Dissecting Flowers Experiment

Besides adding beauty and colour to the garden, flowers play an essential role in our ecosystem; they feed our pollinators who in turn feed us. In fact, our bees help produce one-third of all the food on Earth! It’s safe to say that behind every successful crop is a good flower, so let’s get the kids up and close and personal with Mother Nature’s gems. Check out this DIY flower dissection experiment that teaches kids about plant anatomy, the importance of flowers, and gives them a blossoming good reason to enjoy the September sun. 

 

Blooming benefits

Flowers are so much more than just pretty faces. They help maintain your garden’s delicate biome balance and bring in all sorts of benefits that enrich other plants, while also sustaining the friendly creatures that live there. 

  • Critter food: The pollen and nectar produced by flowers feed birds, bees, butterflies, and other essential insects. With full tummies, these handy helpers pollinate our crops in return as well as help to spread seeds. 
  • Human food: Bees also use pollen to make honey, and what would the world be without this sweet delicacy! Also, flowers from edible plants indicate that the fruit or veg is on its way and can also be cooked in a stew or added to salads. 
  • Pest control: Having a variety of flowers is the easiest way to combat pests in the garden. They attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs, wasps, prey mantises and many more, who feast on all the aphids and lice that damage the garden. 
  • Reproduction: The flower is the reproductive organ of a plant. Seeds are produced in flowers, which mean that more of that plant will grow. In the case of edibles, flowers are essential as this is where our food comes from. 

Did you know? The Archaefructus Sinensis, known also as the Mother of All Flowers, is believed to be the world’s oldest flower.

Gardening art for gran DIY

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Receiving art from grandchildren brings pure joy to the hearts of our beloved oumas and oupas, babas and gogos, nannas and gramps. Life is a Garden’s flower-inspired DIY would also make the perfect class project to gift to a senior home. The garden is far from dull in April, which is why we’ve based our little art project on the flowers in bloom now, available at your GCA Garden Centre. How many can your kids recreate?

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Life is a garden, greenery, garden, gardening, birds of paradise, spekboom, salvias, plumbago, easy plants, greenery, green, backyard, gardening for gran, DIY, Do it yourself, diy with gran, DIY for gran

You will need

- Thick craft paper (slightly thicker than normal to prevent the paint from bleeding through) 

- Thick craft paint in a variety of colours (thick enough to make nice blobs) 

- Cotton earbuds 

- Paint brushes

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Life is a garden, greenery, garden, gardening, birds of paradise, spekboom, salvias, plumbago, easy plants, greenery, green, backyard, gardening for gran, DIY, Do it yourself, diy with gran, DIY for gran

Lavender and celosia portraits 

1. On a white piece of craft paper, paint on the green stalks of the lavender/celosia plant, leaving enough space above the stalks for the flowers. You may even want to add grass, a rainbow, a froggie, or other cute nature elements. 

2. Group about 5 earbuds together and dip them in your chosen coloured paint to represent each flower species. Stamp the earbuds simultaneously above the painted stalks to create beautiful lavender and celosia blooms. The earbuds work well to mimic the look of these plants’ particular flowering style. 

3. Repeat your earbud blobs as many times as you like to create longer and lusher lavender and celosia flowers. 

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Life is a garden, greenery, garden, gardening, birds of paradise, spekboom, salvias, plumbago, easy plants, greenery, green, backyard, gardening for gran, DIY, Do it yourself, diy with gran, DIY for gran

Try this: To recreate bunching flower bushes or trees, you can even use the tops of broccoli dipped in paint. 

Both lavender and celosia enjoy full sun and nutrient-rich soil for best flowering results. There is a stunning variety of hybrids available at Garden Centres, so be sure to choose the one that steals your heart! Life is a Garden – let’s paint it! 

Hybrid gift giving December perfect plant picks

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Give a living gift this holiday and show off your eco-tribe vibes with a fancy new addition to your loved one’s plant fam. Here is Life is a Garden’s top 5 latest seasonal hybrid plant picks.

1. For bae: The Hannon rose

This new hybrid tea rose has gorgeous deep pink flowers that bloom throughout the season. An added bonus is that they are exceptional cut-flowers, perfect for adding ambience on date night dine-ins. They have a mild perfume as well. 

Planting and perks: Full sun beds or containers, cold and frost hardy + petals used for DIY pot pourri (add essential oils for extra heavenly fragrance). 

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2. For bestie: Hibiscus graff 

Here is the latest hibiscus species that boasts even longer-lasting flowers. Speaking of blooms, hibiscus bushes bear large flowers in bright colours, creating an exotic feel to any space they occupy. Wherever planted – they’ll steal the show. 

Planting and perks: Full sun, plenty of fertiliser, water daily + petals can be brewed to create a simply delish floral tea (good for hair and digestion).

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3. For moms: Hydrangea ‘endless summer’ aka the Christmas rose (but on steroids

Living up to its name, this new hybrid blooms in massive pink or blue mophead flowers on both old and new wood, you guessed it - all summer long.

Planting and perks: Partial shade beds or containers, frost hardy + customisation option by adjusting the soil’s pH to yield different colour blooms (ask Google).

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december gifts, december, life is a garden, fruit, festive, greenery, garden, gardening, plants, flowers, beauty, gardening, indigenous,

4. For rad dads: Pelargonium interspecific ‘rose splash’ 

A real breakthrough in floral genetics, the ‘rose splash’ features large, semi-double flowers with a dark pink centre and lighter pink borders. They reward gardens with outstanding colour throughout summer and are quick growing. 

Planting and perks: Full to partial sun beds or baskets, drought hardy + resilient to a little neglect once established (just avoid frost).

Make your spekkie sparkle DIY

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December, spekboom, spekkie, diy, life is a garden, plant, Christmas, garden, greenery, garden, activities for the kids, decorations, decorate

Instead of a faux tree, why not go for an indigenous living lovely this year? Life is a Garden’s sweet and simple DIY will give you some inspiration to bedazzle your spekboom (Portulacaria afra) for that holiday spirit. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, you could always decorate your tree with other fun goodies and use your creations as cheerful table décor. 

Did you know? Spekboom leaves are edible and non-toxic to animals and humans. Add a few leaves to your salad for a juicy citrus flavour (and bragging rights). 

 

You will need

  • A spekboom from your GCA garden centre (or multiple trees if you have many children who would like to each make their own spekkie sparkle)
  • A lovely new pot 
  • Potting soil and compost for transplanting 
  • Decoration goodies (we chose a Christmas theme, but different coloured ribbons and bells would also look fab) 
  • A cohort of kids, or just one
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December, spekboom, spekkie, diy, life is a garden, plant, Christmas, garden, greenery, garden, activities for the kids, decorations, decorate

How to 

  1. Transplant your spekboom into its new home. Remember to push from the base up and not grab your plant by the neck. Add your potting soil and compost mix, water well, and allow it to drain. 
  2. With all your décor charms on display, encourage the kids to play and have fun! 
  3. Once your spekkie has undergone the makeover, place it in a sunny spot outdoors, a bright light area on the patio, or indoors near a window. Water your plant well, about once a week (depending on its location) and check out our guide below to ensure your plant thrives till next year. 

Pest patrol: Although not prone to pests, high humidity can sometimes invite mealy bugs or scale. Visit your GCA Garden Centre for appropriate products that will take care of the nasties.

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December, spekboom, spekkie, diy, life is a garden, plant, Christmas, garden, greenery, garden, activities for the kids, decorations, decorate
December, spekboom, spekkie, diy, life is a garden, plant, Christmas, garden, greenery, garden, activities for the kids, decorations, decorate

Unhappy spekkie symptoms and diagnoses 

 

  • Scorched yellowing foliage

Problem: Too much direct light or sun.

The world in her hands – DIY Women’s Month Planter

She’s got the whole world in her hands (while doing dishes, tending the garden, feeding the kids, juggling work, and trying to maintain a social life). Thank you to all the ferociously fabulous females and happy Women’s Month to you! Life is a Garden is celebrating the ladies with this classy DIY hands planter that’ll make the perfect gift for the green-fingered goddess in your life. Let’s get started!

 

“I raise up my voice, not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard” - Malala Yousafzai, activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.

You will need
  • A dust mask
  • 1 bag of casting/sculpting concrete mix (the smooth one that doesn’t have any stones)
  • A mixing bucket and a mixing rod
  • A small gardening spade
  • A pair of plastic gloves
  • Stones or bricks to help hold your hands in place as they dry
  • Outdoor paint suitable for concrete (optional)
  • A pair of scissors
  • Potting soil, compost, and stunning succulents from your GCA Garden Centre

Resources at your fingertips: Your local hardware store will have a variety of concrete to choose from. Make sure you get one that is for casting or sculpting. Your GCA Garden Centre has all the rest of the gardening goodies you need, go check it out.

 

“If you're always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou, Pulitzer-prize nominated poet.

 

 

Get a grip on your hands
  1. With your dust mask on, it’s time to mix the concrete. Follow the instructions on the bag for a nice smooth consistency.
  2. Using a gardening spade, carefully fill each glove with the casting concrete. You’ll have to work quickly here and make sure that the mixture reaches the tip of each finger. Squeeze the concrete all the way down to ensure your hands and fingers will be evenly set once dried.

DIY Frozen Suncatcher Mobile A DIY for kids

With winter in full chilly swing, let’s catch some sun kids! Besides, the Grinch stole Christmas so we’re sure that borrowing the sun for a while will be in order. Life is a Garden is inviting kids of all ages to come and explore the curious science of water, temperature, and the sun. Time to turn liquids into solids and make a glistening frozen art piece for the garden.

 

Sciencey things

Before we get started, here are some chilled frozen facts for your kids to think about:

  • Water can occur in three states: solid (ice), liquid that you drink, or gas (like steam).
  • The freezing point for water is 0°C, while the boiling point is 100°C.
  • Water freezes when the liquid molecules get so cold that they slow down enough to “hold” onto each other, forming a solid crystal, which we call ice.
  • Dry ice isn't made of water, it is actually frozen carbon dioxide.

Try this: For the next really cold day, you can make instant snow form by throwing boiling water into the air.

You will need:
  • Treasures from the garden such as fruit slices, herbs, flowers and interesting leaves (citrus and rosemary are in-season sensations now).
  • Shallow, round containers in which your water will freeze, such as lids or flat plates. These discs will become the main features, so you may want to use different sizes to enhance the visual intricacy and appeal of your mobile.
  • A medium-sized stick or wooden rod to hang your frozen discs from. You can get fancy here and cross two sticks/rods for a traditional mobile look.
  • Any colour food colouring (optional).
  • Pieces of string or twine.
  • A pair of scissors, winter gloves, and water.

Top tip: Visit your GCA Garden Centre for gorgeous cool-season flowers and citrus trees. Take the little ones for an outing and let them choose their blooms to use in the ice discs of their suncatcher.

DIY Father’s Day Pallet Tool Hanger A gift for father's day

This month we’re celebrating all dads and father figures in our lives. Get the family involved with this practical, thoughtful, and fun DIY project. Give dad a hand and let’s get those tools sorted, in true gardener style. Who knows, this DIY may as well give poppa that little boost he needs to get his handy-man on and complete those outstanding projects! #Weloveyoudad

You will need:
  • A pallet
  • Paint or wood varnish and brush
  • A drill
  • Wood hooks (to hang pots)
  • Bucket-style pots with handles (make sure that your wood hooks are large enough to support the pots and fit the pot handle size)
  • Pot plants (choose non-creeping/climbing plants and go for an upright beauty instead)
  • Potting soil from your GCA Garden Centre
  • U-type double hook tool hangers and matching screws. Choose hooks that are coated with plastic/rubber to protect dad’s tools from scratches (available at hardware stores).

Top tip: Your GCA Garden Centre has a variety of bucket-style pots and baskets to choose from, and of course, a glorious selection of pot-perfect plants. Take the kids along for a fun family outing!

Plant picks: If you have a sunny spot in mind, choose Succulents and cacti as no-fuss greenery that will thrive off a little neglect (they look super rugged too!). Visit your GCA Garden Centre to discover what other semi-shade and full shade plants are available now.

 

Go-go MacGyver:
  1. Give your pallet a coat of paint or wood varnish in the colour of your choice. Encourage kids to paint some pictures for dad or little messages on the panels.
  2. Decide where you would like to hang your pots and look at what kind of tools dad uses the most. We recommend a line of 4 hanging pots along the second panel, leaving space for larger tools to hang below.

DIY African Mamma Planter A gift for mothers day

Here's the perfect gift for the eco-mom this Mother's Day! Give like a gardener with this stunning DIY planter made from an empty bottle, some South African flavour, a cute creeper, and a splash of creativity. Whether the mom in your life is an auntie, sister, cousin, or guardian – this home-made act of gratitude is sure to show them just how much you adore their presence in your life.

You will need:
  • A clean, empty 2l milk/juice carton (remove any labels and glue, keep the lid).
  • Waterproof paint.
  • A permanent marker.
  • Knife or scissors.
  • An African-inspired cloth for the kopdoek/headband (larger piece) and neck (small piece).
  • Rope for hanging.
  • Potting soil (available at your GCA Garden Centre).
  • A cute creeper (as hair) from your GCA Garden Centre. Go for a fun outing and check out which creepers are in season now.

Plant picks: Pilea glauca bowl, String of beads, Philodendron selloum and other Philodendron varieties, Guzmania varieties, Spider plant, and Pathos.

Making your Mamma
  • Turn your carton upside down and conceptualise: the opening serves as the neck of your character, the handle becomes the nose, and the bottom end becomes the top of her head where the plant will go.
  • Cut off the “head” quarter of the carton (not the lid end).
  • Cut a few drainage holes/slits in the lid cap of your carton (her neck). Cut holes for the rope from which to hang your planter and then thread it through.
  • Paint or draw on her lips above the neck, create her eyebrows just above the ending of the nose, and then her eyes, either opened or closed with luscious lashes, of course! You can play with the facial features of your mamma – perhaps add a nose ring or earnings, a little blush or eyeshadow. You could even make an African pappa or a few kids to accompany her.

Hero your harvest this holiday Holiday Gardening

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.

Valentine’s Day Cards that Grow DIY Edible wetlands

Grow your love even more this Valentine’s day with this DIY seed card

Bring your gifts to life this Valentine’s Day with a personal and unique gift for your loved one. Don’t just send a card, send a card that keeps on giving in the form of herbs, vegetables or flowers. Stand out from the ordinary with this step by step DIY Valentines’ activity by making biodegradable plantable gift cards with embedded seeds in them.

How it works

This DIY activity is fairly easy to make as it does not require any use of special equipment. Seed paper is paper that has small seeds embedded into it. When the paper is placed on soil and watered, the paper decomposes whilst the seeds germinate and sprout seedlings which will grow into mature plants.

Let your Valentine know how much they have grown on you by making them something special.

You will need

  • Assorted types of recyclable paper which may include but are not limited to tissue paper, egg cartons, newspapers and scraps of unprinted paper.
  • Flower seeds
  • Mixing bowl/dish
  • Towel or cloth
  • An old picture frame
  • Pantyhose
  • A tray
  • A blender (Preferably use an old blender)
  • For natural ink/paint consider using beets, carrots, berries, or other strong pigmented fruits/vegetables
  • Ruler/Scissor

Method for activity
Step 1: Prepping your paper

Collect your assorted paper scraps, cut or tear them into small pieces and place them in a covered bowl/dish with hot water. Ensure the level of water does not allow the paper to dry out, and soak for at least 8 hours.

Step 2: Blending

After your paper has soaked, blend it with some of its soaking water until its completely pulp. Should you decide to work with a lot of paper, make sure to blend the paper in batches.

  • Pour your pulp into a mixing bowl and add enough water to make it settle 10 centimetres deep.

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

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

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

Gifts from your garden

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

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

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

Flowers are always a welcome gift for every occasion.