Fancy Frilly Echeveria We love succulents

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Echeveria cultivar is a bold, texture-rich succulent favourite. Plants boast large, evergreen rosettes of densely frilled, grey-green leaves in the centre, which blend perfectly into a warm pink or red on the ends. In late summer, expect to be delighted further by tall, sophisticated stalks bearing sweet red-orange blooms.

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Getting to know your Frilly Echeveria

Grow guide: They enjoy sandy, well-drained soil in partial sun or semi-shade. Ensure Frilly’s have good light to help leaves retain their gorgeous colour but take care not to let them burn in full sun. The amount of light and sun your plant receives will determine the colour and brightness of its leaves. 

Claim to fame: Frilly’s love the heat and once established, will tolerate drought very well. You only need to water these lovelies occasionally, making them a super water-wise addition to the garden. Their highly decorative overlapping leaves resemble roses and water lilies.  

In the garden: Plant Frilly Echeverias in beds and borders or showcase them in pots on the patio or in rock gardens. Fertilise once every two months during spring and autumn. 

Pest patrol: An added bonus to these succulents is that they are not prone to disease but watch out for mealybugs, weevils, and aphids. Take care of these pests with products available at your nursery and remember to plant for beneficial predators as your natural, friendly bug police.

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Frilly fun fact: These babes are native to Mexico and bring in good luck, abundance, and positivity according to Feng Shui. 

Top Frilly tip: A handful of coarse sand does wonders in both pots and beds where succulents are planted. 

Try these: Echeveria Frills, Firelight, Giant Blue Curls, Dick’s Pink, Strawberry Hearts, Blue Curls, Shaviana Truffles and Crinoline.

Did you know? Succulents are particularly good at removing toxins from the air, making them ideal for city gardens.

Earthy aloe & cinnamon playdough DIY

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With only 3 simple ingredients, you and the kids can make your own aloe-inspired playdough. This easy mix is so fresh-smelling, soothing to the skin, non-toxic, grounding, high in anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, AND of course, FUN. When you’re done playing, pop it in the compost for 0 waste. Here is Life is a Garden’s original aloe and cinnamon playdough recipe.

 

You will need

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of harvested aloe sap from the garden. Remember to use a clean, sharp knife when working with leaves and look out for aloe teeth! 
  • Half a teaspoon (or more if you like) of organic, finely ground cinnamon. 
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  • Corn starch. 
  • Mixing bowl and spoon.
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How to 

  • Add your 2 tablespoons of aloe sap into the mixing bowl. Having some pieces of the flesh is no problem either as this will add another interesting and fun textile experience during play. 
  • Add the cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of corn starch to the bowl and mix together with the sap until just combined. You’ll need to use your estimation skills to determine whether to add more sap or more starch. This process is part of the thrill – a little more, a little less – ah, perfect! 
  • Now for the super fun part. Get the kids the kneed and work the dough until you reach the desired stretchiness. Your dough should be soft and squishy, and a beautiful earthy colour that awakens all the senses. Can you smell it?
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Try this: Once the playdough is ready, parents can hide other fun toys inside the dough to extend playtime and stimulate both right and left brains. For older kids, try blindfold moulding and see what curious things they create. If the dough gets a bit hard, simply splash some water on.

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Top tip: Garden Centres are blooming with a variety of indigenous and hybrid aloes right now.

Top 5 aloes for a living firebreak

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Did you know? Owing to their moisture-retaining leaves that contain no flammable resins or oils, aloes can be utilised as gorgeous living firebreaks around property perimeter, along berms, and in island beds for added fire resistance. Create more habitat for our wildlife, add to your property security, AND increase the structural intrigue of your garden. 

Jargon check: A berm is a mound, path, or ledge typically found at the top or bottom of a slope or hill and can be naturally occurring or man-made. Berms are used to blend into landscape designs, slow down run-off, and create a focal point in the garden.

Life is a Garden’s top 5 firebreak aloes 

Aloe ‘Arborescens’

Fast-growing and will tolerate drought and neglect once established. It is grown mainly as an ornamental or as an accent plant but is also an excellent and impenetrable hedge plant. Known also as the Krantz Aloe, it develops into a multiheaded shrub 2 – 3 metres high.

Aloe ‘Commixta’

Has slender intertwined stems that sprawl beautifully over a stonewall or large boulder. Endemic to the Cape Peninsula, it grows well in winter rainfall areas. Flower colours vary from reddish at the top to yellow-orange at the base of the flower cluster.

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Aloe ‘Brevifoli’

This little aloe is efficient at propagating itself. It frequently sends out offsets, also called suckers. This propagation is what makes it a great groundcover. The leaves form tight rosettes that like to spread horizontally if given space. Use this smaller, dense aloe along berms or in island beds. 

Aloe 'Ciliaris'

Is ideal for planting around the gate or arches. This aloe is a charming climber, reaching 10 meters and higher! It is one of the easiest to cultivate and will adorn spaces with its leafy, fleshy foliage and bright orange flowers. 

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Aloe ‘Tenuior’

Also known as ‘the fence aloe’, its rambling growth habit is ideal for covering large areas. 

Sunset-scaping with aloes Botanical Boss

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It’s chilly! Let’s crank up the heat with aloes and landscape an eternal sunset to enjoy this winter. Our experts from Ndundulu Aloes in KwaZulu-Natal gave Life is a Garden some sizzling seasonal plant picks to help cultivate warmth in the garden as well as which aloes to plant as living firebreaks! Come check out our aloe pest list and learn how to identify possible infestations.

 

On the aloe hot list this May

Indigenous gems

  • Suprafoliata 
  • Ferox 
  • Marlothi 
  • Aculeata 
  • Microstigma
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Sunbird hybrid aloes

  • Aloe ‘Candy floss’ 
  • Aloe ‘Baby blush’ 
  • Aloe ‘African sunset’ 
  • Aloe ‘Frosty days’ 
  • Aloe ‘Abundance’
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Living firebreaks

Extend your sunset-scaping passion to all around your property. Plating aloes as living firebreaks host a variety of benefits including:

  • Reducing water usage 
  • Assisting in soil erosion 
  • Increased food and habitat for our wildlife 
  • Preventing fires from spreading to your lawn
  • Adding to the beauty, colour, textural and structural elements of your garden
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Top 5 fire-resistant aloes (although all of them will do the job wonderfully) 

  • Aloe ‘Neon orange’ is a popular, small, tough plant for pots, the rockery, or a retaining wall.  During August and September, conspicuous glowing orange flowers will dazzle the landscape. If allowed to cluster and given enough space, plants will quickly grow a secondary rosette, creating a better and longer flower display. 
  • Aloe ‘Octopus’ is the first large winter flowering aloe hybrid with deep yellow flowers. The tentacle-like leaves of this plant have a funky spreading growth style. Its other outstanding feature is the length of the individual flower – it is the hybrid with the longest recorded individual flower of all the cultivars in the collection.
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  • Aloe ‘Saturn’ stands out as another amazing hybrid. Its flower buds are initially brick red but change to yellow as the flowers open, displaying a showy bi-colour combination in late winter and spring.

Rooftop gardens and living firebreaks Sunset-scaping with aloes

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May’s Topic: Sunset-scaping with aloes
Theme: Rooftop gardens and living firebreaks. 
Industry Expert: Ruthe Gray
Garden Centre: Ndundulu Aloes based in KwaZulu-Natal.

Have you tried growing aloes on your roof? What about around your property as a living firebreak? Ndundulu Aloes has shared some fantastic advice on this exciting topic that’s sure to inspire you and leave you well-informed. Take your aloe passion to new heights and learn about some gorgeous new varieties the Sunbird Aloe range has to offer.

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1. We loved browsing your website and looking at the lovely selection of Sunbird Aloes you have. What inspired you to begin growing aloes? Why this species specifically?

I started to grow indigenous aloes out of necessity after moving to an old farm where the garden was neglected, old and overgrown.  After clearing out a lot of dead trees and trees planted in the wrong places, I looked at the framework of the garden. 

In summer, the temperatures can get up to 56°C.  There was no irrigation in the garden and plants were scorched by the heat and the blazing sun. 

After 3 years and the farm taking priority, I started to plant Indigenous aloes.  They could cope with the climate here in Northern KZN.  I started with 20 hybrids from the Sunbird Aloes range in 2015.

With their four different flowering seasons, this meant that I could naturally provide food for the wildlife in the garden.  From there, the garden was redefined, with new Sunbird Aloes beds, berms and barriers. We only had 2 sunbird species in the garden before planting the aloes: olive and the scarlet chested.  Within 4 years, we had 11 different sunbirds, which were recorded on the same day by a visiting bird group.

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2. We all know aloes offer the benefit of being waterwise, a wildlife favourite, and popping with colour.

Bringing life to the living room

Bring your gardening passion to the living room with cosy foliage to add warmth and life to your space. Enjoy good conversation and bottomless cups of tea in good, green company. 

 

 

Livingroom
Living room

Plant these fabulous Ficus varieties, ideal for indoor gardening: 

  • Fiddle Leaf (Ficus lyrata): With large violin-shaped leaves, this plant makes a dramatic statement. Place in bright, indirect light with rich compost. 
  • Elastic Plant (Ficus elastica): An attractive ornamental plant that purifies the air and is easy to care for. Place in a well-lit corner of your living room. 
  • Rubber Plant Black Prince: Making a bold entrance, this eye-catching Ficus is trendy and stylish with striking green-black foliage, suited for a well-lit area.  
  • Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina): The ideal tree for indoor landscaping with elegant branches and glossy leaves. This plant tolerates limited light.

 

Elastic plant
Rubber plant
Weeping fig

Try this: Add your personal style to pot plants by decorating your containers. Try mosaic tiles, crocheted pot covers, textured lace ribbons, or spiralled twine. 

 

Top tips for a healthy Ficus: Ficus plants like consistent but moderate watering with less frequent watering during winter. Regularly check the leaves of your Ficus for pests such as mites and aphids. Visit your local nursery for eco-friendly pest solutions, potting soil, and plant food. 

 

Trees in pots for the small garden

Life is a Garden - Trees in pots

Life is a Garden! But we know that not all backyards can accommodate large trees. Lucky for all the small space and patio gardeners, this month we’re going back to basics with trees in pots! You can still enjoy a number of tree varieties, even some of the edible ones such as juicy citrus and fig trees. Some classics like the olive and holly tree are also perfect potted treasures that you can grow, regardless of how limited your space may be. Here’s some guidance to get you going. 

 

The perfect pot for the job 

Choosing your container is an important part of your tree-growing journey. Ultimately, you want a pot that’s large enough to fit the root ball of your tree. The size of your container will determine how big your tree will grow and gives you the advantage of being able to manipulate its size. Drainage is super important to factor in as well, so ensure your pot has many holes for excess water to flow out. Trees don’t tolerate water build-up and this will negatively affect their growth, harvest, and flowers. 

Top pot tip: Before planting your tree, secure the container above ground if possible, then and add a layer of stones or terracotta shards inside the pot for maximum drainage efficiency. Your GCA Garden Centre has an assortment of large containers to choose from as well as handy advice on how to choose the best pot for the job.  

 

Pots
Plant in pot
Good soil saves lives 

Now that you’ve been upgraded to potted tree-guardian, it’s your duty to maintain the nutrient integrity inside the container. Soil-based potting mix with an annual slow-release organic fertiliser will work wonders. Refresh the soil each spring by removing the top layer and replacing it with a new layer of enriched compost.

How to perfect the art of indoor gardening 101 Indoor Gardening

Indoor plants promote good mental health, super Zen vibes, texture, air purification, and something beautiful to appreciate as you go about your day. Life is a Garden, indoors too, and there’s a plant just waiting to bring that side table, desk, and bookshelf to life. Good old potting soil, fertiliser, and a watering routine makes all the difference in maintaining an indoor haven.

 

Checkout these 5 top tips to perfect the art of indoor gardening:
  1. Choose the right plant and place: Start off with an easy plant from our BF (beginner-friendly) suggestions below. Checkout your space and see where’s the gap to be filled. Choose a plant that likes the light conditions of your chosen area.
  2. Choose the right pot: Choose a suitable sized pot with good drainage holes and don’t forget the saucer that catches excess water (we’ve all been there, #rookieerror).
  3. Get good potting soil: A bag of delicious potting soil goes a long way! Visit your GCA Garden Centre and grab a bag to get you going. Add a couple of small stones to your pot before adding potting soil to help with drainage and root rot prevention.
  4. Get to know your new friend: Understand the light, watering, and soil requirements of your plant. Observe how plants react in the space and change their position if needed. Poke your finger into the pot and feel the soil, this will tell you if your plant is ready to be watered. Alternatively, you can also purchase a moisture meter from your nearest GCA Garden Centre.
  5. Feed your new friend: Generally speaking, every 6 weeks is a good time to feed. The new plant baby depends on you now to maintain the nutrient integrity inside the pot. Your GCA Garden Centre guy can advise you on the best soil and fertiliser for your plant.

Throwing shade at the sun Shade gardening

Fuchsia
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.

Growing a Veggie Garden for Beginners Fundamentals of Gardening - Back to Basics

Veggie garden for beginners
Growing a veggie garden for beginners

Welcome, novice farmers! We are delighted to see your green fingers in bloom, exploring the world of homegrown goodness. Experience for yourself what all the hype is about by starting your own little veggie garden or edible pot. There is something truly special about fresh greens from the Earth – their incredible flavour loaded with nutrients, the direct connection with Mother Nature, and the unbeatable sense of pride from harvesting the fruits of your labour. Find out how to start your own edible journey below.

Humble beginnings

For your first growing quest, we recommend starting small. Think about whether you would like to use containers, plant straight into the ground, or if you would like to make raised beds. Consider your space and available time to guide your growing style. Sowing a couple of seeds in an empty space in your flower bed is as good a beginning as any.

Top tip: Be careful not to overpopulate your space. Your veggies will increase in size and need room to grow and climb. Planting too close together will also cause veggies to shade one another. Refer to your seed packet or handy GCA Garden Centre guy for advice.

Planting in containers
Planting in the ground
Planting in raised beds
Bean growth

Location, location, location

With the idea of starting small in mind, where you choose to grow is an equally important factor to consider. Veggies love the sun and will flourish in open areas that receive as much sunlight as possible with no big trees throwing shade on your new babies. Examine your space through eco-eyes: take note of the sun’s movement, surrounding foliage, and expansion space needed as your greens grow.

Top tip: Location is also important in terms of watering. Make sure your veggies are in reach of the hosepipe or irrigation system, and remain uncovered to receive as much rainfall as possible.