In a world of constant hustle and bustle, the trend forecasters at Pantone thought everyone could do with a little time out. So they have announced that the Pantone colour of the year 2020 is Classic Blue. In a press release from Pantone they give the following rationale for their decision:
“As technology continues to race ahead of the human ability to process it all, it is easy to understand why we gravitate to colours that are honest and offer the promise of protection. Non-aggressive and easily relatable, the trusted PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue lends itself to relaxed interaction. Associated with the return of another day, this universal favourite is comfortably embraced.”
Life is a Garden echo this sentiment and what better way to bring in the colour blue in your world, than in your garden. It so happens that blue flowers attract butterflies and bees, and this means your garden will become a sanctuary of nature and an escape for your psyche. Surround yourself with calm and confidence and add these plants to create a splash of blue to your outdoor palette.
Cool down on hot summer days with a sea of Agapanthus in shades of blue. Agapanthus is also known as the Lily of the Nile and comes from the Greek words “agape” meaning love and “Anthos”, meaning flower. You’ll fall in love with the Dwarf Agapanthus 'Tinkerbell'. It has variegated leaves and clusters of pale blue flowers. Agapanthus 'Blue Velvet' has deep cornflower blue flowers with a velvet sheen. Grow agapanthus in broad sweeps in the landscape, in indigenous gardens, grouped in borders, as edgings along paths, and in large pots. Their robust root system is suitable for holding soil on banks.
The colour blue is associated with the sea and sky and evokes peace and tranquillity. That’s why this colour is so effective in calming your mind. The Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) is available in a few smaller varieties such as Buddleja ‘Buzz’ and Buddleja ‘Lo and Behold’, which are hybrids of our indigenous varieties and have more colours available in blue, purple and cream. They are tasty nectar-producing plants which attract butterflies. These nectar-feeding insects will add charm and beauty to your garden and will, in turn, contribute to some restoration of the natural ecology of life in urban gardens. Butterflies have long proboscises to reach down into flowers to obtain the nectar on which they survive.
Torenia, or Wishbone Flowers (Torenia fournieri) are flowers for semi-shaded spots and summer’s answer to the pansy. Torenias are compact (30cm) bushes with dainty flowers of blue, purple or pink with yellow throats, suitable for edgings, beds, hanging baskets and window boxes. Plant in rich, well-drained soil, and water regularly. Torenias make good companions with other shade lovers, such as impatiens and bedding begonias. Begonias with white, red, light or dark pink flowers with bronze or green leaves make pretty ribbons of colour along paths, in massed plantings, window boxes and containers.
Salvia Black and Bloom (Salvia nemorosa) creates waves of tranquil blue bushes. These popular perennials have unusual black stems and are happy in partial to full sun areas. They parade large well-branched bushes with strong-coloured flowers. Because the blue colour aids in concentration and helps your mind in a meditative state, adding more blue flowers to your garden will help you re-centre your thoughts and focus for 2020. Create a reflective space with blooming, Salvia Mystic 'Spire Blue' with their long spires of dark blue flowers. They bloom throughout summer and attract happy butterflies to lighten up your mood. Be sure to add the proud Salvia 'Victoria' with its upright flower spikes parading indigo-blue flowers above the foliage.
Like the cat that’s got the cream, Clerodendrum myricoides ‘Ugandense’ (commonly known as the blue cat's whiskers) are born to stand out. In summer, these dainty, two-tone blue flowers are striking features of this medium-sized evergreen shrub. They are ideal for planting in the background of a shrubby border. It bears masses of pleasant blue flowers in summer, and bees love them. You will soon be surrounded by the happy, buzzing noise of their visits. Their fruits are frugivorous birds’ favourite and your garden will become the coolest hangout for nature’s little busybodies, while adding a little whimsy in the concrete jungle.
Our indigenous cobalt blue blossoms of the Cape-forget-me-not (Anchusa capensis) are charming easy-going plants. They require minimal care and grow in most soils. They are hardy and survive on very little water, which makes them our water-wise choice for dry summer regions. They are happy with the basics: well-drained soil and full sun areas, and will pop up again and again, perfect for any South African garden.
Lobelia is part of the Campanulaceae family and has over 300 species. The most common species in our gardens is Lobelia erinus. L. erinus, native to southern Africa and thrives in varying climates and topographies. This easy-to-grow plant enjoys the full morning sun, and they will appreciate a little afternoon shade. They prefer soil that is rich in organic matter, so you must add compost to the soil before planting. Keep the soil moist but not sodden and pay particular attention to watering if in pots or baskets. Lobelia do not like to get thirsty! The Lobelia (Curacao Compact Blue) are stunning planted in striking hanging baskets.
Although blue flowers are hard to find in the natural world, you can always find inspiration and advice from the friendly staff at your local GCA Garden Centre. Return some classic blues to your garden this summer and design a space of quietude. With touches of blue, you can create a serene escape from daily stress where you can recharge your mind, body and soul. For more gardening inspiration visit www.lifeisagarden.co.za
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.