old, woody stems, these can be cut back as low down as possible.
Prep beds for berries

Traditionally, most deciduous fruit trees and berries were planted in early spring as open-ground plants (i.e. with their bare roots wrapped in newspaper). Because we now buy them in pots or bags, it is not necessary to plant them as early. However, old habits die hard and these plants are ready for sale in spring. It is always a good idea to get in first and buy your berries as soon as you can.

Most berries like well-drained, well-composted soil in a sunny area of the garden. This means that if you have clay soil, you will need to amend it with lots of compost turned into the soil, or simply make raised beds for your berries. You can choose to add a general fertilizer into the soil now, or after planting. Don’t forget to add superphosphate or bone-meal into the planting holes, water regularly and remove weeds between the plants as they grow.

Tip: Add plenty of acid-compost or peat moss to your soil in the area you want to plant blueberries as they are acid-loving plants.

June in the garden
Coastal gardening
  • Clean up your palms by removing the dry leaves and seed pods. This is especially helpful if your palms are next to the pool and the seeds are clogging up your pool cleaner.
  • Clean up your climbers:
    • Bougainvilleas are best pruned and kept in check annually rather than letting them get out of hand.
    • Banksia roses can also grow incredibly fast in just one season. Neaten them up by removing the old, dead or diseased canes/branches first, and then cutting them back to a manageable size.

With Life is a Garden, winter is never dull or boring. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre and dress-up your space for a spectacular spring.

For more gardening tips and information, visit Gardening trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

May the bush be with you African Gardens

Posted on: May 11th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

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. A variety of local grasses are also great for adding diversity to your proudly South African garden. Try planting some dreamy Snowflake Grass (Andropogon eucomis) along pathways, surrounding empty tree beds, and even to those areas where nothing else seems to grow.

 

Friendly Creatures and Critters

 Conserving and planting endemic flora is not only a win for the environment, but also a sure victory for our little garden visitors.  Bees play a vital role in human existence and crop pollination, so help the little guys out by adding some sweetly scented, Honey Daisy (Euryops virgineus) to your bushveld. And while you’re at it, inviting a kaleidoscope of butterflies is easy too, especially when planting brightly coloured butterfly bushes such as Geraniums (Geranium incanum).  Cork Bush (Mundulea sericea) is an excellent choice for Highveld naturescaping with purple flowers providing food to multiple insects and birds, who in turn are sure to bring that all too familiar, bushveld choir to your patio. Hollowed out tree stumps or large rocks with natural indents, make for great bird baths and a welcoming refreshment for all your little bushveld guests.

Beauty is in the eye of the recycler

With a little TLC, a scrap piece of wood can have many uses: a serving slab for bits of biltong, a tray to display your Acacia seeds, or a simple bush inspired centre piece. Take your creativity a step further and add some handmade carvings to your wood, or use red soil to naturally stain lighter, raw wood. Attention to detail can help add that extra veld flavour to your garden. Decorate your old tree stumps, tables, and low walls with Aloe plants in earthy pots. Aloes are avid sun lovers, water wise, hardy, and come in a vibrant variety of sunset hues.

With the beautiful African bushveld as your muse you can create your own bush paradise. Visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre for indigenous plants and the best advice on growing mzanzi magic. When it comes to capturing the essence of a bushveld garden, simple, earthy accents can make all the difference and ensure that your inspiration sings through every part of your garden – from the plants to the pots, and even to that old tree stump!

For more gardening inspiration visit follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Therapeutic gardening for good health

Posted on: December 9th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

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. It’s important to consider universal accessibility for all ages and simplicity in design, providing a comfortable environment for convenience and enjoyment. This includes the avoidance of hazardous chemicals (especially in cases where taste is included in the sensory experience), as well as providing shade and protective structures for both people and plants. The purpose is as much focused on the plants and their positions as how one can experience them.

How can your garden help you?

Creating your own therapeutic garden has incredible benefits for you and can bring your family closer to nature. By designing, building and maintaining a therapeutic garden in your outdoor space, your garden can transform from an artwork to an experience for visitors of all ages.

Design: The first step towards a therapeutic garden is the design. Consider each of the five senses and how you can combine plants and features to include sensory stimulation. Bright colours and a variety of shapes and heights in plants, as well as unique shapes and objects in focal points, can make the garden visually stimulating. For touch, textures are important (soft leaves, crunchy bark, running water), as are pathways and raised beds so that all the plants and features are easy to reach. Smell and taste can often go hand in hand by using fragrant herbs and fruits or edible flowers. Sound is slightly more difficult to incorporate through plants, so objects can be used to bring sound into your garden. A water feature as a focal point can include the soothing sounds of running water, a bird feeder can attract beautiful chirping birds, and a variety of flowers invites the buzz of bees. It is important to combine various senses with each design choice and aim to make the garden an activity in itself.

The experts at your local Garden Centre GCA can assist you with ideas to create your perfect  garden space.

Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

October in the Garden Celebrating Gardening

Posted on: October 1st, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

With the 20th 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). 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.

What to Spray

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.

  • Aphids are rife on new growth, they feed on the sap of most garden plants and are usually found in large colonies on the new growth tips, flower buds or on succulent foliage. They are particularly prevalent during early spring and into the summer season, sucking the sap from plants and causing malformed flowers and foliage. They can be controlled with one of the numerous different insecticides registered for use on these pests.

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.

What to pick

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.

Rose Care

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.

Garden Day

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.

Inland Gardening

(Gauteng, Free State, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)

  • Before you know it, December will be here – start preparing your garden now for all your holiday and festive season needs.
  • Clean out water fountains and ponds and ensure you unclog the impeller on your water feature pumps.
  • Check that your irrigation system is working effectively. Unclog nozzles and filterers, and replace any pipes or heads that need replacing. You don’t want to be rushing around last minute before you go away in December to ensure your watering system is working!
  • Plant additional veggies (like beans, sweetcorn, tomatoes, celery and cucumber) so that you have a good selection and enough to feed your family and any visitors over December. Sow more parsley, chives, basil and coriander seeds in your herb garden.
  • Look out for insects such as aphids, mealy bugs and whitefly on soft new growth and control with the correct insecticide.
  • Tidy up garden containers by pruning shrubs and specimen plants to maintain a round shape. Plant some bright red bedding begonias around the stems and these will give you a great splash of festive colour in December
Coastal Gardening

(Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)

  • Snails and slugs are more than likely sneaking out of their hiding places at night and eating seedlings and young shoots in your gardens. There are a number of ways, including traps to keep these guys from destroying your plants. Chat to the experts at your local GCA Garden Centre to find a solution that best meets your needs.
  • Inspect all members of the lily family such as agapanthus, crinum, clivia, nerine, amaryllis and haemanthus for lily borer. They are most active at night and can be treated with insecticides.
  • Clean up container plants and top dress with mulch, crushed peach or apricot pips or pebbles to keep the soil moist between watering.
  • Plant tropical fruits such as lychees, mangos and bananas.

Celebrate your garden this summer. For more gardening tips and information, visit Gardening trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Bring health and life to your garden Garden paradise

Posted on: September 30th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

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.

Birds and insects

Encouraging birds, bees and butterflies in your garden is a great way to nurture an environment that supports biodiversity. These creatures are crucial pollinators in our eco-system and every small haven created for them ensures a better future for our green and wild life.

The way to attract these pretty creatures is to make sure your garden has a ready supply of what they love and need. And think variety: the bigger the variety in your garden, the more varied your inhabitants will be.  This includes plants, rocks, nesting logs, water features and even rich soil.  Boost your soil with nutrients (Chat to the professionals at your local GCA Garden Centre for advice on the best products to use). Happy soil + happy plants = happy garden visitors.

Celebrate your garden this summer. For more gardening tips and information, check out whats trending in the garden or join the conversation on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/lifeisagardensa.

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

Posted on: September 26th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

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.

Entertainers dream

A tranquil and breath-taking garden can provide a gorgeous backdrop for relaxing family lunches soaking up the afternoon sun. However, at night, your garden can also transform into an enchanting paradise that dreams are made of. A fire pit in the centre of your night-time entertainment area will create a cosy atmosphere. It will also mean that there is no need to move indoors on cooler evenings. Add a few comfy outdoor couches and cushions, and you’re set to enjoy hours entertaining under the moonlight.

Garden lights could be positioned around the garden to emphasise large trees, stunning flower beds and walkways. To add to the sensory experience, consider planting some flowers that look their best under the moonlight and others that emit the most fragrance at night. Fairy lights can also add colour and magical sparkle to the area. You’ll also want to make sure that there is sufficient lighting around the entertainment area, allowing for easy access from the house when it is dark outside.

Getting inspired

These are just a few of the options available to transform your garden. For more inspiration to creating the garden of your dreams, scroll through the pages at Life is a Garden. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for monthly inspiration and reasons to love your garden.

For more gardening inspiration and tips check out whats trending here: Garden trends or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top everything gardening http://eepurl.com/blqM4T