Winter has arrived, but luckily our days are still blessed by lovely, lunchtime sunshine in most parts of the country. This is the perfect time for a little midday gardening and a braai with the family. For an enticing entertainment area plant seedlings like fairy Primulas for a dazzling flush of colour. Hanging baskets are back and add a wonderful variety of vibrant texture to your patio. When the party moves indoors, dragon trees and delicious monsters are a great choice.
Friday 5 June is World Environment Day. Celebrate your surroundings by thinking about our feathered garden friends. Birds often find it difficult to source food in the colder months, but we can lovingly assist them by putting out bird feeds. Beautiful seed feeders, suet, fruit feeders and even bird pudding can be found at your nearest GCA Garden Centre. Nesting logs will encourage Barbets to nest in your garden. In addition, any of these would make an ideal gift for Father’s Day on Sunday 21 June. You could also consider a bonsai plant and bonsai accessories as a Father’s Day gift.
It is a good time to sow Dianthus spp. also known as pinks, as their flowers are mostly pink, salmon, dark pink or white with bi-colours of lavender, purple and reds also available. Their flowers have a spicy fragrance and they belong to the same family of plants as carnations. One of the larger Dianthus is the specie we know as Sweet William, (Dianthus barbatus) which has bigger flowers and a spicy fragrance with hints of cinnamon and cloves. Sweet William is available in both single and double blooms and are biennial (flower in the second year) and self-seeding.
Pinks need at least 6 hours of sun per day and prefer to be watered on the soil, as water on the leaves may cause mildew spots. Use a slow-release fertilizer in your bed preparation or fertilise regularly for best results.
Claim to fame: The new-age Dianthus varieties flower for up to 6 months!
Tip: Removing the spent blooms (dead-heading) is very important if you want to encourage further flowering.
Continue sowing leafy greens like spinach, lettuce and beetroot which are all very easy to grow. They are also a great choice for kids to sow as an introduction to the fabulous and fun hobby of gardening.
Tip: 16 June is Youth Day – share your gardening wisdom and enthusiasm by inspiring new, little green fingers. This is your opportunity to show children how to plant these easy-to grow veggies.
Reap your rewards by picking the veggies that you sowed or planted a few months back:
Ranunculus, or Ranunc’sas they are fondly referred to, can be planted from pots if you forgot to buy the claws/bulbs when they were on the shelves with the rest of the Spring flowering bulbs.. Phew… we seldom get a fantastic second chance like this! The brilliantly coloured flowers of ranunculus are often compared with looking like a crepe-paper, origami masterpiece.
Tip: How marvellous for us that they are long-lasting cut flowers too.
Primulas are the queens of the winter and spring shaded garden. Lucky for us, there are three stunning types of Primula to choose from:
If you have trees and shrubs that need moving, this is the best time to do so. You may want to open your view or separate plants that were planted too close together. Plants need adequate light and air circulation for good growth. Palms, Cycas, cycads and small to medium-sized conifers, deciduous shrubs and trees will have the best chance of success. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to get the correct advice, tools and products that are necessary to maximise your transplanting success.
Indoor plants are high fashion and are being used to decorate all rooms in the house, especially the living areas and kitchens. Score some points on the trend barometer by going leafy indoors. Large leaf plants are trending in large and medium-sized pots. Here are some hot favourites:
Tip: Indoor plants will all benefit from regular feeding – consult your local GCA Garden Centre.
Feed your winter and spring flowering annuals and bulbs while they are actively growing. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for a recommended fertilizer that will promote both growth and flowering.
As large shrubs and trees mature, they might start shading your roses too much. Their roots can also start robbing nutrients and water from your roses. June is the best month to move threatened roses to a new, prepared bed in a more sunny spot.
Set your garden alight with a Fire Sticks plant (Euphorbia tirucalli). It resembles sea coral with pencil-like upright leaves. They are very noticeable in winter when they change from lime green and yellow colour to having flaming red and orange tips.
Tip: If you need to cut or prune this plant, take care to not let the milky latex-like plant sap touch your skin, and especially do not get it into your eyes as it can be very harmful. All parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested.
Paving the way - Winter is a great time to get creative with pathways and paved or gravelled areas. Now is the time for you to put in practice what you have seen and longed to have – like a beautiful pathway or extend an entertainment area. Your local GCA garden centre has a range of pavers, pebbles, gravels and plants that can allow your dream garden to become a reality. Remember to use a weed-suppressing fabric under paved areas and to set the pavers on a cushion of river sand so that it is stable.
Tip: It is also the best time to do maintenance in the garden. If its cold outside, put your jumper on and jump to it!
Hot trend alert: Gabion landscaping is all the rage. This makes use of wire and steel gabions, mostly filled with river pebbles or dump rock as the structural, hip element. They allow for exciting height changes in the landscape, as well as being a fashionable bold feature to contrast soft plantings.
Hot tip: To celebrate and tie in with World Day of Desertification and Drought on Wednesday 17 June, plan to plant waterwise succulents around your fire pit. Fire pits are fast becoming a regular feature in suburban gardens.
Pruning your Hydrangea macrophylla, the regular mophead hydrangea, will increase its vigour and increase the size of the blooms, especially if you have not pruned for many years.
Traditionally, most deciduous fruit trees and berries were planted in early spring as open-ground plants (i.e. with their bare roots wrapped in newspaper). Because we now buy them in pots or bags, it is not necessary to plant them as early. However, old habits die hard and these plants are ready for sale in spring. It is always a good idea to get in first and buy your berries as soon as you can.
Most berries like well-drained, well-composted soil in a sunny area of the garden. This means that if you have clay soil, you will need to amend it with lots of compost turned into the soil, or simply make raised beds for your berries. You can choose to add a general fertilizer into the soil now, or after planting. Don’t forget to add superphosphate or bone-meal into the planting holes, water regularly and remove weeds between the plants as they grow.
Tip: Add plenty of acid-compost or peat moss to your soil in the area you want to plant blueberries as they are acid-loving plants.
What better way to get your garden and health back on track and into shape then by sowing delicious leafy greens for those summer day salads. The following greens can be sown now:
Leafy greens are very easy to grow and will reward you best if you pick the leaves regularly and pinch out flower buds later in the season. Be on the lookout for cutworm, snail & slug damage to plants. Aphids love the hot summer months as much as we do. While you are shopping for "table greens" grab a few "tiny leafy greens" like Mint, Basil and Parsley plants to complement the other leafy greens.
Tip: Last chance: Whilst, not a "green" you can still sow tomato seeds in the first two weeks of January – so rush out and sow.
Did you know that Basil and Tomatoes are great companion plants? This means that when planted next to one another, they both improve each other's flavour. We also know that they are great companions in food too.
What To Plant
January is always a good time to plant up areas with colourful seedling annuals. The "heat is on" so what better way to brighten up the garden and get it into shape than by planting these sun-worshippers. Some great choices to beat the heat will be:
With their botox-looking pouty lips, from which the Snapdragons get their name, Snapdragons have become fashionable again. Striking colours and multiple blooms that seemingly stand to attention are simply charming. Dwarf varieties are great as pot or hanging basket fillers too. Keep moist while young. Snaps can reward you by continuing to flower into winter.
More colour, colour, colour!
Vinca plants which are as tough as nails when mature are what some people term the Impatiens for sun due to their similar-looking flowers. Don't be fooled into thinking that these are the same as the Vinca's of old – these new hybrids, flower profusely and easily.
The new age Zinnias are also a sight for sore eyes when they flower. They create a tremendous meadow-like profusion of blooms. The dwarf variety is a charming cutie.
If you like strong, bright colours, then you need to plant Celosia which are commonly known as Cock's Comb. The flowers may have a flattish crested plume or an upright feathery plume. They deliver on rich, bright, almost neon colour.
Be on the lookout for yellow patches appearing suddenly in your lawn from early January. This is a sure sign of the night-time foraging Lawn Caterpillar, (also known as Army Worm). To be sure place a moist bag or cloth on the patch in the evening and check underneath in the morning. If it is caused by Army Worms, they would still be crawling under the cloth thinking it is still night.
Ask your local GCA Garden Centre for the correct treatment method.
Power up the plants
We may have slimming on our minds in January but our garden needs nutrients to boost our plants and get the garden into shape. A good option is an 8:1:5 fertiliser or if you prefer the organic alternative, they are both available. Your garden and pots will benefit, but remember to fertilise between the plants on moist soil and to water over the fertiliser afterwards.
Pruning & Rose Care
A light summer pruning is recommended for roses in January. We know that it feels difficult to prune a plant that may still be flowering but it will help to extend quality flowering into winter. Cut back stems by up to one-third of their length.
Continue using a cocktail rose spray i.e. a combination of a fungicide and insecticide every two weeks to avoid leaf drop. Fertilise monthly and add mulch or top up the existing mulch. Now all that is left to do is to continue good, deep watering … and you will be so happy with your "blooming success" over the coming months.
Give your Fuchsias a boost by cutting back the stem tips after flowering. By cutting the stems back only up to about 5 or 10cm from the tip, you will allow it to bush out and give the plant more vigour to see the season through.
The popular indigenous Cape Leadwort, better known by its scientific name Plumbago, (Plumbago auriculata), is a great filler plant to cover large open spaces. It is an extremely tough, fast growing rambling, shrub. It grows in any soil and is drought tolerant. It gets covered with trusses of pale blue or white flowers which are a favourite nectar source for butterflies, it also makes a great hedge. The flowers of the cultivar 'Royal Cape' are of a considerably deeper blue.
Another indigenous beauty is our very own Cape Forget-me-not, (Anchusa capensis). It's tall stems that rise above the lower growing foliage have clusters of petite blue flowers with a white centre. They also attract butterflies with their nectar-rich flowers as well as other beneficial pollinating insects like bees. The pretty blue flowers are edible and a fab addition to salads or desserts. A well-drained soil is favoured by these drought resistant plants.
'Bougs" or "Bougies" are our affectionate nicknames for the spectacular Bougainvillea plants that can put on an unrivalled explosion of colour for months in our gardens. They are fast-growing and drought tolerant. Bougs are happiest in full sun whether they are spread-eagled over a pergola, wall or in a large pot, (smaller varieties are preferred for pots). Guess what? They also attract butterflies!
Due to the popularity of succulent plants in recent years, we are spoiled for choice in our local garden centres. They are just so easy to grow and lots of fun to combine in the garden, or even in a potted patio garden since many of them have gorgeous tinges of yellow, orange and red on their green, grey or blue-grey leaves. You can't go wrong with Sedums or Crassulas which are mostly indigenous and all water-wise and sun-lovers. There are many different shapes and sizes of plants in these two groups of plants that both go by the common name of Stonecrops. A popular sedum with tall dusty pink flowers is the Autumn Joy Stonecrop, (Sedum 'Autumn Joy'), and among the Crassula's, the Jade Plant, (Crassula ovata), is a medium-sized shrub with tiny white or pink flowers.
Days of interest
5 January – National Bird Day
Take a few moments to appreciate our beautiful bird-life or give your support to a birding cause.
10 January – House Plant Appreciation Day
Be reminded of the benefits of Indoor Plants – their beauty and positive impact on our health and well-being.
With the 20th of October being ‘Garden Day’ and October being ‘Rose month’ – what an opportune month to celebrate gardening!
Your roses should be producing their first flush of perfect blooms and the sun is still not too scorching – allowing the blooms to last longer. Spring is also the ideal time to select and plant new rose bushes in your garden. These are some of our favourites:
Pop in to your nearest GCA Garden Centre for more inspiration and supplies.
As soon as the soil warms up in mid spring, you can start to sow all your summer veggies, including beans, sweetcorn and tomatoes. Two of your main “must haves” for your summer salads are cucumber and celery.
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) - one of the easiest and most rewarding bulbs to grow, amaryllis produce showy, trumpet-shaped blooms that add a flamboyant touch to your garden or home. Often referred to as the Christmas flower because they typically bloom around five weeks after being planted (during the warmer months). For this reason, amaryllis make a wonderful gift at Christmas time and can also make gorgeous centre-pieces for the Christmas dinner table.
Amaryllis do well in most soil types, provided they get sufficient drainage. Plant in a sunny or semi-shade position and for the best results, give your amaryllis some bulb food every two weeks. These beauties are perfect for pots, and can be planted in groups in your garden.
As they retreat into dormancy at the end of the warmer months, you can decrease watering and leave them in the soil throughout the various seasons. Do not stop water them until all of their foliage has receded.
Star Flower or Egyptian star cluster (Pentas lanceolata) - a fast-growing, small to medium-sized herbaceous shrub with light green foliage. Pentas comes in a variety of colours, including pink, red, mauve and white. The beautiful flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds and make great cut flowers. The shrub grows quickly in full sun or semi-shade and vary in height but the modern hybrids are lovely compact bushes, growing +-100cm tall and +-30cm wide. Plant them into rich, well-drained soil. Cut off the dead flowers regularly to encourage re-flowering or continuous blooms.
There are many types of broadleaf weeds that can get their roots into your lawn. Clear out and control weeds in lawns, by using a selective broadleaf weed killer that is safe for use on established lawns.
Chat to a specialist at your nearest GCA Garden Centre for advice on the various products available and what would work best for your needs.
Growing your own veggie garden is both fun and rewarding. Ready for harvest in October are: asparagus, broad beans, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, lettuces, rocket, spinach (Swiss chard) and spring onions. The perfect ingredients for some very tasty and creative summer salads and veggie dishes. If you don’t have your own edible garden established yet – it is never too late to start.
It’s not hard to see why October is “Rose month” as you enjoy your roses in all their glory.
Water deeply at least once a week - for roses to flourish it’s best to water them twice weekly giving them 15mm of water each time. Roses that were fertilised in mid-September should be fertilised again in mid-October or early in October if September was skipped. This encourages root activity and new leaves and flowering stems to sprout. Only use the recommended amount of granular rose fertiliser.
To prevent aphids, bollworm, thrips, powdery mildew and black spot, spray fortnightly with the correct organic spray.
For quality blooms, disbud hybrid teas by removing side buds out of the leaf axles beneath the terminal bud. Remove spent blooms; not only will your rose bed look tidier; this also encourages the production of new quality stems. If you’d like long stemmed blooms for the house, don’t cut more than half of them on a bush.
Visit your local GCA for advice on the best products to use to meet your needs.
On Sunday, 20 October 2019 we will celebrate Garden Day. Instead of working in your gardens – this is a day to put down your garden tools, invite family and friends around, relax and celebrate your garden with them. Flower crowns are a beautiful way to celebrate your garden. Making and wearing the fun and colourful accessory is a great way to show off your garden blooms. Pick a few flowers from the garden and make your own flower crown.
(Gauteng, Free State, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)
(Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)
September is here – the sun is getting warmer, and our gardens are showing new signs of life. Spring is the perfect time to look at your garden with fresh eyes, make some changes and plan for the summer months ahead.
The 1st to the 7th of September is national Arbor week in South Africa - a time when South Africans of all ages are encouraged to celebrate the beauty and importance of trees.
The trees of the year for 2019 are Common Tree of The Year: Sclerocarya birrea Marula Maroela. Rare (Uncommon) Tree of The Year: Philenoptera violacea Apple-leaf, Appelblaar.
The month of September is the perfect time to plant an indigenous tree in your gardens - at home, office parks, and schools – especially as we are currently losing many of our trees to the invasive Shothole Borer.
What to Sow
During summer months, having fresh salad supplies ready to pick from your garden is a win! September is the time to sow lettuce, spring onion and tomato seeds, ready for your summer salads.
What to Plant
A perfect plant to fill your shaded gardens with bright, long-lasting colour in summer is Impatients. The new Beacon Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) offers high resistance to downy mildew and won’t collapse due to this destructive disease. For lasting colour plant your Impatients in fertile, well-drained soil in shade or partial sun. Beacon Impatiens are also great for baskets, window boxes, and containers, but will need a steady supply of water.
What to Spray
You know that spring has arrived when you smell the Jasmine and see the orange blaze as the indigenous Clivia’s start to emerge from their buds. Watch out for the lily borer in your Clivia’s. The caterpillar and their larvae damage the stems and leaves and if left untreated will cause a lot of damage. If you see any traces of larvae or damage to the plant, apply contact insecticide every two weeks to control.
Rejuvenate your lawn in September by applying a lawn dressing - a mixture of well-balanced organic matter and weed-free soil. A thin layer should be spread on established lawns to level an uneven surface or help a lawn recover after an icy winter. It would help if you also replenished nutrients by adding a nitrogen-rich fertiliser. Chat to the friendly experts at your nearest GCA Garden Centre for the best products to use.
Maintenance is the heart of gardening, and September is an excellent time to get in there with some pinching, deadheading, and pruning. Your flower garden will be healthier and lusher and will stay in bloom throughout the season. Most flowers benefit from having their spent flowers removed. This is called deadheading. Flowers that repeat-bloom will often do so only if the old, dying flowers are removed. If the dead flowers remain on the plant, they will go to seed, and the plant will stop producing flowers.
Some plants have very crisp, thin stems and can be deadheaded using your fingers. This type of deadheading is called pinching. Some plants that can be pinched include daylilies, salvia, and coleus. Coleus are grown for their foliage, not their flowers. Pinching off the flowers encourages the plants to become bushier and fuller.
From the middle of September, you should pinch prune your Hybrid Tea roses. This encourages new basal growth, green leaves and root development. It spreads out the flowering cycle so that there is an almost continual supply of roses instead of one or two main flushes. Pinch –prune about a third of the shoots. Increase watering to at least twice a week and fertilise fortnightly.
Watch out for aphids, thrips, bollworm and powdery mildew. To be effective, the spraying of roses for the control of pests and diseases needs to be carried out properly and with the correct understanding of both the pest and the applicable pesticides. One does get a canola oil, based pesticide combined with a systemic action fungicide which is a certified organic option. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for advice on the best products to use to meet your needs.
(Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)
With the rainy season upon us, ensure that your rainwater harvesting systems are set up and connected correctly. Clean out your gutters to ensure proper water run-off and to make sure your collected rainwater is as clean as possible.
Get your summer herb garden planted with these easy to grow summer herbs:
Thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, basil, rocket, parsley and mint. Buy your seedlings from a Garden Centre GCA renowned for quality plants and frequent deliveries of fresh stock.
Weed regularly before it gets out of hand. Treat weeds on paving, pathways and in gravelled areas with a non-selective herbicide. Visit a GCA Garden Centre for advice on the best products to use.
Arum Lilies and Calla Lilies (Coloured Zantedeschia hybrids)- plant your Zantedeschia bulbs at the beginning of spring, around 4 - 5cm’s deep. Space bulbs 30 to 40 cm apart, because Zantedeschia has wide-reaching leaves and needs space. Choose a location that is in full sun but stays cool. Don’t plant in very dry soil.
Dahlias (Dahlia pinnata). 2019 is the Year of the Dahlia! These colourful, spiky, daisy-like flowers bloom from midsummer right through the first frost. Select a planting site with full sun as they will blooms more with 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. They love the morning sunlight best. Choose a location with a bit of protection from the wind. Dahlias thrive in rich, well-drained slightly acidic soil.
(Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)
September is a great time to refresh, top-up or replace pebbles and gravel around the garden - especially between paving stones where dust and mud have accumulated.
Check for algae and moss on paving. Scrub down with a solution of copper sulphate or use a moss killer.
Create a pretty spring border with the following indigenous flowering plants: Gazanias, Arctotis, Blue Felicias, Scabiosas and Cape daisies.
Buy your seedlings from your local GCA Garden Centre.
Now is an excellent time to prune your Hibiscus, Poinsettia and other winter-flowering shrubs. Pruning your Hibiscus will help stimulate budding on new shoots. It also rejuvenates the plant after their long winter nap while encouraging them to maintain an attractive appearance and healthy, vigorous growth. The flowers of the Poinsettia have actually modified leaf structures called bracts. Once these have wilted and begun to die off, the Poinsettia requires a thorough pruning. Poinsettias may also require some trimming throughout the growing season to remain full and healthy.
Gerbera daisies (Gerbera jamesonii) are commonly grown for their bright and cheerful daisy-like flowers. They are indigenous to South Africa and come in various sizes and colours including pink, yellow, salmon, orange and white. Gerberas are best planted as seedlings, rather than seeds. This is because the flower resulting from seed may not reflect the colour expected and take far longer to flower. They prefer full sun with relatively sandy soils that are well-drained. None of the stems should be planted under the soil as it will rot, and the plant will die. Do not water them too often, as the soil should not become saturated. They can be grown in pots or containers too. They do well in the heat but do not handle the cold well.
Gladioli bulbs (Gladiolus species) come in a fantastic range of sizes, forms and colours, even lilacs and blues. It is a classic perennial known for its tall flower spikes. A great cutting flower, gladioli look beautiful in midsummer bouquets. Plant Gladioli bulbs in the spring once the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed. Most Gladioli thrive in well-composted, well-drained loose, sandy to light loamy soils. A sunny position is best. The taller varieties, which should be staked, are often placed in the back of a garden to complement shorter plants nicely.