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Gardening in South Africa

Iceland poppies combine beautifully with other winter flowering annuals and create a fantastic backdrop for spring flowering bulbs.

Poppy 'Champagne Bubbles Mix. Improved' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaPoppy 'Champagne Bubbles Mix. Improved' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaIceland Poppies are old-time favourites that are easy to grow and will brighten up even the coldest winter day. From hairy tufts of linear blue-green foliage rise wiry stems bearing a pendant bud. The single (occasionally double) flowers un-wrinkle their petals into elegant saucer shaped blooms, with crowns of golden stamens, and petals like fine crinoline. These popular cut-flowers are available in bright and pastel shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, cream and white, as well as bicoloured varieties. There are several varieties of Iceland Poppies like: ‘Champagne Bubbles’ which is available in mixed and single colours, ‘Citrus Mix’, ‘Meadow Mix Pastel’ and ‘Wonderland’.

Poppies originated in the wilds of Northern Europe, Asia, and North America and have a long history in human civilization. In Mesopotamia they were already grown as ornamental garden plants since 5 000 B.C.E. and were also found in Egyptian tombs. In Greek mythology the poppy was associated with Dementer, goddess of fertility and agriculture. People also believed that they would have a bountiful harvest if poppies grew in their corn fields, hence the name “corn poppy”.

Hellebores - beautiful harbingers of spring

In mid-winter and spring when our gardens are often at their most dreary the Lenten Roses thrust their way through the frozen earth to produce their delicate blooms; withstanding extreme cold, snow and frost.

Helleborus species are mostly low-growing compact plants with hand-shaped, often toothed, short-stemmed, deep green leaves that emerge from a fleshy rootstock. The simple, 5-petalled, bowl-shaped flowers appear from mid-winter through to spring and are available in unusual shades of green, dusky pink, and maroon, as well as white. The "petals" are actually sepals that shelter the tiny ‘true flowers’ nestled in the centre of the blossoms which are surrounded by prominent, green, nectar-containing sacs and a number of yellow stamens. These petal-like sepals remain on the plant for several months, long after the true flowers have faded and seeds have set.

Coping with 'Jack Frost'

Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea marginata'Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea marginata'Frost is one of nature's gifts, intensifying the colours of autumn leaves and improving the flavour of your winter vegetables. Many of the most beautiful flowering plants love cold weather and many of them are the most popular spring flowering plants. With some planning and preperation, frosty gardens can thrive right through winter and summer.

Most of the inland areas of South Africa experience some degree of frost and the frost belts fall within vast areas. The degrees of frost can vary enormously from place to place; so if you are new to gardening in these regions consult with local gardeners and experienced nurseries in your area before making your final plant selection.

Pansy Cool Wave

Sow seeds of spinach directly into garden beds in late summer or autumn.

Spinach' Cornet' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaSpinach' Cornet' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaThis easy-to-grow, nutritious, cool-season crop is among the first greens ready to harvest. Spinach is an edible flowering plant in the family Amaranthaceae and is related to beets and Swiss chard. Its origins are uncertain but it is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (modern Iran and neighbouring countries). The Arabs introduced spinach into North Africa, from where it was taken to Europe. It is unknown how it was introduced to India and ancient China, where it was known as "Persian vegetable."  The Saracens introduced spinach to Sicily in AD 827 and it first appeared in England and France in the 14th century, probably via Spain. It quickly gained popularity because it appeared in early spring when other vegetables were scarce and when Lenten dietary restrictions discouraged consumption of other foods. Spinach is now widely grown in the temperate regions of the world and it is often confused with Swiss chard because there are slight similarities.

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