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.
Tip: Black dragon looks amazing when planted next to the light grey leaf of Stachys byzantine or lamb’s ear.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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!
Nothing says proudly South African quite like a braai in the bushveld, a couple of cold ones between friends, and a silhouetted Acacia tree at twilight. This May, bring the bush to your own backyard and make every weekend a reason to get out and enjoy the aromatic, African air. Fall in love with a wonderful variety of indigenous plants, which are low maintenance, naturally water saving, and easily accessible for your next gardening project.
Before cutting down that old tree or removing those rocks, why not use the existing landscape and architecture to your advantage? Leafy ferns and trees with bulging roots add a lovely variety of texture to your garden. Indigenous thorn trees may not be the best picnic spot, but a simple pallet pathway leading to a cosy hammock or bench, may just bring out your garden’s natural beauty. Building a fire pit from collected rocks is cost efficient and effortlessly evokes that rustic, unrefined, bushveld feeling. Make the most of uneven areas by surrounding your boma with a sandpit and wood stumps for stools. Using different sands or pebbles bring even more texture into the space, making decorating easy by showcasing bold, dead tree features and a couple of ambient lanterns.
The thing about indigenous plants is that they love space, depth, and lots of ferny friends! Planting “bulking” shrubs, ferns, and creepers together create excellent and easy space fillers, impressive barriers, and even pretty cloaking devices to disguise those dull walls and fences. Including some striking Crane Flowers (Strelitzia reginae), a fragrant Gardenia bush (Gardenia augusta), and a few evergreen Kei-apple shrubs (Dovyalis caffra), will not only fill gaps in your garden, but may well surprise you with their easy to maintain, effortless beauty. A variety of local grasses are also great for adding diversity to your proudly South African garden. Try planting some dreamy Snowflake Grass (Andropogon eucomis) along pathways, surrounding empty tree beds, and even to those areas where nothing else seems to grow.
Conserving and planting endemic flora is not only a win for the environment, but also a sure victory for our little garden visitors. Bees play a vital role in human existence and crop pollination, so help the little guys out by adding some sweetly scented, Honey Daisy (Euryops virgineus) to your bushveld. And while you’re at it, inviting a kaleidoscope of butterflies is easy too, especially when planting brightly coloured butterfly bushes such as Geraniums (Geranium incanum). Cork Bush (Mundulea sericea) is an excellent choice for Highveld naturescaping with purple flowers providing food to multiple insects and birds, who in turn are sure to bring that all too familiar, bushveld choir to your patio. Hollowed out tree stumps or large rocks with natural indents, make for great bird baths and a welcoming refreshment for all your little bushveld guests.
With a little TLC, a scrap piece of wood can have many uses: a serving slab for bits of biltong, a tray to display your Acacia seeds, or a simple bush inspired centre piece. Take your creativity a step further and add some handmade carvings to your wood, or use red soil to naturally stain lighter, raw wood. Attention to detail can help add that extra veld flavour to your garden. Decorate your old tree stumps, tables, and low walls with Aloe plants in earthy pots. Aloes are avid sun lovers, water wise, hardy, and come in a vibrant variety of sunset hues.
With the beautiful African bushveld as your muse you can create your own bush paradise. Visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre for indigenous plants and the best advice on growing mzanzi magic. When it comes to capturing the essence of a bushveld garden, simple, earthy accents can make all the difference and ensure that your inspiration sings through every part of your garden – from the plants to the pots, and even to that old tree stump!
Gardening has never been more important than now. Indulge and nourish your mental and physical well-being with the re-opening of your beloved GCA Garden Centres. In a post-pandemic world, discover the many health benefits of gardening, which reduces stress and depression, offers comfort and joy, connects us with Nature and helps to give us purpose, to name just a few. Let’s take what we can from this lockdown – a time to re-set – and let’s get positively green.
The mental, physical, and emotional health benefits of gardening are for everyone. Anyone is capable of reaping the nourishing rewards that abundant Mother Nature has to offer – we need just take some time to get a little dirty with Her. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre once they open and let’s be like sunflowers that turn towards the golden potential of each new beginning.
Hang in there gardeners! Your beloved, outdoor sanctuaries will soon be open. While you wait for your post-pandemic indulgence at favourite GCA Garden Centre, let’s take this time to rejoice in this beautiful and envied continent of ours. May is Africa month with African Day on the 25th of May. We will also celebrate World Bee Day on 20th May, and then the International Day for Biodiversity on May 22nd. Moms are also in the spotlight this month for Mother’s day on Sunday 10th May, and Life is a Garden highly recommends you spoil her with a little green treat.
With so many festivities, let’s revel in our African sunshine and plant some of our spectacular indigenous seeds and bulbs this season!
For kids of all ages: Moms love flowers, especially the hand-picked kind. If you have any of the following good cut-flowers blooming in your garden, they would be perfect as your Mother’s Day gift bouquet:
Tall flowering Dianthus, Carnations, Snapdragons, Larkspur, Alstroemeria or Sunflowers. If you don’t have these in the garden, you could always buy a few plants from your local GCA Garden Centre. The plants and their flowers will last for a long time - even till next year and then they’ll be ready for picking again.
Hot Tip: Pittosporum branches, leather leaf ferns, Aspidistra leaves and a variety of other plants, like those in Autumn berry, such as. the Pyracantha, can be added to your bunch of flowers too.
For the big kids and dads: Our indigenous wild banana plants (Strelitzia nicolai) are trendy additions to the new leafy-look, ideal in high light areas indoors, or as pretty patio plants. This plant is a stunner and even more so when planted in a lovely pot. Make sure mom stays modern and get her some wild bananas.
Hot tip: There are many beautiful orchids, cyclamen and other stunning plants available at your local GCA Garden Centre, just waiting to delight Mom this Mother’s Day.
What would sausage and mash be without peas? Peas are also one of the few veggies that kids enjoy eating, especially when combined with corn. If you love peas, you will love fresh, home-grown peas even more. They are just so easy to grow from seed or seedling. Offer the climbing peas a variety of support to climb up, plant with a little compost, feed regularly, and hey presto, there you have your own home-grown peas.
Hot Tip: Peas are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, including vitamin C and vitamin E, and more.
Some of the best seeds that can still be sown are indigenous beauties, which honour our African heritage with a parade of colourful flowers. These are:
Gazanias, Livingstone daisies (Mesembryanthemum), Scabious africana (the indigenous cape scabious or pincushion), and Namaqualand daisies (also called African daisies).
May is also a good time to sow Calendulas. Their perky orange and yellow flowers are great in plant borders and their edible flowers also make them a winner in the herb and veggie garden.
The month of May is an ideal time to sow shade grass and cool season seeds. They can provide the following solutions and more:
There are beautiful indigenous bulbs that rival the Ranunculus, Daffodils and Hyacinths, [M1] especially once you take the time to get to know them:
Sparaxis or harlequin flowers prefer well-drained, composted soil in the sun or partial shade. Striking flowers that are often marked with a contrasting colour in their centre are good cut-flowers. These plants do well in the garden but are also excellent container plants.
Tritonia, also called blazing stars, offer a lovely range of spring-flowering colours - from bright orange to salmon, cream and white, and are also great cut-flowers. Make sure that you plant them in very well-drained soil, positioned in the sun or in semi-shade.
Lachenalias have cheeky and brightly colourful hyacinth-like flowers. Most hybrids have sweetly scented flowers that start flowering in winter. Good drainage is essential, so add some sand to poorly drained soil to increase the drainage. Their flowers are also great in vases.
Hot Tip: Don’t complete your bulb shopping before you’ve purchased bulb food. Before you go, take peek at the following other indigenous bulbs that are really something special and worth looking at:
Ixia’s star-shaped flowers produce a riot of colour in spring, flourishing in a sunny or semi-shaded bed or container, especially when mass planted
It’s time to plant in the cool season with the 4 P’s. P is for princess and poppies, pansies, petunias and primulas - the royalty of our winter and spring annuals, which are now available as seedlings at your local GCA Garden Centre:
Hot Tip: Regularly remove spent blooms from winter annuals, especially Iceland poppies, pansies and violas, to encourage more flowers.
Hot Tip: Tie sweet peas to their supports and remove tendrils or side shoots to encourage the nutrients in the plant to be used on necessary growth, and later, flowering.
Clean up perennials by removing any brown or dead leaves. Remove flower stalks from the summer and autumn flowering ones. Mulch them up with a little compost and water regularly.
The following Summer flowering bulbs require a little TLC at this time of year:
Do you eat in winter? We sure hope so! And we hope that you remember your winter and spring-flowering bulbs and annuals need food too! After all, they’re growing furiously at this time of year and need a little extra nourishment. Use a fertilizer that is rich in potassium since this will not only promote flowering or fruiting, but also make the plants healthier and stronger against the cold, pests, and diseases. A selection of liquid and granular/pelleted fertilizers are available to choose from at your local GCA Garden Centre.
TIP: The annual stocks and larkspurs benefit from extra nitrogen for growing and flowering through winter. Ask your local GCA Garden Centre for advice on a liquid fertilizer that will do the trick over the next month or two.
Have you planted water-loving starlet (Spiloxene aquatica) in your water-feature? If you have, you would notice that from May, this indigenous “star” is peppered with little white, twinkly star-like flowers with bright yellow centres. Its spiky dark green, needle-shaped leaves grow up to 30cm long, making it a dazzling plant for a sunny spot in the pond, or water-feature.
Tip: If you have limited outdoor space, any waterproof pot can be turned into an exciting water feature for the patio, balcony or garden.
Rose blooms may be picked with long stems. If the plants are in full leaf, continue to adhere to a spraying programme where watering may be reduced. It is a good time to plant winter flowering annuals like pansies, poppies, or compact snapdragons, on the edges of rose beds.
Hot Tip: If the following perennials have stopped flowering, now is a good time to split or divide them.
Michaelmas daisies (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii formerly known as Aster novi-belgii, have fine foliage and tiny daisy flowers borne on long stems. They are great cut-flowers and available in a range of purples, pinks, and white.
In frosty areas, it is best to water between 10 am and before 2 pm. If you keep the roots of roses and many other plants moist, they are able to withstand light frost much better than dry plants.
Jack Frost will soon surprise you in frosty regions, especially the very cold Free State areas, closely followed by the Highveld, so start protecting your susceptible plants with frost cover. Frost cover allows the light in, while protecting the plants at the same time. Ask for it at your local GCA Garden Centre.
Hot Tip: To add gorgeous Autumn colours to a medium or large garden, consider planting a Liquidamber (Liquidamber styraciflua), or some of the smaller Maples in modest gardens.
If you’re in the Cape, make the most of your abundant winter rainfall by harvesting water from the roof. Check and clean your gutters, which may be clogged up with leaves.
Hot Tip: In coastal and lowveld areas, feed granadillas with a nitrogen and potassium combination fertilizer. You can ask for advice at your local GCA Garden Centre.
Rake in the Fun at the only dedicated Garden Show in Gauteng! The third annual Autumn Garden Show takes place from 3 to 5 April 2020 at The Herb Farm in Midrand, and it’s an event not to be missed!
Great gardens start in autumn, and with a variety of plants, seeds and gardening goodies on sale, your lush and colourful garden will soon be the envy of all.
Take a journey from Singapore to Africa in our tent dedicated to unique and wonderfully tropical plants, and shop till you drop for lots of herbs, crafts, garden décor, outdoor power tools and more. Be the first to get a glimpse of exciting new plant ranges, soon to be available at your local garden centre, while you stroll along the Kirchhoffs New Releases Pathway.
Take home top tips on how to grow a healthy lemon tree and care for your orchids, presented by gardening gurus and industry specialists at the free Atlantic Talks and Demos.
Relax on the MayFord Tipple Terrace with a botanical gin or refreshment and some posh nosh, and wander through the picturesque Herb Farm that boasts over 450 different herbs, a scented rose garden, traditional monastic gardens and a sensory spiral labyrinth.
Bring the kids along to the Starke Ayres Kidz Zone for a day filled with fun and activities where they can plant their own pot plant to take home, and where there will be colouring in competitions and more.
Presented by The Gardener and Die Tuinier magazines, in partnership with GP Lawnmowers, this family event is the perfect way to fall happily into autumn!
Friday 3 – Sunday 5 April 2020
The Herb Farm, 264 Summit Road (R562), Bridle Park, Midrand, 1685
Gates open from 9am – 5pm daily (final gate entry at 4pm)
Box Office Tickets: R80 Adults, R65 Pensioners and Children U12. Children that fit under the Giant Daisy only R20
Let us nurture our planet Earth by using sustainable practices and nourishing our soils so that they can continue to produce healthy food for us all. Besides the fact that there is no planet B, we have good reason this month to pamper our planet because Tuesday 7 April is World Health Day and on Wednesday 22nd it is Earth Day, as well as International Mother Earth Day. How about celebrating these days by eating healthily and planting any plant that will make you happy, and the Earth a better place to live in.
Namaqualand daisies or African daisies, (Dimorphotheca sinuata), are just so easy to sow, easy to grow and WOW, what a show they make in late winter and through spring. This indigenous plant needs full sun for the flowers to open. The seed is mostly available in shades of orange, yellow, and salmon mixed or white. They are conveniently available in larger packets which will cover more of your garden. Don’t forget to buy and plant the seed now because this is one of those plants that has gardeners rushing to their nearest garden centre when they see them in full, glorious bloom, only to be told that they should have been planted in April. Sow in-situ i.e. directly into the beds.
Another indigenous plant the Livingstone daisy or Bokbaaivygie, (Mesembryanthemum criniflorum orDorotheanthus belliidiformis), is also a winner and a firm favourite of many gardeners. (Some seed suppliers label these seeds as Vygie mixed). Their satin-textured daisy-like blooms, require a sunny position for them to open’ They are available as mixed colours of white, yellow, orange. cream, pink and crimson. The iridescent colours are jolly and uplifting. Plant as an edging, tumbling over walls or the edges of containers. Seeds can be sown in-situ. Like Namaqualand daisies, Livingstone daisies are often available in larger packets and are also easily scattered, or directly sown.
Tip: Water lightly, preferably every day, until the seeds germinate. The light watering will ensure that you do not wash the scattered seeds away.
It is also time to sow the ever-popular fairy primulas, (Primula malacoides), and wildly popular pansies, (Viola wittrockiana). Primulas planted en masse in shady areas produce a stunning meadow-like feel, they attract butterflies and are available in colours mostly ranging from white through pink, lavender and even dark pink or “red”. As with pansies, they have multiple uses in the garden, in potted containers or hanging baskets. Primulas, and especially pansies are best sown in trays and transplanted into the garden later. Pansies are cheerful and irresistible when it comes to filling sunny areas for Winter and Spring colour.
It is good time to plant roses since they will establish themselves before Winter and be ready to “take off” in Spring.
A whole range of amazing Winter and Spring flowering bulbs are available to snap up right now at your GCA Garden Centre, with tulips, daffodils and hyacinths normally only arriving in May. Indigenous Freesias are scented and are therefore best placed near a door, window or entertainment area where their fragrance can be appreciated. Choose Ranunculus for a stunning show of bright colours. Soak Ranunculus “claws” in room temperature water overnight for best results and plant them with their “claws” facing downwards.
Tip: On the highveld, it is best to wait until the night temperatures have started to fall, i.e. later in the month or into May before planting most of the bulbs.
Protect your conifers from cypress aphid by visiting your local GCA Garden Centre to purchase the best solution for preventative treatment. The aphids are active on the conifers between April and August. The Autumn and winter damage they do to the plants only shows on the plant from September onwards when the aphids have already moved away.
Continue feeding your cool season lawns since they are evergreen and will need the nutrients to ensure a healthy green lawn for Winter. This is also the best time to sow cool season grasses for an evergreen lawn or as an over-seeding of lawns like Kikuyu that brown off in the cold regions during winter.
If you do not have Bacopa, (Sutera cordata), in your garden, perhaps now is the time to try a really rewarding plant that is one that will quickly creep into your heart. Unless planted in a hanging basket, the plants are normally quite small in the nursery and together with their tiny white, pink lavender or blue flowers they may not look like much, but once established they are a visual treat with their long stems dripping in a dainty profusion of blooms for months on end. They are a great groundcover often recommended for sun but seem best in semi-shade in our climate and look superb when cascading over the rim of a container or over a wall. Bacopa need regular, consistent watering to maintain their health especially when flowering. Adding a water-holding agent to the soil will benefit the plant since the soil will hold water for much longer and hold fertilizer in the soil too. Ask for advice at your local GCA Garden Centre. Several different water-holding agents are available to be used when planting trees or containers and especially hanging baskets that tend to dry out quickly.
April and May are a good time to plant celery, (Apium graveolens), which is a cool-season plant and does not do as well in the very hot parts of the country, (don’t plant it out if the weather is still very hot). Celery is a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins which have incredible health benefits. It’s a great snack for low calorie diets. Celery enjoys organically rich soils. It likes to be kept moist and is a heavy feeder, so prepare the soil well and water and feed regularly. Plant in the sun, (from seedling trays), in the hotter regions try to shade it during the hottest part of the day. Planting celery could be a good way to encourage Easter Bunny visiting your garden this year. Remember to look out for Easter Bunny on Easter Sunday 12 April.
Tip: The darker celery stems have the most intense, delicious flavour.
Did you know? Celery has been grown for hundreds of years and is favoured in cuisines around the world. A rudimentary variety of species of celery was even found in King Tut’s tomb.
There are a whole range of Winter/Spring veggies and flower seedlings available to plant now in your local GCA Garden Centres. Schizanthus or poor man’s orchid, (Schizanthus x wisetonensis), is a particularly pretty, cool season annual that is not used nearly enough in our gardens. It prefers semi-shade in our climate, has delicate, fern-like leaves with masses of multi-coloured blotched and speckled orchid-like flowers. They like well-drained soil and the tall blooming stems are ideal as cut-flowers. Look out for them in seedling tray or colour bags/pots in your local GCA Garden Centre.
Cut often for the vase, if not remove the dead flowers regularly and look out for fungal infections such as Black Spot and Powdery Mildew. Adding a balanced fertilizer like 5:1:5, overcomes the natural start of dormancy and ensures flowering n Winter. Keep on spraying to avoid defoliation due to Black Spot infection.
Tips for your garden in April:
You can sow the following veggie seed this month; beetroot, broad bean, cabbage, carrot, celery, garlic (cloves), kohlrabi, leek lettuce, onion, parsley, parsnip. Peas, radish, swiss chard and turnip. In coastal KZN and the lowveld you will exclude onions and can add the following to the above list; brussels sprouts, capsicum, cucumber, brinjal, bush beans, pumpkin, runner bean, tomato and marrows. Tip: Prepare the soil well with plenty of compost and be a champion of stainable gardening practices.
Join Johan du Preez (Panda) for a fun-filled, informative morning with our gardening and cooking whizz from Starke Ayres. The event is on the 28th of March 2020.
Enjoy Johan’s own brand of joie de vivre as he whips up a seasonally delicious meal, whilst sharing Tips and Tricks for winter.
Reserve your seat early by calling Pam@lifestyle.co.za. Be there at 10am for a 10.30am start. Refreshments will be served after the talk.
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.
The 2020 Lifestyle Garden Design Show opens on the 15th of February and runs until the end of May.
Put together for visitors by the students of Lifestyle College and presented by Lifestyle Home Garden, the 2020 Lifestyle Garden Design Show features garden spaces specifically designed to evoke the movement towards urban renewal, urban greening, online living and a sense of community…
Visit the 2020 Lifestyle Garden Design Show from the 15th February, open to the public with FREE ENTRY, and be inspired by the fully integrated show garden experience.
Our Garden Guide, complete with the 2020 garden breakdowns and a plethora of gardening advice and insight as well as inspiration, will be available to all visitors from the 1st of March. This year the focus is on patio living, small and micro gardens as well as small balconies.
For more comprehensive information click on the link to read Lifestyle’s blog about the event…
And click on the link below to check out the Lifestyle College website and what they are all about!
The New Year is an exciting time when the promise of new beginnings lies ahead of us. It is a time of self-reflection and motivates us to improve our lives. Usually, this includes changing our lifestyles to eat healthier and incorporate daily exercise for better health.
Rather than waiting for an open exercise machine or joining an overfilled class at the gym, all you need to start a healthy regime is in your garden. Not only will your garden benefit from you spending time working in it, but your body will also be more robust and stronger too. Here are a few ways you stand to benefit from including gardening into your lifestyle this year.
While you might think of your garden as a haven of relaxation, digging, mowing, raking up leaves and pushing a wheelbarrow around the garden all help you to burn calories and tone up those muscles. That’s right; gardening is considered moderate-intensity exercise, which means working in the garden for 60 minutes can be equivalent to 35 minutes of jogging.
There are also benefits to spending time planting and pruning, which can all contribute to low-intensity stretching exercises which have a host of benefits for your body and mind. By regularly stretching, you increase your flexibility and range of motion, both beneficial for pain reduction.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables often provides an abundant supply of the good stuff. It is recommended that you consume 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables to lower the risk of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Easy access to freshly grown foods in your own garden often means eating more fruits and vegetables which are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals to promote good health.
Strengthen your bones
Working in the garden means you’ll be soaking up the sun. The sun provides vitamin D, which is beneficial in helping your body to absorb calcium for stronger bones and teeth and can also help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, similar to weight training, gardening can improve bone density as your bones strengthen to cope with the resistance they endure while gardening.
The stress relieving benefits of gardening will do wonders for your brain. In addition to the fresh air, you will be breathing, spending time in nature and nurturing plants have been proven to reduce cortisol levels, also known as the stress hormone. In addition, Professor Chris Lowry from Colorado University is leading research showing that there are bacteria in soil that is proven to help increase the serotonin levels in your brain. So in addition to reducing stress, you’ll also be happier.
While your health stands to benefit significantly from gardening, there are additional benefits that can be reaped from gardening too. The value of your property will increase with a beautifully maintained landscape. In addition, the environment benefits from new plants that purify the air around us.
So as you celebrate the New Year, join the conversation on our Facebook page for some inspiration for improving your garden and your health in 2020.