Posts Tagged ‘ summer ’

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!

January in the Garden Checklist January Check List

Posted on: December 21st, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
January in the Garden Life is a Garden

The new year is always a great time to start afresh and get back into the garden. Remove any tired or spent annuals and fill the gaps with new babies that will flower into autumn. Planting fresh herbs and veggies will also help you stick to those healthy New Year’s resolutions. Happy 2021, dear green fingers, and please do remember that your Life is A Garden!

What to do in the January garden
  • There is still enough time to sow Eschsholzia, Lobelia, and Phlox for an abundance of summer and autumn colour.
  • Water regularly during dry spells.
  • Put out snail bait after rainfall or after watering in the evening.
  • If yellow patches appear on the lawn, this is an almost sure sign of lawn caterpillar, also known as armyworm.
January Check list
Snail Bait
Lawn Caterpillar Army worm
January checklist

Tip: Use a thick, moist towel placed over a patch at night. If lawn caterpillars are the culprit, they will still be foraging on the lawn in the morning when you lift the towel. Consult your local GCA Garden Centre for a remedy.

  • Colourful Begonias are available in trays to liven up semi-shade and shady areas.
  • Deadhead hydrangeas and use the beautiful blooms in dry arrangements.
  • A light summer pruning of your roses will help to extend quality flowering into late autumn.
  • Gently prune lavender plants that have stopped flowering to encourage an autumn flush.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch to beat the heat and save water.
January Checklist
January checklist
What to do in the January veggie garden
  • Most veggies need 60 to 90 days to harvest so if we are sowing in January, we need to think about what we will eat fresh from the garden in March and April. Never sow the whole seed packet at once as it literally contains from around 50 to several hundred seeds, so rather sow in 14-day intervals to achieve a continuous harvest.
  • If your mint, basil or sage is looking tired and leggy, re-sow them now.
  • Plant sweet peppers as seedlings - they are tasty in summer salads and many other dishes.
  • Keep protecting your fruit and veggies from fruit flies.
  • Feed your fruit trees, granadillas and veggies.

Tip: Never fertilise a plant when it is dry.

  • Try some of the decorative edibles in your flower beds for a change. The pretty red, pink, white and yellow stems of Swiss chard are very colourful. The fine-textured, ferny purple leaves of bronze fennel are a wonderful contrast to bolder textured foliage in the garden. Their purple colour is also stunning when placed near shrubs with lime green leaves like Duranta ‘Sheena’s Gold’.
  • Keep the herb garden full by planting chives, oregano, marjoram, thyme, sage and coriander.
January check list
January checklist
January Checklist
January checklist
January checklist
January Checklist

Look out for plants wilting in the summer heat, especially in dry weather. Give plants a deep watering at night and mulch around them. There are also water retention products that you can use – these will be are available at your local GCA Garden Centre. Remember, you can always get great gardening advice at your GCA Garden Centre.

DIY Colour a Bouquet Experiment

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

Transform white flowers into a rainbow bouquet

Who says back to school can’t begin with a little fun? This DIY experiment is science on rainbow steroids and will intrigue both boys and girls. Learn about plant anatomy, enjoy a little magic, and become the inventor of a whole new flower species. Transform white blooms into any colour you like, here’s how:

Plant picks

Any white flowers should work well for this experiment. Here are some top picks that are currently in bloom, either in the garden or at your local GCA Garden Centre.

  • White roses
  • Lisianthus
  • Carnations
  • Gerberas
  • Hydrangeas

You will need:

  • A few white flowers (store-bought or hand-picked).
  • 4 Different shades of food colouring (or as many as you like).
  • 4 Medium-sized drinking glasses or jars (avoid plastic cups).
  • A pair of sharp scissors
Life is a garden DIY colour bouquet

Get colouring:

  1. Fill half of each glass with water.
  2. Pour half the bottle of your chosen food colouring, one at a time, into each glass of water. You want to achieve a rather concentrated colour so that your flower will have a vibrant hue.
  3. Cut any leaves off your flowers and trim the stems to fit nicely inside your glass. You want some stem sticking out with your flower comfortably resting against the glass.
  4. Pop your clean-stemmed flowers inside the different glasses.
  5. After two hours or so, you will begin seeing slight colours appearing on the edges of the flower petals. When the kids wake up, the flowers should be completely coloured in and looking lovely!
  6. As a fun little extra, kids could also name their new flower species and make little tags for their inventions. Help kids think of names by combining the flower’s botanical name with perhaps their own, other family members, or their pet’s names.
  7. While the kids wait, here’s some neat to know science stuff about how your flowers have soaked up the colour.

 

The science of how plants drink:

Out in the wild, plants soak up water from the ground through their roots. The water then travels through the stem and into the flower petals. Although we have removed the roots of our flowers in this experiment, the stems are still able to soak up the coloured water and defy gravity! Plants are super intelligent and use capillary action to drink upsidedown – pretty impressive, right?

DIY colour bouquet
DIY colour bouquet
DIY colour experiment
DIY colour experiment

Consider this – food for thinkers.

If plants are so easily affected by what goes into their water, imagine what polluted water does to them! Similarly, consider the possibilities of adding other liquids to the water and how this would affect the colour of the blooms. Here are some ideas to spark your imagination:

  • See what happens if you use a light and dark soda instead of water.
  • How will your flowers turn out if you mixed two food colouring shades together?
  • What if you used orange juice and grape juice instead of water?
  • See if you could make a rainbow flower by splitting the steam and putting each strip into a different coloured glass.

 

Enjoy showing off your hybrids, kids! Go back to school with an awesome story to tell about how you invented a flower this holiday. And don’t forget to tell your friends about the importance of clean water for our flowers and their gravity-defying superpower.

DIY Colour Bouquet
DIY colour bouquet
DIY colour experiment
DIY colour experiment
DIY colour experiment

Hero your harvest this holiday Holiday Gardening

Posted on: December 1st, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

The holiday season is a gardener’s time to shine, an opportunity to show off the goods, and the perfect occasion to “uithaal en wys”, as they say in Afrikaans. This month, you’ve got full bragging rights, so make sure you’re ready to be the gardening host with the most! It’s time to let those home-grown veggies and herbs take the spotlight.

Braai buddies

With the family on their way and the charcoal ready – it’s braai time with some buddies from the garden to bring out the flavour of your food. Highlight your hard work by making veggies and herbs the hero of your dish. Here are some tantalising ideas to please every pallet:

  1. Brazilian braai broodjies: Put an exotic twist on our local favourite by adding these herbs to your broodjies with a little olive oil – oregano, rosemary, bay leaf, basil, and thyme.
  2. Sweet and sticky pumpkin pockets: Make little parcels from foil to pop straight onto the grill, filling them with ginger, marjoram, tarragon, and a little honey or sugar. Kids will love this one!
  3. Creamy black mushrooms: A delicious sauce to baste on as you braai, using melted butter, garlic, dill, and lemon balm. Garnish with fresh chives.
  4. Watermelon wanderlust: Explore your tastebuds and impress everyone with groovy grilled watermelon! Cut your watermelon into wedges, season both sides with a mixture of salt, sugar, and a hint of chilli. Season well to get that charred look and flame-grilled taste, garnish with lots of fresh mint.
  5. Tomato hot pot: Hollow out the inside of your big tomatoes, mix the pulp with the following herbs, put it all back inside and then pop them over a gentle flame: parsley, fennel, coriander, sage, with a little salt and black pepper.

*Match your meat: Pair the flavour profile of your veggie dishes with your chosen meat for a well-balanced, complimentary dish.

Leaves are lekker

Time to ditch store-bought lettuce heads and go for leaves that say “festive and fabulous”.

Your garden centre has ready-to-go packs of mixed gourmet lettuce with gorgeous leaves to make the fanciest of salads.

Personalised salad jars are a grand gesture and a sophisticated way to hero your harvest. Find out which greens your fussy eaters enjoy, then layer a medium-sized glass jar with the chosen ingredients. Your guests will not only be impressed by your effort and presentation but will also enjoy tuning over their special salad onto their plate.

*Tip: Make your own salad dressing by blending up mixed herbs, olive oil, lemon juice and love!

Cocktails and mocktails

  1. Basil smash with gin: A shot of gin, a can of cucumber-favoured soft drink, and a handful of basil.
  2. Mint soda float: A can of cream soda, a scoop of ice cream, and a handful of mint.

*Tip: Bruise your herbs to release their full flavour!

December in the Garden December Check List

Posted on: December 1st, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Happy holidays is the theme and sentiment this month across much of the world. December, for some, is a time for relaxing and taking in the beauty of their summer gardens, while for others it means time to have fun giving TLC to their indoor, patio and garden plants. It is exciting to spruce up the home, patio and garden during this season of family time. Ask your family for gardening gifts that you may have eyed at your local garden centre. Plants are living gifts that will last for years in the garden – the type of gift that keeps on giving! Life is a Garden, so get the family in on it too!

Edibles

Add some zing to your cuisine these holidays with the following herbs:

Mint: A sprig of mint foliage is currently an all-the-rage addition to mojito cocktails, gin, other home-made cordials, as well as other trendy sundowners. Mint has very fragrant leaves with a fruity, aromatic taste.

This easy-to-grow groundcover prefers well-drained soils and good, regular watering. They are prized in the kitchen and as a landscaping plant in the garden.

There are many mints to choose from, here are some popular ones:

  • Spearmint for savoury dishes
  • Peppermint for desserts
  • Apple mint for drinks
  • Chocolate mint with liquors
  • Garden mint in salads, with lamb, peas, zucchini, fresh beans, marinades, fruit salads, cold soups, cheese and more.

Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to see these and other mints available.

Tip: For those of you that like spicy dishes there is even a “Hot mint”, which is also called Vietnamese coriander.

Neat to know: Young leaves are tastier than old leaves. The key to keeping the plant healthy will be to harvest sprigs regularly to stimulate new young shoots.

Did you know?: Although best eaten fresh, sprigs can be left for a few days in water, mint leaves can be frozen or air-dried.

Rosemary: A favourite herb! Many of us would use much more rosemary in our food if we had a plant or two growing in the garden. Rosemary can be used in a multitude of dishes including roast vegetables, poultry, lamb, stews and soups. In addition, this herb also adds a lovely savoury flavour to vegan and vegetarian dishes.

Tip: Use sprigs of rosemary fresh or hang up bunches and allow them to air-dry and then store them in an airtight container in the cupboard.

Neat to know: Rosemary is a beautiful evergreen shrub with blue flowers. There is the unusual prostate Rosmarinus officinalis ‘McConnell’s Blue’ and the upright Rosmarinus Tuscan Blue or braai rosemary.

Dill: Dill Anethum graveolens is a landscaping winner due to its fine feathery texture. It is a favourite in European and Asian cuisines and a must when paired with fish on the braai. Dill is commonly used to enhance the flavour of salmon, potatoes, stews, soups, with green beans and yoghurt-based sauces, and for pickling. Try adding some dill to your next summer salad and enjoy a little exotic taste!

Tip: Sow seeds every few weeks into early summer. In this way, if you are planting dill to use for pickling, you will have an on-going supply for when you harvest the veg you wish to pickle!

Something amazing! Dill is a host plant for the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly and also attracts beneficial insects like wasps and other predatory insects to your garden. Dill for the win!

Elf on the shelf

Let’s go gardening with Elfie:

Poinsettia hammocks: Take two poinsettias and sling a DIY hammock between their pots. Elfie can use this to relax and enjoy watching you and the family during the holidays (while also keeping an eye out for naughty behaviour).

Harvesting your watermelons: Yes, if you sowed your seed early, you should have watermelon ready to be picked, hooray! Hello, healthy dessert for Elfie and all!

Climbing up Amaryllis: Let Elfie see how far up the flowering stalk of your Amaryllis he can climb. Apparently, he’s quite an agile fella!

Dare to be different this Christmas

Everyone is welcome at Christmas, regardless of religious affiliations, and even if you simply enjoy the sentiment of gift-giving, there is a tree for you! Besides, what’s more awesome than enjoying the look on your child and loved one’s face when you finally nailed it! There are both large and small artificial and living Christmas trees to choose from. We don’t always need to choose a traditional Christmas tree, so let’s have a look at some of the options:

  • The indigenous bushveld gardenia (Gardenia volkensii) is a shrub with glossy green foliage and an interesting, arching branching pattern. Sweetly-scented white flowers open at night with attractive egg-shaped fruit. They are slow-growing and therefore wonderful focal plants for small gardens, patio pot plants or even as bonsai specimens.
  • Henkel’s yellowwood (Podocarpus henkelii) is an indigenous tree with dark green needle-like drooping leaves and a fairly pyramidal shape, making it a popular choice as a multi-purpose tree.
  • For those of you that prefer a smaller, table-top tree, the gold crest conifer or Cupressus ‘Gold Crest’,is a striking indoor or patio Christmas tree that can later be planted out into a sunny spot in the garden or left to grow in a pot for next year. They enjoy a sunny spot in the garden or patio.

Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to view the various Christmas trees available. You may even be surprised to find tree lights and décor at some of them.

Get creative these holidays

There are many plants that are very useful to make your own fresh décor with. Here are a few easy tips for those finishing holiday spirit touches that’ll certainly impress your guests. family and may make you the envy of your friends:

  • Use the pliable branch ends of our indigenous willow (Salix mucronate) to make a beautiful fresh wreath. Decorate it with pinecones or Christmas décor as a door wreath or eye-catching table centrepiece.
  • The foliage from leylandii conifers (Cupressus leylandii) or butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) and geraldton wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum) are also great to use as floral décor of any kind. You can make floral arrangements as table runners, candle wreath décor, or add Christmas décor to them.

If you don’t have these plants in your garden, then take a trip to your local GCA Garden Centre. Remember that once you plant them you will have a constant source of fresh plant décor from the growing plant.

What’s cracking at your GCA Garden Centre?

Make good use of the holidays and day trip to your local GCA Garden Centre. Keep an eye out for new colours and varieties of pretty perennials like:

  • Achillea (yarrow) with its fine fern-like foliage and waves of flat multi-blooms.
  • Cape fuchsia (Phygelius capensis) is an indigenous “shady lady” that looks shy due to her gorgeous clusters of hanging trumpet-looking flowers.
  • Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) is regal and attention-grabbingly tall, ideal for that damp spot in the garden.
  • Penstemon is an easy-to-grow perennial that is so rewarding with stunning flowering spires.
  • Daisies (Argyranthemum) nowadays are so compact and remarkably peppered with hundreds of buds and flowers on one plant – that’s what we call them flower power!

Tip: As with most new things, new plant varieties are often superior to their predecessors in a range of different ways, such as being more disease resistant, flowering for longer, producing larger blooms, or even a new flower colour. Don’t be shy to ask your local GCA Garden Centre salesman to show you all the new plants they have in stock for the season, you won’t regret it!

Let’s assess, yes?

December is an ideal time to consider new directions in the home or garden. You can begin implementing changes and improvements while you are still on holiday, or you can carry them over as New year’s resolution.

Are you getting the best from your garden? Consider who uses the garden the most and what you use the space for. Are you utilising your lawn and planting beds? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Do you have enough lawn for the kids to play cricket on or for your fur-babies to frolic? Lawns give the garden that wholesome “green” feeling and allow for lots of fun and games in the garden, especially when the family comes together. No kids, no pets? Well, then perhaps you should consider a low maintenance gravel garden instead of a time-consuming lawn.
  • Could you fit a treehouse for the kids, an outdoor dolls house, or a fort? You could decorate the area with fun garden ornaments, a little bridge perhaps, or even get the kids to plant bright flowers and easy-to-grow veggies.
  • Is it time to think about healthy living and extend your edible garden into the main garden? Absolutely! Adding veg like cabbage and spinach into your garden beds makes quite an impact! Olive trees and dwarf citrus lollipop trees are also very trendy in place of ornamentals. Having more veg also means more to cook with AND more to give away to other hungry tummies in need.
  • Is there a spot in the garden that waiting for a cosey bench or hammock? A spot in the shade for reading or facing the sunset for lekker sundowners chats? Ready-made garden arches and cute gazebos are also available to create an intimate garden room feel in both small and large gardens.
  • How about a place for a fire pit? Marshmallow braais, a little drumming and singing under the African sky, and some storytelling and laughs between friends – now that’s what we’re talking about!
  • There’s nothing to match the tranquil and soothing sound of a water feature. Is there a space you’ve always wanted to transform? A little aquatic touch will defiantly do the garden justice. Your local GCA Garden Centre has plenty of models for you to choose from.

Tip: A simple coat of paint on your inner garden walls can have a huge influence on the atmosphere in your garden. A dark olive or dark green paint can make the walls seem to disappear.

Have fun with family and friends in your garden this December! Treasure every moment as though your Life is a Garden, and plant flowers and food wherever you go.

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.

Urban Garden on your Balcony

Posted on: November 11th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Preview