Here's the perfect gift for the eco-mom this Mother's Day! Give like a gardener with this stunning DIY planter made from an empty bottle, some South African flavour, a cute creeper, and a splash of creativity. Whether the mom in your life is an auntie, sister, cousin, or guardian – this home-made act of gratitude is sure to show them just how much you adore their presence in your life.
Plant picks: Pilea glauca bowl, String of beads, Philodendron selloum and other Philodendron varieties, Guzmania varieties, Spider plant, and Pathos.
Enjoy warming your mom's heart this Mother's Day with a daily reminder of your appreciation. Put your gardening passion and upcycling creativity to work!
Autumn is a colourful time for trees and a curious invitation to all young gardeners. Do your children also enjoy rummaging around in leaves, collecting them, and admiring their unique hues? Well then, here’s a DIY kids experiment that investigates the science of chlorophyll and answers the question of how and why leaves change colour. Are you ready for some fun in the garden? Let’s go!
For starters, leaves are part of Mother Nature’s highly intelligent network of oxygen (O2) providers, making them an essential service to life on Earth. Through photosynthesis, leaves turn light energy into food for plants to grow. Using their pores, or stomata, leaves absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and then release clean, crisp O2 for us to breath – thanks guys!
Owing to changes in daylight and temperature during Autumn, the process of photosynthesis and the amount of chlorophyll in leaves is altered. Chlorophyll is the chemical that makes leaves green, so with less sunlight for photosynthesis, it’s only natural that some changes in colour are expected. The absence of chlorophyll is what results in the gorgeous display of sunset-hued leaves this time of year.
An experiment awaits!
You will need:
Leaves at the ready:
Enjoy this investigative, hands-on experiment with your young ones. Let’s continue our quest to inspire and educate the new generation of gardeners. After all, our Life is a Garden, and we want our kids to have one too! Don’t forget to visit your GCA Garden Centre for new autumn babies to plant and sow, for pots, beds, and baskets.
With Easter just around the corner, get the kids excited and outdoors with this DIY Ravishing Radish growing project. Did you know? Radishes are ready to harvest in only 25 days! Making them the perfect hiding spot for those secret treats and treasure quests. Radishes are also loaded with fabulous vits and mins. When transformed into candy radish apples, they become the perfectly disguised veggie sweetie.
Top tip: Pull younger radishes for crisp roots and a milder flavour. After 20 days, pull one out and test it for yourself. Radishes left in the ground too long will be very hot and pithy in taste.
Candy Radish Recipe
*Top tip: Pick young radishes for a mild zing that will complement the sweet candy coating nicely. Small radishes can also be made into sweet-zesty candied lollies on a stick.
Enjoy sowing ravishing radishes, reinventing the candy apple, and Easter treasure hunts in the garden! Radishes are a great snack for the Easter Bunny and make super hiding spots for chocolate eggs. This DIY is a great opportunity to show kids that having green fingers is cool and sweet. Pulling their own radishes from the ground offers an exciting reward to the young gardener, who will certainly be telling the family that THEY did it all on their own – how awesome!
Be bold and go bedless! Perfect your potting skills and never leave your patio without plants again. Here’s how you can easily bring the garden to your stoep with creative containers, vertical planters, colour wheel play, and a few bloomingly beautiful flowers. Life is a Garden, even on your balcony!
Using different sized and shaped containers add height and variety to the space, while also giving you an opportunity to experiment with different styles. Try using cute teapots or gumboots as planters to add a little character and fun to your space. You could even upcycle cans to use as pots and decorate as desired to suit your existing décor.
Ensure your planting containers have good drainage to avoid root rot.
Utilising hanging baskets is another simple way of adding greenery to areas with limited space. Using woven baskets (instead of plastic) with spikey foliage will bring in some lovely texture. Vines cascading down a pillar is a fresh break in between bricks and concrete. Your local GCA Garden Centre has a variety of hanging baskets waiting for you!
Add life to your patio paradise by planting gorgeous, blossoming blooms. A couple of flower pots neatly arranged along the lonely stoep wall or outdoor windowsill makes all the difference. Any available space is an opportunity for flowers to flourish. Get this lush look by using the Thriller, Filler, and Spiller (TFS) concept to create the ultimate flower pot.
One upright focal point plant as your Thriller, a mounded plant as the Filler around it, and then something to trail over the edge as your splendid Spiller.
Who’s lus for strawberries and cream?
Grow your own reminder of the sweeter things in life and play with the colour wheel in your pots. Incorporate a delicious variety of deep reds and indulgent cream hues to create your own sweet escape in a container. Using the trusty TFS planting method, here’s how to create your desert pot:
The Fuchsia Bella is simply stunning and makes for a picture-perfect pot plant. They grow as a compact, bushy, and deciduous shrub with ovate, toothed, dark green leaves. You can expect a sensational flower show throughout summer with blooms varying in shades of red, pink and purple. They enjoy sun to semi-shade and grow best in moist, fertile soil.
An empty wall is simply an invitation to bring it to life! All you need to do is to secure a few pots against the wall in a symmetrical grid style, leaving a little space between each pot (4 pots across by 4 pots down is a good start). Cascading ferns and creepers take care of the rest and will soon cover the wall or frame windows and doorways beautifully. Vertical planters bring the garden bed to you, are great space savers, and add a modern feel to the space.
Black-Eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata) is an all-time favourite flowering vine. Climbing Snapdragons (Asarina) work well in vertical planters and living walls.
Instead of just using bottled braai spice, imagine snipping some fresh garnish for your guests! Having herb pots around are rather handy for a little fancy flavour and is by far the most nutritious way to spice up your braai.
There are so many creative ways for you to get the patio in bloom and booming with life. You can still fulfil all your gardening cravings, despite the lack of traditional gardening beds. Day trip to your local GCA Garden Centre for flowers and containers and see where the adventure takes you. For more gardening trends and inspiration, visit Life is a Garden and explore your world!
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.
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:
*Match your meat: Pair the flavour profile of your veggie dishes with your chosen meat for a well-balanced, complimentary dish.
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
*Tip: Bruise your herbs to release their full flavour!
This gorgeous edible garden makes you think twice about traditional row sowing. Why not create a stylish veggie garden that serves not only as a functional food source but also as a relaxing chill space where you can share and enjoy your edibles with friends. The best part is that you too can easily get the look, here’s how.
Tip: Repetition is a strong design principle that is often overlooked. Notice how the tin and terracotta pots are repeated amongst the wooden planters. This repetition throughout the design helps to enhance the overall look.
Get the look with some of the edible plants in this landscape that you may or may not have tried:
Fresh rosemary leaves or stem tips with young leaves, can be used in many dishes – here are just a few:
Tip: There are also pink and white flowering upright growing rosemary plants, a creeping rosemary, and the old favourite ‘McConnel’s Blue’.
Tip: Bronze fennel has an exquisite purply colour, which is a fabulous colour to use in the garden and in your food.
Edible faves: An edible garden wouldn’t be complete without basil in the summer and violas in the winter. There are so many delicious new basil varieties that can be sown or purchased in October. Make sure you keep some open spaces and pots ready for this versatile herb.
The striking little flowers of Viola hederacea are beautiful as an edible garnish. Lastly, the amazing Meyer lemon is a dwarf variety that is ideal for small gardens or large pots.
Take inspiration from “Get the Look” and add your own creativity to the design – Life is a Garden, so live it to the full.
Pictures courtesy of Garden World – Show Garden by Strylitzia Landscapes.
This month, Life is a Garden is taking part in the important global conversation about the need for urgent bee conservation. Like you, we are gardeners on a mission! And this month our mission is to #PolliNationSA and gather all the green fingers we can to join us in creating nation-wide, bee-friendly backyards. Here’s how you can help our crop crusaders by planting their faves, making small adjustments to your current garden, and even building homes for these hard workers.
Let’s speak bee
We are inviting gardeners to awaken their inner eco-warrior and consider the bee as an essential service to mankind! The balance of Mother Nature and Her creatures are in a delicate little dance with humanity, with the bees playing an ever-important role in sustaining the following:
Planting for bees
Welcoming honey-makers into your garden is easier than you may think. Once you know how to cater for bees, planning your next flower pot or gardening project becomes super easy. Similarly, a few simple additions to your current garden could make all the difference. Here’s what you can plant for bees:
Buzzing advice: Bees love most flowers but they are especially fond of blue and purple buds. Read more about bringing blue hues into your garden here: http://bit.ly/2TUs1N4
The bee’s knees
If your garden is all planted up, not to worry, you can still be the bee’s knees by boasting your pro-pollination garden. Become a bee-warrior, make your mark, and do your bit for the bees by including the following into your garden:
Buzzing advice: Your local GCA Garden Centre has a full range of products for all your bee gardening needs – from spades and rakes to soil and seeds!
Roses are a bee’s best friend
Roses, specifically those with more open blooms, are available in almost every colour imaginable! Roses invite bees with a great variation of scents, flowering for most of the year, and ranging from miniature, bushes and shrub roses, to enormous gorgeous climbers.
How to home bees
Out of all the bee species, the solitary bee is probably the most family-friendly as they pollinate flowers and they don’t sting. These guys are different from honeybees although they look very similar. You can home the solitary bee by building your very own bee hotel. Now that’s a sure win for team-bee! We’ve got step by step instructions for you here: https://www.lifeisagarden.co.za/family-fun-in-the-garden-make-a-bee-hotel/
You may also wish to home some honeybees in an organic hollowed out tree stump. We love this idea as the wood is close to home for the little guys. There are several ways you can go about setting up a natural beehive at home, as well as many DIY ways you could build one. Google is your friend, dear gardeners, and your local GCA will help you bring your idea to life!
Join us, gardeners of all sorts, and lets #PolliNationSA loaded with green thumbs and hearts that beat and buzz for the bees. Let’s get planting, building, and using our resources to make every day a bee-conscious occasion and every backyard a bee-friendly safe-haven. WE can make a difference, and the difference lies in what we can make together. Life is a Garden, how will you sustain yours?
Although spring only officially starts on the 1st of September, we don’t need a calendar to see that spring has sprung! For most of the country there is a delightful springiness in the air. For the Free State and Western Cape, your time is soon to come. Although August is warm to even hot in various parts of the country, always apply the following rules when planting or sowing plants that are sensitive to frost damage:
With pruning behind us, there is so much to do in the garden, so push aside the winter chills and spring into action. Your spring bulbs and annuals should be a riot of colour by now, inviting you out onto the patio with family and friends during our balmy, warm August days. The beauty of spring may only be rivalled by the stunning women that surround us. The 9th of August is National Women’s Day and the perfect opportunity to celebrate both Mother Nature and all of womankind!
An African appetite
Have you considered growing an edible local fruit? The following shrubs, trees and ground covers can form an aesthetic part of your garden and become a valuable, unusual food source:
Tip: They attract birds and butterflies and their flowers feed honey bees.
Play & plan with the COLOUR palette
Your spring and summer palette of plants can be a crazy cacophony of colours with a wonderful variety of colour combinations for your consideration. Have fun playing with these flowering plant colours now available in pots:
No wonder, they say Life is a Garden – let’s enjoy it!
Top tip: Improving your SOIL is the priority at this time of year. Before or at the time of planting, add and mix into it plenty of organic matter to the soil such as compost, manure, autumn leaves or other suitable products offered by your local GCA Garden Centre. This will boost soil fertility and ensure healthy plant growth.
It’s a pet’s life
Dogs will often eat grass blades when they have a stomach ailment. Did you know that there is a plant aptly named dog grass (Elymus caninus) that your dog will simply love to chew on rather than your lawn? You have the ideal excuse to indulge your dog this month since 10 August is Spoil your Dog Day! Why stop there, cats are smitten over catnip (Nepeta cataria) and love to chew and roll all over the plant.
What to sow
Got that green finger tingle? Let’s sow some seeds! Marigolds germinate within a week.
Even the lightest and laziest green finger will have success sowing the following seeds:
Claim to fame: Planted among veggies, marigolds are great companion plants since their scent repels many different pests including Nematodes.
Tip: The cornflower has nectar-rich flowers, which attract many beneficial insects to the garden. These are nature’s helpers and keep unwanted insects away.
Need to know: Bean flowers and leaves are also edible.
Tip: In areas that experience late frosts, hold off sowing beans for a few weeks until frosts are past.
Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to see what else you can sow now!
Plant: Love these locals
Many of the most popular plants in the world are our very own. Here are two local lovelies which you can buy as flowering plants in pots, ready to add colour to the patio or the garden:
Pelargoniums: Bush geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) and ivy, or cascading geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum), are some of the most sought after of our indigenous plants. Geraniums are incredibly rewarding as garden plants and do exceptionally well in containers too. They love a sunny to semi-shade position and well-drained soil that should be moist but not wet. Give them a weekly mild liquid feeding for excellent results.
Osteospermums: These are also known as the African daisy. Their masses of gorgeous daisy-like flowers with dark centres come in shades of white, yellow, pink, purple and blue. Their eye-catching, bold coloured flowers make them a fabulous choice for a sunny spot in the garden, tumbling over rocks or spilling down the sides of containers. Osteo’s are water-wise, flower for long periods, and are perennial in areas where frost is not heavy.
Coloured arum lilies: Although hybridised, they stem from our indigenous arums or Zantedeschia’s. Often referred to as Zant’s, they have the most beautiful, elegant vase-like flowers in gorgeous colours. You can buy them already in flower, in a pot, or as bulbs.
Tip: Zant’s are best planted in the sun.
Need to know: There is a whole range of summer bulbs at your local GCA Garden Centre. These include Amaryllis, Eucomis or pineapple lily, flame lilies and more. The flame lily is the most delicate, precious climbing plant with exquisite flowers that is best planted where it can easily be seen and shown off, whether on an arch or frame in a pot. Tip: Wait until next month to plant in very cold areas where late frosts are still expected and areas with winter rainfall.
WOW and water-wise! There are a few different perennial vygies and each is as stunning as the next, especially when in full spring bloom. Their rich, luminous jewel-like colours cover the plant and stand out as a jaw-dropping colour bomb. These sun-worshippers make stunning border plants, are great for rock and succulent gardens, spilling over low walls and pots or hanging baskets too. Your local GCA Garden Centre will be proud to show you their vygies. If you prefer to use vygies as seasonal colour then ask for the annual vygie or Livingstone daisies that are available in seedling trays.
Plant: Fruity fragrance
Lemon-scented verbena: Also known as Aloysia, this is a must-have if you enjoy drinking deliciously refreshing lemony tea. A delightful drink is easily made from the scented leaves or you could use them to add fragrance to the garden. If you locate the plant close to a path, the lemony scent will be released whenever a person brushes past the leaves. This rather wispy looking shrub can reach up to 2m in ideal conditions, but normally about 1m tall in areas of light to moderate frost as it can survive a little icy chill. Prune back every spring if you prefer a dense, bushy plant. It is easy to grow and the sprays of white flowers it bears are a bonus.
Claim to fame: The lemon-scented verbena leaves contain essential oils, which have many culinary and aromatherapy uses.
Choosing Verbena for your warm-season colour would be a wise choice. Their dazzling range of colours will add va-va-voom to the garden. They will cascade over hanging baskets, window boxes or containers. Treat yourself - go and have a look at the Verbenas on offer at your local GCA Garden Centre.
Tip: Verbenas like well-drained soil and prefer not to be watered in the evenings.
Feed and pick
Feed fruit trees and vegetables and reap the rewards of the last of the winter veggie harvest.
Did you know that blueberries should be pruned about every four years? When pruning them, try to prune them into a wine glass shape to encourage good air movement and light penetration.
If you want good quality fruit from your peach, nectarine, apricot and plum tree, it is best to prune them every year (this is also true for most berries). However, if you want your fruit trees to grow tall and provide shade, then only prune to shape it when necessary.
Tip: Pruning is easy if you know how. Call your local GCA Garden Centre or visit them for pruning advice.
If you forgot to prune your roses in July, August is a better time than never! Especially tend to the espaliering of climbing roses. With the rapid increase of new shoots, water at least once a week with a deep drenching.
Repot water lilies and add bone-meal into the soil - it is organic and safe for fish. Make holes in the soil, insert the bone-meal, and then cover it with soil on top so that the fish do not eat it. While you are busy with the pond, maintain and clean the pond and service the UV light if you have one. Clean out the algae and start with algal control.
Lawn: proud or pitiful – what makes the difference?
It’s time to give your Kikuyu lawn a boost with some spring treatment:
Now just watch and wait for your stunning new grass to appear though the lawn dressing. Fertilise monthly for best results and water at least once a week until the rains start.
Lowveld and in warm frost-free coastal regions:
Sow the following vegetables now: asparagus, Capsicum (peppers), carrots, cucumber, bush beans, aubergines (brinjals), all melons, all marrows, parsley, pumpkin, radish, runner beans, Swiss chard.
Western Cape – winter rainfall areas:
Sow the following vegetables now: asparagus, beetroot, broad beans, Capsicum (peppers), carrots, cucumber (under protection), aubergines (brinjals), leeks, lettuce (Cos), all melons, all marrows, onions, parsnip peas, radish, spinach, squash, Swiss chard, tomato, turnip.
Olá me amigos! This month, our inspiration stems from Mexico and their vibrant, easy-go-lucky flavour. Come salsa with us and spice up your garden by planting a colourful burst of summer fun. This water-wise garden is low maintenance and bold in its simplicity. Get your friends together for sundowners and welcome the sizzling summer vibes and braais to your backyard.
Weave a tapestry of delight with a vivid variety of plant combinations. It’s easy to highlight a medley of succulents accompanied by a diverse range of one-drop plants. These are low water requirement plants that will save your wallet and add rich textures to your space. We love the silvery shards of Blue Chalksticks (Senecio ficoides) - a spreading succulent shrub. It’s proudly South African and will thrive quickly in well-drained soil in a sunny area. Contrast these bluish grey-green patches with the robust burgundy of the Bushveld Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe sexangularis) and you have a striking mix of red and blue. These guys are not thirsty so let the soil dry completely before watering. They are hardy and will forgive even the most absent-minded gardener. Their name derives from the Chinese Kalan Chauhuy meaning ‘that which falls and grows’, so yes, they will survive! These water-wise companions take low maintenance to the next level.
The show-grabber is undoubtedly the Foxtail Agave (Agave attenuata) all the way from Mexico. Invite these amigos into your space to create spectacular visual focal points. They grow up to 1,2 m tall and will add height to the layout. Unlike other agaves, they won’t bite. With no thorns or spikes, they are referred to as unarmed. This makes them a friendly addition to any family. You can accentuate their sleek and stylish appearance even more by planting them in decorative pots. We recommend bright, bold red and blue mosaic pots that will tie in with the Mexican theme.
Throw in a dash of red here and there with the coral-like Fire Sticks (Euphorbia tirucalli 'Rosea') aka Red Pencil Trees. These striking succulent shrubs are hardy and their colour ranges from a faded yellow/orange in summer, to a deep red in winter. They love full sun areas but keep them away from pathways or where small fingers can play or break their delicate stems. Fire Sticks are very toxic so be very careful when handling them. Their milky sap can burn your skin or cause welts if one is sensitive to it. We recommend you wear protective gloves and goggles when working with them and avoid touching your face or eyes. If you feel a burning sensation on your skin or eyes, seek medical advice immediately. So, make sure you plant them safely out of the way where they can look pretty, but can’t be touched!
Compliment this succulent ensemble with bright scatter cushions or prints from the popular Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Keep your space casual with nature-inspired floral prints and on-trend and with a few decorative pieces here and there. Now you have all the makings for a memorable outdoor fiesta. Tequila Sunrises and Taco’s, anyone?
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.
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.
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:
TIP: Add some vibrant colour to the veggie garden by using Swiss chard Bright Lights which has brightly coloured stems.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The flu season started early this year with the arrival of Covid-19, which has had an unprecedented impact on the whole world. With still no cure in sight for the common cold, our best line of defence is prevention. Gardening is your secret weapon, folks! Did you know that you can grow your own powerful medicine? Sustainable living has never been more important, so let’s transform gardening from just a hobby to a flourishing lifestyle choice! Here’s why and how you can grow your own natural remedies and assemble yourself a little home-grown first aid kit:
First up is Garlic – a cure-all, champion vegetable!. Classified as part of the onion genus, garlic is jam-packed with the good stuff. It has antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties, which help relieve cold and flu symptoms. Garlic is high in nutrients and vitamins, especially flu-fighting Vitamin C and B6, which assist your body in recuperating faster and shortening your downtime. Planting garlic is fairly easy; pop them in the ground about 5 cm apart in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Whether you are nursing a cold or preparing your body to fight one, a couple cloves in the garden are always recommended as part of your first aid kit!
Growing and tending to a lemon tree teaches patience, commitment, embodying what it means to reap the fruits of your labour, and for some it even represents childhood memories and a sense of nostalgia. This powerful medicine is loaded with Vitamin C and is rich in potassium with twice as much Vitamin C as oranges. Lemons support and strengthen the immune system in fighting off the winter nasties. If your granny believed in drinking lemon water, either hot or cold, she’s on to something. Freshly squeezed lemon juice increases the absorption of iron, which further promotes a resilient immune system. Lemons are a great source of flavonoids - a powerful antioxidant, which improves blood circulation and lowers the risk of having a stroke.
Another champion choice for your natural first aid kit is the powerhouse of antioxidants - the blueberry. These delicious little morsels are packed with flavonoids that not only support your immune system but also reduce the chance of contracting upper respiratory infections - your first line of defence against colds and flues. Blueberries have a certain flavonoid called quercetin, usually found in dark blue and red fruits, which has antiviral properties. Quercetin also helps to prevent inflammation in cells and helps to protect the upper respiratory tract. You can easily add these little virus-fighting bombs to a smoothie, or give them to kids a superfood snack. Avoid paying a pretty penny for blueberries, and instead, grow your own! They thrive in sunny spots sheltered from harsh wind, grow in beds or pots, and love rich, well-drained soil.
If you are committed, like us, to a home-grown medicine solution, we highly recommended this ancient natural remedy, used all over the world to ease cold and flu symptoms. Ginger is a hearty, healthy spice, loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that are not only healthy for your body but also beneficial for your brain. With its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, ginger is used to alleviating muscle pain and soreness due to over-exercise. Ginger also supports the digestive system and helps to treat nausea and motion sickness. The active nutrient in fresh ginger, known as gingerol, helps to lower the risk of infections. Gingerol inhibits the growth of many types of bacteria, especially oral bacteria, and can aid in the treatment of bleeding gums, gingivitis and cold sores. This super spice also supports the lungs and upper respiratory tract to ensure the common cold or flu symptoms are less severe, and therefore shortening your recovery time. A sure must-have as part of your medicine garden!
This super starch is packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals. Sweet potatoes are packed with beta carotene, Vitamin A and other antioxidants responsible for aiding the immune system and supporting a healthy heart, teeth and eyes. Sweet potatoes, especially the orange ones, aid the mucous membranes and ensure a healthy gut. This nutrient-dense, high fibre root veggie is versatile and can be added to your diet in both sweet and savoury dishes. Sweet potatoes can be grown in a variety of soils with some home-made compost, a good sunny spot, daily watering with adequate draining, and a little patience. We love sweet potatoes as they are not only a wonderful medicine but also a delicious and versatile ingredient which health benefits for the whole family!
Another immune booster superfood for a go-to natural remedy, rich in vitamins A, C and K, is red pepper. These beauties are rich in antioxidant vitamins A and C and help to prevent cell damage, cancer, and support the immune function. Vitamin K promotes proper blood clotting, strengthens bones, and helps protect cells from oxidative damage. They are packed with carotenoids Lycopene and Beta-cryptoxanthin, which have cancer-fighting properties especially prostate, bladder, cervix, pancreas and lung cancer. When planting red peppers, loosen the soil deeply and mix in fertiliser, manure or compost thoroughly. They will start bearing fruit about 11 weeks after planting – not a long time at all for such a sweet superfood!
The pharmacy is not the only source of medicine out there. Humanity has been blessed by an abundance from Mother Nature and all of her natural medicines, remedies, superfoods, and overall nutrition! By adding more herbs, veggies and fruit to your diet, you can help build your body’s natural defences against viruses and bacteria to keep you flu fit this winter. There’s no better time or reason than now to equip yourself and your family with a constant, easily accessible, and home-grown first aid kit!
Tecomaria is a popular flowering shrub because they are tough, versatile and extremely useful in sunny gardens. The new SunLovers® range of compact Tecomaria are particularly exciting because they are extremely floriferous, and their flower colours are brighter and more distinct. The individual flowers of these varieties show off much better as they are more upright and thus face you better. This makes the overall appearance more colourful as the flower spikes protrude above the foliage of the shrub. The compact nature of this set is a tremendous achievement in Tecomaria breeding, as gardens are becoming smaller and require compact, more showy plants. Tecomaria has to date been less suitable in commercial landscapes as they overrun every other plant in the same setting and require a lot of cutting back and the removing of runners.
The new SunLovers® Compact Tecomaria were bred to be more suitable for commercial gardens as their contained growth habits retain shape longer, enabling the retention of the original garden design. A massive secondary benefit of using these novelties, is the reduction in labour required in their maintenance, making them much more cost-effective in the long run.
Care was taken during the breeding to ensure that the new varieties still contribute to the environment and did not lose their ability to attract birds and insects.
Tecomaria should always be planted in full sun or light shade, they like rich well-drained soil and require moderate watering. In very cold climates they can be frosted down to the ground, mulching will protect the base enough for the plants to regrow and flower in summer.
SunLovers® Compact Tecomaria are perfect for sunny South African gardens as they are free-flowering, fast and easy. They respond very well to feeding and cutting back; and are resistant to most pests and diseases.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reap your rewards by picking the veggies that you sowed or planted a few months back:
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.
Primulas are the queens of the winter and spring shaded garden. Lucky for us, there are three stunning types of Primula to choose from:
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.
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:
Tip: Indoor plants will all benefit from regular feeding – consult your local GCA Garden Centre.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In celebration of Youth Day on June 16, Life is a Garden is on a mission to get kids dabbing for dirt! This month is all about enticing little green thumbs to get their nature on by integrating familiar gaming concepts into the world of gardening. We’re talking all about inspiring kids to see gardening as a real-life gaming opportunity, where they select the players, choose their weapons, and use that thirst for adventure to their advantage by creating themed worlds.
By this, we mean choosing the best-suited crop for your kid. A visit to your local GCA Garden Centre easily becomes an exciting morning outing when the kids get to select the players for their gardening game-play. Here’s a list of a few worthy contenders, which are relatively easy to grow and fun to harvest:
Plastic spades and buckets are great for the beach, but gardening is a “big kid” job, which requires suitable weaponry to tackle the tenacious nature with! Let your children know that what they are doing is important by allowing them to use real, grown-up gardening tools. Get physical, strengthen muscles, improve coordination, and show kids what these tools can do.
Tip: Saw the handles of wooden tools shorter and look out for smaller versions of spades, rakes, and forks, commonly found at garden centres.
Now that we’ve got the players and weapons sorted, it’s time to create the world! Make the most of your child’s gaming experience and encourage them to think about a theme for their little gardening adventure. Give them a large pot or a designated area in the garden. Invite their imaginations to run wonderfully rampageous at the possibility of a zombie, troll, mermaid, or fairy garden! Here’s how:
The kids have made it to their first milestone – actually getting their greens in the ground! And now, it’s all about patience, young grasshoppers. While you wait, start a growing chart with your child to document the growth of their game players. Kids will also enjoy decorating the project according to their garden theme. The growing chart encourages responsibility, dedication, and attention to detail.
Tip: Reward good gardening efforts by adding an extra column to your growth chart for stickers or points.
Well done, garden gamers! The wicked, winter boss has been conquered! Seeing their plants surface inspires a sense of accomplishment in your child. Similarly, if nothing has come up, an equally important lesson of perseverance and commitment can be taught here. Why not start sharing those gardening family secrets and handy hacks with your kids to ensure the love for gardening is passed on to the next generation.
Whether they are into fantasy or fighting, racing or resurrection, bringing the virtual world of gaming into real-life gardening can be an exciting and engaging project for every child. Not only will it get them outdoors and promote a healthy lifestyle, but it also offers opportunities for quality time, sharing of knowledge, and a whole new appreciation for the many wonders of Mother Nature!
Your garden has so many benefits. It improves your mental and physical wellbeing while adding value to your property and providing a tranquil escape from a busy lifestyle. But even greater than all of this is the benefit that your garden brings to our planet. That’s right, by taking care of your garden you are contributing to the greater environment and helping to make a difference to our world.
Here are some of the benefits that gardening brings to our planet and a few things that you can do to make a difference to our world, after all, there is no planet B!
Plants are the planet’s air purifiers as they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. This is vital for animals and humans as we rely on oxygen to survive. In addition to this, plants remove chemicals and bacteria from the environment which has added benefits for us as it makes our environment healthier and cleaner.
While all plants clean the air, there are a few that are better air recyclers than others. For the benefit of our environment, consider planting indigenous plants that are better suited to our climate and opt for air purifiers such as Aloe (Aloe Vera) or Spekboom (Portulacaria afra). These plants require minimal maintenance, consume less water and provide maximum air cleaning benefits.
Growing fruits and vegetables can reward you in several ways including saving you money and providing nourishing and flavoursome foods. More than this, growing your food can have a significant benefit to our environment. Commercially grown fruits and vegetables rely heavily on pesticides and chemicals to prevent damage to the harvest, while households may rely on repellents to prevent damage to homegrown products, these are often used more sparingly, minimizing the impact on our environment.
In addition to the chemical component, commercially produced products need to be transported to various outlets for retail purposes which adds to air pollution. By growing seasonal vegetables you can provide sustainable fruits and vegetables for your family throughout the year at a more affordable cost and with greater benefit for our environment.
Our plants are only as good as the soil they are grown in and as such, we need to keep the soil in tip-top shape to maximise the benefits of our efforts. While plants suck up carbon dioxide from the air, they also take in chemicals and other harmful elements from the soil and this can impact on their growth. To keep your soil at its best, plant indigenous plants that will change according to the seasons. These plants often lose their leaves in the winter which decay to nourish the soil and the plants that grow in it.
To make sure your plants are getting sufficient nutrients throughout the year, consider creating a compost heap. This is a great way to use your garden and kitchen waste to put valuable nutrients back into the ground where they can help your plants grow lush and beautiful.
Birds, bees and other insects have an important role to play in our ecosystem and environment as butterflies, bees and many birds are key players in pollinating our plants. To attract these creatures to your garden, plant some colourful, fragrant flowers and you’ll have a hive of activity taking place around you as the birds and bees spread seeds around your garden and neighbourhood to grow more plants and contribute to a healthier environment for all of us.
We all have a role to play in conserving our environment and it couldn’t be easier than starting with your garden. Visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre to find out which plants are best for your climate and start planting your way to a cleaner, healthier planet.
Join Leonie Coulson from Plantimex on the 7th March, for an engaging talk on Indoor plant colours and styles, the benefits of plants in your home, and a discussion on Green Trends for 2020.
The event is free to all visitors, but please book your spot by emailing Pam@lifestyle.co.za or calling 011 792 5616. Tea and coffee with be served – please arrive at 10am for a 10.30am start.
Happy autumn and a merry March, maintenance month! It’s time to prepare those beds for some annual autumn planting and sow them seeds for the new season. Get busy in the garden and give your seedlings a nutritious head start.
You should work in about 3 to 5cm of compost into the soil, as well as, a handful of bonemeal or superphosphate per square metre. This will ensure that plants have all the nutrition they require to get off to a great start. Give your soil nutrients so that the plants in your garden have the ability to become strong and healthy. Use a general fertilizer like a 2:3:2 or one that contains more potassium such as 8:1:5.
Autumn means it’s time to start sowing winter and spring flowering annual seeds. Some of our favourites to sow now are:
Sweet Peas: Their seductive fragrance in the garden or as cut-flowers in the home is like no other. The seed is generally available in mixed colours, which are a gorgeous mix of mostly pastel colours, for both dwarf and climbing varieties. The climbing Sweet Peas will need a sunny spot with supports to climb up – like a trellis, fence or an arch. Sweet peas will be happiest with their roots are in cool, moist soil, so it is a good idea to plant low-growing annuals in front of them to keep the roots shaded, mulching will also work well. The secret to fabulous Sweet peas starts with the soil preparation. Dig over a trench of soil, next to the supports, to the depth of a garden fork and add plenty of compost and preferably manure too. Add a handful of bonemeal or superphosphate per square metre, also sprinkle a handful of Dolomitic or Agricultural lime per running metre and dig it in. If possible, use a pencil to make holes and drop them in at the correct depth, then close them up to shut out the light. Keep the area well watered.
Tips: Soak the seeds in water overnight before planting to soften the seed covering. Sow at about 2 weekly intervals for a longer-lasting show of flowers. To encourage bushy growth, cut off the tips of plants only when they are about 15 to 20cm tall (and not sooner). Don’t forget to feed your plants regularly.
Pansies: Are a winter and spring flowering favourite for the sun. Their colourful blooms are available in a wide range of single and bi-colours. They can be used as massed flower borders, in pots and window boxes or as fillers between spring-flowering bulbs. Pansies typically have large and medium-sized blooms while their smaller flowering “cousins” Violas have dainty little flowers. The larger flowers are showy and suited close to entertainment areas or pathways. The medium-sized Pansies and Violas often have more flowers and are a hit when used as a massed display in the garden.
Primulas: Fairy Primroses, (Primula malacoides), are still a favourite for winter and spring flowering colour in the shade. They have dainty, tiered flowers and are available in white, lavender, rose, pink and a darker pink/purple. White primulas will brighten up shady patches the most and show up well in the evening.
Sow, sow & sow: Calendulas, (Calendula officinalis) have edible “petals” that look super sprinkled on winter soups. Iceland poppies are available in stunning mixed colours – choose cultivars with strong stems for windy gardens. A few others include; alyssum, Livingstone daisy, godetia, schizanthus, stocks and snapdragons for the sun and lobelia for semi-shade and foxglove ‘Foxy’ for semi-shade to shade. (Tip: Before sowing always check the sowing time on the back of the seed packets for your region’s best sowing months).
What to Plant
Garlic: There is nothing better than cooking with fresh produce from the garden and Garlic bulbs are available in garden centres at this time of year. Simply prepare a sunny bed with compost and a plant starter and plant the individual cloves about 10 to 15cm apart and about 3 to 5 cm deep, making sure that the pointy side faces upwards. If your soil has poor drainage then plant them in raised beds or even containers. Garlic wards off many pests with its pungent smell and is, therefore, a great addition to any veggie garden. (Garlic is not well suited to very humid, hot areas of the country).
Pelargoniums: Bush geraniums, (Pelargonium x hortorum), and ivy or cascading geraniums, (Pelargonium peltatum), are still some of the “jewels in the crown” of our indigenous plants even though they have been heavily hybridized. Geraniums are one of the most rewarding garden plants and are ideally planted in containers on your patio in a sunny to semi-shade position. Geraniums love to be moist but not wet. Give them a weak but regular, (preferably weekly), liquid feeding.
What to Spray – to protect your happy place
Amaryllis caterpillar/worm: Keep a lookout for wilting leaves or flowers on any of the lilies like arum lilies, amaryllis, agapanthus and clivias. Inspect the plants by pulling the leaves open to reveal the “middle” of the plant above the bulb - the Amaryllis worm is normally easily spotted in this area if they are the culprit. They may be between the epidermal layers of the leaves or openly chewing close to the base of the leaves and flower stalks. The base of the leaves will also become slimy, smelly and pulpy. Ask your local garden centre for a recommended spray.
White grubs: The adult chafer beetles lay their eggs in the lawn and the grubs that hatch feed on the lawn roots and underground stems. The lawn or leaf blades start to wither and die in patches. If you want to confirm your suspicions, you should be able to easily pull up pieces of lawn and see the large, fat white grubs curled up in a c-shape. Ask for advice at your garden centre and treat as recommended
Roses: Roses are prized cut flowers. Hybrid tea roses have the longest stems and are great for picking, especially when a long stalk is preferred. Fragrant roses add that extra sensory dimension too.
Inca lilies, (or Peruvian lily): Also known by their botanical name of Alstroemeria, Inca lily blooms are best harvested by firmly holding the flowering stem close to the base and twisting the stem as you pull it upwards. This will help the detach the flower from the underground stem and promote further growth and flowering.
Snapdragons: Most snapdragons, (Antirrhinum majus), are either slightly or moderately scented which is great if you like to cut flowers from the garden or one can place them close to the home. Snapdragons love the sun and varieties range from tall, (over 60cm tall which may require staking), or as short as 15cm for the dwarf ones, and come in a range of beautiful colours and colour mixes. They are long-lasting in the garden and will grow through our mild winters and flower into spring.
Calibrachoa: This is a trendy treasure that has yet to be discovered by many gardeners, calibrachoa, (Calibrachoa ‘Goodnight Kiss'). This is a trailing plant, that gets covered in hundreds of small bell-shaped flowers that are quite dazzling. They are the first choices for planting in containers and hanging baskets for gardeners that have had them before. Although sun-loving, in very hot areas they will do better in a semi-shade. They are available right now in shades of violet, blue, pink, red, magenta, yellow, bronze and white as instant colour plants in pots and hanging baskets. They can be pinched back for a time to time to encourage bushy growth and more flowers.
Tip: Feed calibrachoa with a liquid fertiliser regularly to encourage healthy growth and flowering.
Roses are simply spectacular in autumn! To ensure quality blooms into the 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 eaves. To compensate for this and to provide enough food for new growth and flowers, fertilize with rose food – your local GCA garden centre will advise you on the best option. Regular watering is very important if there is insufficient rainfall.
One of the best ways to save water in the garden is to hydro-zone the plants in your garden. Hydro-zoning means that you position plants in the garden, or in containers, according to their water requirements so that we do not use any more water in any hydro-zone than the plants positioned there require. We, therefore, group all plants that like the most water together and these are commonly known by your garden centre staff as 3 drop plants, those that require a medium amount of water 2 drop plants and the water-wise, low water requirement plants as 1 drop plants. Where possible keep the 3 drop zone to a minimum – perhaps around a swimming pool or entertainment area, and in the same way make the 1 drop zone the largest area of your planted garden, (since paved areas effectively constitute a 0 drop zone). There is no better time to start than today – have fun and save our precious water.
Compost: Compost is the equivalent organic gold to the garden! With all the autumn leaves combined with the vegetable kitchen waste, it is a great time to start your compost heap now. Lightweight and easy to use compost bins are readily available at your local GCA garden centre, to fit even the smallest of gardens. Ask for compost accelerator at your garden centre and add this to the various layers of compost being added.
Tips: Avoid adding any plants that are diseased or pest-ridden, as well as weeds with seeds or seed heads on them. Lawn clippings should be thinly layered between other layers of waste otherwise they will rot and form a slimy mess in the bin.
Its time to lift and divide summer flowering perennials. Here are some examples of the most common ones: agapanthus, wild iris, (Dietes bicolour and Dietes grandiflora), penstemon, campanulas and asters. Most perennials start to decline in vigour from being too close to one another after several seasons of pushing fresh outward growth and therefore require division, (normally only once in 3 to 5 years), to “refresh their vigour or growth. Simply cut the foliage back by about two thirds, lift them carefully form the soil and then divide them by hand or by using two garden forks, (back to back). Split up into fresh, healthy-looking clumps and plant them in well-prepared soil that has compost and a plant starter so that good root growth is initiated. Water well.
Cut back all summer flowering perennials that are looking tired. Pay attention to salvias, daisies, lavender and fuchsias.
Frangipani, (Plumeria rubra), grows well in full sun in the tropical and subtropical areas of the country. If you are looking for that tropical island feel in your garden, this small tree will certainly give “the look”. They withstand drought and bloom profusely from late spring through summer and into autumn. There is a wide range of beautifully coloured flowers that are richly fragrant. They are easy to grow and little attention, flourish in almost all soil types.
Hot tip: It may still be too hot to plant spring-flowering bulbs. Good advice would be to buy them while they are available and store them in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator and plant out when the weather cools down in a month or two.
Gardening is incredibly rewarding as what you put in, is what you get out. If you’ve been tending to a vegetable garden or growing fruit trees, you’re likely to have a variety of homegrown goodness at your fingertips. Often you end up with an abundant supply of fruits and vegetables that is far more than you need to feed your family. This is the ideal opportunity to share your harvest with friends, neighbours and those in need.
Fresh produce is often enjoyed for its full flavour over store-bought products. As such, friends and neighbours would be delighted to receive fresh, homegrown produce to include in their meals. Pack a basket with some surplus produce that you’ve grown and deliver it to your friends, family and neighbours to share in your harvest.
Often fresh produce has a limited shelf life but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your surplus produce for longer. Fill jars with homemade pasta sauces, relishes and pickles that can be enjoyed for months after you’ve harvested your vegetables. Make homemade jams in a variety of flavours and treat your taste buds well after the last fruit has been picked for the season. You can also share your homemade delights with friends and family to spread the bounty even further.
Fruit and vegetables are jam-packed with nutrients that are beneficial for your health. However, often poorer families will skip the vegetable aisle and opt for foods that are high in fats and carbohydrates as these can stretch further and keep them fuller for longer. These families would greatly welcome your donation of surplus fruits and vegetables to help add some nutrients to their families table.
For the many elderly and homeless people soup kitchens provide the comfort of a cooked meal. Often these kitchens need ingredients to keep the supply of soup available for those who depend on them to fill their tummies.
You can donate fresh produce to a variety of food banks, soup kitchens or churches across South Africa that offer soup kitchens to the community.
Nothing is better than enjoying your homegrown fruits and vegetables except for sharing the bounty of your harvest so they can enjoy the flavour and goodness of your produce too. Growing your own food is a rewarding experience that allows you to share the rewards with others. So keep your harvest growing and share your bounty with those that will enjoy it as much as you do.
For more veggie garden inspiration and visit your favourite GCA Garden Centre for supplies to keep your fresh produce growing abundantly.
In a world of constant hustle and bustle, the trend forecasters at Pantone thought everyone could do with a little time out. So they have announced that the Pantone colour of the year 2020 is Classic Blue. In a press release from Pantone they give the following rationale for their decision:
“As technology continues to race ahead of the human ability to process it all, it is easy to understand why we gravitate to colours that are honest and offer the promise of protection. Non-aggressive and easily relatable, the trusted PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue lends itself to relaxed interaction. Associated with the return of another day, this universal favourite is comfortably embraced.”
Life is a Garden echo this sentiment and what better way to bring in the colour blue in your world, than in your garden. It so happens that blue flowers attract butterflies and bees, and this means your garden will become a sanctuary of nature and an escape for your psyche. Surround yourself with calm and confidence and add these plants to create a splash of blue to your outdoor palette.
Cool down on hot summer days with a sea of Agapanthus in shades of blue. Agapanthus is also known as the Lily of the Nile and comes from the Greek words “agape” meaning love and “Anthos”, meaning flower. You’ll fall in love with the Dwarf Agapanthus 'Tinkerbell'. It has variegated leaves and clusters of pale blue flowers. Agapanthus 'Blue Velvet' has deep cornflower blue flowers with a velvet sheen. Grow agapanthus in broad sweeps in the landscape, in indigenous gardens, grouped in borders, as edgings along paths, and in large pots. Their robust root system is suitable for holding soil on banks.
The colour blue is associated with the sea and sky and evokes peace and tranquillity. That’s why this colour is so effective in calming your mind. The Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) is available in a few smaller varieties such as Buddleja ‘Buzz’ and Buddleja ‘Lo and Behold’, which are hybrids of our indigenous varieties and have more colours available in blue, purple and cream. They are tasty nectar-producing plants which attract butterflies. These nectar-feeding insects will add charm and beauty to your garden and will, in turn, contribute to some restoration of the natural ecology of life in urban gardens. Butterflies have long proboscises to reach down into flowers to obtain the nectar on which they survive.
Torenia, or Wishbone Flowers (Torenia fournieri) are flowers for semi-shaded spots and summer’s answer to the pansy. Torenias are compact (30cm) bushes with dainty flowers of blue, purple or pink with yellow throats, suitable for edgings, beds, hanging baskets and window boxes. Plant in rich, well-drained soil, and water regularly. Torenias make good companions with other shade lovers, such as impatiens and bedding begonias. Begonias with white, red, light or dark pink flowers with bronze or green leaves make pretty ribbons of colour along paths, in massed plantings, window boxes and containers.
Salvia Black and Bloom (Salvia nemorosa) creates waves of tranquil blue bushes. These popular perennials have unusual black stems and are happy in partial to full sun areas. They parade large well-branched bushes with strong-coloured flowers. Because the blue colour aids in concentration and helps your mind in a meditative state, adding more blue flowers to your garden will help you re-centre your thoughts and focus for 2020. Create a reflective space with blooming, Salvia Mystic 'Spire Blue' with their long spires of dark blue flowers. They bloom throughout summer and attract happy butterflies to lighten up your mood. Be sure to add the proud Salvia 'Victoria' with its upright flower spikes parading indigo-blue flowers above the foliage.
Like the cat that’s got the cream, Clerodendrum myricoides ‘Ugandense’ (commonly known as the blue cat's whiskers) are born to stand out. In summer, these dainty, two-tone blue flowers are striking features of this medium-sized evergreen shrub. They are ideal for planting in the background of a shrubby border. It bears masses of pleasant blue flowers in summer, and bees love them. You will soon be surrounded by the happy, buzzing noise of their visits. Their fruits are frugivorous birds’ favourite and your garden will become the coolest hangout for nature’s little busybodies, while adding a little whimsy in the concrete jungle.
Our indigenous cobalt blue blossoms of the Cape-forget-me-not (Anchusa capensis) are charming easy-going plants. They require minimal care and grow in most soils. They are hardy and survive on very little water, which makes them our water-wise choice for dry summer regions. They are happy with the basics: well-drained soil and full sun areas, and will pop up again and again, perfect for any South African garden.
Lobelia is part of the Campanulaceae family and has over 300 species. The most common species in our gardens is Lobelia erinus. L. erinus, native to southern Africa and thrives in varying climates and topographies. This easy-to-grow plant enjoys the full morning sun, and they will appreciate a little afternoon shade. They prefer soil that is rich in organic matter, so you must add compost to the soil before planting. Keep the soil moist but not sodden and pay particular attention to watering if in pots or baskets. Lobelia do not like to get thirsty! The Lobelia (Curacao Compact Blue) are stunning planted in striking hanging baskets.
Although blue flowers are hard to find in the natural world, you can always find inspiration and advice from the friendly staff at your local GCA Garden Centre. Return some classic blues to your garden this summer and design a space of quietude. With touches of blue, you can create a serene escape from daily stress where you can recharge your mind, body and soul. For more gardening inspiration visit www.lifeisagarden.co.za