If you’re looking for no-fuss plants that will survive without you for a while, aloes are the perfect choice. Life is a Garden sat down with The Aloe Farm to find out which aloes perform the best and what maintenance practices you need to know. Remember to visit your local GCA Garden Centre for all your succulent needs and great advice to help you, help your plants self-parent this holiday.
December’s topic: Self-parenting plants
Theme: Easy aloes for beds and containers
Industry expert: Andy De Wet
Garden centre: Aloe Farm based in Hartbeespoort, Gauteng: www.thealoefarm.co.za
1. We would love to hear about your personal plant journey. How did it all start and what about aloes inspired you to make them your main focus at the Aloe Farm?
I always loved nature and especially animals as a child, but my horticultural inspiration certainly came from my dad who was an avid gardener his whole life. He bought some aloes when I was a botany student in 1972, and I fell in love with them. I began reading aloe books and collecting species. I soon realised that natural hybrids occur in the wild and was curious about what I could create if I hybridised selected parents from different locations.
I then began making my first (not too exciting) initial combinations in 1973 and over time I saw the commercial possibilities, which is when the real fun started with clear breeding objectives. These goals developed as I gained experience in retail, wholesale and landscaping.
I believe that if you want a successful business you have to be unique and The Aloe Farm was an obvious opportunity to me as it could become an interesting indigenous destination nursery, built on a unique strength.
2. Your website is truly an aloe grower’s dream! With so many to choose from, what advice could you offer our beginner gardeners?
Did you know? Fynbos is not only reserved for botanical gardeners and coastal landscapes – you can grow our indigenous glory from your backyard, anywhere in SA! Life is a Garden sat down with industry experts to get the full scoop on how to successfully grow fynbos in both summer and winter rainfall regions. Hold on to your hats, we’re about to go on a fynbos frenzy!
How fresh is your fynbos knowledge?
The word fynbos comes from Old Dutch meaning ‘fine bush’. The word does not only refer to one plant but rather a specific group of vegetation that is known as Proteaceae. Fynbos also includes restio, pelargoniums, vygies, bulbs and selected annuals. Think of using the term fynbos much like we would say savanna or tropical forest.
For generations, scientists (including Charles Darwin) have been fascinated by this incredible plant species. Over millions of years, fynbos has expertly adapted to some of the harshest landscapes around Africa, resulting in the world’s most diverse plant habitat, even more than a tropical rainforest! The amazement doesn’t stop there, did you know that:
- There are more plant species on the 70-kilometre-long Cape Peninsula than in the whole of the British Isles.
- Table Mountain alone hosts as many plant species as the whole of the UK.
- The Western Cape is more botanically diverse than the richest tropical rainforest in South America (including the Amazon).
- Fire is essential for fynbos and needed to complete their life cycle (with frequency of the fire being a crucial component). The accumulated dead plant matter replenishes the soil while the intense heat triggers underground bulb growth.
- Fynbos-covered mountains are responsible for delivering 1/5 glasses of water in SA. Some of our country's wettest places are wild, soggy mountain tops covered in essential, gorgeous, rare proteas. Fynbos allows up to 80% of the rainwater to run off and fill our rivers and reservoirs.