Fiery fynbos

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Fynbos is a specific group of vegetation that is known as Proteaceae. Fynbos has expertly adapted over millions of years and has thus become the world’s most diverse plant habitat, even more than a tropical rainforest.

Proteas

King Pink is our national flower and a dramatic addition to the garden. They enjoy full sun in beds and containers, are drought and frost-hardy, and make for stunning cut flowers. Enjoy their bold blooms from July to October every year. 

Ericas

Fairy Confetti is a sweetheart shrub with masses of tiny pink flowers that add happiness to the garden. Their pretty blooms can be expected from spring, along with the many indigenous wildlife visitors they attract. Plant then in full sun in beds or pots. 

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Leucospermums

The Scarlet Ribbon is a vigorous grower with no shortage of blooms. Their intricate flower heads will bring any bed or container to life with striking red, orange, and yellow details. Grow then in full sun and enjoy their flowering time from September. 

 

Leucadendron range

Inca Gold is a decorative foliage plant with bright green, lime/yellow leaves that contrast perfectly with their pink edges. Grow them in full sun beds where you can look forward to a unique flower show from November to September.

Top tip: Fynbos love organic, rich dirt and thrive in sandstone derived, acidic soil with good drainage and no manure.   

Top tip: Mulch your plants with acid compost once a year and remember to prune your fynbos after flowering or before spring for nice full growth. 

Hanging basket bulker: Plant begonia ‘Dragon Wings’ in shades of light pink and reds for added hanging basket cuteness in full to semi-sun areas. 

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In the garden

Lawn love

Give your grass the pre-spring treatment by low mowing, spiking, feeding, and firm raking (scarifying). Apply a generous layer of lawn dressing and fertiliser, available at your garden centre, and cover the area so that just the tips of the blades are visible.

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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aloe, aloes in the garden, firebreaks, rooftop gardening, different aloe species, gardening, succulent plants, drought-tolerant, landscaping, ornamental plants, medicinal properties, aloe vera, aloe arborescens, aloe ferox, aloe striata, aloe marlothii, aloe aristata, aloe saponaria, aloe variegata, aloe succotrina, aloe cooperi, planting, propagation, care tips, soil, sunlight, watering, pruning, pests, diseases, indigenous plants, South African flora, Cape flora, Fynbos, Karoo, Highveld, Lowveld, Waterwise gardening, Xeriscaping, veld gardening, biodiversity, conservation, ecosystem, natural habitat, endemic species, plant conservation, garden design, eco-friendly, sustainable gardening.

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

Tenacious Texture Botanical Boss

March, Botanical Boss< greenery, gardening, colour, life is a garden, flowers, plants, foliage, soil, ceeds, design, pebbles, ornaments, texture, beautiful, gardens, fountains, march, autumn, autumn gardening, march gardening, decorative gardening, landscaping

Texture in gardening is not only about the physical appearance of plants, although this is an essential element. It’s easy to create texture with bold spikey plants paired next to delicate and flowy flowers, for example. Let’s take this a step further! Life is a Garden invites you to come and explore the tenacity of specific mood-generating plants and accessories that extend a theme, create movement, and cultivate depth around the garden.

“Think of texture as the relationship between the physical appearance, colour, and growing habit of certain plants that together, create layers of atmosphere and dramatic diversity in the landscape”
– Life is a Garden

March, Botanical Boss< greenery, gardening, colour, life is a garden, flowers, plants, foliage, soil, ceeds, design, pebbles, ornaments, texture, beautiful, gardens, fountains, march, autumn, autumn gardening, march gardening, decorative gardening, landscaping

The Shire: Frolicky and friendly

Plant picks

1. For full sun, plant trays of dianthus ‘Dash’ and ‘Bouquet purple’, along with petunia ‘African sunset’, and alyssum. These will add dainty charm in shades of purple, pink, plum, white, and orange-peach throughout the cooler months. Mini pots at the tea table, anyone?

2. Canterbury bells (Campanula medium) like semi-shade to full sun. Their fairytale-like dangling bell blooms will dance cheerfully in the breeze, adding movement and a whimsical feel. They reach around 60 cm in height and are frost-hardy.

3. The white stinkwood (Celtis africana) is loved for its sculptural shape. This stunning indigenous tree also attracts birds, creating a sweet soundscape to your Shire. Plant this tree for the perfect picnic spot and enjoy its flowers in spring. In winter, you can look forward to its illuminating bark that turns white like the wizard’s beard!

March, Botanical Boss< greenery, gardening, colour, life is a garden, flowers, plants, foliage, soil, ceeds, design, pebbles, ornaments, texture, beautiful, gardens, fountains, march, autumn, autumn gardening, march gardening, decorative gardening, landscaping
March, Botanical Boss< greenery, gardening, colour, life is a garden, flowers, plants, foliage, soil, ceeds, design, pebbles, ornaments, texture, beautiful, gardens, fountains, march, autumn, autumn gardening, march gardening, decorative gardening, landscaping

Accompanying accessories: log seaters, driftwood and moss, river stones, water features, birdbaths and bird feeders, chimes in trees, bark mulch, mosaic pots, fairy lights over arches, floating tea candles in the pool, hammocks, and raised, wooden edible beds.

Top tip: Avoid planting the same seedlings into the same beds every year as this can deplete the soil of nutrients that lead to fungal diseases.

Modern Xeriscaping in South Africa Industry Expert Q&A

October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping

Are you ready to take your environmentalism, landscaping, and garden art skills to the next level? Industry expert, Marionette from Plant Paradise describes xeriscaping as “the practice of designing landscapes to reduce the need for water, to have minimal maintenance, and to create a clean, stunning look that is sustainable all year round”. If this perks your green fingers, we’ve got loads more insight and inspiration for you below.  

Plant Paradise has won the award for best garden centre in SA 7 times, giving you even more of an incentive to visit them and experience quality-approved customer service, excellent plants, and top-notch products. 

October’s Topic: Rock-on Decorating
Theme: Modern Xeriscaping in South Africa 
Industry Expert: Marionette Hoffman
Garden Centre Supplier: Plant Paradise based in Moreleta Park, Pretoria: www.plantparadise.co.za  

1. How did you first begin your landscaping journey and what have been some of your favourite projects to work on (and where could our readers receive some inspiration from your stunning work)? 

After finishing my studies, I moved to England and worked there as a landscaper and horticulturist for two years. After that, I moved back to SA and started my career at Plant Paradise Garden Centre as a horticulturist and eventually became the landscaper - never looked back since! Landscaping and creating different displays on the garden centre floor is my passion. My favourite projects will always be xeriscaping.  My most favourite project of them all was House Thompson in Silverlakes, Pretoria, and House Leahy in Boardwalk Meander, also in Pretoria. The best place to view my work is at Plant Paradise. Our website is also a fantastic platform to view some of my gardens I’ve done for clients. 

October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping

2. Based on your years of experience, could you please tell our gardeners what exactly xeriscaping in South Africa is and why they should consider implementing these practices in their own garden?

Rock-on Gardening  October Botanical Boss

October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss

Gone are the days when rock gardens mean a cactus and stone desert. Have you heard about xeriscaping? Ever thought about pebbles and semi-precious stones as yard art? Life is a Garden sat down with industry experts to get the best advice, inspiration, and plant picks to help you save time and water while maximising your garden’s aesthetic beauty.  

Rocking around 

Stones and pebbles can become works of art in their own right. With so many different colours and textures, arrangements and complimenting accessories, rock gardens are for anyone looking to make a statement. The key to long-term success and almost no maintenance is good quality weed guard sheeting beneath your stone feature. Here are some rocking yard art ideas:

  • The striking minimalist: Pair pure white pebbles with contrasting black tiles or black painted pavement slabs to give walkways and entrances a sleek look. Alternatively, go for equally bold black pebbles with a few summer-flowering, white button sedge (Kylinga alba) ornamental grasses to set off the contrast. This indigenous sun-loving evergreen produces a clustered white flower head that is carried on an elegant, long slender stem.
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss

 

  • Earth child: You can purchase bags of pink rose quartz (pebbles and rough stones) to use as centrepiece stone mandalas or walkable labyrinths. Pair your crystal arrangements with other softer stone shades (river rocks are lovely) and bring in some local steekblaarblinkgras (Melinis nerviglumis) to compliment the pink notes from the rose quartz. This very hardy ornamental grass will thrive in full sun and produces the sweetest plumes of fluffy pink to red seeds that appear all year round and attract seed-eating birds.
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss
  • Dare to be different: Ever heard of rock balancing? This is a recreational activity where different-sized stones/pebbles are precisely stacked on top of each other to create a beautiful work of art.

Garden pebble painting DIY

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Pebbles with a painted flower on the background of a cooperative and community ecological garden

The sun’s out – let’s decorate the yard! This outdoor paint project will add a homely touch to your rock garden and bring out the child-friendliness of your space. Edge your beds in bright works of art, add some critters to the fairy garden, or make some sweet signs for your veggies with this painting pebbles DIY from Life is a Garden.   

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riscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss,pebbles, paint, DIY, kids activities

What you need 

  • A variety of different sized, lighter shaded pebbles  
  • Weather-resistant paints and brushes 
  • Super glue and googly eyes (optional) 
  • Seasonal veggie and herb seedling trays and 
  • A bag of compost/potting soil from your GCA Garden Centre 

 

October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss,pebbles, paint, DIY, kids activities
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss,pebbles, paint, DIY, kids activities
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss,pebbles, paint, DIY, kids activities
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss,pebbles, paint, DIY, kids activities
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss,pebbles, paint, DIY, kids activities
October, Life is a garden, xeriscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss,pebbles, paint, DIY, kids activities

Painting ideas and inspiration  

Ladybugs and bees (2 colour designs for smaller kids) 

For these critters, the trick lies in the bright contrast of your paint and sufficient drying time between layers (to not mix colours).  

  • To create a ladybug pebble, simply paint two red wings on either side of the stone, leaving a margin in between. Then, paint the rest of the stone black and add smaller black dots to the wings.  
  • For a bee design, paint yellow and black stripes across the stone – voila.  

 Try this: Using superglue, sick googly eyes onto your pebble critters for extra character!  

riscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss,pebbles, paint, DIY, kids activities
riscaping, cacti, water wise, rocks, stones, pebbles, plants, greenery, garden, gardening, succulents, backyard, spring, summer, decorative gardening, landscaping, botanical boss,pebbles, paint, DIY, kids activities

Rock frogs and rainbows (noughts and crosses game for bigger kids 

For this game, you’ll need to draw the traditional game grid somewhere. Try painting a stepping slab, wood block, or use chalk to draw the lines. 

  • Paint 4 of your stones in a nice bright green. Add black lines to define the frog’s features and friendly face. 
  • Paint 4 more pebbles in a rainbow design (remember to let the layers dry) and enjoy playing the game on the prepared noughts and crosses grid.  

Try this: With all the colourful spring flowers in bloom, make it even brighter by edging your beds with a row of rainbow-painted pebbles. 

Get the look – Food for Thought Must Love Gardening

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Life_is_a_Garden_OCT-GetTheLook-Hero

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.

Life_is_a_Garden_OCT-GetTheLook-Decor1
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  • Vertical landscaping elements, such as the gazebo, provides that homely outdoor room feel. With a comfy bench, this can become a favourite spot to sit and relax. The gazebo also offers the ideal structure to grow a climbing rose. The wooden tee-pees also add to the vertical element and will be very useful for many climbing plants. You could use any other pillar or frame you like to achieve some height in the space. . In this garden, the tall Tuscan rosemary has been used to fill the tee-pees and is a refreshing new twist to sculptured gardening. Beans, peas, tomatoes and many more edibles would also work wonderfully.
  • The different levels in the design offer a clever way of making any space look larger and more interesting.
  • The strong blue colour on the back wall is very dramatic and contrasts with the lime coloured gazebo and tee-pees. It also shows up the plants in the garden, especially the architecturally shaped grey-leaved artichokes in the bed against the wall. The blue flowering plants connect with the wall while the patches of yellow and gold pop brightly. The pink chandelier and cushion are striking and draw the eye to the seating area.

Tip: Repetition is a strong design principle that is often overlooked. Notice how the tin and terracotta pots are repeated amongst the wooden planters. This repetition throughout the design helps to enhance the overall look.

 

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

  • Did you know that roses are closely related to apples, apricots, pears and peaches?