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Plants do not thrive alone but rely on a consortium of beneficial soil microorganisms found in healthy soils. These microorganisms are responsible for breaking down organic material releasing nutrients required for plant growth and providing protection against pathogens through the production of chemicals agents.
Mycorrhizal fungi are critical soil microorganisms that form a bonding relationship with the majority of plant roots. This compatible relationship is beneficial to both plant and fungus and is termed symbiotic. The fungi live within the roots of plants and extend their straw-like filaments beyond the root frontiers. In undisturbed soils every millimeter of plant root is accompanied by approximately one meter of fungal filaments. They seek out nutrients, such as phosphorus, and water and exchange these in the root for energy rich sugars produced by the plant. These mycorrhizal fungi effectively extend the plants own rooting system.
Salvias are their own saving grace hence their name being very aptly derived from “salvere”, which is Latin for “to save” or “to heal”. The plant has always been believed to have medicinal properties, from ancient Greek and Roman times, with results so compelling that even modern day trials are still being carried out today.
Pliny the Elder was a Roman scientist and historian who was evidently the first to use the name salvia. The Romans were so serious about this sacred herb they even performed a special ceremony to honour it during harvesting. In ancient Greece it was historically used for snake bites and digestive problems.
During National Arbor Week South Africans around the country are encouraged to plant indigenous trees in their gardens, schools and communities. The first Arbor Day was celebrated on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska, USA. Mr J Sterling Morton, a newcomer to the treeless plains of Nebraska, was a keen proponent of the beauty and benefits that trees provide. He persuaded the local agricultural board to set aside a day for planting trees as a means of promoting conservation and correcting the gradual deforestation of the prairie. His petition was granted, and through his position as editor of Nebraska's first newspaper, he encouraged participation in the event by publishing informative articles on the value of trees, not only for their beauty and the cool shade they provide for both people and livestock, but also for their fruit, their value as building material and fuel, as well as to stop soil erosion.
The selection of the Tree of the Year is now a joint effort by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), The Botanical Society and the South African Bio-diversity Institute (SANBI).
The trees of the year for 2014 are the White Ironwood and the Lavender Tree. If these trees are not suitable for your region, then you are encouraged to plant other more suitable indigenous trees; and if your garden is small and cannot contain another tree, you can plant anything indigenous, no matter how small.
If the trees of the year are not suitable for your region, we encourage you to plant other more suitable indigenous trees or shrubs; so we have documented some of our most practical and beautiful garden trees below. We hope they inspire you to get out that spade and start digging those holes in preparation for Arbor Week.
Whether you are planting a large thorn tree or a tiny indigenous groundcover, it does not matter. What really counts is the spirit in which this symbolic gesture is done; and even a tiny groundcover will attract a myriad of insects and beautiful butterflies to your garden.