Posts Tagged ‘ gardening ’

June in the Garden Checklist for the outdoor artist Gardening Checklist

Posted on: May 10th, 2021 by Cassidy No Comments

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.
Sow 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.

Blooming muses to plant: Primula, primrose, calendula, stocks, gazania, poppy, bellis, alyssum, conifers, hellebores, narcissi, Camellia, Erica, pincushion, and ornamental grasses.

Triumphant cold troupers to plant: Abelias, Elaeagnus pungens ‘Variegata’, Pittosporum tobira, P. tenuifolium, rosemary, confetti bushes, Melaleuca bracteata ‘Johannesburg Gold’, and holly.

Artsy-potsy plant pick: Lewisia is one tough babe and will handle pretty much everything winter has to throw at her. She likes sun or partial shade, good drainage, but not the richest of soil. Water her moderately and deadhead spent blooms. She’ll reward you with gorgeous rosettes, slender stalks, and pastel-pink flowers for patio pots and just about everywhere else really!

 

Pruning particulars
  • If you live in a frost-free area you can begin pruning roses in June.
  • Very chilly and frost-prone areas should wait until the 2nd week of July.
  • Everyone can prune and cut back deciduous trees, conifers, vines, peach, plum, and apricot trees now.

Black Frost se voet

  • What is it: Black frost happens when humidity is too low for frost to form, but the temperature drops so low that plant tissues freeze and die, becoming blackened.
  • Where it affects: The leaves of plants are the most affected. Avoid pruning the burnt leaves as they will continue to protect the plant in case of another freeze invasion.
  • How to protect: You can protect plants even more by using raised beds, mulching up (a lot), covering growing trees at night, and changing to mid-morning watering to allow all water to evaporate before evening temperatures drop.
  • What to do: Once a plant has succumbed to the black frost horseman, do not prune or feed it, simply send it love – this too shall pass. Once the temperature increases, some plants will shed dead leaves on their own, while others that have died back will begin to regrow.

Inspirational edibles to plant: Rocket, cabbage (red and baby), horseradish, asparagus, global artichokes and rhubarb, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, beetroot, turnips, Brussel sprouts, oriental vegetables, celery, parsley, peas, and leeks. Pop into your fave GCA Garden Centre and see which seedlings are available.

Homegrown’s to harvest: Citrus and avocados (finally), leeks, Brussel sprouts (from the bottom upwards), carrots, parsnips, and cabbages.

Mulch-up your canvas: Mulch the entire garden with lovely autumn leaves to protect plants from the cold and assist in water retention in dry areas. Cape gardeners, get on top of those rain-loving winter weeds with max mulch power.

How to perfect the art of indoor gardening 101 Indoor Gardening

Posted on: May 10th, 2021 by Cassidy No Comments

Indoor plants promote good mental health, super Zen vibes, texture, air purification, and something beautiful to appreciate as you go about your day. Life is a Garden, indoors too, and there’s a plant just waiting to bring that side table, desk, and bookshelf to life. Good old potting soil, fertiliser, and a watering routine makes all the difference in maintaining an indoor haven.

 

Checkout these 5 top tips to perfect the art of indoor gardening:
  1. Choose the right plant and place: Start off with an easy plant from our BF (beginner-friendly) suggestions below. Checkout your space and see where’s the gap to be filled. Choose a plant that likes the light conditions of your chosen area.
  2. Choose the right pot: Choose a suitable sized pot with good drainage holes and don’t forget the saucer that catches excess water (we’ve all been there, #rookieerror).
  3. Get good potting soil: A bag of delicious potting soil goes a long way! Visit your GCA Garden Centre and grab a bag to get you going. Add a couple of small stones to your pot before adding compost. This will help with drainage and root rot prevention.
  4. Get to know your new friend: Understand the light, watering, and soil requirements of your plant. Observe how plants react in the space and change their position if needed. Poke your finger into the pot and feel the soil, this will tell you if your plant is ready to be watered.
  5. Feed your new friend: Generally speaking, every 6 weeks is a good time to fertilise. The new plant baby depends on you now to maintain the nutrient integrity inside the pot. Your GCA Garden Centre guy can advise you on the best soil and fertiliser for your plant.

Try this: To help you choose the best plant for a room, you can now download an app that measures light intensity – how efficient is that! #nomoreexcuses

Here are our top 10 plant picks that’ll bring in colour and freshness to your space.

Look out for the *BF (beginner-friendly) options for novice gardeners. 

 

1. Button fern (Pellaea rotundifolia)

Light likes: Pellaea enjoy humidity with no direct sun, high to medium light will do.

Soil & water: Let the top layer of soil dry between watering, he doesn’t do soggy.

On the weekends: He can be found chilling in a humid bathroom on the windowsill or in a hanging basket. His dark-green, evergreen, button-like leaves like to explore.

 

2. Blue star fern (Phlebodium aureum) *BF

Light likes: Medium to high light with no or partial direct sun, she’s very adaptable.

Soil & water: Enjoys moist over dry, water well when she’s thirsty.

On the weekends: Her forest-like foliage, with curious wavy blue-green fronds, can be seen fluffing about and grabbing attention everywhere she goes.

 

3. Bird's nest fern (Asplenium nidus)

Light likes: Medium to bright, no direct sun. She likes warmth, humidity, and moisture.

Soil & water: Moist, rich, and loamy does it.

On the weekends: She’s always cheerful with tropical light green fronds, resembling banana leaves. She’s good at limbo, but don’t touch her new fronds while she’s growing.

4. Kumquat tree *BF if you follow the rules

Light likes: Super bright light, even direct sunlight if possible. She enjoys the patio too.

Soil & water: Regular watering with excellent drainage.

On the weekends: This happy-go-lucky babe can be seen showing off dozens of bright little orange fruits. She’s good at inspiring new jam and preserves recipes!

 

5. Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) *BF+

Light likes: Medium to bright, no direct sun, but they like warm corners.

Soil & water: Good drainage with weekly watering.

On the weekends: You may find them looking for things to climb on with their flamboyant, large and in-charge leaves. Beware, this beaut bites and is toxic to pets.

 

6. Triostar Stromanthe (Stromanthe sanguinea)

Light likes: Near a window with plenty of natural light, no sun. Rotate your pot weekly.

Soil & water: Well-drained, fertile soil that is kept moist but not soggy.

On the weekends: She’s the pretty, popular chick with impressive, vibrant pink foliage that’ll make you blush. Triostar’s gonna’ make you work for her though, be prepared.

 

7. Dragon tree (Dracaena marginata) *BF+

Light likes: The brighter the better, but he’s adaptable.

Soil & water: Good drainage and regular watering.

On the weekends: He’s a rugged, attractive guy with striking green, sword-like, red-edged leaves that stand at attention. Your friends may be jealous of his good looks.

8. Flaming sword (Vriesea splendens)

Light likes: They enjoy some morning sun with high light throughout the day.

Soil & water: Add some orchid mix to your soil, infrequent watering but not all the way dry.

On the weekends: They can be seen proudly parading their yellow-orange blooms that look like fun swords. Sadly, they do decline after blooming but they’ll leave you with offsets first.

 

9. Cymbidium orchid (Cymbidium spp.)

Light likes: Partial gentle sun and good light is her kind of vibe.

Soil & water: Loamy, moist, well-drained soil.

On the weekends: Her stunning sprays of large blooms are a sight to behold! Appreciate her while you can, it’ll be a while before you see her flowers again.

 

10. Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) *BF

Light likes: They enjoy sunlight and warmth.

Soil & water: Avoid soggy soil but water them moderately.

On the weekends: These often golden-trunked, bamboo-looking darlings can be seen growing tall at their own pace, taking time to extend all their friendly fronds.

To help keep your indoor plants looking their best and breathing well, use a damp cloth to clean their leaves from any dust. Remember to checkout which lovelies are ready to plant now, or plan ahead for the right season and home your dream indoor gem. A spray bottle is also super handy to have around for quick watering touch-ups. See what’s potting at your GCA Garden Centre and have fun perfecting the art of indoor gardening!

Back to Basics with Creepers and Crawlers

Posted on: May 10th, 2021 by Cassidy No Comments

Climbing plants and ground covers are the easiest way to level up your gardening game. Bring walls to life, add privacy with hedges, decorate arches dripping with roses, cover-up baren spaces, create curtains of greenery for the patio, get your windowsills bustling with bees and butterflies, attract more birds, smell the sweet essence of flowers every morning, bring in colour, AND – need we even say more! Here’s some inspiration to get you going.

 

Climbing, quick spreaders
Indigenous splendours:
  • Pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana) is a full sun beauty, boasting an abundance of fragrant lilac-pink flowers. Vigorous, rambling, and great for beginners.
  • Starry wild jasmine (Jasminium multipartitum) rewards gardens with a delicious sweet scent emitted by star-shaped blooms. They like morning/afternoon sun.
  • Flame creeper (Combretum microphyllum) is a truly spectacular specimen with flaming crimson flowers for the larger garden with ample sun.
  • Cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) flourish in full sun where tubular blooms in red, orange, yellow, and salmon can climb up to 3m high.
Worldly charms:
  • Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is a highly fragrant climber and ground cover. Blooms perform best in full sun, but they also do well in semi-shade.
  • For climbing roses, try the Stamina Rose. This pink-purple babe parades over arches and windowsills. She’s also hardy and disease-resistant, bonus!
  • Flowering Ivy (Senecio macroglossus) is a bright little explorer with yellow daisy-like flowers between dark green foliage. They enjoy full sun to semi-shaded areas.
  • Potato vine (Solanum jasminoides) has clusters of fragrant, dainty light-blue or white blooms that’ll make quick work of full sun, trellised walls and arches.
Ground covering crawlers
Ornamental grass
  • Ophiopogon japonicus 'Kyoto' is an exceptional tuft-forming no-mow grass that’s ideal as a plant filler in full sun to semi-shade. They’re cold and frost-hardy too!
  • Zoisia tenuifolia grows low to the ground and often has a wavey appearance, making it a top architectural plant that’ll cover any space with full sun to semi-shade.
  • Dymondia margaretae is a special, sun-loving, carpet-forming cover that’s hardy, fast-growing, good against wind erosion, and perfect as a filler between pavers.
  • White carpet (Falkia repens) grows low to the ground, bearing small pink flowers that create a wonderful indigenous 'daisy lawn' in full sun or semi-shaded areas.
Flowering thrills
  • Lamium, or dead nettle, is a shade-lover with variegated leaves and sweet blooms of white, pink, and purple. Great for beginners and not prone to pests or disease.
  • Spanish daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus) will transform your garden into an exquisite fairy landscape with masses of pink and white blooms. They like sun and semi-shade.
  • Sedum is a sun-loving, hardy, perky perennial with fleshy leaves and clusters of star-shaped blooms that spread out and have a most pretty party in the garden.
  • Bacopa (Sutera cordata) is a South African stunner that’s easy and versatile. Plants are covered in tiny white/lavender/pink flowers that enjoy the sun or semi-shade.

Be sure to visit your GCA Garden Centre to check out which of these lovelies are available to plant now. To help your climbers along, don’t forget to install trellis support for them to play on. Garden centres are stocked with goodies for creepers and nutritious compost and soil to help establish your new ground covers.

Garden Glossary Find out more here!

Posted on: April 21st, 2021 by Cassidy No Comments

Unearth some of the most used garden jargon and stay on top of your game.

Life is a Garden was launched by the South African Nursery Association to promote gardening as the ultimate leisure time hobby in Southern Africa and brings relevant industry-endorsed information, at the right time of the year, to interested gardeners across Southern Africa.

Time to Make a Macramé Hanger Find out more here!

Posted on: April 21st, 2021 by Cassidy No Comments

Make your own macramé plant hangers in a few easy steps. Check out this DIY video with inspiration and instructions to get you going.

Life is a Garden was launched by the South African Nursery Association to promote gardening as the ultimate leisure time hobby in Southern Africa and brings relevant industry-endorsed information, at the right time of the year, to interested gardeners across Southern Africa.

May in the Garden Checklist Gardening Checklist

Posted on: April 12th, 2021 by Cassidy No Comments

Be a winter-winner, get your May maintenance in check, sow cool-season seeds, and grow with the flow as we enter our last month of autumn. We’re celebrating our adaptable green fingers by also highlighting Africa Month and all our glorious indigenous glory. The party doesn’t stop there – say hello to Phlebodium, the perfect indoor plant baby to gift to the woman you adore this Mother’s day!

 

Crispy blooms to plant

Bulb up: Honour our African heritage with a jive of colour from Sparaxis (Harlequin Flower), ixia, and Tritonia. Try also these perennial bulbous plants: Sweet garlic (Tulbaghia fragrans), Weeping anthericum (Chlorophytum saundersiae), Red-hot poker (Kniphofia praecox).

Bush out: Pork bush (Portulacaria afra) is a lekker local hero hedge. Good as a barrier plant, tolerates frequent pruning, extremely drought-resistant, and fast-growing.

Succ in: Aloes are in full swing, oh yeah Try Peri-Peri, Sea Urchin, and Porcupine.

The 4 P’s: Get down to your local GCA Garden Centre and start planting with the 4 P’s - poppies, pansies, petunias and primulas.

Rose bed revival: Long-stemmed roses can be picked now. If the plants are in full leaf, continue with your spraying programme but reduce watering. Plant winter-flowering annuals like pansies, poppies, or compact snapdragons, around rose bed edges to give them a revived burst of colour (and hide bare branches).

Split & divide: If the following perennials have stopped flowering, they’re ready for the operating table: Japanese Anemones (Anemone japonica) and Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana).

Be wise, fertilise: Annual stocks and larkspurs benefit from extra nitrogen to promote good growth and flowering throughout winter. Consult your GCA Garden Centre expert for advice on liquid fertilisers and other plant food.

 

Eat like a winter-winner 

Eye candy: Add rows of ornamental (and inedible) kale between other winter vegetables. Companion plants include beetroot, violas and pansies (both have edible flowers), onions, nasturtiums, and spinach. Ornamental kale makes an unusual but stunning winter option for colour.

Mixed masala: Interplant leafy winter veggies and root crops with herbs like lavender, thyme, oregano, parsley, yarrow, and comfrey.

Cuppa’ your own Joe: The coffee plant (Coffea arabica), which is actually a TREE, will earn you kudos from coffee snobs if you can manage to grow it successfully in a high-light indoor area. Imagine grinding home-grown beans? Count us in!

Un-gogga your cabbage: Pull up old sweet basil plants, chop them up, and then use them as a natural insect repellent mulch around your cabbages – fancy, na?

If it’s yellow, it ain’t mellow: Prevent disease by removing all yellow leaves from brassicas such as Brussel sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Fruitful advice: Feed avocado trees with 3:1:5 and mulch ‘em up. Plant litchis and citrus, while also keeping mango trees dry before their flowering starts. In coastal and lowveld areas, feed granadillas with a nitrogen and potassium combination fertiliser. Seek advice from your local GCA Garden Centre.

 

Tricks of the cool-season trade

Prevent pests: Prevention is better than cure! Remember that good soil + good drainage + mulch + fertilising/feeding = a healthy plant with more flowers, more fruits, and more veg!

Spray away: Keep spraying those conifers with insecticide.

Rake it, baby: Rake fallen leaves off the lawn to prevent them from blocking out sunlight, and then pop them on the compost heap. Coastal gardeners can still apply one more dose of fertiliser before winter sets in.

Freeze alert: Make sure that you don't water too early or too late – wet plants will freeze, haai shame!

 

 

Throwing shade at the sun Shade gardening

Posted on: March 10th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Wild iris (Dietes grandiflora).

Gone are the days when shady means barren! This month, Life is a Garden is shedding light on darker spaces with a little shade-spiration to bring all areas of the garden to life. There are many flower varieties, shrubs, creepers, and even veggies that will flourish in every type of shade. Let’s begin by understanding the different degrees of shade and how these conditions affect the surrounding soil and plants that can grow there.

 

Full shade

An area that receives no direct sunlight at all is called full shade, known also as deep shade. Underneath a canopy of large evergreen trees or next to tall buildings or high walls is where you’ll typically find full shade and often barren spaces. The soil in such areas can be classified into these two groups below:

 

  • Full shade with wet soil

In these deep shade areas, moisture drainage is poor and the soil appears constantly soggy, boggy, and swampy. Try adding coarse compost mixed with gritty river sand to improve the drainage and quality of the soil in these areas.

Plant picks: Hen and chickens (Chlorophytum comosum), holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum), and forest bell bush(Mackaya bella).

 

  • Full shade with dry soil

Some areas with full shade have dry soil owing to the growth of the trees that once allowed some sunlight in, but have now grown to completely block out direct sunlight. Enrich these areas by loosening the soil, adding nutritious compost, and covering with mulch to assist in retaining moisture.

Plant picks: Bush lily (Clivia miniata), agapanthus, and wild iris (Dietes grandiflora).

Hen and chickens (Chlorophytum comosum)
Forest bell bush (Mackaya bella).
Bush lily (Clivia miniata)
Dappled shade

Also known as filtered shade, this happens as sunlight filters through openings in tree branches throughout the day, shifting the pattern of sunlight trickling in. In these areas, it’s best to plant in accordance with the trees natural growth and shedding phases. In other words, choose plants that flower during the leafless stages of surrounding trees.

Plant picks: Spring flowering bulbs like daffodils (Narcissus), Lachenalia bulbifera, and freesias.

 

*Seasonal tip: Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to discover gorgeous shady babies for cool-season planting and sowing. Checkout what seed trays are available to jumpstart your growing adventure. Keep some new arrivals in their pots to assess how they fair in your chosen area before transplanting.

 

Semi-shade

This refers to an area that receives some sun and some shade throughout the day, as shadows are cast on different parts of the garden. Semi-shade plants tend to do better with morning sun, rather than harsh midday or afternoon sun that may scorch leaves. Keep these areas healthy with good compost and generous mulching to retain soil moisture.

Plant picks: Fuchsia, evergreen azalea (Rhododendron indicum), rhubarb, chives, celery, and even carrots.

Daffodils (Narcissus)
Lachenalia bulbifera
evergreen azalea (Rhododendron indicum)
Rhubarb

There is a plant for every shady part of the garden and even some veggies and herbs that can tolerate semi-shade. Remember to visit your GCA Garden Centre to inquire about different shrubs, ferns, and flowers to best suit the area you would like to see flourish. Garden Centre experts are also able to advise which edibles will work well in your desired space. Life is a Garden, even in the shade, so let’s get every bed and pot shining in the absence of sunlight. A gardener maak ‘n plan, or something like that!

April in the Garden Checklist Gardening Checklist

Posted on: March 9th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Like the calm before the cool, winter preparations are smooth sailing this month with Life is a Garden’s crisp April checklist. Gardening during the cooler months definitely has its own challenges, but also so many exciting flowers and veggies to look forward to. Did someone say spring bulbs already? Head over to your GCA Garden Centre and let’s plant right in!

 

Chillax with flowers
  • Bulba-licious beauties: You can plant all spring-flowering bulbs now, hooray! Bulbs with fingers or claws, like ranunculi, should be planted with their fingers pointing downwards. Try plating small bulbs like anemone, leucojum, muscari, lachenalia, tritonia, and ranunculus, or larger bulbs such as hyacinth, freesia, and Dutch iris.
  • Pretty and pleasing: April is the perfect time to buy and plant out pretty primula, poppy, pansy, and gazania seedlings.
  • Indoor inspiration: Spathiphyllum, known also as Peace lily, is an easy-care, low-light houseplant with majestic, long-lasting white blooms.
Leucojum
Ranunculus
Dutch Iris
Primula
Spathiphyllum Peace lily
  • Colourful corners: Try planting a corner of ericas, restios, leucadendrons, and Proteas – they provide stunning autumn and winter colour.
  • Balmy blooms: Plant cool-season annuals at the base of bare-stemmed bushes. Choose sun lovers like alyssum, calendulas, dwarf snapdragons, lobelias, Namaqualand daisies, phlox, and pansies.
  • Bedding babe: Available in many bright hues, Cineraria enjoy moist soil in semi-shade beds.
  • Pot of purple: Lavender is waiting to perk up your patio pots with an easy-going purple flush.
leucadendrons
Lobelias
Cineraria
Lavender
Feeding and frost
  • Feed aloes and flowering succulents for a glorious winter show.
  • If you’re living in a frost-prone area, be sure to purchase some frost protection from your GCA Garden Centre before winter arrives in full force.
  • Continue feeding your evergreen cool-season lawn to ensure it remains lush during winter.

 

In the grow-zone
  • Grow garlic bulbs, which you can purchase from your GCA Garden Centre. Pick a sunny spot with well-drained soil and plant the cloves about 15cm apart in drills of about 7cm deep.
  • Plant a lemon tree now to enjoy summer lemonade on the rocks!
  • Veggies to be sown now include: peas, parsnips, carrots, onion ‘Texas Grano’ (short-day varieties), beetroot ‘Bulls Blood’ (the leaves provide extra vitamins for winter), broad beans, winter cauliflower, and good old broccoli.

 

Green steam ahead
  • Start sowing herb seeds in windowsill containers. Avoid leaving your babies near glass overnight as the cold chill may affect their growth.
  • Revitalise your veggie beds to boost winter crops and give roots added nutrients. Mix in a hearty dose of compost to your soil with a handful of organic bone meal.
  • Prune back old canes of raspberries and blackberries that have finished fruiting.
  • Feed citrus trees with a general fertiliser and a handful of Epsom salts.
Garlic bulbs
Lemon tree
Sow herb seeds
Prune rasberries

Enjoy your time chilling out and ticking off your April checklist. Ride the wave of cool-season thrills and all that’s up for grabs in the garden. Whether you’re maintaining, sowing, planting, or pruning, there’s always something to do in the backyard. Life is a Garden – welcome the refreshing autumn breeze into yours.

March in the Garden Checklist Gardening Checklist

Posted on: February 16th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
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.

Sweet pea
Rose care

Tree tip: Plant new fruit trees from mid-March onwards in temperate regions to ensure a good spring and summer harvest. Your GCA Garden Centre has a tasty selection of fruits to grow, go check it out.

Veggies and herbs

Winter veggies are ready to be planted for delicious soups and stews to enjoy during the chilly nights. Remember that your GCA Garden Centre supplies both vegetable seeds and seedlings to get you started. Sow/plant these cool-season sensations now for an autumn/winter harvest:

  • Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower
  • Broad beans, Brussel sprouts, and onions
  • Spinach, leeks, celery, and peas
  • Gooseberries, beetroot, and garlic
  • Oriental veggie varieties available at your GCA garden centre

Bedding bestie tip: Do companion planting with wild garlic, yarrow, comfrey, and Marigolds to assist with soil nutrition and natural pest control.

Cabbage
Brussel sprouts
Leeks
Gooseberries
Herb preservation

For an on-demand homegrown supply of fresh herbs during winter, start harvesting and preserving your greens now. Chop mint, parsley, basil and lemon balm, place them in an ice tray, fill with water, and pop them in the freezer. Aromatic herbs such as oregano, marjoram, thyme, sage, bay leaf, and rosemary, are better air-dried. Continue to feed herbs monthly with a half-strength liquid fertiliser and water regularly.

Must love maintenance

March is a month of maintenance, for which you’ll be gloriously rewarded as we move into winter. Give the garden a little extra TLC in preparation of the changing season. A little goes a long way in terms of the overall appearance and fertility of your beds, plants, and harvest.  Start these maintenance jobs now:

  • Work in about 30cm of compost into beds with a handful of bonemeal or super-phosphate to ensure plants have all the nutrition they need for winter.
  • Trim ground covers like sutera (bacopa) that may have taken strain during the hot summer months. They’ll produce fresh new growth and will thicken up nicely.
  • Give fynbos plants like confetti bush, a light trim to shape them up before their winter flowering.
  • Protect grapes this time of year and prune back excessive leaves to allow more sunlight into the crop.
  • Once nectarines, peaches and plums have finished fruiting, prune to shape and remove any dead or diseased branches.
  • Remember to reduce the amount of water given to houseplants.
Sutera bocopa
Confetti bush
Grapes
Nectarines

Although summer has loved and left us, autumn has come with its own wonderful variety of sowing opportunities. There’s always a flower, fruit, and veggie in need of a home, roses looking for a pruning, and a little maintenance to make all the difference. Enjoy March in the garden and tick off your to-do checklist with the help of tools, accessories, and seeds available at your GCA Garden Centre.

Why your veggies need friends Companion Plants

Posted on: February 16th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Sweet Pea, companion plants

Companion planting means growing certain plants close together for their mutually beneficial effects, such as pest protection or growth enhancement. Bedding besties allow you to have your cake AND eat it – your desired harvest flourishing gogo-free and eco-friendly with little other effort required from you. Mother Nature is clever like that – she knows what’s up. Here’s what to plant and reasons why your veggie needs a bestie. Life is a Garden, let’s optimise yours!

 

Reinventing the veggie patch

We often think of a veggie garden as produce sown in neat rows, exposed soil, and clear of any other plants not on the menu. Well, it might just be the time to revise this idea. There is so much to benefit from including other herbs and flowers to the veggie garden, which take care of pest control, weeds, water evaporation, poor soil conditions, composting, barren spaces and of course, pollination. Consider the idea of a starting a “mixed masala patch”, if you will, and let’s venture beyond the concept of a “vegetables-only” party.

 

Friends with benefits

Although we’re going for a “mixed masala patch”, it should be mentioned that not all plants like each other, and some can be pretty picky about who they bunk with. Your GCA Garden Centre guy will be able to advise you on the best buddy for your baby, but for now, here are some general friends of the veg with no-strings-attached benefits:

  • Natural pest controllers: Plants such as lavender (for fleas), basil (for flies), citronella grass and rosemary (for mozzies), as well as chrysanthemum (for spider mites), repel a variety of insects owing to their essential oil compounds and deterring scent. You can sporadically plant these in and around the veggie garden as long as they are in close range of the greens.
  • Essential pollinators: Your harvest needs the bees and they need us. Create a flower border around your veggie garden and bring in the friendly flyers to pollinate and spread seeds. Try marigolds, alyssum and cool-season vygies, as well as allowing all herbs to come to flower. Remember to include a freshwater source for our helpers with a way to get in and out too.
Lavender
Basil
Citronella Grass
Chrysanthemum
Marigold
Alyssum
  • Soil structure activists: Champion companion plants also help improve poor soil conditions by adding lacking nutrients. Comfrey (Symphytum) roots break up heavy clay and create channels for aeration and better water absorption, while also releasing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium into the soil. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a valuable compost heap activator, while also stimulating the soil’s nutrient value as leaves fall off and decompose in the veggie patch (it also has pretty white flowers, yay!).
  • Beauty filters: Veggies on-the-grow are already such a lovely sight, as is each one of the above-mentioned budding besties. For super-charged gorgeousness + pollination benefits + insect repellent power, try cosmos, nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), sunflowers, and sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus). Make space for these beauties in preparation for spring/summer planting.
Comfrey
Yarrow
Cosmos
Nasturtium
Sunflowers
Sweet pea
Autumn flings

As mentioned earlier, some plants are incompatible while others are the perfect match. We’re helping gardeners avoid any regrettable flings this autumn by equipping you with a swipe-right (good), swipe-left (bad) companion planting guide. Here is a list of greens to sow now to get you started on your bedding romances. Cool-season vegetable seedlings are also available at your GCA Garden Centre.

  • Carrots

Swipe right: Basil, chives, lettuce, onions, and peas.

Swipe left: Broccoli, cabbage, dill, fennel, and potatoes.

  • Swiss chard 

Swipe right: Beetroot, beans, cabbage, celery, and green peppers.

Swipe left: Grapes, potatoes, and sage.

  • Beans

Swipe right: Beetroot, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, and maize.

Swipe left: Dill, fennel, and all members of the onion family.

  • Celery

Swipe right: Beans, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, and tomatoes.

Swipe left: Nothing, this one’s easy.

  • Cabbage

Swipe right: Beetroot, celery, chives, dill, and onions.

Swipe left: Mustard plants, strawberries, tomatoes, and grapes.

 

With Mother Nature in your corner, a couple of flowers in your hair, and fragrant herbs by your side, companion planting is made simple and super effective.  Avoid harsh chemicals and keep your garden’s eco-system flourishing and beneficial to the entire food chain. Reinventing the veggie patch is easy when you choose the best friends for your farming-fam goals. Remember, dear green fingers, Life is a Garden, so create yours with consideration.

Companion Plants
Companion Plants
Companion Plants
Companion Plants

February in the Garden Checklist Gardening Checklist

Posted on: January 14th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
February in the garden check list

Nurture your darling garden this month of love by sowing delicious edibles and magnificent flowers. Remember to give your roses some TLC and maintain your existing crops for an abundant harvest. Life is a Garden – here’s what to do with yours this February.

FLOWER POWER

Blooms to sow
  • Plant tough annuals such as Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) and Gazania Rigens to fill gaps in beds and provide gorgeous colour for the months ahead.
  • Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) is your best bet for pots with full sun. They boast striking pink, red, cream, or orange blooms that’ll bring any patio to life.
  • Begin sowing these winter and spring-flowering gems that need a bit of time to mature in seedling trays: cinerarias, gazanias, Iceland poppies, primulas, violas, pansies, larkspurs, Canterbury bells, columbines, and aquilegias.
Sow Sweet William
Gazania rigens
Iceland poppies
Planning ahead

Many summer-flowering annuals start coming to the end of their flowering season and need to be removed. As such, collect ripe seeds from flowers you wish to grow for next season and begin preparing seed and flower beds for autumn planting.

Best for indoors

Adorn the indoors with your very own Love Palm (Chamaedorea elegans). They are small, slow-growing palm trees, reaching a full height of approximately 1 meter. Celebrated for their attractive foliage, compact shape and decorative cluster form, Love Palms are ideal indoor beauties that thrive in low to moderate light.

Caring for flowers

 

  • Keep azaleas and camellias well-watered to ensure a good show of flowers during winter and spring.
  • Keep deadheading your spent blooms to promote faster regrowth with more flowers.
Love Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
Deadhead
 Rose TLC
  • Deadhead and dis-bud your babies.
  • Water well 3 times a week.
  • Fertilise BUT remember that a heap on the surface is not optimal. Fertiliser is only of use when it is dissolved by water and carried to the roots.
  • Spray fortnightly against black spot, beetles and bollworm with organic pest control solutions available at your GCA Garden Centre.

 

 ALL ABOUT EDIBLES
Greens to sow and plant
  • Sow spinach, globe artichokes, chillies, parsley, carrots, radish and rocket.
  • Sow your first round of potato seeds for an early winter harvest.
  • Plant Chinese water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) if you enjoy Asian-style cooking. This aquatic vegetable forms tufts of bright green with straw-like leaves that spread rapidly.
Spinach, February checklist
Globe Artichoke, February checklist
Chillies, February check list
Rocket, February checklist
Chinese Water chestnut
Tending to the harvest
  • Pinch out tomatoes and surplus squashes to get fewer but bigger vegetables.
  • Remember to keep mulching your beds to suppress weed growth, keep roots cool, and conserve water.
 Garden centre treasures
  • Buy ready-to-plant strawberries, which you can hang in baskets or transplant into containers. Feed and water regularly to enjoy their beauty, even after fruiting.
  • Your local GCA Garden Centre has the latest, fully grown, dwarf veggies that are ready to harvest, even while still in the car’s boot. These varieties include: chillies, cherry tomatoes, and fresh loose-leaf lettuce varieties. Take advantage of these time-saving greens that’ll give you some goodness to eat while waiting for other crops to mature.
Pesky critters

 

Look out for red spider mites which are problematic in periods of drought and very hot weather. Use the correct insecticides to control these pests on plants such as fruit trees, roses, and shrubs. Red spider mites can also destroy annuals like tomatoes if too heavily infested. Visit your GCA Garden Centre for the best defence against these pesky critters.

 

There’s always something to do in the garden and always a plant child in need of a little TLC. Caring for your crop offers delicious rewards while tending to blooms provides an ongoing stream of colourful delights. Enjoy your February missions, dear gardeners!

Squash
Mulch
Strawberries
Cherry tomatoes
Loose lettuce leaf
Red spider Mite

There’s a garden on my stoep!

Posted on: December 22nd, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Patio Gardening

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!

Creative containers

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.

Top tip

Ensure your planting containers have good drainage to avoid root rot.

Let it all hang out

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!

Patio Gardening
Upcycle can planter
Flower pots
Hanging Baskets
Bloomingly good

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.

Fancy TFS

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.

Flower pots
Thriller, Filler & 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:

  1. Verbena: bright red Spiller
  2. Euphorbia: classic white Filler
  3. Petunia: red Filler
  4. Alstroemeria: creamy white Filler
  5. Dahlia: burgundy red Thriller
  6. Calibrachoa: yellow-white Spiller
Spiller verbena
Filler euphorbia
Filler petunia
filler alstroemeria
spiller dahlia
spiller calibrachoa
Fuchsia Bella, we adore you!

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.

Vertical victories 

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.

 Plant picks

Black-Eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata) is an all-time favourite flowering vine. Climbing Snapdragons (Asarina) work well in vertical planters and living walls.

Hooray for herbs

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.

Fuchsia Bella
Vertical gardens
Black-eyed Susan
Herb planter

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!

January in the Garden Checklist January Check List

Posted on: December 21st, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
January in the Garden Life is a Garden

The new year is always a great time to start afresh and get back into the garden. Remove any tired or spent annuals and fill the gaps with new babies that will flower into autumn. Planting fresh herbs and veggies will also help you stick to those healthy New Year’s resolutions. Happy 2021, dear green fingers, and please do remember that your Life is A Garden!

What to do in the January garden
  • There is still enough time to sow Eschsholzia, Lobelia, and Phlox for an abundance of summer and autumn colour.
  • Water regularly during dry spells.
  • Put out snail bait after rainfall or after watering in the evening.
  • If yellow patches appear on the lawn, this is an almost sure sign of lawn caterpillar, also known as armyworm.
January Check list
Snail Bait
Lawn Caterpillar Army worm
January checklist

Tip: Use a thick, moist towel placed over a patch at night. If lawn caterpillars are the culprit, they will still be foraging on the lawn in the morning when you lift the towel. Consult your local GCA Garden Centre for a remedy.

  • Colourful Begonias are available in trays to liven up semi-shade and shady areas.
  • Deadhead hydrangeas and use the beautiful blooms in dry arrangements.
  • A light summer pruning of your roses will help to extend quality flowering into late autumn.
  • Gently prune lavender plants that have stopped flowering to encourage an autumn flush.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch to beat the heat and save water.
January Checklist
January checklist
What to do in the January veggie garden
  • Most veggies need 60 to 90 days to harvest so if we are sowing in January, we need to think about what we will eat fresh from the garden in March and April. Never sow the whole seed packet at once as it literally contains from around 50 to several hundred seeds, so rather sow in 14-day intervals to achieve a continuous harvest.
  • If your mint, basil or sage is looking tired and leggy, re-sow them now.
  • Plant sweet peppers as seedlings - they are tasty in summer salads and many other dishes.
  • Keep protecting your fruit and veggies from fruit flies.
  • Feed your fruit trees, granadillas and veggies.

Tip: Never fertilise a plant when it is dry.

  • Try some of the decorative edibles in your flower beds for a change. The pretty red, pink, white and yellow stems of Swiss chard are very colourful. The fine-textured, ferny purple leaves of bronze fennel are a wonderful contrast to bolder textured foliage in the garden. Their purple colour is also stunning when placed near shrubs with lime green leaves like Duranta ‘Sheena’s Gold’.
  • Keep the herb garden full by planting chives, oregano, marjoram, thyme, sage and coriander.
January check list
January checklist
January Checklist
January checklist
January checklist
January Checklist

Look out for plants wilting in the summer heat, especially in dry weather. Give plants a deep watering at night and mulch around them. There are also water retention products that you can use – these will be are available at your local GCA Garden Centre. Remember, you can always get great gardening advice at your GCA Garden Centre.

Hero your harvest this holiday Holiday Gardening

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

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

Braai buddies

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

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

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

Leaves are lekker

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

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

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

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

Cocktails and mocktails

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

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

Cooldown with white this summer African white Christmas

Posted on: November 30th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Gardeners worldwide know that white just goes with everything and beautifully enhances the colours of surrounding plants. Great English garden designer, Vita Sackville West, started the trend in 1930 when she planted a white border at her home at Sissinghurst Castle. The border still stands today and has inspired generations of gardeners. Essentially, gardens are all about colour - the flowers, foliage, walls, gates, pottery, furniture and even artwork. Gardens are like our very own sanctuaries and they enhance our quality of life as well as helping our homes look even better!

White flowers provide a sense of coolness and calm that temper the summer heat and also glow when you view them in the evening and at night. If you are using your patio or lapa after dark, make sure you add an abundance of white flowers and silver foliage plants nearby. This will enhance your summer outdoor entertainment area while also creating a gorgeous white Christmas feel.

Here are some tips on how you can use white in the garden to create a cool, calm, and collected feel:
  • Used as a border, white plants like Agapanthus or impatiens can make a small garden look larger or a pathway look wider.
  • Placing white flowering plants like verbena next to a plant that you want to stand out will make the colours of that plant pop!
  • Mixing white flowering plants with silver or grey foliage plants like lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantine) or dusty miller (Senecio cineraria) will create a very calm and soothing effect.
  • White-flowered plants are great when paired with green foliage plants.
  • White is also a good colour to use when you need to break up clashing colours in the garden, for example, white impatiens separating pink and orange impatiens. This allows the separate colours to stand out on their own.
  • Bands of white-flowered plants like alyssum can help guide the eye further into the garden.
Have fun with white by using any of the following plants which should be in flower at this time:
  • Verbena – a flat groundcover for a sunny bed or pot.
  • White alyssum – always a winner either as a border plant or cascading over pots, walls or hanging baskets.
  • Gardenias with beautiful strong fragrance - should be in bloom now.
  • White Argyranthemums or daisy bushes – the mainstay of most gardens.
  • Petunias – cascading and upright growing.
  • Bougainvillea ‘Apple Blossom’ - is a stunner with a touch of pink in it.
  • Annual vinca - is so rewarding.
  • Portulaca – waterwise and easy to grow.
  • Calibrachoa – these are proof that dynamite comes in small packages.
  • Pelargoniums – or geraniums are available in bush or trailing.
  • Poinsettias (creamy-white)- for that real Christmas spirit.
  • Pandorea ‘Lady Di’ which is a climber with white bell-shaped blooms.

Tip: Don’t forget the firm favourites like Iceberg roses that come with the bonus of a gentle fragrance.

Dragonflies in the garden Eco Warriors Dragonflies

Posted on: November 30th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

You know summer’s in swing when the dragonflies come out to play! These glorious goggas are in fact not dangerous at all and are actually superb pest controllers with a most captivating twist. Watching these elegant insects dance around the pool is such a lovely sight indeed! Let’s discover more about this curious creature.

So why are they called dragonflies?

According to Romanian folklore, St. George went to battle and wounded a dragon while fighting on his horse. His horse was then cursed and turned into a giant flying insect, which is why ‘dragonfly’ translates to ‘devil’s horse’ in Romanian. Cursed horse or not, all we know is that the dragonfly is far from doomed and only adds value to gardens everywhere. They live on every continent but Antarctica and are welcomed for their helpfulness and grace.

A dragonfly feast

These superb hunters help to keep the fly and mozzie population in check by grabbing them with their feet and then munching away during flight. Dragonflies are excellent fliers – they can fly up and down or hover like a helicopter. Most other flying goggas don’t stand a chance against this agile hunter. A single dragonfly can eat between 30 to 100 mosquitoes in a day! There’s certainly no need for bug spray with these guys around.

Homing a magic dragon

Dragonflies need a fresh water source for the female to lay her eggs. She does this by dipping her abdomen into water immediately after mating. If you don’t have a swimming pool, they would appreciate a little water feature or birdbath too. Dragonflies are harmless to human’s and they do not bite or sting. Besides being excellent insect hunters, they are also a very important food source for other predators such as birds and fish. Just like the frog, the appearance of dragonflies in the garden is an excellent indicator of the overall health and balance of your ecosystem.

There really is no need to sho away these gorgeous goggas! They bring such lovely summer vibes to the backyard and are only there to help us out. All they ask in return is for a little fresh water and perhaps some more admiration from us all. They are a valuable part of the food chain and reward us with less mozzies and more pool party amazement! Thanks guys!

Is black the new green

Posted on: October 21st, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Henry Ford famously said, “You can have any colour, as long as it’s black”. Little did he know just how in vogue black would become in all aspects of design, including gardening. It never seems to go out of style. Black may not be the first colour you think of when gardening, but it is perfect to add depth and little drama. Black is bold and makes a strong statement. It looks super sophisticated and makes other colours around it pop.

Here is a list of black and purple-black plants to have fun with in the garden:
  • Ficus Robusta Burgundy is a popular indoor air-filtering plant with large glossy, dark leaves and is easy to grow.
  • Colocasia ‘Black Magic’, or black elephant’s ear, has very large, dramatic leaves and is well suited to a shady spot in the garden.
  • Petunia ‘Black Velvet’ is an eye-catcher and looks great in the garden for both pots and hanging baskets in the sun. It is the new darling in a trend towards black-flowered plants.
  • Ophiopogon ‘Black Dragon’ is a stunning black strappy grass-like perennial that looks better and better the denser the foliage becomes with age. It produces dainty flowers of pale violet with shiny blackberries. Popular for mass planting contrast or in a mixed contemporary container.

Tip: Black dragon looks amazing when planted next to the light grey leaf of Stachys byzantine or lamb’s ear.

Life is a Garden – Is black the new green
  • Ipomoea batatas, or coral bells, is of the ornamental sweet potato family. They have beautifully shaped leaves and can be stunningly paired with the lime green or pinkish version of the same plant. They look stunning when trailing or tumbling over objects and grow well in a dry shady spot.
  • Heuchera, or coral bells, have deep red and purple options. Their attractive large leaves and oomph to the surroundings. Their flowers are delicate and colourful and they do well in a dry shady spot.
  • The Black Madonna rose grows to shoulder height and the blooms make ideal cut-flowers.
  • Back Magic roses also grow to shoulder height. They are good cut-flowers and are free flowering.
  • The Black Berry rose grows to shoulder height and can produce fifty or more medium-sized roses at a time. It is good as a cut flower and is free flowering.
  • Alternanthera ‘Little Ruby’ has deep burgundy foliage making it a real stand out plant in the garden.
  • Lagerstroemia indica, known also as Black Diamond, Purely Purple, Pride of India, or even crape myrtle, has black leaves that contrast beautifully with its vibrant purple blooms. They will grow three to six metres high and love well-drained soil.

 

  • Brinjal, aubergine or eggplant, are easy to grow and a very rewarding “Old World” plant. They come in a range of black varieties including Black Beauty, Napoli, Long Purple, Oriental Fingerlings, Florence Violet and several others.
  • Phyllostachys nigra, or black bamboo, has graceful weeping foliage and striking black stems. They are a firm favourite when you want to create an oriental feel.
  • Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’, or Black Rose Aeonium, is one of the most striking plants to include. This very unusual water-wise succulent has a rose shape on top of long stems.
  • Rock rose (Echevaria) have a few dark coloured varieties with the most common deliciously named Chocolate. These water-wise succulents are amazing in rock gardens or tumbling over walls or the edges of pots and hanging baskets.
  • Last, but not least is what expert gardeners call well-composted soil - black gold. Compost is so valuable for increasing the fertility of the soil as it adds rich microbial life and turns sterile soil into rich, black soil that plants really respond to. Note: good soil = good roots = good plant.

Tip: Black Violas, although out of season, are amazingly scrummy edible flowers that add a dramatic contrast to salads and dishes.

Neat to know: Lime green, orange, pale pink and blue have the greatest contrast against black.

Urban gardening on your balcony Balcony Gardening

Posted on: October 20th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Life is a Garden – Balcony Gardening

We know that many of our gardeners have green fingers longer than their balconies can accommodate. That’s why Life is a Garden has made November all about our city living gardeners out there. You can still make your patio pop, indulge your gardening cravings, and escape the city from your stoep, here’s how:

Life is a Garden – Balcony Gardening
Consider your style and space

Before diving in, there are a few things to consider: What do you use your balcony for the most? Are you more of a lock-up-and-go or do you have some time to spend on maintaining your balcony greens? Does your space get full, partial, or no sun at all? How would you like your dream balcony to present you and your personal flavour? The answers to these questions can really help you conceptualise your space to make it practical for your lifestyle. Now that that’s sorted, let’s get your urban oasis going!

An urban escape on your stoep
Let there be light and life

Any balcony easily comes to life with a little light! Your local GCA Garden Centre has a lovely variety of solar lights you can add to the space. Try draping some LED fairy lights from your railing with a few scattered lanterns in between your new pot plants, or perhaps hanging from a beam or two. Speaking of pots, container gardening is all the rage, especially edible ones! Using different sized pots in your balcony garden adds height and variety to the space, while also giving you an opportunity to play with different styles. You could upcycle a sweet teapot into a planter with your favourite tea time herb, or get the kids to decorate some cans and transform them into pot plants for a lovely homely feel.

Zen your den

Ditch the cold concrete and cover your stoep with some lovely faux grass. Available at your favourite GCA Garden Centre, there are a variety of soft and luscious faux grasses to choose from, and the fab thing is that you never have to cut or water it! Go full out with your mini city sanctuary look and opt for some tree stump seating, a pallet sofa, a self-standing hammock chair, or a trendy reed bench if that’s more your style. Depending on what you use your space for, you could even go for a picnic-style set up on your grass with large cushions or beanbags (with space for a hubbly or ice bucket in the middle). Alternatively, ditch seating altogether and use the space for an ambient water feature – now that’ll definitely help you get your zen on in the city. If you’d like to make your own balcony fountain, here’s another DIY on us: https://bit.ly/2G0EE4n

From the window to the wall
Getting your balcony blooming
From the window to the wall

Picture a few hanging baskets framing your windows with an abundance of green life spilling over the edges – a view to appreciate from both inside and on the balcony.  Add even more jungle vibes to your city escape with a gorgeous living wall to cover up that concrete and boring brick. Green walls are actually rather simple to make and so worth a little effort. You could also invest in some upcycled bamboo wall dividers (which we always see on the side of the road) and use these as wall cover-ups and creeper support. Vertical planters are also great for space-saving gardening, plus, they are super trendy and stylish for a more modern look. Dust off the cobwebs in the corner and let’s add a vertical planter with a quirky creeper for fun.

Getting your balcony blooming

It’s important to know the sun moves across your balcony so that you can choose the right plants for your space. Here are some of our top plant picks to get you started:

Shady babies: Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum) are hardy for the gardener on the go, Leather leaf fern (Rumohra adiantiformis) brings in texture, and Forest bell bush (Mackaya bella) do well in containers.

Sunseekers: Black-Eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata) is an old fave flowering vine, Climbing Snapdragons (Asarina) work well in vertical planters and living walls, and Petunias are great for cascading blooms. Geraniums are also a sure win for the balcony garden and let’s not forget roses for the most delightful potted rewards.

Transforming a balcony into your own unwinding city escape is well worth a little time and effort. In the long run, this space provides an important place of grace in between all the hustle and bustle of urban living. We tend to so often live for the weekend, so let’s bring the party to your patio and create an environment that’s so welcoming, every day is sunset on the stoep day! Caring for plants also helps your mental well-being, destresses you, and adds purpose to your daily routine. Life is a garden – how often do you tend to yours?

Getting your balcony blooming

Get the look – Food for Thought Must Love Gardening

Posted on: September 23rd, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
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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.

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  • Vertical landscaping elements, such as the gazebo, provides that homely outdoor room feel. With a comfy bench, this can become a favourite spot to sit and relax. The gazebo also offers the ideal structure to grow a climbing rose. The wooden tee-pees also add to the vertical element and will be very useful for many climbing plants. You could use any other pillar or frame you like to achieve some height in the space. . In this garden, the tall Tuscan rosemary has been used to fill the tee-pees and is a refreshing new twist to sculptured gardening. Beans, peas, tomatoes and many more edibles would also work wonderfully.
  • The different levels in the design offer a clever way of making any space look larger and more interesting.
  • The strong blue colour on the back wall is very dramatic and contrasts with the lime coloured gazebo and tee-pees. It also shows up the plants in the garden, especially the architecturally shaped grey-leaved artichokes in the bed against the wall. The blue flowering plants connect with the wall while the patches of yellow and gold pop brightly. The pink chandelier and cushion are striking and draw the eye to the seating area.

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.

 

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Get the look with some of the edible plants in this landscape that you may or may not have tried:

  • Did you know that roses are closely related to apples, apricots, pears and peaches? They are almost completely edible and some parts even downright yummy. Don’t let those thorny stems fool you, they too are edible. When using the fresh rose petals you mostly only need to remove some of the older petals and not completely strip the flower. Petals can be used as:
    • Colourful dessert garnish or added to a salad.
    • Candied and then used as a tasty garnish.
    • Chopped into a summer sorbet or frozen in ice cubes.
    • Used in syrups, jellies, perfumed butters and sweet spreads.
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  • Braai rosemary, otherwise known as Tuscan Blue rosemary. Rosmarinus officinalis 'Tuscan Blue' is an upright rosemary that grows to between 1.2m and 1.5m high. They can be planted in obelisks or tee-pees of about the same height or shorter as a fun way of growing them. The reason they have adopted the name ‘braai rosemary’ is because they have tall, strong upright stems that are amazing to cut and strip as braai kebab skewers. This is a fun project to try with the kids. Whether you use meat and veggies or melon and strawberries, the flavour of rosemary infuses subtly into the food from the skewers. Visit the following page to learn more about this family fun idea:

https://www.lifeisagarden.co.za/rosemary-kebab-for-braai-day/

Fresh rosemary leaves or stem tips with young leaves, can be used in many dishes – here are just a few:

  • With potatoes and roast veggies
  • Chicken, game, lamb and veal
  • Biscuits
  • Salad dressings, sauces, herb butters and oils

Tip: There are also pink and white flowering upright growing rosemary plants, a creeping rosemary, and the old favourite ‘McConnel’s Blue’.

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  • Although fennel is not new to Italian cuisine it is trending as the go-to vegetable and herb to be used in many dishes, from appetisers to desserts. The leaves, flowers, seeds and its bulbous base are all edible. Eaten raw or cooked, it is savoured for the subtle aniseed and liquorice notes. In the landscape, fennel or Florence fennel Foeniculum vulgare, is a gorgeous plant with fine, ferny foliage and tiny bright yellow flowers. The ferny foliage is a wonderful contrast to large-leafed plants. It is easy to grow and is often planted among roses to keep the aphids off the roses since they are a host plant to aphids.

Tip: Bronze fennel has an exquisite purply colour, which is a fabulous colour to use in the garden and in your food.

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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.

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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.

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Mother Nature’s Sensory Classroom

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

Gardening naturally stimulates our senses: the smell of wet soil, the sound of a cooing dove in the distance, the feeling of warm sun kisses on our skin, and early morning dew drops so fresh we can almost taste it! Children, however, may need a little more encouragement to engage with nature in this way. Luckily, Life is a Garden is bringing you some inspiration this August to create an indulging sensory experience for your kids, filled with adventure and exploration.  We’re talking all about stimulating your child’s senses through a natural playscape environment in your own backyard or school playground.

Life is a Garden

Sight: A great attention grabber is through striking visual stimuli. A garden that looks visibly interesting with a variety of colours, textures, and a few intriguing items should get their curiosity going. Create an obstacle course by incorporating different sized tree stumps or rocks as stepping stones over some dangerous lava looking succulents and spikey grass. An outdoor dollhouse or treasure chest under a tree may further inspire imaginative play.

Plant picks: Rooiblaarplakkie (Kalanchoe sexangularis) is a hardy succulent, perfect as a lava substitute.  Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are big, bold, and beautiful cut-flowers. Starlight grass (Anthericum) brings in strong texture and contrast for the rugged garden warrior.

Life is a Garden
Life is a Garden
Life is a Garden
Life is a Garden

Sound: Incorporating both natural and man-made sound stimulation is easier than you may think. A DIY hand shaker project with some dried seeds or stones inside empty spice bottles may motivate the kinesthetically inclined child to engage their sense of sound. Wind chimes will become an ambient focal point during the August winds too.  A water feature may help to encourage more gentle playtime and promote an awareness of subtle and calming sounds. Alternatively, you could even start a buzzing bee hotel for the gogo-loving garden explorer!

Life is a Garden
Life is a Garden
Life is a Garden
Life is a Garden

Smell: Encouraging kids to literally stop and smell the roses is so important in cultivating an ethos of appreciation and conservation in the new generation. Thankfully, engaging their sense of smell is rather easy to achieve with such an aromatic variety of plants available. Creating a DIY potpourri experimentation station is a hands-on strategy to develop their noses while opening up a space for real connection and engagement with organic floral scents.

Plant picks: Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia) for kids who like to get right under and in there.  Plumerias (Frangipani, Pua Melia) are as pretty as their perfume. Picking petals from Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is fantastic for fine motor skills. Rosemary, Lavender, and Mint are tried favourites too.

Life is a Garden
Live is a Garden
Life is a Garden
Life is a Garden

Taste: Grouping edible flowers, berries, and herbs together in a large container allow kids safe and easy access to taste and explore some home-grown goodness. Creating a little chef station nearby will not only engage and develop taste buds, but can also be used as an opportunity to instil responsibility and purpose. Get the kids to pick herbs for dinner, give them the chore of watering the edible garden, or simply allow them free reign to cook up some tasty herb, berry, and mud cakes for the fairies and gnomes.

Plant picks: Basil is a taste explosion and good for stimulating little pallets. Gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa) are fun to pick and loaded with nutrients.  Wild Malva (Pelargonium culallatum) is a colourful treat because who wouldn’t want to eat a flower! And of course, there are strawberries, which have come to please even the fussiest of eaters.

Life is a Garden
Life is a Garden
Life is a Garden
Life is a Garden

Touch: Let’s reward curiosity by welcoming your child’s obsession to touch everything! A row of varying sized and angled PVC pipes against a wall provides endless opportunities for car races and hours of poking and prodding through the openings with pretty much whatever they can get their hands on – and that’s exactly what we want! Expose them to even more textures with a little squirting water feature and a variety of spikey, smooth, fury, and rough foliage.

Plant picks: Most aloes are nice and spikey with enough hardiness to withstand a little educational probing. Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) is a lovely choice for something fury. Try bringing in some Asparagus Fern (Asparagus plumosus) for a fine-feeling climber between your pipe-play wall.

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Life is a Garden
Life is a Garden

Independent play and opportunities for exploration-based discoveries are an important part of childhood. Can you imagine what this sort of sensory playscape environment, filled with cool stuff, would have meant for you as a child? From edible gardens to wind chimes and treacherous lava floors, there is something to appeal to every child’s interest and all their senses. No one knows your child like you do, so put those creative green fingers to work and remember - if you build it, they will come!