Posts Tagged ‘ christmas ’

Hero your harvest this holiday Holiday Gardening

Posted on: December 1st, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

The holiday season is a gardener’s time to shine, an opportunity to show off the goods, and the perfect occasion to “uithaal en wys”, as they say in Afrikaans. This month, you’ve got full bragging rights, so make sure you’re ready to be the gardening host with the most! It’s time to let those home-grown veggies and herbs take the spotlight.

Braai buddies

With the family on their way and the charcoal ready – it’s braai time with some buddies from the garden to bring out the flavour of your food. Highlight your hard work by making veggies and herbs the hero of your dish. Here are some tantalising ideas to please every pallet:

  1. Brazilian braai broodjies: Put an exotic twist on our local favourite by adding these herbs to your broodjies with a little olive oil – oregano, rosemary, bay leaf, basil, and thyme.
  2. Sweet and sticky pumpkin pockets: Make little parcels from foil to pop straight onto the grill, filling them with ginger, marjoram, tarragon, and a little honey or sugar. Kids will love this one!
  3. Creamy black mushrooms: A delicious sauce to baste on as you braai, using melted butter, garlic, dill, and lemon balm. Garnish with fresh chives.
  4. Watermelon wanderlust: Explore your tastebuds and impress everyone with groovy grilled watermelon! Cut your watermelon into wedges, season both sides with a mixture of salt, sugar, and a hint of chilli. Season well to get that charred look and flame-grilled taste, garnish with lots of fresh mint.
  5. Tomato hot pot: Hollow out the inside of your big tomatoes, mix the pulp with the following herbs, put it all back inside and then pop them over a gentle flame: parsley, fennel, coriander, sage, with a little salt and black pepper.

*Match your meat: Pair the flavour profile of your veggie dishes with your chosen meat for a well-balanced, complimentary dish.

Leaves are lekker

Time to ditch store-bought lettuce heads and go for leaves that say “festive and fabulous”.

Your garden centre has ready-to-go packs of mixed gourmet lettuce with gorgeous leaves to make the fanciest of salads.

Personalised salad jars are a grand gesture and a sophisticated way to hero your harvest. Find out which greens your fussy eaters enjoy, then layer a medium-sized glass jar with the chosen ingredients. Your guests will not only be impressed by your effort and presentation but will also enjoy tuning over their special salad onto their plate.

*Tip: Make your own salad dressing by blending up mixed herbs, olive oil, lemon juice and love!

Cocktails and mocktails

  1. Basil smash with gin: A shot of gin, a can of cucumber-favoured soft drink, and a handful of basil.
  2. Mint soda float: A can of cream soda, a scoop of ice cream, and a handful of mint.

*Tip: Bruise your herbs to release their full flavour!

December in the Garden December Check List

Posted on: December 1st, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Happy holidays is the theme and sentiment this month across much of the world. December, for some, is a time for relaxing and taking in the beauty of their summer gardens, while for others it means time to have fun giving TLC to their indoor, patio and garden plants. It is exciting to spruce up the home, patio and garden during this season of family time. Ask your family for gardening gifts that you may have eyed at your local garden centre. Plants are living gifts that will last for years in the garden – the type of gift that keeps on giving! Life is a Garden, so get the family in on it too!

Edibles

Add some zing to your cuisine these holidays with the following herbs:

Mint: A sprig of mint foliage is currently an all-the-rage addition to mojito cocktails, gin, other home-made cordials, as well as other trendy sundowners. Mint has very fragrant leaves with a fruity, aromatic taste.

This easy-to-grow groundcover prefers well-drained soils and good, regular watering. They are prized in the kitchen and as a landscaping plant in the garden.

There are many mints to choose from, here are some popular ones:

  • Spearmint for savoury dishes
  • Peppermint for desserts
  • Apple mint for drinks
  • Chocolate mint with liquors
  • Garden mint in salads, with lamb, peas, zucchini, fresh beans, marinades, fruit salads, cold soups, cheese and more.

Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to see these and other mints available.

Tip: For those of you that like spicy dishes there is even a “Hot mint”, which is also called Vietnamese coriander.

Neat to know: Young leaves are tastier than old leaves. The key to keeping the plant healthy will be to harvest sprigs regularly to stimulate new young shoots.

Did you know?: Although best eaten fresh, sprigs can be left for a few days in water, mint leaves can be frozen or air-dried.

Rosemary: A favourite herb! Many of us would use much more rosemary in our food if we had a plant or two growing in the garden. Rosemary can be used in a multitude of dishes including roast vegetables, poultry, lamb, stews and soups. In addition, this herb also adds a lovely savoury flavour to vegan and vegetarian dishes.

Tip: Use sprigs of rosemary fresh or hang up bunches and allow them to air-dry and then store them in an airtight container in the cupboard.

Neat to know: Rosemary is a beautiful evergreen shrub with blue flowers. There is the unusual prostate Rosmarinus officinalis ‘McConnell’s Blue’ and the upright Rosmarinus Tuscan Blue or braai rosemary.

Dill: Dill Anethum graveolens is a landscaping winner due to its fine feathery texture. It is a favourite in European and Asian cuisines and a must when paired with fish on the braai. Dill is commonly used to enhance the flavour of salmon, potatoes, stews, soups, with green beans and yoghurt-based sauces, and for pickling. Try adding some dill to your next summer salad and enjoy a little exotic taste!

Tip: Sow seeds every few weeks into early summer. In this way, if you are planting dill to use for pickling, you will have an on-going supply for when you harvest the veg you wish to pickle!

Something amazing! Dill is a host plant for the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly and also attracts beneficial insects like wasps and other predatory insects to your garden. Dill for the win!

Elf on the shelf

Let’s go gardening with Elfie:

Poinsettia hammocks: Take two poinsettias and sling a DIY hammock between their pots. Elfie can use this to relax and enjoy watching you and the family during the holidays (while also keeping an eye out for naughty behaviour).

Harvesting your watermelons: Yes, if you sowed your seed early, you should have watermelon ready to be picked, hooray! Hello, healthy dessert for Elfie and all!

Climbing up Amaryllis: Let Elfie see how far up the flowering stalk of your Amaryllis he can climb. Apparently, he’s quite an agile fella!

Dare to be different this Christmas

Everyone is welcome at Christmas, regardless of religious affiliations, and even if you simply enjoy the sentiment of gift-giving, there is a tree for you! Besides, what’s more awesome than enjoying the look on your child and loved one’s face when you finally nailed it! There are both large and small artificial and living Christmas trees to choose from. We don’t always need to choose a traditional Christmas tree, so let’s have a look at some of the options:

  • The indigenous bushveld gardenia (Gardenia volkensii) is a shrub with glossy green foliage and an interesting, arching branching pattern. Sweetly-scented white flowers open at night with attractive egg-shaped fruit. They are slow-growing and therefore wonderful focal plants for small gardens, patio pot plants or even as bonsai specimens.
  • Henkel’s yellowwood (Podocarpus henkelii) is an indigenous tree with dark green needle-like drooping leaves and a fairly pyramidal shape, making it a popular choice as a multi-purpose tree.
  • For those of you that prefer a smaller, table-top tree, the gold crest conifer or Cupressus ‘Gold Crest’,is a striking indoor or patio Christmas tree that can later be planted out into a sunny spot in the garden or left to grow in a pot for next year. They enjoy a sunny spot in the garden or patio.

Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to view the various Christmas trees available. You may even be surprised to find tree lights and décor at some of them.

Get creative these holidays

There are many plants that are very useful to make your own fresh décor with. Here are a few easy tips for those finishing holiday spirit touches that’ll certainly impress your guests. family and may make you the envy of your friends:

  • Use the pliable branch ends of our indigenous willow (Salix mucronate) to make a beautiful fresh wreath. Decorate it with pinecones or Christmas décor as a door wreath or eye-catching table centrepiece.
  • The foliage from leylandii conifers (Cupressus leylandii) or butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) and geraldton wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum) are also great to use as floral décor of any kind. You can make floral arrangements as table runners, candle wreath décor, or add Christmas décor to them.

If you don’t have these plants in your garden, then take a trip to your local GCA Garden Centre. Remember that once you plant them you will have a constant source of fresh plant décor from the growing plant.

What’s cracking at your GCA Garden Centre?

Make good use of the holidays and day trip to your local GCA Garden Centre. Keep an eye out for new colours and varieties of pretty perennials like:

  • Achillea (yarrow) with its fine fern-like foliage and waves of flat multi-blooms.
  • Cape fuchsia (Phygelius capensis) is an indigenous “shady lady” that looks shy due to her gorgeous clusters of hanging trumpet-looking flowers.
  • Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) is regal and attention-grabbingly tall, ideal for that damp spot in the garden.
  • Penstemon is an easy-to-grow perennial that is so rewarding with stunning flowering spires.
  • Daisies (Argyranthemum) nowadays are so compact and remarkably peppered with hundreds of buds and flowers on one plant – that’s what we call them flower power!

Tip: As with most new things, new plant varieties are often superior to their predecessors in a range of different ways, such as being more disease resistant, flowering for longer, producing larger blooms, or even a new flower colour. Don’t be shy to ask your local GCA Garden Centre salesman to show you all the new plants they have in stock for the season, you won’t regret it!

Let’s assess, yes?

December is an ideal time to consider new directions in the home or garden. You can begin implementing changes and improvements while you are still on holiday, or you can carry them over as New year’s resolution.

Are you getting the best from your garden? Consider who uses the garden the most and what you use the space for. Are you utilising your lawn and planting beds? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Do you have enough lawn for the kids to play cricket on or for your fur-babies to frolic? Lawns give the garden that wholesome “green” feeling and allow for lots of fun and games in the garden, especially when the family comes together. No kids, no pets? Well, then perhaps you should consider a low maintenance gravel garden instead of a time-consuming lawn.
  • Could you fit a treehouse for the kids, an outdoor dolls house, or a fort? You could decorate the area with fun garden ornaments, a little bridge perhaps, or even get the kids to plant bright flowers and easy-to-grow veggies.
  • Is it time to think about healthy living and extend your edible garden into the main garden? Absolutely! Adding veg like cabbage and spinach into your garden beds makes quite an impact! Olive trees and dwarf citrus lollipop trees are also very trendy in place of ornamentals. Having more veg also means more to cook with AND more to give away to other hungry tummies in need.
  • Is there a spot in the garden that waiting for a cosey bench or hammock? A spot in the shade for reading or facing the sunset for lekker sundowners chats? Ready-made garden arches and cute gazebos are also available to create an intimate garden room feel in both small and large gardens.
  • How about a place for a fire pit? Marshmallow braais, a little drumming and singing under the African sky, and some storytelling and laughs between friends – now that’s what we’re talking about!
  • There’s nothing to match the tranquil and soothing sound of a water feature. Is there a space you’ve always wanted to transform? A little aquatic touch will defiantly do the garden justice. Your local GCA Garden Centre has plenty of models for you to choose from.

Tip: A simple coat of paint on your inner garden walls can have a huge influence on the atmosphere in your garden. A dark olive or dark green paint can make the walls seem to disappear.

Have fun with family and friends in your garden this December! Treasure every moment as though your Life is a Garden, and plant flowers and food wherever you go.

Hey kids! It’s time to make DIY Eco seed crackers

Posted on: November 20th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

If you love Christmas, gardening, upcycling, and keeping the kids busy - you’ll be popping over this project! December is about abundance, but sadly a lot of this is waste too. So, dear gardeners, let’s play our part in reducing, recycling and remembering that we can incorporate a little green in everything. Instead of the usual cracker filled with plastic nonsense, which ends up in the bin, imagine an upcycled cracker filled with veggie, herb, and flower seeds to plant for summer! Hooray! Get the kids on board and let’s make eco seed crackers for Christmas.

Get cracking

For this DIY project, you will need:

  • Some empty toilet rolls
  • A few pieces of tissue paper
  • Used eco wrapping paper
  • Twine/string/ribbon/elastic bands
  • A pair of scissors
  • Light duty glue
  • Colouring in goodies
  • Seeds to plant

After the cracker has been cracked, you will need:

  • Soil and compost
  • Some sweet sunshine and water
Selecting seeds

Give your guests something meaningful to take home after Christmas lunch with a stunning selection of summer seeds for you to choose from:

  • Full sun, summer veggies: Broccoli, brussels sprouts, capsicum, cucumber, brinjal, sweet melon (spanspek), pumpkin (flat boer), spinach, tomatoes, and watermelon.
  • Full sun, summer herbs: Catnip, chamomile, chives, coriander, dill, fennel, garlic, paprika, rocket, and sage.
  • Full sun, summer flowers: Alyssum, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemum, cosmos, forget-me-not, helichrysum, marigold, nasturtium, petunias, and sunflowers.

 

 

Elves at work

Green fingers at the ready! It’s time to assemble our crackers:

  1. Wrap your selected seeds inside a few pieces of toilet paper or tissue. Tie them up with a piece of string. Set aside.
  2. For a personal touch and the enjoyable element of surprise, decorate the toilet roll according to what seed is inside. Kids can draw on veggies, herbs, or flowers and decorate as desired. This also adds to the excitement as guests won’t know what seeds they got until the cracker has popped and they behold your child’s delightful loo roll artwork.
  3. Cut your leftover wrapping paper so that the length is double that of the toilet roll.
  4. Cover the toilet roll with your wrapping paper, making a sort of tunnel. Secure the wrapping onto the body of the toilet roll with a little glue.
  5. Place your seed bundle inside the decorated toilet roll.
  6. There should be enough wrapping paper left on both sides of the toilet roll for you to twist on each end, forming the shape of a traditional cracker.
  7. Twist the ends of the overlapping wrapping paper against the ends of the toilet roll and secure with string around the twisted parts.
  8. Once you have cracked the cracker, guests can then reveal their seed surprises and compliment your child’s fantastic decorating skills! This will make kids feel proud and recognised as important contributors to Christmas lunch, while also getting everyone engaged in a meaningful gardening conversation! Another win for Mother Nature!
  9. Our green Christmas doesn’t stop there. You can also use the toilet paper roll as your seedling tray for the new babies. Top it up with some soil and compost, place your seed inside, sprinkle a little water and seal with a kiss from the sun.

 

There’s always an opportunity to go green and get kids in on the action too. Having everyone around the Christmas table applauding their hard work and discussing their creation is a fantastic way to reward their growing green fingers. Give your guests something meaningful to take home and let’s ditch the plastic this festive season.

Make your own reindeer staghorn this holiday season DIY Activity - Decorating a staghorn fern

Posted on: November 19th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

December holidays are great for getting creative with your kids. Here are 7 easy steps to make your own staghorn mount reindeer decoration.

Like orchids, the staghorn fern (Platycerium) is an epiphyte, which means they do not require soil to grow but attach to and gain nutrients from other plants, while not harming the host plant. They have two sets of leaves that grow, sterile and fertile. The sterile leaves usually form a flat shield that covers the roots and helps it attach to a support. While they might look like they are dead — they aren’t. Do not pick these leaves off! The fertile leaves emerge from the centre of the shield-like leaves and form the staghorn ‘antlers’ that gives this fern its name.

After just a short trip to your local GCA Garden Centre, you can make this gorgeous mounted reindeer staghorn fern to add some holiday cheer to your home this Christmas. Why not make more than one? They are stunning as gifts.

All you will need is the following:

  • Staghorn fern
  • Mounting board – We used a split log, but you could use any flat piece of wood
  • A bag of green moss
  • Some small nails
  • Wall mounting device of your choice – this may depend on the surface you decide to mount on
  • Twine, fishing line or wire
  • Hammer and possibly a screw driver
  • Red Christmas ball ornament
  • A reindeer face cut out and /or winking eyes
  • Coloured markers, crayons, pencils or paint to decorate your reindeer face
  • Glue, pins, double sided tape

Mounting A Staghorn Fern

Step one

First things first, you will want to set the hook that will attach to the wall. Whatever you decide to use is up to you and the mounting piece you decide on, but begin with placing that before anything else. We used two nails and a piece of twine, but you may prefer a picture frame hook.

Step two

Next, grab your nails and hammer in 4 to 6 small nails in a square or circular shape where you will be mounting the staghorn onto your chosen piece of wood. This will secure the plant on the mount.

Step three

Before you place the plant, it is important to loosen and prune the roots some. This helps better absorb moisture in its new environment as well as adapt to the new surface it will call home. After pruning make sure to water the plant.

Step four

Once you have pruned the plant, place the fern in the middle of the circle of nails. We also took into account the direction of leaves. By considering these details it will make the final presentation feel right. There is no wrong way, but sometimes one side of the plant will look better than another.

Now, grab the moss and pull apart a chunk, soak it slightly and make sure to squeeze out any drippy moisture. Wrap the moss around the base of the plant to contain the dirt and roots of the fern.

Step five

Once fully wrapped, cut a long piece of twine and tie a knot on a nail. Criss-cross the twine over the base of the plant and wrap it around the tops of the nails with each cross. This will be the only security the plant and moss have so make sure to hit every nail and wrap around the heads well. You could also use fishing line or wire. Choose whatever fits you and your style.  You may need to secure some of the leaves together at the base and angle them in the correct position to look most like reindeer antlers

Step six

Once the plant is well secured it will almost be ready to hang…. but first you need to add the reindeers face. Colour, decorate and assemble your chosen reindeer face, and/or eyes and nose. Now secure the face in the best location on your staghorn mount board so that the leaves of the fern resemble the reindeer’s antlers.  We used pins and double-sided tape to secure our reindeer face and/or eyes and ball ornament nose.

Step seven

Hang your reindeer staghorn mount in a prime position in your home to add holiday cheer.

To keep your plant healthy, check the moss every so often to make sure the moss is moist. The dryer your home, the more often you will need to water it. Make sure to also place it in a brighter room to allow enough sunlight, however it should not have direct sunlight. When you do water, spray them to give them a rain-like experience (be careful not to spray your reindeer face).

You can purchase your kids experiment items as well as get helpful advice from your local GCA Garden Centre. Stay up to date with all your garden care and inspiration. Join the conversation on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/lifeisagardensa.

 

Festive escape in your garden An abundance of gifts from your garden

Posted on: November 18th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

It’s December and gift giving and celebrations are the highlight of the month. This often requires spending time searching for parking spots at busy shopping centres and wandering endlessly through crowded stores in search of the perfect gift to show appreciation to those you love.

This year, why not give a heartfelt and special gift that you’ve spent months growing in your own garden? And while you’re enjoying the outdoors, invite your friends and family over to soak up the sun and enjoy the season in your festive garden.

Gifts from your garden

Our gardens flourish in December, often producing more than we need. This is impeccable timing to give gifts from your garden. These gifts are not only kinder on your wallet, they are also more personal and are greatly appreciated for their thoughtfulness.

Herb jars with herbs grown from seed are an ideal gift for those who love to cook. Herbs are a great addition to any meal, particularly fresh herbs that are bursting with flavour.  If you have someone special in the family who loves to spend time creating delicious dishes, give the gift of fresh herbs.

Use fresh vegetables that you are growing in your vegetable garden to make some fresh pasta sauces, pickled vegetables or relishes. Place in glass bottles with personalised gift labels and include them in a gift hamper. These will be enjoyed for weeks after they’ve been received. Homemade pamper products are a real treat and often suitable for even the most sensitive skin. Make a body scrub from sea salt or raw sugar, mix it with an oil of your choice, add some lavender, mint or rose petals picked from your garden and place into a jar for hours of pampering and grateful, glowing skin.

Flowers are always a welcome gift for every occasion. Pick an array of flowers from your garden and arrange them in a beautiful bouquet before placing them into a vase as a gift for friends and family to brighten up their day and their home.

Festive gardens for great festivities

Summer is in full swing and the garden is a wonderful escape from the indoors. With flowers in full bloom, the combination of bright colours and delightful, delicate aromas is an invitation to spend more time outdoors.

Add some festive cheer to your garden with red and white flowers that can be grown in pots and flower beds around the garden. Decorate trees with festive coloured fairy lights which will not only look dreamy in the evenings it will also add some ambience while entertaining. Complete your festive garden look by placing red, white and green floating candles and flowers to water features and pools and dotted around the garden for a beautiful, tranquil setting.

Let the festivities begin

‘Tis the season to be festive and we are blessed with wonderful hot summer days and warm evenings. Invite your friends and family over, put a table under the trees and decorate it with red and white flowers from your garden to add some festive cheer. Be sure to use some of the flowers to create a Christmas wreath for the door and delight your guests when they arrive. As long lazy afternoons roll into the evening almost unnoticed, scatter some red and white cushions onto seats around the garden to keep your guests lingering for longer and enjoy hours of each other’s company.

For more inspiration and ideas on Christmas gifts and garden entertainment, pop into your nearest GCA Garden Centre. Join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Blooming Christmas Garden Christmas flowers

Posted on: November 16th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Looking for festive plants to add to your holiday décor? Christmas themed flowers aren't just a lovely gift for your loved ones. They also add a hint of magic and sparkle to your home, addng onto that Christmas spirit filled with good cheers and compliments to your festive preparations. Consider adding the poinsettia (Christmas star) and Amaryllis (Christmas flower) to your festive deco prep.

Beautiful flowers undoubtedly  help bring the Christmas spiriand good cheer like beautiful flowers for Christmas. There are a few standard Christmas plants and flowers that you may like for your home this holiday.

The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) - also known as the Mexican flame leaf or Christmas star is abundant in nurseries and homes around South Africa during Christmas time.

This common garden plant actually flowers during winter, however potted varieties are specifically grown for the festive season and are available in a variety of intense colours. So, don’t be surprised if the poinsettia plant in your garden doesn’t flower over Christmas.

  • Their red foliage is commonly mistaken for a flower but actually, they are coloured bracts.
  • The actual flower is the yellow in the centre of the bracts.
  • They prefer being kept in bright light which ensures that they maintain that lovely red leaf colour.
  • They can even tolerate morning sunlight. A spot on a patio or covered area will be perfect, as long as there is no afternoon sun.
  • Try to keep them out of droughts and cold winds.

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum), known as the Christmas flower, typically bloom around 5 weeks after being planted (during the warmer months). For this reason, amaryllis make a wonderful gift at Christmas time. They can also make effective centrepieces for the Christmas dinner table.

Amaryllis do well in most soil types, provided they get adequate drainage. Make sure they are placed in a sunny area. For the best results, give your amaryllis some bulb food every two weeks. As they retreat into dormancy at the end of the warmer months, decrease watering and leave them in the soil throughout the various seasons, but do not stop watering them until all of their foliage has receded.

Click here to see what December has in gifts for you. View more gardening tips and trends here or join the conversation on our Facebook page.