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The Flanders Poppy is one of the world’s most popular wildflowers, and it is easy to grow in almost any well-drained soil, as long as it receives full sun. This hardy spring or summer flowering annual is a delight when in full bloom and showing off its large scarlet, delicately papery flower petals, often with a dark blotch at the base. The flowers rise above the lacy foliage on long fuzzy stems which can reach heights of +- 60cm at maturity. The hairless seed capsules hold the tiny seeds which are released through pores that open at the top of the capsule. The seed can remain dormant in the soil for 80 years or more!
Ornamental cabbages look much the same as their edible cousins, but produce giant rosettes of frilly leaves in wonderful shades of lavender, rose; white, and creamy yellow, making them a favourite addition to cold winter gardens. The pigmentations for which these plants are known do not appear until after prolonged cool weather and several frosts. Ornamental cabbages can also be grown as seasonal indoor pot plants but require a brightly lit, yet cool room.
Cold-hardy and resilient, kale is an easy member of the cabbage family to grow. In the wild kale is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe where it has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. It remained the most widely eaten green vegetable in this region until the Middle Ages when cabbages became more popular. Actually, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are all the same species of plant. The differences between them developed, due to years of human cultivation, selective seed selection and propagating. For example, because the leaves of kale were consumed, naturally those plants with the largest leaves would be selected and the seeds saved for the following season’s crops, and shared between gardeners as we do today. This resulted in larger-leafed plants slowly being developed. Kale continued to be grown as a leafy vegetable for thousands of years, until at some point in time people realised that those tight clusters of tender leaves which were closely packed into the terminal flower bud at the top of the stem, were delicious, so they started selecting plants specifically for this trait. Hundreds of successive generations of plants later, resulted in the gradual formation of the cabbage "head" as we know it today.
We know, it’s cold, and there’s little else to dwell on. But what if we told you that it’s the perfect time to nurture two winter sun-loving plants that will brighten your beds and bouquets? Poppies and stocks, our winter winners, thrive in a cooler climate and love basking in mild winter sunshine. Picture the fresh fragrant mornings to come, infused with the heady scent and uplifting colours of your winter investment. These blooming buddies, reminiscent of a traditional Victorian country garden, stand upright and create troves of colour amongst what could otherwise be drab winter green foliage. Both flowers are popular with florists, and picking for the vase only encourages further blooms to sprout from your plants. The poppy’s bold colours that come in all shades of an African sunset, as well as an elegant pure white variety, are complemented by the creamy pinks and lavenders of the stocks.
Have you ever faced the dilemma of having to ruthlessly remove crops which are still producing because your garden is small, and according to the instructions on your seed packets, you need to sow next season’s crops now! If you don’t have space to do both directly in your garden beds, your only alternative is to start next season’s crops in seedling trays or pots. Once your current crops are finished producing, your new seedlings should be ready to plant out. All you need to do this is a few recycled containers, good quqlity seedling soil; and a warm, brightly lit to sunny windowsill indoors, or a covered, protected area outdoors.
The following projects are fun to do with your children and may even encourage them to eat more veggies too!