The beauty of bee keeping

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F is for Fearless February! Dare to do something different and come buzz on the wild side with Life is a Garden as we explore the beauty of beekeeping. Whether you live on a plot or farm, townhouse or flat – the enchanting world of beehives, honey extraction, bee courses and baked goods are all available to you. Here’s the basics to get you going. 

 

Beekeeping has a few rules 

Before we fly on, there are specific by-laws for beekeeping stipulated by the Metropolitan Municipality Public Health. You can’t own a hive on your balcony in the suburbs, for example, but you can go on an epic beekeeping course and tend to a hive away from home. For our plot and farm dwellers to have sufficient space, here is a brief overview of the current laws:

  • No person may keep bees on any premises unless that person is the holder of a permit authorizing that activity and every beehive is situated –
  • A minimum of five metres from any boundary of the premises.
  • A minimum of twenty metres from any public place or building used for human habitation or from any place used for the keeping of animals.
  • The bees are kept in an approved beehive and the beehive is kept in an area inaccessible to children and animals, kept in the shade at all times, and supplied with a source of drinking water within five metres of the hive.

 

It is important for beekeepers to register with The South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO) so that your set-up is in accordance with the regulation standards. This is to ensure all bees live a happy life and to prevent accidents or injuries to your neighbours. Now that we’re all clued up, let’s look into the benefits of starting a beehive and what treasures could be yours! 

Fancy Frilly Echeveria We love succulents

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

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Getting to know your Frilly Echeveria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earthy aloe & cinnamon playdough DIY

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

 

You will need

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

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

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

Top 5 aloes for a living firebreak

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

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

Life is a Garden’s top 5 firebreak aloes 

Aloe ‘Arborescens’

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

Aloe ‘Commixta’

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

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Aloe ‘Brevifoli’

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

Aloe 'Ciliaris'

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

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Aloe ‘Tenuior’

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

Sunset-scaping with aloes Botanical Boss

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

 

On the aloe hot list this May

Indigenous gems

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

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

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

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

  • Aloe ‘Neon orange’ is a popular, small, tough plant for pots, the rockery, or a retaining wall.  During August and September, conspicuous glowing orange flowers will dazzle the landscape. If allowed to cluster and given enough space, plants will quickly grow a secondary rosette, creating a better and longer flower display. 
  • Aloe ‘Octopus’ is the first large winter flowering aloe hybrid with deep yellow flowers. The tentacle-like leaves of this plant have a funky spreading growth style. Its other outstanding feature is the length of the individual flower – it is the hybrid with the longest recorded individual flower of all the cultivars in the collection.
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  • Aloe ‘Saturn’ stands out as another amazing hybrid. Its flower buds are initially brick red but change to yellow as the flowers open, displaying a showy bi-colour combination in late winter and spring.

Rooftop gardens and living firebreaks Sunset-scaping with aloes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ferocious 4 – carnivorous plants to die for! Predator plant month

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Come meet our ferocious four - your next hobby and likely, fantastic new obsession. Part plant and part pet, these fascinating predators with roots are perfect for beginners and will reward you with years of companionship, charm, and wonderment.  

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1. Venus flytrap:

Arguably the most popular predator. The ‘traps’ are two hinged lobes at the end of each leaf with hair-like trichomes that signal the snapping action. Digestive enzymes get to work as the plant absorbs a lovely nutritious soup. 

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2. Trumpet pitcher plant:

This cleaver funnel-like plant hunts using a pit-fall trap. Insects are attracted by a nectar-like secretion on the top of the leaves. The nectar is poisonous, sending intoxicated bodies tumbling down the funnel to be digested.

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3. Sundew:

These sassy plants exude a sticky substance that attracts and then traps insects and other small prey. Their meal is quickly swallowed by a web of tiny tentacles and digested by enzymes within the plant stems and leaves.

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4. Tropical pitcher:

More sack-like in appearance, they too attract insects using sweet intoxicating nectar. Prey slip on the rims of the plant, falling into a pool of poison. Soon, the insects drown inside the sticky acidic liquid, followed by digestion. 

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Top carnivorous plant tips

  • Research your plant’s particular needs and respond to the changing external conditions.
  • Predator plants thrive in nutrient-deficient soil with access to plenty of insects. 
  • When growing in containers, ensure pots have adequate drainage and are made of a material that does not adversely impact the PH and quality of the soil. 
  • Always use the correct potting medium. A blend of sphagnum peat and perlite is their favourite. Ask your GCA Garden Centre assistant for the best products to use.  

 

Read more about predator plants here: botanical boss article

Predator plant month Botanical Boss

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Predator plant month

What’s better than shark week? Predator plant month! Arguably one of the most charismatic collectables, carnivorous plants are a true spectacle in the garden. To help you become a predator botanical boss, Life is a Garden sat down with industry experts for the best advice on how to care for these exotic beauties. Your next exciting hobby and gardening project with the kids awaits!

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FAQ’s with the Carnivore Queen from Jozi Carnivores.

How much sun does my plant need?

In general, carnivorous plants need plenty of sun as they are not good at photosynthesising (tropical pitcher plants, however, need dappled shade). The most common cause of plants not thriving is insufficient or incorrect sunlight.

Can I use any water?

Predator plants require water that is nutrient, mineral, and chlorine free. Rainwater, distilled water, or reverse osmosis water are perfect for your carnivores. Borehole water can also work but this depends on the quality of your particular water source. Mineral water is not suitable because it contains, well, minerals - and our carnivores like it rough.

How do I water my carnivorous plants?

Remember that most varieties are bog plants. You can recreate their natural environment at home by simply standing the plants in a shallow tray and watering from the bottom. The tropical pitcher plant, however, is the exception again as it is found in rainforests and needs to be watered from the top.

*Find out how to make your own bog garden here: Bog in a bucket DIY

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Can I repot my predators in ordinary soil?

Normal garden soil, potting soil, and compost are too rich for carnivorous plants and will kill them quickly. Plants require an acidic, nutrient-deficient potting medium as they get most of their sustenance from the insects they catch and not through their root system via the soil.

Bog in a bucket – your predator plant paradise DIY

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Adopting a carnivorous plant is like having a pet, so if you’re looking to begin teaching kids responsibility – this species is a great way to start. Similarly, if you’re looking for a new hobby or an engaging, long-term gardening project, a bog garden offers years of thrills and companionship. 

Did you know? The two types of trapping methods are grouped as either active or passive. Do some research to find out which style your little predator uses.

What’s a ‘bog’ anyway

In the wild, one would find our predator plants thriving inside water-logged, nutrient-deficient soil and stagnant water. Over many years, this little ecosystem of decaying plant matter and limited water flow created thick layers of mushy muck – the perfect environment for these incredible predators. Carnivorous plants certainly challenge what we know about fertilisers and the importance of ‘good’ fresh water. 

Your bog garden needs to mimic a lekker vrot swamp with 0 added nutrients as all the good stuff plants need comes from the insects they catch. It’s rather easy to create the perfect ‘bad’ environment for these plants when creating a bog in a bucked, which allows you full control over their living conditions AND external factors. When faced with hail, snow, frost, or other extreme weather, you’ll need to move your plant pets to safety. 

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You will need

1. Predator plants that have similar sun requirements and thrive from bottom watering as we’ll be replicating a marsh environment. We recommend homing these Thrilling Three together as they all enjoy full sun (at least 6 hours a day) and love wet feet. 

  • Sundew
  • Venus flytrap
  • Trumpet pitcher (NOT tropical pitcher as this guy needs dappled shade and top watering, so grow it separately)
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  • You will also need a very specific growing medium, which is a mixture of sphagnum peat and perlite, as well as reverse osmosis water or collected rainwater.

Incredible carnivores with roots Predator plant month

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February’s topic: Predator plant month
Theme: Incredible carnivores with roots!  
Industry expert: Renee Mendelow
Garden centre: Jozi Carnivores based in Midrand, Gauteng: www.jozicarnivores.co.za  

If you have yet to explore the extraordinary world of predator plants, Jozi Carnivores has your next epic gardening adventure sorted! Located on a beautiful farm with horses and trees, this specialised Garden Centre is well worth the outing and offers fascination for the whole family to engage in. With thousands of exotic carnivorous beauties to choose from, our industry expert, Renee, has provided some invaluable information and advice on how to become the ultimate predator plant parent. Come dig in, if you dare!

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1. Please tell us how your carnivore plant journey began and what made you fall in love with this most unusual species?  

I discovered carnivorous plants at a time when I had three children in primary school. We were going to so many children’s birthday parties and spending so much money on gifts that were mostly about packaging and plastic. It made me feel sad. Around that time, I spotted a little Venus flytrap in a nursery and bought it for my daughter who shared my love of nature. She adored her Venus flytrap but a day or two later she emerged looking sad and worried. “It’s my Venus flytrap” she declared, “It’s bored and lonely and just sits around all day waiting for something to happen”. We clearly had a problem on our hands, so we decided to find a friend for the lonely plant. 

We trawled the nurseries but found none. We then searched the internet and found a carnivorous grower in Cape Town. I was then exposed to the incredible world of carnivorous plants and discovered the fascinating variety available. I realised quickly that predator plants serve as an excellent educational, organic gift for children that also taught positive values such as caring for a living thing.

Predator plants for killer impact Predator plant month

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Come meet our ferocious four - your next hobby and likely, fantastic new obsession. Part plant and part pet, these fascinating predators with roots are perfect for beginners and will reward you with years of companionship, charm, and wonderment.

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