Fiery fynbos

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Fynbos is a specific group of vegetation that is known as Proteaceae. Fynbos has expertly adapted over millions of years and has thus become the world’s most diverse plant habitat, even more than a tropical rainforest.

Proteas

King Pink is our national flower and a dramatic addition to the garden. They enjoy full sun in beds and containers, are drought and frost-hardy, and make for stunning cut flowers. Enjoy their bold blooms from July to October every year. 

Ericas

Fairy Confetti is a sweetheart shrub with masses of tiny pink flowers that add happiness to the garden. Their pretty blooms can be expected from spring, along with the many indigenous wildlife visitors they attract. Plant then in full sun in beds or pots. 

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Leucospermums

The Scarlet Ribbon is a vigorous grower with no shortage of blooms. Their intricate flower heads will bring any bed or container to life with striking red, orange, and yellow details. Grow then in full sun and enjoy their flowering time from September. 

 

Leucadendron range

Inca Gold is a decorative foliage plant with bright green, lime/yellow leaves that contrast perfectly with their pink edges. Grow them in full sun beds where you can look forward to a unique flower show from November to September.

Top tip: Fynbos love organic, rich dirt and thrive in sandstone derived, acidic soil with good drainage and no manure.   

Top tip: Mulch your plants with acid compost once a year and remember to prune your fynbos after flowering or before spring for nice full growth. 

Hanging basket bulker: Plant begonia ‘Dragon Wings’ in shades of light pink and reds for added hanging basket cuteness in full to semi-sun areas. 

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In the garden

Lawn love

Give your grass the pre-spring treatment by low mowing, spiking, feeding, and firm raking (scarifying). Apply a generous layer of lawn dressing and fertiliser, available at your garden centre, and cover the area so that just the tips of the blades are visible.

Fancy Frilly Echeveria We love succulents

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Echeveria cultivar is a bold, texture-rich succulent favourite. Plants boast large, evergreen rosettes of densely frilled, grey-green leaves in the centre, which blend perfectly into a warm pink or red on the ends. In late summer, expect to be delighted further by tall, sophisticated stalks bearing sweet red-orange blooms.

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Getting to know your Frilly Echeveria

Grow guide: They enjoy sandy, well-drained soil in partial sun or semi-shade. Ensure Frilly’s have good light to help leaves retain their gorgeous colour but take care not to let them burn in full sun. The amount of light and sun your plant receives will determine the colour and brightness of its leaves. 

Claim to fame: Frilly’s love the heat and once established, will tolerate drought very well. You only need to water these lovelies occasionally, making them a super water-wise addition to the garden. Their highly decorative overlapping leaves resemble roses and water lilies.  

In the garden: Plant Frilly Echeverias in beds and borders or showcase them in pots on the patio or in rock gardens. Fertilise once every two months during spring and autumn. 

Pest patrol: An added bonus to these succulents is that they are not prone to disease but watch out for mealybugs, weevils, and aphids. Take care of these pests with products available at your nursery and remember to plant for beneficial predators as your natural, friendly bug police.

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Frilly fun fact: These babes are native to Mexico and bring in good luck, abundance, and positivity according to Feng Shui. 

Top Frilly tip: A handful of coarse sand does wonders in both pots and beds where succulents are planted. 

Try these: Echeveria Frills, Firelight, Giant Blue Curls, Dick’s Pink, Strawberry Hearts, Blue Curls, Shaviana Truffles and Crinoline.

Did you know? Succulents are particularly good at removing toxins from the air, making them ideal for city gardens.

Earthy aloe & cinnamon playdough DIY

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With only 3 simple ingredients, you and the kids can make your own aloe-inspired playdough. This easy mix is so fresh-smelling, soothing to the skin, non-toxic, grounding, high in anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, AND of course, FUN. When you’re done playing, pop it in the compost for 0 waste. Here is Life is a Garden’s original aloe and cinnamon playdough recipe.

 

You will need

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of harvested aloe sap from the garden. Remember to use a clean, sharp knife when working with leaves and look out for aloe teeth! 
  • Half a teaspoon (or more if you like) of organic, finely ground cinnamon. 
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  • Corn starch. 
  • Mixing bowl and spoon.
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How to 

  • Add your 2 tablespoons of aloe sap into the mixing bowl. Having some pieces of the flesh is no problem either as this will add another interesting and fun textile experience during play. 
  • Add the cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of corn starch to the bowl and mix together with the sap until just combined. You’ll need to use your estimation skills to determine whether to add more sap or more starch. This process is part of the thrill – a little more, a little less – ah, perfect! 
  • Now for the super fun part. Get the kids the kneed and work the dough until you reach the desired stretchiness. Your dough should be soft and squishy, and a beautiful earthy colour that awakens all the senses. Can you smell it?
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Try this: Once the playdough is ready, parents can hide other fun toys inside the dough to extend playtime and stimulate both right and left brains. For older kids, try blindfold moulding and see what curious things they create. If the dough gets a bit hard, simply splash some water on.

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Top tip: Garden Centres are blooming with a variety of indigenous and hybrid aloes right now.

Top 5 aloes for a living firebreak

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Did you know? Owing to their moisture-retaining leaves that contain no flammable resins or oils, aloes can be utilised as gorgeous living firebreaks around property perimeter, along berms, and in island beds for added fire resistance. Create more habitat for our wildlife, add to your property security, AND increase the structural intrigue of your garden. 

Jargon check: A berm is a mound, path, or ledge typically found at the top or bottom of a slope or hill and can be naturally occurring or man-made. Berms are used to blend into landscape designs, slow down run-off, and create a focal point in the garden.

Life is a Garden’s top 5 firebreak aloes 

Aloe ‘Arborescens’

Fast-growing and will tolerate drought and neglect once established. It is grown mainly as an ornamental or as an accent plant but is also an excellent and impenetrable hedge plant. Known also as the Krantz Aloe, it develops into a multiheaded shrub 2 – 3 metres high.

Aloe ‘Commixta’

Has slender intertwined stems that sprawl beautifully over a stonewall or large boulder. Endemic to the Cape Peninsula, it grows well in winter rainfall areas. Flower colours vary from reddish at the top to yellow-orange at the base of the flower cluster.

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Aloe ‘Brevifoli’

This little aloe is efficient at propagating itself. It frequently sends out offsets, also called suckers. This propagation is what makes it a great groundcover. The leaves form tight rosettes that like to spread horizontally if given space. Use this smaller, dense aloe along berms or in island beds. 

Aloe 'Ciliaris'

Is ideal for planting around the gate or arches. This aloe is a charming climber, reaching 10 meters and higher! It is one of the easiest to cultivate and will adorn spaces with its leafy, fleshy foliage and bright orange flowers. 

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Aloe ‘Tenuior’

Also known as ‘the fence aloe’, its rambling growth habit is ideal for covering large areas. 

Sunset-scaping with aloes Botanical Boss

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It’s chilly! Let’s crank up the heat with aloes and landscape an eternal sunset to enjoy this winter. Our experts from Ndundulu Aloes in KwaZulu-Natal gave Life is a Garden some sizzling seasonal plant picks to help cultivate warmth in the garden as well as which aloes to plant as living firebreaks! Come check out our aloe pest list and learn how to identify possible infestations.

 

On the aloe hot list this May

Indigenous gems

  • Suprafoliata 
  • Ferox 
  • Marlothi 
  • Aculeata 
  • Microstigma
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Sunbird hybrid aloes

  • Aloe ‘Candy floss’ 
  • Aloe ‘Baby blush’ 
  • Aloe ‘African sunset’ 
  • Aloe ‘Frosty days’ 
  • Aloe ‘Abundance’
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Living firebreaks

Extend your sunset-scaping passion to all around your property. Plating aloes as living firebreaks host a variety of benefits including:

  • Reducing water usage 
  • Assisting in soil erosion 
  • Increased food and habitat for our wildlife 
  • Preventing fires from spreading to your lawn
  • Adding to the beauty, colour, textural and structural elements of your garden
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Top 5 fire-resistant aloes (although all of them will do the job wonderfully) 

  • Aloe ‘Neon orange’ is a popular, small, tough plant for pots, the rockery, or a retaining wall.  During August and September, conspicuous glowing orange flowers will dazzle the landscape. If allowed to cluster and given enough space, plants will quickly grow a secondary rosette, creating a better and longer flower display. 
  • Aloe ‘Octopus’ is the first large winter flowering aloe hybrid with deep yellow flowers. The tentacle-like leaves of this plant have a funky spreading growth style. Its other outstanding feature is the length of the individual flower – it is the hybrid with the longest recorded individual flower of all the cultivars in the collection.
aloe, aloes in the garden, firebreaks, rooftop gardening, different aloe species, gardening, succulent plants, drought-tolerant, landscaping, ornamental plants, medicinal properties, aloe vera, aloe arborescens, aloe ferox, aloe striata, aloe marlothii, aloe aristata, aloe saponaria, aloe variegata, aloe succotrina, aloe cooperi, planting, propagation, care tips, soil, sunlight, watering, pruning, pests, diseases, indigenous plants, South African flora, Cape flora, Fynbos, Karoo, Highveld, Lowveld, Waterwise gardening, Xeriscaping, veld gardening, biodiversity, conservation, ecosystem, natural habitat, endemic species, plant conservation, garden design, eco-friendly, sustainable gardening
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  • Aloe ‘Saturn’ stands out as another amazing hybrid. Its flower buds are initially brick red but change to yellow as the flowers open, displaying a showy bi-colour combination in late winter and spring.

Rooftop gardens and living firebreaks Sunset-scaping with aloes

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May’s Topic: Sunset-scaping with aloes
Theme: Rooftop gardens and living firebreaks. 
Industry Expert: Ruthe Gray
Garden Centre: Ndundulu Aloes based in KwaZulu-Natal.

Have you tried growing aloes on your roof? What about around your property as a living firebreak? Ndundulu Aloes has shared some fantastic advice on this exciting topic that’s sure to inspire you and leave you well-informed. Take your aloe passion to new heights and learn about some gorgeous new varieties the Sunbird Aloe range has to offer.

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1. We loved browsing your website and looking at the lovely selection of Sunbird Aloes you have. What inspired you to begin growing aloes? Why this species specifically?

I started to grow indigenous aloes out of necessity after moving to an old farm where the garden was neglected, old and overgrown.  After clearing out a lot of dead trees and trees planted in the wrong places, I looked at the framework of the garden. 

In summer, the temperatures can get up to 56°C.  There was no irrigation in the garden and plants were scorched by the heat and the blazing sun. 

After 3 years and the farm taking priority, I started to plant Indigenous aloes.  They could cope with the climate here in Northern KZN.  I started with 20 hybrids from the Sunbird Aloes range in 2015.

With their four different flowering seasons, this meant that I could naturally provide food for the wildlife in the garden.  From there, the garden was redefined, with new Sunbird Aloes beds, berms and barriers. We only had 2 sunbird species in the garden before planting the aloes: olive and the scarlet chested.  Within 4 years, we had 11 different sunbirds, which were recorded on the same day by a visiting bird group.

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2. We all know aloes offer the benefit of being waterwise, a wildlife favourite, and popping with colour.

Pressed Proteas Fynbos DIY

august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity
august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity

With so much flamboyant fynbos in the air, Life is a Garden has found a way for you to preserve this beauty forever. Pressed botanical collages are a timeless, elegant way to showcase your homegrown glory. Frame your stylish creations and hang them up in your home or office as organic art masterpieces for all to admire 

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august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity

You will need:  

  • Frames with glass: You could use multiple smaller frames or go for one large artwork. Consider a sleek white or deep purple frame to compliment the more pastel colours of the preserved flowers.  
  • Backboard: This is what you will use to create your collage on. You can find thick cardboard in a variety of colours at your local stationery shop. Once again, a plain white or deep purple would work well for an overall sleek look, whereas bright greens or blue cardboard would give it more of a stylised feel.  
  • Clear-drying craft glue: Once all your plant pieces have dried, the glue will be used to stick them onto the cardboard sheet.  
  • Paper towels or fabric: These materials will be used on both sides of your flowers during pressing for protection and moisture abortion.  
  • Pressing materials: These could be big books or slabs of wood or bricks. Anything heavy will work well, provided you protect both sides of your flowers with a paper towel or fabric.  
  • Flowers: Fynbos works particularly well as their colour holds nicely and the added texture creates a more 3D look. Our top flower picks for pressing are:  
  • All fynbos and protea varieties 
  • Peony, roses, heliobore, Queen Anne’s lace, astilbe, seeded eucalyptus, dahlias, ranunculus, lavender, as well as peonies, roses, ranunculus, and hydrangea.  

Top flower tip: Avoid using anthurium, orchids, lilies, plumeria, and succulents as they hold a lot of excess moisture, which makes them very challenging to preserve properly.

Fynbos and Friends Botanical Boss

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Bokashi bucket, diy, compost, fruits, colurs, greenery, food, plants, planting, kids, flowers, colours, life is a garden

Did you know? Fynbos is not only reserved for botanical gardeners and coastal landscapes – you can grow our indigenous glory from your backyard, anywhere in SA! Life is a Garden sat down with industry experts to get the full scoop on how to successfully grow fynbos in both summer and winter rainfall regions. Hold on to your hats, we’re about to go on a fynbos frenzy!  

 

How fresh is your fynbos knowledge?  

The word fynbos comes from Old Dutch meaning ‘fine bush’. The word does not only refer to one plant but rather a specific group of vegetation that is known as Proteaceae. Fynbos also includes restio, pelargoniums, vygies, bulbs and selected annuals. Think of using the term fynbos much like we would say savanna or tropical forest.  

For generations, scientists (including Charles Darwin) have been fascinated by this incredible plant species. Over millions of years, fynbos has expertly adapted to some of the harshest landscapes around Africa, resulting in the world’s most diverse plant habitat, even more than a tropical rainforest! The amazement doesn’t stop there, did you know that:  

  • There are more plant species on the 70-kilometre-long Cape Peninsula than in the whole of the British Isles. 
  • Table Mountain alone hosts as many plant species as the whole of the UK. 
  • The Western Cape is more botanically diverse than the richest tropical rainforest in South America (including the Amazon).  
  • Fire is essential for fynbos and needed to complete their life cycle (with frequency of the fire being a crucial component). The accumulated dead plant matter replenishes the soil while the intense heat triggers underground bulb growth.  
  • Fynbos-covered mountains are responsible for delivering 1/5 glasses of water in SA. Some of our country's wettest places are wild, soggy mountain tops covered in essential, gorgeous, rare proteas. Fynbos allows up to 80% of the rainwater to run off and fill our rivers and reservoirs.

Fynbos on the patio for winter rain regions Industry Expert Q&A

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august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity

Topic: Fynbos and friends
Theme: Biodiversity and fynbos beds/containers for winter rainfall regions
Industry Expert Garden Centre: Arnelia Nurseries - https://arnelia.co.za/  

 

If you are a gardener living in a winter rainfall region – this Q and A with Arnelia Nurseries is your next must-read. Learn how to perfect your fynbos beds, utilise natural predators for pest control,  successfully grow in containers, and find out which top plants are suited for your area.

1.Out of all our stunning South African plants, what makes fynbos stand out for you?  

 Fynbos generally is adaptable and with an understanding and appreciation of the basic growing requirements, one is assured of success and a great deal of pleasure.  The variation in colours, foliage, heights, and the potential use of so many different varieties make fynbos in the garden a must-have.   

august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity
august, fynbos, protea, ericas, king proteas, life is a garden, greenery, colour, plants, diversity

2. We love the fact that your nursery specialises in Proteaceae varieties. Could you please tell us about the biodiversity benefits of growing these indigenous plants? What kind of wildlife visitors do you get the most of on your farm?  

The Cape Floristic region is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world and Proteaceae are the flagship of the Cape Flora. I think getting people to grow these indigenous plants in their gardens allows them to bring a piece of the famous Cape Flora home and hopefully create more awareness of the wonderful biodiversity that exists on our doorstep. Beyond creating awareness, planting fynbos has the benefit of attracting indigenous wildlife. On our farm, we have a lot of sunbirds as there is always something in flower to keep them interested. It is really special to see. Growing these plants in the city creates a space for all the animals, birds and insects to flourish where they would usually have no habitat and stay hidden.

June in the Garden Checklist for the outdoor artist Gardening Checklist

Consider the June garden as an inviting blank canvas, welcoming you to paint with a rainbow of winter blooms. For your cool-season muse, Life is a Garden has gathered a few vibrant beauts to plant-paint with, as well as some artsy edibles to inspire your soups. Learn how to defend your plant babies against black frost and enjoy our handy maintenance tips. Embrace the cold and plant on!

 

Chilled thrills in the Western Cape
  • Have faith in your fynbos and head over to your GCA Garden Centre to checkout new protea hybrids and visit some old faves too. Leucospermums (pincushions) and leucadendrons are stunning choices you can go bos with in the garden. Remember, proteas grow in pots too!
  • Aunt Gale’s wind is always around the corner so make sure all ties and stakes supporting young trees and roses are super secure. You may also want to check your garden furniture and make sure that nothing will end up in your neighbour’s yard.
  • Avoiding flooding at home by clearing drains and gutters of old plant material.
  • Begin winter pruning on vines, peach, plum, and apricot trees. Visit your GCA Garden Centre for products to spray on dormant trees after pruning.
Plant flowers from Wonderland
  • Pansies and Violas: These annuals are perfect to plant as borders and edgings, in window boxes and containers. Position them where they receive full sun in winter but partial shade in spring and early summer, to give them a longer lifespan. They like fertile, composted soil with good drainage and regular watering.
  • Snapdragons: These short-lived, yet super-cute perennials are ideal in mixed border gardens, flower boxes, and as potted patio décor. Bright snapdragon flowers will bloom profusely all winter long in full sun to partial shade. Begin germinating seeds indoors and when they’re ready, pop them into nutrient-rich soil that drains well.

March in the Garden Checklist Gardening Checklist

March Checklist
March Gardening Checklist

As the last month of summer comes to an end, it’s time to start preparing the garden for autumn and winter growing. March presents ideal conditions for sowing seeds as the day temperatures are still warm enough, while night temperatures begin dropping gradually. This is also a great time for cool-season seed germination varieties, and let’s not forget that much-loved gardening maintenance.

 

Flowers and foliage

The autumn climate is well-suited for planting as new roots get a chance to establish themselves before spring. Try sowing these lovelies now for a brilliant flush of colour and fragrance:

  • African daisy (Dimorphoteca) to beautify beds, borders, and containers.
  • Livingstone daisy, known also as Bokbaai vygie (Mesembryanthemum) are colourful customers.
  • Virginian stocks (Malcolmia maritima) as an enthusiastic and cheerful bloom.
  • Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) to keep pests at bay in the veggie patch.
  • Blue Felicia bush (Felicia amelloides) for fast-growing, striking sky-blue flowers.
African daisy (Dimorphoteca)
Livingstone daisy
Virginian stocks
Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) to keep pests at bay in the veggie patch.
Blue Felicia bush
Sweet peas

Before sowing sweet peas, prepare their new home by digging deep trenches and working in some nutritious compost from your local GCA Garden Centre. Bonemeal (if you don’t have dogs) and super-phosphate are excellent choices to assist in creating your sweet pea sanctuary. Remember to soak the seeds overnight in lukewarm water before sowing directly into the ground.

Roses

Roses are a simply spectacular sight in autumn! To ensure quality blooms into winter, continue with regular preventative treatments/spraying for black spot, beetles and bollworm. As the days get shorter, the roses start to go dormant and withdraw food from their leaves. To compensate for this and to provide enough food for new growth and flowers, fertilise with rose food – your GCA Garden Centre guy can advise you on the best option. Regular watering is very important if there is insufficient rainfall.