Indigenous fairy tale trees Industry Expert Q&A

life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous, Botanical boss
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous

September’s Topic: The local magic spring brings
Theme: Indigenous fairy tale trees  

Industry Expert: Brett Hughes
Garden Centre: Tree Factor in Limpopo  


Calling all tree-loving landscapers and gardeners – are you ready for a gust of sensational wind through your branches? Our industry expert, Brett Hughes from Tree Factor, has treated us to a simply divine spread of wisdom and passion with an equally magnificent tree selection! Spring is 100% bringing that local magic.  

1. Your stunning variety of trees and “greening the way” for SA approach is truly inspiring and awesome! Please tell us more about your philosophy and why trees are so important/beneficial?

As a horticulturist for the past 35 years, I have seen the deforestation in our own country today, despite the world’s plight on the current carbon footprint and efforts to plant up highways and urban areas. There are particular points that I would like to make in this regard – not purposefully highlighting the destruction, but in an effort to showcase the undesirability thereof.


Firstly, we have organisations like SANRAL – stripping trees on the side of our roads and highways by the kilometre, sometimes only marula trees being kept but destroying all the other hardwoods, which is not desirable. And then we get Eskom who eliminates every single tree within 20-30m of every powerline – that’s millions of trees being taken out annually. There’s also the mining industry, who are not under pressure anymore to rehabilitate like they used to. I think the councils are trying to put their efforts into planting trees, but again, I don’t think government is giving them enough budget to plant trees and to support our industry enough. There is definitely some effort needed to help and put pressure on government to get the local councils involved in tree planting again.

The local magic spring brings September Botanical Boss

life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous, Botanical boss
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous, Botanical boss

The season of renewal is upon us, bringing in hope and fresh positivity. Spring is Mother Nature’s reminder that even after periods of hardship, the storm will always pass when we embrace and trust in the great cycle of life. Turn to your garden for some uplifting enchantment as we explore the stunning local magic spring brings this September. Life is a Garden, with help from our industry experts - Random Harvest Nursery and Tree Factor, have complied a list of SA’s most unique and unusual plants and trees.  

Indigenous fairy tale trees


 Sweet and special - The Snuffbox tree (Oncoba spinosa) 
  • Appropriately named after its local use for snuff making by crushing the edible hard-shelled fruit. The fruit is round and shiny red-brown in colour.  
  • They grow to a height of 3 to 4 metres, have a non-invasive root system, and will flourish in full sun with sandy, loam soil. 
  • Trees are valued for their dramatic white flowers that have a special melon-like scent, making them a perfect choice as a fragrant ornamental too.  
Odd and extraordinary - The Sausage tree (Kigelia Africana) 
  • After treating us to a blood-red/maroon flower show that hangs off branches in long panicles, sausage-shaped fruit are an equally amazing sight. 
  • The smelly flowers, which bloom all night, attract pest-controlling bats that pollinate them. The sausage fruit is actually a huge berry and can grow up to 5m and weigh an astonishing 6.5kg’s! Beware – these sausage berries are not for humans human consumption but many garden visitors will feast on them.  
  • Grow these trees in full sun with composted soil that is slightly acidic to neutral.  


“Ultimately, I believe if we don’t start planting trees in urban zones we’ll never catch up. If everyone plants at least one or two trees in their lifespan, it will make a huge difference” – Brett Hughes, Tree Factor.

Making Paint from Flowers DIY

Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain? Can you paint with all the colours of the wind? The stage is set for your first DIY of the new year, and gardeners – it’s blooming! We’re sure both you and the kids are eager to get back to school, so let’s make sure we send them off with some positive flower power. Here is Life is a Garden’s top activity to end off the holidays.


Pocahontas’s secrets

Did you know? The lotus flower was first used to represent the sun in Ancient Egyptian art and has since become a popular symbol of peace in yogic/health practices. During the Medieval and Renaissance period, painters and sculptures used flowers as an important motif to convey a certain meaning to audiences. The oldest archaeological evidence of paint making was found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa and was dated at 100,000 years old! Paint made from plant oils was also an essential part of Native American storytelling, on cave walls and on the body. Our girl Pocahontas is well known for illustrating the deep connection these ancient tribes had with Mother Nature.

Collecting your colours

The first ingredient you need is some flowers, of course! Gather a colourful collection from the garden or pop down to your GCA Garden Centre to choose from the huge selection of summer bloomers. Try to get a variety of different flowers as some are more pigment-rich than others, resulting in a brighter or more pastel colour. Try these colour-popping picks: Daisies, Fuchsia, Hibiscus , Roses and  Salvias.

Terrific gift tip: We know that January can be a tough month, on the budget and also for all those with birthday’s this month. Purchase plain white craft paper, fold it as a card, and get the kids to use their amazing flower paint to decorate it with.

Growing and caring for clivias Garden Mastery

Clivias are one of South Africa’s indigenous super stunners and have become quite the collector’s dream. Luckily, you don’t have to be a horticulturist to grow these distinguished plants, just some garden mastery know-how from Life is a Garden. Learn how to correctly harvest clivia seeds, how to grow them, and how to provide long term care for your elite lovelies.


The clivia craze

What’s so special about these plants anyway? For starters, they produce simply exquisite trumpet-like, fragrant flowers with dramatic blooms in sunset shades, both as solid colours and as delightful bi-colour varieties. Owing to their lengthy germinating time (one year from seed to pot) they’ve rightfully earned their place in the professional landscapers garden. Up for the challenge? These beauts can be grown as hero houseplants in a well-lit area, in shaded beds, or in pots on the patio with no direct sunlight. They thrive in rich potting mix with good drainage. Clivias are most active from autumn to spring, but they’ll retain their dainty evergreen foliage all year round.


Top tip: Garden centres are stocked with a truly splendid variety of potted clivias to choose from. Ask the friendly nursery attendants for guidance on what soil mixes to use in beds and pots. They’ll also be able to give you recommendations on fertilisers to give your prized clivias that extra boost.

Growing clivias from seed

There are two ways to get your green fingers on some clivia seeds:

  1. Pop down to your GCA Garden Centre and purchase a seed packet.
  2. Wait for established clivias to produce berries, which contain seeds.

When clivia flowers are pollinated they produce large red berries. Pick your berries as they begin colouring then pop them onto the operating table and follow these steps:

  • Use your thumbs to break open the berries and then remove the insides.

Strawberries and Cream on the patio

Embrace bedless gardening and embark on a creative container adventure, right on your stoep!

Who said that beds make the garden? Well, no one, actually! And that’s great news for the balcony, stoep, and patio gardener. You can still enjoy all the glory of gardening by playing with pots, experimenting with the colour wheel, using vertical planters, and adding a few fabulous blooms.


Container gardening

Using different sized and shaped containers add height and variety to the space, while also giving you an opportunity to play with different styles. Incorporating hanging baskets is another simple way of adding greenery to areas with limited space. Using woven baskets (instead of plastic) with spikey foliage will bring in some lovely texture. Spend some time in the pots and basket section next time you’re at the nursery and see what jumps out at you!

*Play away: Try using cute teapots or gumboots as planters to add a little character and fun to your space.

*Go green: You could upcycle cans to use as pots and decorate as desired to suit your existing décor (this is a fun one for kids too).

*Top tip: Ensure your planting containers have good drainage to avoid root rot.


Get your patio blooming

A great way to bring in more life to your patio paradise is by planting gorgeous, blossoming blooms. Imagine a couple of flower pots neatly arranged along the lonely stoep wall or outdoor windowsill. Any available space is an opportunity for flowers to flourish. Get this lush look by using the Thriller, Filler, and Spiller (TFS) concept to create the ultimate flower pot.


*Try this - TFS: One upright focal point plant as your Thriller, a mounded plant as the Filler around it, and then something to trail over the edge as your splendid Spiller.

Poolside Gardens Back to Basics

When you’re a gardener, pool parties are all about the plants! Transform your backyard into a palm beach or rolling grassland, and how about a tropical paradise or trendy minimalistic look? Whatever your vibe is, Life is a Garden has got the perfect poolside gardening inspiration for your summer entertaining. Choose your theme, pick your plants, and head over to your GCA Garden Centre. Remember to check growing instructions and grab a bag of compost and fertiliser.


Poolside planting – the do’s and don’ts

The last thing you want is to be stressed out by maintenance or constantly needing to replace pool filters because of rotting leaves. Therefore, here are some plants to avoid and factors to consider when creating your poolside paradise.

  • Don’t: Plant annuals that shed during autumn, littering the pool and surrounding area.
    • Do: Plant evergreens that are always jolly and low maintenance.


  • Don’t: Grow soft fruit trees like plums and apricots that’ll drop and rot around the space.
    • Do: Go for hard-shelled, non-shedding edible trees such as lemons or lychee.


  • Don’t: Plant flowers too close to the pool as petals can become a nuisance.
    • Do: Choose evergreen ferns and ornamental grasses that don’t shed.


  • Don’t: Grow herbs or lavender that attract bees (if this is a concern for your family).
    • Do: Include a few rocks around for harmless and helpful dragonflies to bask on.


  • Don’t: Plant trees with large invasive root systems that may damage pool infrastructure.
    • Do: Rather plant trees in containers to ensure your paving and pool is safe.
Swimmingly elegant themes

Design your ideal backyard and display your expert landscaping skills with one of these gorgeous themes to flow through your space. Planting palms is one of the easiest ways to create a lush, island getaway feel, especially when paired with a boma, some beach sand, and wooden deck chairs.

How leaves change colour – an experiment for kids

How leaves change colour- an experiment for kids

Autumn is a colourful time for trees and a curious invitation to all young gardeners. Do your children also enjoy rummaging around in leaves, collecting them, and admiring their unique hues? Well then, here’s a DIY kids experiment that investigates the science of chlorophyll and answers the question of how and why leaves change colour. Are you ready for some fun in the garden? Let’s go!


What’s so cool about leaves anyway?

For starters, leaves are part of Mother Nature’s highly intelligent network of oxygen (O2) providers, making them an essential service to life on Earth. Through photosynthesis, leaves turn light energy into food for plants to grow. Using their pores, or stomata, leaves absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and then release clean, crisp O2 for us to breath – thanks guys!


Chloro- me, chloro- you, chloro- phyll?  

Owing to changes in daylight and temperature during Autumn, the process of photosynthesis and the amount of chlorophyll in leaves is altered. Chlorophyll is the chemical that makes leaves green, so with less sunlight for photosynthesis, it’s only natural that some changes in colour are expected. The absence of chlorophyll is what results in the gorgeous display of sunset-hued leaves this time of year.


An experiment awaits!

You will need:

  • A few glass jars
  • A few coffee filters
  • Various colours of autumn leaves
  • Surgical spirits (available at pharmacies)
  • A spoon for mixing
  • A notebook to observe changes


Leaves at the ready:

  1. Unleash your kids upon the garden or park in search of as many different autumn-coloured leaves they can find. Equip them with a container to carry their findings.
  2. Group their leaf treasures by colour. Once sorted, smash/crumple/tear each group of leaves into pieces and then place each pile into a separate jar.
  3. Pour the rubbing alcohol into each jar until the leaf pieces are completely covered.