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! 

A passion for poinsettia

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Poinsettias, also known as Mexican Flame Leaf, are traditionally associated with the festive season owing to their bright colours and sweet charm. With a selection of vibrant pink, red, white, cream, purple, yellow, orange, and bi-colours on the market, your holiday collection would be incomplete without one of these sweethearts. Join Life is a Garden as we explore this fiery foliage plant further.  

Did you know? The ancient Aztecs used poinsettias to make red dye, and they turned to poinsettia sap to control fevers.

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Humble beginnings

The legend of the poinsettia dates back to 16th century Mexico and tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. An angel appeared and inspired her to gather weeds from the roadside and to place them in front of the church’s altar. Crimson ‘blossoms’ sprouted from the weeds and grew to become beautiful poinsettias.

Try this: If you want your poinsettia to grow larger and even more spectacular, plant them out in your garden below a tree or shaded area. Plants can quite easily grow up to 3 metres tall when given enough room and in the correct environment. 

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Flamboyant foliage we love

In South Africa, poinsettias are a common garden plant that flowers during winter. Potted varieties have been specifically grown for the summer season and are available in a variety of intense colours. The plant is synonymous with the upcoming holiday season, making a bold statement that will last for months!

Grow them in full shade or indoors with plenty of good light. Plants must be protected from the hot summer sun if it is to flower. Only water a poinsettia when the soil is dry to the touch. Water until water seeps out the bottom of the drainage holes. Although poinsettias do not like to dry out, they also do not like to sit in water.

Top 10 tips on how to get the most from your garden

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Garden Day is on Sunday the 15th of October, although we’ll certainly be celebrating all month long! Life is a Garden invites you to become part of this special occasion by taking the time to really enjoy the fruits of your labour. Join us as we offer inspiration on how you can get the most from your garden and include time with your plants as part of your everyday routine and event hosting.

Top 10 tips on how to get the most from your garden 

Morning coffee nook 

Try changing up your morning routine to allow for 10 minutes of welcoming the day amongst your plants and a cuppa’. This should put you in a great mood and set a peaceful pace for the rest of your day.

Experiment and expand

Dare to grow something exotic and different this summer. Look for plants and edibles that excite you and that you may not have thought to grow before. You may also want to experiment with a different growing style such as trailing, creepers, or cascading baskets.

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Festivity-ready 

Is your garden ready to host a little get-together without you needing to set up first? Consider installing flood lights, fairy lights, chimes, and other permanent garden accessories. Also look into what weather-resistant furniture you can include that’s always occasion-ready. Having a space that’s open to receiving guests may take a lot of pressure off the host. 

Outdoor storage

Invest in an outdoor cupboard or crate where all your scatter pillows, throws, and other goodies can be easily stored and taken out to use. This also reduces trips back to the house and makes the effort feel less when your outdoor essentials are organised nearby for easy access. 

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Cocktail corner

Growing garnish for all your favourite cocktails is another way to encourage more time with your plants.

Mother-in-law’s tongue We love succulents

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Mother-in-law's tongue (Sanseveria trifasciata), known also as the snake plant, has long been an indoor and outdoor favourite with its sharp, witty nature. This succulent makes for a striking feature in almost any light condition and is a perfect choice for the beginner gardener.

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Getting to know your Mother-in-law's tongue

Grow guide: They will grow faster in bright, natural light but will also fare well in moderate to low light. When planted outdoors, be aware of harsh direct sunlight as this will burn their leaves. Water plants directly onto the soil (avoiding the rosette centre) to prevent root rot.

Claim to fame: Hardy and packed with attitude, their sword-shaped leaves are bold and unapologetic with bright yellow borders from base to tip. Indigenous to SA, these plants are adaptable and easy to care for. You may even be lucky to see their elusive white flowers if you look after them well.

In the garden: This succulent is ideal as a potted attention-grabber, both on the patio and indoors. They will also fill large beds where they bring in height (up to 60cm) and texture. Plant them in rich soil with excellent drainage. Water infrequently and avoid frost-prone areas.

Pest patrol: Plants are generally low-maintenance and not prone to pests. Keep an eye out, however, for mealybugs and spider mites and ensure roots are never waterlogged. Feed with a balanced cactus fertiliser monthly during spring and summer to increase pest resistance.

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Did you know? Snake plants are known as CAM plants, which means they can remove carbon from the air at night and store it for later use.

Top tip: Dull leaf colours and thin foliage may indicate that your plant is not receiving enough light, whereas crispy, yellowing foliage is a sign that there is too much light or sun.

Crucial Cross-Pollination

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Cross-pollination is when pollen from one plant is transferred to another with the help of insects (like bees and butterflies). Certain plants depend on this process to produce their edibles. Try growing the following trees together.

  • Almond trees grow well in the Western Cape with a more Mediterranean climate. With the help of bees, two almond trees are required to pollinate one another. Grow then in full sun with plenty of organic matter added to the soil. Planting clovers and other legumes around trees will contribute to soil fertility and attract pollinators.
  • Apple trees need a cross-variety pollination partner. You can ask for help from your garden centre assistant for advice on which varieties to grow together for the best results. Most apple trees will blossom in spring with fruit ripening in late summer to early autumn. Plant them in full sun with rich soil and feed with a fruit tree fertiliser.
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  • Papaya trees grow so easily from seeds in the compost heap. They will produce fruit when there is a male and female tree planted within a 3-metre proximity. The male (or even a hermaphrodite) can cross-pollinate the female. For best results, grow at least three trees together in full sun with nutrient-rich soil and good protection from frost. 
  • Avocado trees are definitely worth a little patience. Each tree is either type A or type B and needs to be pollinated from trees of the opposite type. Type A varieties are Hass, Pinkerton and Gwen. Type B varieties include Fuerte, Bacon and Zutano. Plant your trees six to nine metres apart with plenty of sunshine and well-draining, rich soil. 
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Cross-pollination increases yield and fruit quality.

Top tip: To attract more pollinators, plant lavender varieties, marigolds, and an assortment of seasonal herbs around your fruit tree beds. Allow your herbs to come to flower for max honeybee power! 

Green beginnings

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The garden is your canvas this time of year, and you are invited to become a landscaping artist! No matter what size your garden, patio, or balcony is, there’s a blushing flush of colour and texture to play with. Let the plants be your paint and create a space that inspires you this spring. 

 

What’s potting?

Warm-season bulbs like tuberous begonias, dahlias, and amaryllis can be planted now for a vibrant summer spectacle, lasting until the start of next winter.

For sizzling summer bedding colour, plant masses of petunias, dianthus, gazanias, and Zantedeschia hybrids now. All of these plants are sun-loving and will quickly thrive with a dose of plant food. Visit your Garden Centre for advice on which products to use.

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Trending now: Ornamental grass

Take your garden artistry to the next level with pebbles and semi-precious stones as yard art. Get creative with stone arrangements and ornamental grasses that are water-wise and low-maintenance. 

Pair pure white pebbles with contrasting black tiles or black-painted pavement slabs to give walkways and entrances a sleek look. Plant summer-flowering, white button sedge (Kylinga alba) to set off the contrast. This indigenous ornamental grass is sun-loving and evergreen, producing a clustered white flower head that is carried on an elegant, long slender stem.

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You can also purchase bags of pink rose quartz to use as centrepiece stone mandalas or walkable labyrinths. Plant some local steekblaarblinkgras (Melinis nerviglumis) to compliment the pink notes from the rose quartz. This very hardy ornamental grass will thrive in full sun, producing the sweetest plumes of fluffy pink to red seeds that appear all year round and attract seed-eating birds.

Top tip: The key to long-term pebble arrangement success and almost no maintenance is good quality weed guard sheeting beneath your stone feature. 

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Edibles are everything

September is the time to sow all your tasty summer salad ingredients.

Medusoid Euphorbias We love succulents

Medusoid Euphorbias

Medusoid Euphorbias 

The plant genus Euphorbia is truly exciting and unique. The Medusoid Euphorbias group in particular boasts some of the most intriguing varieties with striking snake-like arms for branches, resembling the head of Medusa. Unlike the legends of this Gorgon from Greek mythology, this succulent is unlikely to turn you to stone and more likely to turn heads in awe!

Getting to know your Medusoid Euphorbias

Grow guide: Native to South Africa, these daredevils thrive in a wide range of habitats. Grow them in beds or containers with exceptionally well-draining soil in a spot that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. They will enjoy a bit of afternoon shade in hotter climates as extreme heat may stress plants. 

Claim to fame: Medusoid Euphorbias are drought-tolerant and will reward the garden with exotic-looking charm. These plants are generally low maintenance with once-a-week watering to keep their greyish-green snakes happy.

In the garden: Plant your Medusa heads in containers and hanging baskets where they are able to show off all their sprawling tentacles in full glory. Feed them monthly during spring and summer with a water-soluble fertiliser.

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Pest patrol: Watch out for mealybugs and spider mites and treat with appropriate products available at your garden centre. Always ensure the plant is not crowded and has good air circulation to prevent powdery mildew.

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medusoid euphorbias, greenery, green living, succulent, life is a garden, spring, water warrior

Fun fact: According to Greek mythology, Medusa was once a beautiful sea nymph who fell in love with Poseidon (the God of the sea).  Athena, known as one of the Greek goddesses, then cursed Medusa with a head of snakes and a fatal gaze. 

Top tip: Your Medusoid Euphorbias will go into two main dormancy periods during the depths of winter and the peak of summer. Cut back on watering during this time to avoid root rot.

Dissecting Flowers Experiment

Besides adding beauty and colour to the garden, flowers play an essential role in our ecosystem; they feed our pollinators who in turn feed us. In fact, our bees help produce one-third of all the food on Earth! It’s safe to say that behind every successful crop is a good flower, so let’s get the kids up and close and personal with Mother Nature’s gems. Check out this DIY flower dissection experiment that teaches kids about plant anatomy, the importance of flowers, and gives them a blossoming good reason to enjoy the September sun. 

 

Blooming benefits

Flowers are so much more than just pretty faces. They help maintain your garden’s delicate biome balance and bring in all sorts of benefits that enrich other plants, while also sustaining the friendly creatures that live there. 

  • Critter food: The pollen and nectar produced by flowers feed birds, bees, butterflies, and other essential insects. With full tummies, these handy helpers pollinate our crops in return as well as help to spread seeds. 
  • Human food: Bees also use pollen to make honey, and what would the world be without this sweet delicacy! Also, flowers from edible plants indicate that the fruit or veg is on its way and can also be cooked in a stew or added to salads. 
  • Pest control: Having a variety of flowers is the easiest way to combat pests in the garden. They attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs, wasps, prey mantises and many more, who feast on all the aphids and lice that damage the garden. 
  • Reproduction: The flower is the reproductive organ of a plant. Seeds are produced in flowers, which mean that more of that plant will grow. In the case of edibles, flowers are essential as this is where our food comes from. 

Did you know? The Archaefructus Sinensis, known also as the Mother of All Flowers, is believed to be the world’s oldest flower.

Flamboyant Vygies We love succulents

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Vygies (Mesembryanthemums) are a South African favourite and one of our boldest, brightest, and most versatile species of flowers. With more than 1800 varieties to suit your colour and style preference, there is a vygie for every garden and container in need of some sparkling colour.

Grow guide: Plant them in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Vygies are super forgiving and not high maintenance at all. They will flourish in almost all soil conditions, but if you want to boost their growth, add a handful of compost and fertiliser when transplanting them from seedling trays. 

Claim to fame: Vygies are water-wise and well-adapted so our SA climate. Beginner gardeners should have no problem growing a successful carpet of colour or vibrant hanging basket. In addition, vygies can also be planted during any time of the year.

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In the garden: Wish so many stunning forms of this plant, go for Drosanthemum, Delosperma and Lampranthus species that are small, shrub-like and ground covering plants. You could also try mat-forming varieties that grow well in Cape gardens such as the white and pink coastal vygie (Delosperma litorale), the yellow carpet vygie (Jordaaniella dubia), and the magenta coastal ruschia (Ruschia macowanii).

Pest patrol: Vygies are not prone to disease but be on the lookout for your usual succulent-munching insects and scale in particular. Both biological and chemical pest control solutions are available at your garden centre.

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Fun fact: The word vygie is Afrikaans for small fig.  

Winter winners: The Bokbaai vygie (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis) and yellow-bloomed vetkousie (Carpanthea pomeridiana ‘Golda’) will be in full bloom from August. 

Try these: Lampranthus spp. and ice plants (Drosanthemum spp.) are densely flowered, highly colourful vygies. Delosperma spp. live much longer but don’t flower as profusely.

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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.

SANA GCA Awards 2023 Winners

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SANA GCA Awards 2023

The South African Nursery Association (SANA) held the annual Garden Centre awards conference on the 8th of June at the Indaba Hotel in Johannesburg. The prestigious black-tie event is fondly referred to as the Oscars for gardening and is a very exciting time for the horticultural industry.  Several outstanding Garden Centres received awards to honour their significant contribution to the green trade.

Here are your winners for 2023:

 

Independent Garden Centre

2nd Runner Up

Eckards Garden Pavilion

Water Wise Winner

Concrete & Garden Creations

Home Stores

2nd Runner up

Builders Express Northmead

All of these award-wining Garden Centres and Home Stores can be found on Life is a Garden’s website via the nation-wide store locator directory.

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Lavish lavender DIY

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In the spirit of this month’s sleek minimalism topic, Life is a Garden brings you a lavish lavender DIY that’ll fit right in with a more is less approach to gardening.  These stunning Lavandula varieties are perfect for adding colour to big beds and containers on the patio, plus – they are low-maintenance, water-wise, and attract a host of beneficial pollinators.

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Top plant picks

1. Lavandula angustifolia: compact and bushy with small, grey-green leaves and long flower spikes in deep purple.

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2. Lavandula dentata (toothed lavender): spreading habit, bushy shrubs with scalloped foliage, which are either dark green or grey depending on the variety. Fragrant, purple-blue flowers.

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3. Lavandula x intermedia (English lavender): a vigorous hybrid with a spreading growth habit and aromatic grey-green leaves. Tall flower spikes covered in small mauve flowers.

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4. Lavandula stoechas (French lavender): numerous hybrids available of this compact bushy shrub with slender green leaves. Short spikes of purple or pink flowers topped with two colourful bracts looking like rabbit ears.

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How to keep it simple

  • Entrances and walkways: Replace many small stepping stones with large square slabs. Fill the remaining area with either black gravel for a dramatic feel or white pebbles for a clean look. Choose one lavender variety to be repeatedly planted alongside the walkway. Remember to space them evenly and keep plants neatly groomed. 
  • Containers on the patio: Carefully consider your colour scheme and think about how to bring in subtle purple accents through your garden furniture, window frames, and table accessories. Having three colours at most, complimented by other neutral colours, will create a minimalistic look. Container colours and texture are essential, so go for fewer and larger containers rather than multiple coloured ones.
  • Beds: Repetition of the same one or two plants is key when designing a minimalist bed, as well as the bed shape.

Take our quiz and win R1k in Garden Centre Vouchers SANA Consumer Insights

Life is a Garden is the marketing branch of The South African Nursery Association (SANA) mother tree. SANA is a member-driven, non-profit organisation that spreads the love and benefits of gardening to all South Africans.

Together, we inspire and educate SA’s gardeners through content that promotes wildlife sustainability, easy food growing, indigenous beauty, and activities to engage the future generation of green fingers. To strive in creating and providing you with the right content and product offering please take a few minutes to answer our short survey and you could WIN R1000 prize in GCA (Garden Centre Association) vouchers!

Click on the link HERE to complete the Survey!

Find your local Garden Centre HERE!

Competition Rules

Date: May 2023

Who are we: The SANA Life is a Garden Consumer Market Insight Competition (referred to in these terms and conditions as the “competition”) is offered to you by SANA with company registration number 031 316 NPO and telephone number 082 780 7628. Our principal place of business is 3 Falcon Lane, Lanseria, South Africa. SANA is the company that in these Rules is called “we” or “us”.

The law: This competition shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of section 36 read with Regulation 11 of the Consumer Protection Act No. 68 of 2008.

Who can enter: Entrants must be over 18 years at the date of entry to participate in the competition. Entry into the competition is restricted to the survey link.

Exclusion: directors, members, partners, employees, agents of, or consultants to SANA, Life Is A Garden and/or its subsidiaries including their retailers, members, promotional partners and printers, their advertising and promotional agencies, suppliers of goods or services in connection with this competition or any other person who directly or indirectly controls or is controlled by SANA and Life Is A Garden, or marketing service providers in respect of this competition, or any of the aforementioned persons' immediate family, including spouses, life partners, parents, children and siblings, business partners, or associates of a director, employee or agent of, a consultant to the Promoter are not eligible to participate or enter this competition.

Essential oils for beginners Botanical Boss

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If you’re looking to take your homegrown pharmacy to the next level, essential oil making opens a whole new, exciting gardening doorway. Like all new adventures, trial and error is what learning is all about, so don’t be afraid to try something new. Life is a Garden, with help from industry experts at  Amorentia Estate & Nursery have provided an epic beginners guide to essential oil gardening for the whole family to benefit from. 

 

Get started: Choose a carrier oil

When using essential oils, it is important to dilute them with a carrier oil such as jojoba, rosehip, baobab, marula, almond, or coconut oil before applying to the skin. It is also recommended to do a patch test on a small area of skin before using a new essential oil to check for any allergic reactions. Essential oils are used in low doses because they are extremely potent, and safety should also be researched for medical conditions as well as pregnancy and breastfeeding. There are many other applications for essential oils like candle burners, room sprays, steaming, and bathing.Lauren Strever

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Get growing: Top plant picks

1. Rosemary is one of those mighty medicinal powerhouses! This plant helps to alleviate muscle pain, improve memory, boost the immune and circulatory system, promote hair growth, act as an antifungal, antibacterial, and antispasmodic. When inhaled, rosemary is effective against respiratory infections because of its antiseptic properties.

2. Lavender is well-known for its calming and relaxing properties. These plants have been used for centuries to help to reduce stress and anxiety, promote restful sleep, soothe headaches, and even keep bad vibes away. It is also a great anti-inflammatory, insect-repellent, antifungal, and remedy for a huge variety of skin ailments.

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3. Cape jasmin (Gardenia augusta) is known in perfumery to be one of the most well-balanced oils and can be used as a top, middle, or base note.

Top 3 flu busters from the garden

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Your homegrown pharmacy would not be complete without these must-have mutis. Enjoy an outing to one of Life is a Garden’s award-winning nurseries to garb these seeds and seedlings, as well as all your gardening essentials. 

 

1. Peppermint steam

Harvest a handful of peppermint leaves and then place them in a large pot of boiled water. Cover your face and chest with a towel and then inhale the steam from the pot. You could also add other mint varieties (spearmint, apple mint, pineapple mint) to the steam pot. This home remedy is great for clearing sinuses and phlegm. After steaming, chew nasturtium leaves to soothe a sore throat.

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2. Honey and onion syrup

Finely chop an onion and then place the pieces in a glass saucer. Add plenty of quality honey to the saucer, fully covering the onion. Take 1 tablespoon 3 times a day to treat the common cold. For body pains, add 1 spoon of organic turmeric to the mix to decrease inflammation. 

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3. Tonic tea

Steep some harvested ginger, mint, and lemon with a few bags of rooibos tea leaves in warm (not boiling) water (you want to extract the goodness not burn the plants). Allow the tonic to strengthen for at least an hour then pour half a cup full into a mug. Add some honey and drink for respiratory congestion. Keep refreshing the herbs and strengthening your tonic for as long as needed.

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Did you know?

Many weeds are also medicinal! Try these top picks and remember to do your research on how to best use them and in what quantities. 

  • Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale
  • Stinging nettle (Urtica urens)
  • Chickweed (Stellaria media)
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  • Wild garlic (Tulbachia violacea)
  • Wild sorrel (Oxalis pescaprae)

 

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Special thanks to our industry experts at Sought After Seedlings for these mighty medicinal plants and recipes.