Posts Tagged ‘ Plants ’

DIY Father’s Day Pallet Tool Hanger A gift for father's day

Posted on: May 11th, 2021 by Cassidy No Comments

This month we’re celebrating all dads and father figures in our lives. Get the family involved with this practical, thoughtful, and fun DIY project. Give dad a hand and let’s get those tools sorted, in true gardener style. Who knows, this DIY may as well give poppa that little boost he needs to get his handy-man on and complete those outstanding projects! #Weloveyoudad

You will need:
  • A pallet
  • Paint or wood varnish and brush
  • A drill
  • Wood hooks (to hang pots)
  • Bucket-style pots with handles (make sure that your wood hooks are large enough to support the pots and fit the pot handle size)
  • Pot plants (choose non-creeping/climbing plants and go for an upright beauty instead)
  • Potting soil from your GCA Garden Centre
  • U-type double hook tool hangers and matching screws. Choose hooks that are coated with plastic/rubber to protect dad’s tools from scratches (available at hardware stores).

Top tip: Your GCA Garden Centre has a variety of bucket-style pots and baskets to choose from, and of course, a glorious selection of pot-perfect plants. Take the kids along for a fun family outing!

Plant picks: If you have a sunny spot in mind, choose Succulents and cacti as no-fuss greenery that will thrive off a little neglect (they look super rugged too!). Visit your GCA Garden Centre to discover what other semi-shade and full shade plants are available now.

 

Go-go MacGyver:
  1. Give your pallet a coat of paint or wood varnish in the colour of your choice. Encourage kids to paint some pictures for dad or little messages on the panels.
  2. Decide where you would like to hang your pots and look at what kind of tools dad uses the most. We recommend a line of 4 hanging pots along the second panel, leaving space for larger tools to hang below.
  3. Drill 4 holes, evenly spaced, across your panel. Choose a drill bit that is slightly smaller in diameter than the wood hooks so that you can twist your hooks into the drilled holes by hand.
  4. Twist the wood hooks into the ready-drilled holes.
  5. Half-fill your pots with nutritious potting soil. Transplant your new babies into the pots and give them a good watering. Let them drain completely.
  6. Hang your plants on the hooks by the handle-end of the pot.
  7. Now it’s time to gather dad’s most used tools and pop ‘em on the panels. Drill holes for the fancy U-type double hook tool hangers and fasten them using screws. Placement of the hooks will depend on the size of the tools you are planning to hang. Give it some thought and arrange the hooks to best suit dad’s handy-man essentials.

Top tip: Use the open compartments of the panels for dad to store other hardware accessories and perhaps a couple of beers too. You may even want to line the insides of the panels with a plastic material for easy cleaning and grab-and-go convenience.

This DIY is perfect as a heartfelt gift to any person in your life that’s your go-to MacGyver. Enjoy helping dad out this Father’s Day and show him that you support all of his hard work around the house. Thanks for all the lightbulb changes, picture hanging, shelf-assembling, and those much-loved dad-jokes!

June in the Garden Checklist for the outdoor artist Gardening Checklist

Posted on: May 10th, 2021 by Cassidy No Comments

Consider the June garden as an inviting blank canvas, welcoming you to paint with a rainbow of winter blooms. For your cool-season muse, Life is a Garden has gathered a few vibrant beauts to plant-paint with, as well as some artsy edibles to inspire your soups. Learn how to defend your plant babies against black frost and enjoy our handy maintenance tips. Embrace the cold and plant on!

 

Chilled thrills in the Western Cape
  • Have faith in your fynbos and head over to your GCA Garden Centre to checkout new protea hybrids and visit some old faves too. Leucospermums (pincushions) and leucadendrons are stunning choices you can go bos with in the garden. Remember, proteas grow in pots too!
  • Aunt Gale’s wind is always around the corner so make sure all ties and stakes supporting young trees and roses are super secure. You may also want to check your garden furniture and make sure that nothing will end up in your neighbour’s yard.
  • Avoiding flooding at home by clearing drains and gutters of old plant material.
  • Begin winter pruning on vines, peach, plum, and apricot trees. Visit your GCA Garden Centre for products to spray on dormant trees after pruning.
Sow flowers from Wonderland
  • Pansies and Violas: These annuals are perfect to plant as borders and edgings, in window boxes and containers. Position them where they receive full sun in winter but partial shade in spring and early summer, to give them a longer lifespan. They like fertile, composted soil with good drainage and regular watering.
  • Snapdragons: These short-lived, yet super-cute perennials are ideal in mixed border gardens, flower boxes, and as potted patio décor. Bright snapdragon flowers will bloom profusely all winter long in full sun to partial shade. Begin germinating seeds indoors and when they’re ready, pop them into nutrient-rich soil that drains well.

Blooming muses to plant: Primula, primrose, calendula, stocks, gazania, poppy, bellis, alyssum, conifers, hellebores, narcissi, Camellia, Erica, pincushion, and ornamental grasses.

Triumphant cold troupers to plant: Abelias, Elaeagnus pungens ‘Variegata’, Pittosporum tobira, P. tenuifolium, rosemary, confetti bushes, Melaleuca bracteata ‘Johannesburg Gold’, and holly.

Artsy-potsy plant pick: Lewisia is one tough babe and will handle pretty much everything winter has to throw at her. She likes sun or partial shade, good drainage, but not the richest of soil. Water her moderately and deadhead spent blooms. She’ll reward you with gorgeous rosettes, slender stalks, and pastel-pink flowers for patio pots and just about everywhere else really!

 

Pruning particulars
  • If you live in a frost-free area you can begin pruning roses in June.
  • Very chilly and frost-prone areas should wait until the 2nd week of July.
  • Everyone can prune and cut back deciduous trees, conifers, vines, peach, plum, and apricot trees now.

Black Frost se voet

  • What is it: Black frost happens when humidity is too low for frost to form, but the temperature drops so low that plant tissues freeze and die, becoming blackened.
  • Where it affects: The leaves of plants are the most affected. Avoid pruning the burnt leaves as they will continue to protect the plant in case of another freeze invasion.
  • How to protect: You can protect plants even more by using raised beds, mulching up (a lot), covering growing trees at night, and changing to mid-morning watering to allow all water to evaporate before evening temperatures drop.
  • What to do: Once a plant has succumbed to the black frost horseman, do not prune or feed it, simply send it love – this too shall pass. Once the temperature increases, some plants will shed dead leaves on their own, while others that have died back will begin to regrow.

Inspirational edibles to plant: Rocket, cabbage (red and baby), horseradish, asparagus, global artichokes and rhubarb, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, beetroot, turnips, Brussel sprouts, oriental vegetables, celery, parsley, peas, and leeks. Pop into your fave GCA Garden Centre and see which seedlings are available.

Homegrown’s to harvest: Citrus and avocados (finally), leeks, Brussel sprouts (from the bottom upwards), carrots, parsnips, and cabbages.

Mulch-up your canvas: Mulch the entire garden with lovely autumn leaves to protect plants from the cold and assist in water retention in dry areas. Cape gardeners, get on top of those rain-loving winter weeds with max mulch power.

DIY African Mamma Planter A gift for mothers day

Posted on: April 12th, 2021 by Cassidy No Comments

Here's the perfect gift for the eco-mom this Mother's Day! Give like a gardener with this stunning DIY planter made from an empty bottle, some South African flavour, a cute creeper, and a splash of creativity. Whether the mom in your life is an auntie, sister, cousin, or guardian – this home-made act of gratitude is sure to show them just how much you adore their presence in your life.

You will need:
  • A clean, empty 2l milk/juice carton (remove any labels and glue, keep the lid).
  • Waterproof paint.
  • A permanent marker.
  • Knife or scissors.
  • An African-inspired cloth for the kopdoek/headband (larger piece) and neck (small piece).
  • Rope for hanging.
  • Potting soil (available at your GCA Garden Centre).
  • A cute creeper (as hair) from your GCA Garden Centre. Go for a fun outing and check out which creepers are in season now.

Plant picks: Pilea glauca bowl, String of beads, Philodendron selloum and other Philodendron varieties, Guzmania varieties, Spider plant, and Pathos.

Making your Mamma
  • Turn your carton upside down and conceptualise: the opening serves as the neck of your character, the handle becomes the nose, and the bottom end becomes the top of her head where the plant will go.
  • Cut off the “head” quarter of the carton (not the lid end).
  • Cut a few drainage holes/slits in the lid cap of your carton (her neck). Cut holes for the rope from which to hang your planter and then thread it through.
  • Paint or draw on her lips above the neck, create her eyebrows just above the ending of the nose, and then her eyes, either opened or closed with luscious lashes, of course! You can play with the facial features of your mamma – perhaps add a nose ring or earnings, a little blush or eyeshadow. You could even make an African pappa or a few kids to accompany her.
  • Carefully fill your container halfway with nutritious potting soil. Make sure the lid is on!
  • Pop in your cute creeper as the hair for your mamma. Add more potting soil and tuck your new baby in.
  • With your gorgeous larger cloth in hand, consult tannie Google on how to wrap a traditional kopdoek. Alternatively, you could go for a bandanna or headband style too. Arrange the leaves of your creeper as desired to give her that wild and untamed look.
  • Using the smaller cloth, cover her neck and the lid.
  • Water her up!
  • You can either hang your creation with rope, or use her as table décor, allowing her hair to hang off an end.
  • Remember to check what light conditions your creeper needs to choose the best spot for her to flourish.

Enjoy warming your mom's heart this Mother's Day with a daily reminder of your appreciation. Put your gardening passion and upcycling creativity to work!

Throwing shade at the sun Shade gardening

Posted on: March 10th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Wild iris (Dietes grandiflora).

Gone are the days when shady means barren! This month, Life is a Garden is shedding light on darker spaces with a little shade-spiration to bring all areas of the garden to life. There are many flower varieties, shrubs, creepers, and even veggies that will flourish in every type of shade. Let’s begin by understanding the different degrees of shade and how these conditions affect the surrounding soil and plants that can grow there.

 

Full shade

An area that receives no direct sunlight at all is called full shade, known also as deep shade. Underneath a canopy of large evergreen trees or next to tall buildings or high walls is where you’ll typically find full shade and often barren spaces. The soil in such areas can be classified into these two groups below:

 

  • Full shade with wet soil

In these deep shade areas, moisture drainage is poor and the soil appears constantly soggy, boggy, and swampy. Try adding coarse compost mixed with gritty river sand to improve the drainage and quality of the soil in these areas.

Plant picks: Hen and chickens (Chlorophytum comosum), holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum), and forest bell bush(Mackaya bella).

 

  • Full shade with dry soil

Some areas with full shade have dry soil owing to the growth of the trees that once allowed some sunlight in, but have now grown to completely block out direct sunlight. Enrich these areas by loosening the soil, adding nutritious compost, and covering with mulch to assist in retaining moisture.

Plant picks: Bush lily (Clivia miniata), agapanthus, and wild iris (Dietes grandiflora).

Hen and chickens (Chlorophytum comosum)
Forest bell bush (Mackaya bella).
Bush lily (Clivia miniata)
Dappled shade

Also known as filtered shade, this happens as sunlight filters through openings in tree branches throughout the day, shifting the pattern of sunlight trickling in. In these areas, it’s best to plant in accordance with the trees natural growth and shedding phases. In other words, choose plants that flower during the leafless stages of surrounding trees.

Plant picks: Spring flowering bulbs like daffodils (Narcissus), Lachenalia bulbifera, and freesias.

 

*Seasonal tip: Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to discover gorgeous shady babies for cool-season planting and sowing. Checkout what seed trays are available to jumpstart your growing adventure. Keep some new arrivals in their pots to assess how they fair in your chosen area before transplanting.

 

Semi-shade

This refers to an area that receives some sun and some shade throughout the day, as shadows are cast on different parts of the garden. Semi-shade plants tend to do better with morning sun, rather than harsh midday or afternoon sun that may scorch leaves. Keep these areas healthy with good compost and generous mulching to retain soil moisture.

Plant picks: Fuchsia, evergreen azalea (Rhododendron indicum), rhubarb, chives, celery, and even carrots.

Daffodils (Narcissus)
Lachenalia bulbifera
evergreen azalea (Rhododendron indicum)
Rhubarb

There is a plant for every shady part of the garden and even some veggies and herbs that can tolerate semi-shade. Remember to visit your GCA Garden Centre to inquire about different shrubs, ferns, and flowers to best suit the area you would like to see flourish. Garden Centre experts are also able to advise which edibles will work well in your desired space. Life is a Garden, even in the shade, so let’s get every bed and pot shining in the absence of sunlight. A gardener maak ‘n plan, or something like that!

How leaves change colour – an experiment for kids

Posted on: March 10th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
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.
  4. Use a spoon and continue mixing the leaves inside your jar until the surgical spirits changes colour.
  5. Using a coffee filter, make a cone and then place the pointed tip down into the smooshed leaf/surgical spirits mixture. Make sure the tip of the cone rests inside the mixture.
  6. Let the jars chill for about a day, checking up to see magical Mother Nature and science at work!
  7. Children will see, with their very own eyes, in real life mom and dad, how the colours of the leaves begin to separate and travel up the coffee filter. Observe the absence of chlorophyll in all its glorious hues!

Enjoy this investigative, hands-on experiment with your young ones. Let’s continue our quest to inspire and educate the new generation of gardeners. After all, our Life is a Garden, and we want our kids to have one too! Don’t forget to visit your GCA Garden Centre for new autumn babies to plant and sow, for pots, beds, and baskets.

Ravishing Radish DIY for Kids Growing radish in 25 days

Posted on: February 16th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Radish

With Easter just around the corner, get the kids excited and outdoors with this DIY Ravishing Radish growing project. Did you know? Radishes are ready to harvest in only 25 days! Making them the perfect hiding spot for those secret treats and treasure quests. Radishes are also loaded with fabulous vits and mins. When transformed into candy radish apples, they become the perfectly disguised veggie sweetie.

 

Planting Radishes
  • Prepare a loose, nutrient-rich soil bed for the babies in a sunny spot. Veggie compost is available at your GCA Garden Centre, where you can also purchase radish seeds.
  • Sow the seeds directly into your beds by popping a seed on your finger, then gently pressing it down into the soil about half a cm deep. Cover the small holes by sprinkling soil over the top.
  • Water lightly once sowed and continue to water daily. Make sure your soil doesn’t dry out completely, but doesn’t stay muddy either.
  • After just 3 weeks, you can check the progress of your radishes by unearthing some of the top soil to see the gorgeous bulb.

Top tip: Pull younger radishes for crisp roots and a milder flavour. After 20 days, pull one out and test it for yourself. Radishes left in the ground too long will be very hot and pithy in taste.

Grow radish in 25 days
Growing radish in 25 days
Growing radish in 25 days
Growing radish in 25 days

Candy Radish Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 12 washed and dried radishes
  • 12 long skewer sticks
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • Half a cup of light corn syrup
  • 1 cup of water
  • Half a teaspoon of red food colouring
  • A sheet of baking paper

 

Method:

  • Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.
  • Bring it to a boil and cook the mixture until it reaches 150°C (the hard crack stage).
  • Remove the candy mixture from the heat and carefully stir in the red food colouring.
  • One by one, dip the radishes into the candy mixture, swirling to coat them thoroughly and allowing any excess to drip back into the pan.
  • Transfer the coated apples to the baking sheet and allow to cool until the candy has fully hardened.

*Top tip: Pick young radishes for a mild zing that will complement the sweet candy coating nicely. Small radishes can also be made into sweet-zesty candied lollies on a stick.

Candied Radish Recipe

Enjoy sowing ravishing radishes, reinventing the candy apple, and Easter treasure hunts in the garden! Radishes are a great snack for the Easter Bunny and make super hiding spots for chocolate eggs. This DIY is a great opportunity to show kids that having green fingers is cool and sweet. Pulling their own radishes from the ground offers an exciting reward to the young gardener, who will certainly be telling the family that THEY did it all on their own – how awesome!

When plants eat insects, where do they go? A carnivorous plant dissection experiment for kids. When Love Bites

Posted on: January 14th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Do plants have stomachs and teeth? How are they able to catch prey like other carnivores if they can’t run? And when they catch insects, where do they go? These are mind-baffling questions indeed and certainly worthy of a little hands-on investigation! Scientists, biologists, and creepy-crawler lovers, are you ready to find out what happens when love bites this February? Eeeeew!

Did you know?

Carnivorous plants, also known as insectivorous plants, are those which get their nutrition by catching and digesting insects. How cool is that? Carnivory in plants is owing to centuries of evolution, driven by pure instinct to survive in areas with nitrogen-poor soil. There are over 600 known species of insectivorous plants around the world, time to get yours!

The deadliest devils

Here are a few carnivorous contenders that will make the perfect dissection specimen.

  1. Sundew: These bad boys exude a sticky substance that attracts and then traps insects and other small prey. Their meal is quickly swallowed by a web of tiny tentacles and digested by enzymes within the plant stems and leaves.
  2. Venus Fly Trap: One of the most popular meat-eaters with trigger-sensitive, dangerous jaws! They use sweet nectar to attract their prey and then with interlocking teeth, trap their victims. Digestive enzymes get to work as the plant absorbs a lovely nutritious soup.
  3. American Trumpet Pitcher: This cleaver funnel-like plant hunts using a pit-fall trap. Insects are attracted by a nectar-like secretion on the top of the leaves. Unlucky for them, the nectar is poisonous, sending their intoxicated bodies tumbling down the funnel.
  4. Tropical Pitcher Plant: Similar to the beastie above but more sack-like in appearance. They too attract insects using sweet intoxicating nectar. Prey slip on the rims of the plant, falling into a pool of death and soon drowning inside a sticky acidic liquid. The horror!
Sundew, carnivorous plant, kids diy, school experiment
sundew, carnivore plant, diy, experiment
Venus fly trap, carnivourous plant, diy, experiment
Venus fly trap, carnivorous plant, dissecting
American Trumpet Pitcher, carnivorous plants, dissecting, experiment
American Trumpet Pitcher, dissecting carnivorous plants
Topical pitcher plant, dissecting carnivorous plants
Tropical pitcher plant, dissecting carnivorous plants

Experiment essentials:

  • A carnivorous plant
  • Crickets or similar small insects and a container to catch them in
  • Scissors
  • A sharp knife
  • Magnifying glass
What you need, experiment, dissecting carnivorous plants
Insects, dissecting carnivorous plants

The dissection process:

  • Approach your plant with caution, bringing your prey as a peace offering. Know what method your plant uses to hunt and eat so that you can position your insect in the right place.
  • Once you can see that your plant has taken the bait, give it about an hour and then, off with its head!
  • Cut the plant close to the base using a pair of scissors.
  • Use your knife to make a sleek slit down the plant, from leaf/flower top to the bottom of the stem. Open it up gently with your fingers.
  • Grab your magnifying glass and check out that exco-skeleton! You should be able to see the insect remains nicely (and a few other unfortunates down there too).

A meaty-must-know: Make sure you know how your deadly devil likes their soil so that you can home them for good and keep adding to the collection. They flourish in “poor” moist soil with some acidity that activates their instinct to source nitrogen from insects.

Insect, life is a garden , dissecting carnivorous plants
Dissecting carnivorous plants, experiment
Dissecting carnivorous plants, experiment
Dissecting carnivorous plants, experiment
Dissecting carnivorous plants, experiment
Dissecting carnivorous plants

This experiment is loaded with opportunities for exploration, discovery, and independent learning for the hungry young mind. Inspire your child to get in the garden and show them how awesome the natural world can be. Caring for a carnivorous plant is like having an exotic pet and requires much more attention than your average pot plant. Investing in one of these for the kids is a fantastic long-term project with countless “oh my word, it just ate a… coooool!”. #TeamGreenIsWinning

Carnivore plants, dissecting

There’s a garden on my stoep!

Posted on: December 22nd, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Patio Gardening

Be bold and go bedless! Perfect your potting skills and never leave your patio without plants again. Here’s how you can easily bring the garden to your stoep with creative containers, vertical planters, colour wheel play, and a few bloomingly beautiful flowers. Life is a Garden, even on your balcony!

Creative containers

Using different sized and shaped containers add height and variety to the space, while also giving you an opportunity to experiment with different styles. Try using cute teapots or gumboots as planters to add a little character and fun to your space. You could even upcycle cans to use as pots and decorate as desired to suit your existing décor.

Top tip

Ensure your planting containers have good drainage to avoid root rot.

Let it all hang out

Utilising 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. Vines cascading down a pillar is a fresh break in between bricks and concrete. Your local GCA Garden Centre has a variety of hanging baskets waiting for you!

Patio Gardening
Upcycle can planter
Flower pots
Hanging Baskets
Bloomingly good

Add life to your patio paradise by planting gorgeous, blossoming blooms. A couple of flower pots neatly arranged along the lonely stoep wall or outdoor windowsill makes all the difference. 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.

Fancy 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.

Flower pots
Thriller, Filler & Spiller

Who’s lus for strawberries and cream?

Grow your own reminder of the sweeter things in life and play with the colour wheel in your pots. Incorporate a delicious variety of deep reds and indulgent cream hues to create your own sweet escape in a container. Using the trusty TFS planting method, here’s how to create your desert pot:

  1. Verbena: bright red Spiller
  2. Euphorbia: classic white Filler
  3. Petunia: red Filler
  4. Alstroemeria: creamy white Filler
  5. Dahlia: burgundy red Thriller
  6. Calibrachoa: yellow-white Spiller
Spiller verbena
Filler euphorbia
Filler petunia
filler alstroemeria
spiller dahlia
spiller calibrachoa
Fuchsia Bella, we adore you!

The Fuchsia Bella is simply stunning and makes for a picture-perfect pot plant. They grow as a compact, bushy, and deciduous shrub with ovate, toothed, dark green leaves. You can expect a sensational flower show throughout summer with blooms varying in shades of red, pink and purple. They enjoy sun to semi-shade and grow best in moist, fertile soil.

Vertical victories 

An empty wall is simply an invitation to bring it to life! All you need to do is to secure a few pots against the wall in a symmetrical grid style, leaving a little space between each pot (4 pots across by 4 pots down is a good start). Cascading ferns and creepers take care of the rest and will soon cover the wall or frame windows and doorways beautifully. Vertical planters bring the garden bed to you, are great space savers, and add a modern feel to the space.

 Plant picks

Black-Eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata) is an all-time favourite flowering vine. Climbing Snapdragons (Asarina) work well in vertical planters and living walls.

Hooray for herbs

Instead of just using bottled braai spice, imagine snipping some fresh garnish for your guests! Having herb pots around are rather handy for a little fancy flavour and is by far the most nutritious way to spice up your braai.

Fuchsia Bella
Vertical gardens
Black-eyed Susan
Herb planter

There are so many creative ways for you to get the patio in bloom and booming with life. You can still fulfil all your gardening cravings, despite the lack of traditional gardening beds. Day trip to your local GCA Garden Centre for flowers and containers and see where the adventure takes you. For more gardening trends and inspiration, visit Life is a Garden and explore your world!

Cooldown with white this summer African white Christmas

Posted on: November 30th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Gardeners worldwide know that white just goes with everything and beautifully enhances the colours of surrounding plants. Great English garden designer, Vita Sackville West, started the trend in 1930 when she planted a white border at her home at Sissinghurst Castle. The border still stands today and has inspired generations of gardeners. Essentially, gardens are all about colour - the flowers, foliage, walls, gates, pottery, furniture and even artwork. Gardens are like our very own sanctuaries and they enhance our quality of life as well as helping our homes look even better!

White flowers provide a sense of coolness and calm that temper the summer heat and also glow when you view them in the evening and at night. If you are using your patio or lapa after dark, make sure you add an abundance of white flowers and silver foliage plants nearby. This will enhance your summer outdoor entertainment area while also creating a gorgeous white Christmas feel.

Here are some tips on how you can use white in the garden to create a cool, calm, and collected feel:
  • Used as a border, white plants like Agapanthus or impatiens can make a small garden look larger or a pathway look wider.
  • Placing white flowering plants like verbena next to a plant that you want to stand out will make the colours of that plant pop!
  • Mixing white flowering plants with silver or grey foliage plants like lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantine) or dusty miller (Senecio cineraria) will create a very calm and soothing effect.
  • White-flowered plants are great when paired with green foliage plants.
  • White is also a good colour to use when you need to break up clashing colours in the garden, for example, white impatiens separating pink and orange impatiens. This allows the separate colours to stand out on their own.
  • Bands of white-flowered plants like alyssum can help guide the eye further into the garden.
Have fun with white by using any of the following plants which should be in flower at this time:
  • Verbena – a flat groundcover for a sunny bed or pot.
  • White alyssum – always a winner either as a border plant or cascading over pots, walls or hanging baskets.
  • Gardenias with beautiful strong fragrance - should be in bloom now.
  • White Argyranthemums or daisy bushes – the mainstay of most gardens.
  • Petunias – cascading and upright growing.
  • Bougainvillea ‘Apple Blossom’ - is a stunner with a touch of pink in it.
  • Annual vinca - is so rewarding.
  • Portulaca – waterwise and easy to grow.
  • Calibrachoa – these are proof that dynamite comes in small packages.
  • Pelargoniums – or geraniums are available in bush or trailing.
  • Poinsettias (creamy-white)- for that real Christmas spirit.
  • Pandorea ‘Lady Di’ which is a climber with white bell-shaped blooms.

Tip: Don’t forget the firm favourites like Iceberg roses that come with the bonus of a gentle fragrance.

Greenery Indoors

Posted on: June 25th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

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.

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May in the Garden Let’s revel in our African sunshine and plant some of our spectacular indigenous seeds and bulbs this season!

Posted on: April 30th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
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Hang in there gardeners! Your beloved, outdoor sanctuaries will soon be open.  While you wait for your post-pandemic indulgence at favourite GCA Garden Centre, let’s take this time to rejoice in this beautiful and envied continent of ours. May is Africa month with  African Day on the 25th of May. We will also celebrate World Bee Day on 20th May, and then the International Day for Biodiversity on May 22nd. Moms are also in the spotlight this month for Mother’s day on Sunday 10th May, and Life is a Garden highly recommends you spoil her with a little green treat.

With so many festivities, let’s revel in our African sunshine and plant some of our spectacular indigenous seeds and bulbs this season!

Ideas for Mother’s Day gifts from the garden

For kids of all ages: Moms love flowers, especially the hand-picked kind. If you have any of the following good cut-flowers blooming in your garden, they would be perfect as your Mother’s Day gift bouquet:

Tall flowering Dianthus, Carnations, Snapdragons, Larkspur, Alstroemeria or Sunflowers. If you don’t have these in the garden, you could always buy a few plants from your local GCA Garden Centre. The plants and their flowers will last for a long time - even till next year and then they’ll be ready for picking again.

Hot Tip: Pittosporum branches, leather leaf ferns, Aspidistra leaves and a variety of other plants, like those in Autumn berry, such as. the Pyracantha, can be added to your bunch of flowers too.

For the big kids and dads: Our indigenous wild banana plants (Strelitzia nicolai) are trendy additions to the new leafy-look, ideal in high light areas indoors, or as pretty patio plants. This plant is a stunner and even more so when planted in a lovely pot. Make sure mom stays modern and get her some wild bananas.

Hot tip: There are many beautiful orchids, cyclamen and other stunning plants available at your local GCA Garden Centre, just waiting to delight Mom this Mother’s Day.

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Life-is-agarden-mothers-day
Edibles

What would sausage and mash be without peas? Peas are also one of the few veggies that kids enjoy eating, especially when combined with corn. If you love peas, you will love fresh, home-grown peas even more. They are just so easy to grow from seed or seedling. Offer the climbing peas a variety of support to climb up, plant with a little compost, feed regularly, and hey presto, there you have your own home-grown peas.

Hot Tip: Peas are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, including vitamin C and vitamin E, and more.

 

What to Sow

Some of the best seeds that can still be sown are indigenous beauties, which honour our African heritage with a parade of colourful flowers. These are:

Gazanias, Livingstone daisies (Mesembryanthemum), Scabious africana (the indigenous cape scabious or pincushion), and Namaqualand daisies (also called African daisies).

May is also a good time to sow Calendulas. Their perky orange and yellow flowers are great in plant borders and their edible flowers also make them a winner in the herb and veggie garden.

The month of May is an ideal time to sow shade grass and cool season seeds. They can provide the following solutions and more:

  • Shade grass can be sown into your existing lawn during winter. This is called over-seeding, which helps your lawn look green and healthy in the winter. Sowing shade grass can also be used to fill patches in an existing lawn.
  • Several different shade lawns can be sown. These are often available as both coarse and fine leaf lawns, and some can even withstand tough wear, such as areas where dogs like to run. .
  • Evergreen lawn seed is available for planting as a new lawn too.
Plant African bulbs in Africa month

There are beautiful indigenous bulbs that rival the Ranunculus, Daffodils and Hyacinths, [M1] especially once you take the time to get to know them:

Sparaxis or harlequin flowers prefer well-drained, composted soil in the sun or partial shade. Striking flowers that are often marked with a contrasting colour in their centre are good cut-flowers. These plants do well in the garden but are also excellent container plants.

Tritonia, also called blazing stars, offer a lovely range of spring-flowering colours - from bright orange to salmon, cream and white, and are also great cut-flowers. Make sure that you plant them in very well-drained soil, positioned in the sun or in semi-shade.

Lachenalias have cheeky and brightly colourful hyacinth-like flowers. Most hybrids have sweetly scented flowers that start flowering in winter. Good drainage is essential, so add some sand to poorly drained soil to increase the drainage. Their flowers are also great in vases.

Hot Tip: Don’t complete your bulb shopping before you’ve purchased bulb food. Before you go, take peek at the following other indigenous bulbs that are really something special and worth looking at:

  • Babiana, or baboon flowers, are the cutest little plants with attractive hairy leaves and fragrant flowers.
  • Freesias, which are fragrant and colourful, are great in containers and are very pretty cut-flowers.
  • Ornithogalum, or chincherinchees, have attractive white or green-white fragrant flowers, which are exceedingly long-lasting cut-flowers.

Ixia’s star-shaped flowers produce a riot of colour in spring, flourishing in a sunny or semi-shaded bed or container, especially when mass planted

It’s time to plant in the cool season with the 4 P’s. P is for princess and poppies, pansies, petunias and primulas - the royalty of our winter and spring annuals, which are now available as seedlings at your local GCA Garden Centre:

  • Iceland poppies are just gorgeous and available in mostly mixed packs of pastel or brighter colours. They are easy to grow, good cut-flowers, and overall just WOW!
  • Pansies and their smaller cousins, violas (which have edible flowers), are world-wide favourites and available in striking colours and vivid combinations.
  • Petunias are available in an array of colours too. These mound-forming annuals can appear cascading, while others are bushy. We recommend watering according to the natural winter rainfall in that area. Be careful not to overwater petunias.
  • Primula malacoides, or fairy primulas, put on a superb show and are shade-loving favourites for the cool season.

 

Bedding besties

Hot Tip: Regularly remove spent blooms from winter annuals, especially Iceland poppies, pansies and violas, to encourage more flowers.

Hot Tip: Tie sweet peas to their supports and remove tendrils or side shoots to encourage the nutrients in the plant to be used on necessary growth, and later, flowering.

Pick/Prune

Clean up perennials by removing any brown or dead leaves. Remove flower stalks from the summer and autumn flowering ones. Mulch them up with a little compost and water regularly.

The following Summer flowering bulbs require a little TLC at this time of year:

  • Once withered, cut back the foliage of Canna hybrids to the ground. Cover them with coarse mulch or compost and water regularly.
  • Once the leaves on your Liliums have died back, cut them off and cover them with mulch or compost and water regularly.
  • If you are not lifting Dahlias, cut the withered leaves down to about 15cm above the ground.
What to Feed

Do you eat in winter? We sure hope so! And we hope that you remember your winter and spring-flowering bulbs and annuals need food too! After all, they’re growing furiously at this time of year and need a little extra nourishment. Use a fertilizer that is rich in potassium since this will not only promote flowering or fruiting, but also make the plants healthier and stronger against the cold, pests, and diseases. A selection of liquid and granular/pelleted fertilizers are available to choose from at your local GCA Garden Centre.

TIP: The annual stocks and larkspurs benefit from extra nitrogen for growing and flowering through winter. Ask your local GCA Garden Centre for advice on a liquid fertilizer that will do the trick over the next month or two.

Blooming African star

Have you planted water-loving starlet (Spiloxene aquatica) in your water-feature? If you have, you would notice that from May, this indigenous “star” is peppered with little white, twinkly star-like flowers with bright yellow centres. Its spiky dark green, needle-shaped leaves grow up to 30cm long, making it a dazzling plant for a sunny spot in the pond, or water-feature.

Tip: If you have limited outdoor space, any waterproof pot can be turned into an exciting water feature for the patio, balcony or garden.

Rose care

Rose blooms may be picked with long stems. If the plants are in full leaf, continue to adhere to a spraying programme where watering may be reduced. It is a good time to plant winter flowering annuals like pansies, poppies, or compact snapdragons, on the edges of rose beds.

Lift and divide

Hot Tip: If the following perennials have stopped flowering, now is a good time to split or divide them.

  • The obedience plant (Physostegia virginiana). It has eye-catching bright-lilac flowers, is easy to grow and has a resilient nature and ability to spread freely. These flowers are truly beautiful, long-lasting cut-flowers.
  • Japanese Anemones (Anemone japonica) have large, interesting leaves and gorgeous blooms.

Michaelmas daisies (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii formerly known as Aster novi-belgii, have fine foliage and tiny daisy flowers borne on long stems. They are great cut-flowers and available in a range of purples, pinks, and white.

Inland gardening

In frosty areas, it is best to water between 10 am and before 2 pm. If you keep the roots of roses and many other plants moist, they are able to withstand light frost much better than dry plants.

Jack Frost will soon surprise you in frosty regions, especially the very cold Free State areas, closely followed by the Highveld, so start protecting your susceptible plants with frost cover. Frost cover allows the light in, while protecting the plants at the same time. Ask for it at your local GCA Garden Centre.

Hot Tip: To add gorgeous Autumn colours to a medium or large garden, consider planting a Liquidamber (Liquidamber styraciflua), or some of the smaller Maples in modest gardens.

Coastal gardening

If you’re in the Cape, make the most of your abundant winter rainfall by harvesting water from the roof. Check and clean your gutters, which may be clogged up with leaves.

Hot Tip: In coastal and lowveld areas, feed granadillas with a nitrogen and potassium combination fertilizer. You can ask for advice at your local GCA Garden Centre.

For more gardening tips and information, visit Gardening trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

What’s POPPIN’? Poppin Purple Agapanthus

Posted on: February 25th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Poppin Purple Agapanthus

South Africans really do know how to bloom - literally in this case, as we take over the international stage with the world’s first evergreen, cold hardy, purple re-blooming Agapanthus.  Bred locally by Andy De Wet and Quinton Bean of De Wet Plant Breeders, the Poppin' Purple® var ‘MP003’ Agapanthus recently won BEST NEW PERENNIAL at the world's leading trade fair for horticulture, IPM ESSEN 2020!

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What's an Agapanthus?

Agapanthus is a popular South African plant, undoubtedly one of our indigenous botanical gems with its clusters of blue or white... and now POPPIN’ PURPLE flowers.  Agapanthus fill so many gardens and are so much part of our South African landscape that we take for granted just how spectacular they really are.

South African Blossoms

The beauty of our country's unique and striking flora, teamed with the creativity, passion and scientific attention to detail of Andy and Quinton, widely regarded as the best ornamental plant breeders in South Africa, ensured that South Africa blossomed on the global stage with this accolade, beating a total of 60 submissions from the biggest and best plant breeding nurseries world-wide.

Our local legends, Andy and Quinton from CND Nursery, The Aloe Farm and De Wet Plant Breeders, are well-known for their new hybrid plants including other award-winning Agapanthus such as Fireworks and Twister.  Fireworks has recently been awarded a place in four major international competitions, including 3rd place for New Plant of the Year at the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show and Best in Show at the HTA National Plant Show U.K. 2019.

A Royal addition to our Planet

Purple flowers represent dignity, pride and success, and that's exactly what the Poppin’ Purple agapanthus has brought to our country.

The flowers of Poppin' Purple are a striking shade of purple and plentiful in quantity, making this a stunning yet sustainable feature in any garden, terrace or balcony.  Poppin’ Purple is faster growing than other varieties , the mature height is approximately 60cm high x 45cm wide.  Filling a garden with intense shades, it re-blooms throughout the year and is water-wise and durable.

“Flowers don’t tell, they show.”

 

popping purple

Poppin Purple Agapanthus will be coming to your local GCA Garden Centre in Spring 2020. Keep a look out for the best new perennial world wide.

Author: Je’mae Mountjoy

Save our water, save our planet!

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Water is a precious resource that is essential for all life form from plants and animals to humans. While we need to consume and use water to survive, there are ways to reuse and recycle our water to get double the benefit from it.

Did you know that in South Africa 27% of the total water used is used for domestic and gardening purposes? By recycling your water for irrigation and other non-drinking purposes our gardens and world would benefit significantly.

Recycled water, better known as greywater, is water that you have previously used and is sourced from basins, washing machines, baths and showers. Often this water will contain traces of soap residue along with other matter that is harmless when used for irrigation purposes or even cleaning paving or external areas around the house.

To get the maximum benefit from your greywater it is advisable to:
  • Get the water directly from the outlet source to prevent contamination with black water. You can install a commercial greywater system if your sewerage pipes are visible outside of the house;
  • Use environmentally friendly and biodegradable soaps, detergents and cleaning products to prevent damage to the environment;
  • Spread the irrigation of greywater to different parts of the garden to spread the soap residue across a wider area.

Water is an essential commodity that we all need to work together to save. Visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre  to find out which products are available to help you do your bit to reuse your grey water and save water and our environment.

Make your own edible container wetland DIY Edible wetlands

Posted on: December 31st, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

You can create your own wetland at home and produce delicious edibles at the same time.

World Wetland day is celebrated annually on the 2nd February and we at Life is a Garden think that a beautiful way to support and celebrate these habitats is by creating container wetland gardens to add as a design element to your garden. Many water loving plants are also edible, so be sure to include some of the edible varieties in your wetland masterpiece.  This will be something different to your usual herb garden edibles.

A wetland is found where the land is wet enough (saturated or flooded) for long enough to be unfavourable to most plants but are favourable to plants adapted to anaerobic soil conditions. It is important that we understand and protect the incredible biodiversity of these beautiful and vital South African habitats. Not only do wetland ecosystems support a host of animal and plant life - but they are critically important for the survival of humans too, from the modification of climate change to the protection of human settlements from floods. If we protect wetlands, we also protect our planet and ourselves.

Here is an easy step by step tutorial on making a container water garden that is simple and inexpensive.

What you will need:

  • Container that holds water
  • Water plants (don’t forget your edible varieties)
  • Rocks or bricks
  • And of course - water!

Choosing a Container

When choosing a container for your water garden, keep in mind that technically, anything that holds water will work. Make sure however that it is not porous. Choose a container large enough to comfortably hold at least three or four water plants. A 60 cm wide container will be a perfect start. We chose a beautiful, stylish powder blue glazed pot.

Choosing Plants

When choosing water plants for your container, keep in mind to choose based on the size of your container. Huge plants in a tiny container will just look like a wet jungle and too many tiny plants in a large container will just look like clutter.

Choose your types of plants much the same way you would design a regular garden bed. Use different shapes and textures of plants to add contrast, and to set each plant apart. We suggest using at least three. First a tall spiky plant, then a broader leaved plant, and finally, a floating option such as water hyacinths, or even a single water lily.

We chose:

  • Iris (ensata)
  • Chinese Chestnut (Elecharis dulcis) (which is Indigenous to SA). These water Chestnuts add a new dimension of crunch to stir-fries and Asian cooking – your foodie friends will adore you
  • Mentha aquatica (Edible Mint), which has a strong distinctive peppermint-like fragrance and is used as a flavouring in salads or cooked foods
  • Bacopa monierii, is a creeping herb with pretty white flowers which can be used as a medicinal tea to improve memory, reduce anxiety, and to treat epilepsy.

Arranging Your Water Garden

Arranging the plants in your water garden is easier than planting a garden bed. If you don’t like the arrangement, you just pick them up and move them, because you never remove the water plants from the nursery pot.

  • Fill your container half full with water, then start setting in plants. Use rocks or bricks to raise up the height of any plant that needs to be more of a focal point. Most water plants do just fine with the tops of their pots about 15 – 20cm under water, so don’t worry about having to have them all at the same water level.
  • Place your tallest plant in the back, or in the centre, if the garden will be viewed from all angles.
  • Then add your smaller plants until you like the composition. Fill the container the rest of the way with water, then add your floating plants last.

Displaying your container water gardens

Place your water garden where it gets at least 6 hours of sun every day. Make sure the water level is topped up regularly.  If the roots are exposed for any length of time, you will likely damage, if not lose the plant. We suggest you overflow the top of the container with water every couple of days, just to make sure no mosquitoes are using your new garden as a breeding ground.

Enjoy making your own container water garden! Water is a restful element to add to any garden, and can attract birds, frogs and butterflies as well. Not to mention, water plants themselves are beautiful, and can be fragrant in addition to being low maintenance.

Sadly, 50% of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed. Without suitable wetland habitat, many species could soon be homeless. Here are 11 reasons why you should care about wetlands:

  1. Wetlands purify our water
  2. Wetlands store our water to ensure supply during dry periods
  3. Wetlands can prevent floods
  4. Wetlands recharge ground water
  5. Wetlands help to control erosion
  6. Wetlands provide shelter for juvenile fish
  7. Wetlands provide homes for animals and plants
  8. Wetlands provide food for livestock
  9. Wetlands protect biodiversity
  10. Wetlands provide locations for recreation
  11. Wetlands provide plants that can be used for houses and crafts

You can purchase some of your supplies needed for this project, as well as get helpful advice from your local GCA Garden Centre. Stay up to date with all your garden care and inspiration. Join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Pots of flavour in small spaces

Posted on: December 9th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

You don't need acres of garden to grow fresh salads and veggies. All you need is a balcony, patio or a postage-stamp of a garden, some good-quality terracotta pots, the right growing medium and a watering can, and you're A for away.  Life is a Garden offers these tips to assist you in creating the perfect container garden.

Why terracotta?

Whenever we're asked what containers to use on a patio, we tend to recommend a nice big terracotta pot or a matching set of terracotta pots. Why terracotta and not plastic? Terracotta pots are made of clay, and natural materials like clay tend to work better with plants. Terracotta pots can breathe, allowing air and even moisture to move through the walls, keeping plants healthier and helping to prevent fungal root disease.

Plants don't like sudden changes in temperature, and terracotta pots act as insulation, slowing down variations in temperature.

Weight is also an advantage – terracotta pots are heavier than plastic or wood, which is great when you've got a cat that keeps rubbing itself against your veggie pots and knocking them over!  Finally, terracotta pots get better and better with age, weathering and developing a beautiful patina that cannot be replicated.

What to plant?

Choosing what to plant can be overwhelming when you're starting out. Our first rule of thumb is to plant what you eat! There's not much point in growing coriander if the flavour offends your very being. But if you love cooking with other herbs, start by planting things like rosemary, thyme, mint and origanum.

Another thing we suggest is to mix things up a bit – don't be boring and grow only edibles. Beautiful ornamentals can do well in containers alongside their edible bedfellows, and some have the added benefit of being edible too. Viola flowers can be tossed in a salad, while the flowers of lavender and calendula have a range of uses.

A good base

The key to potting success is a growing medium that can fulfil a plant's nutritional needs.

Whenever we're getting ready to plant up containers, we start by mixing up a big batch of potting medium. To do this, we mix four parts good-quality potting soil, 1 part palm peat (soaked in water beforehand) and a big handful of pelletised organic plant food. Prepare the medium in a big bucket so that you've got enough for all the pots you'll be planting up.

When planting, place a handful of gravel or stones in the bottom of the pot, to ensure proper drainage and prevent the drainage holes from becoming blocked. Then fill the pot with potting medium to about 2/3 full, place the plants in the pots and fill up the pots to a few centimetres below the rim.

Keep them hydrated!

Plants will put up with a lot, but you can't expect them to survive without water. Containers have a limited water-holding capacity, which is why we add water-retentive materials such as palm peat to our mix.

Check if the soil is dry by pushing a finger into the first inch or so – if it is dry, add water. In hot weather, you'll need to water your containers daily, in the morning before it gets too hot. Check again in the afternoon and water again if necessary. In cooler weather, especially in seasons when plants aren't growing as fast, you can get away with watering pots about 2 – 3 times a week.

Remember that overwatering can be as bad as underwatering, so always do the finger test before watering.

Care

Container-grown plants need regular care, including feeding, as the nutrients in the limited quantity of soil get depleted.

You will find a great selection of pots and all the other supplies you need to get your container garden started at your nearest GCA Garden Centre.

Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.