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In some parts of the world Portulaca is aptly named the “Time flower” because the flower opens and closes at specific times of the day. You can set your clock to it. Clever little thing!
Portulaca grandiflora is part of the Portulacaceae family and is native to the hot, dry plains of northern Argentina, Uruguay and the southern Brazil. It has now been naturalised in other parts of the world. Portulacas are one of very few annual succulents. They love it hot and they are drought tolerant. They will flower from summer up until the first frost.
Portulacas mature at around 15cm in height and 30-40cm in width, variety dependent. The reddish coloured stems are prostate or slightly ascending. The green cylindrical leaves are arranged in clusters around the stem. They are pointed at the ends. Both the stems and leaves are thick, fleshy and juicy.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic is a hardy perennial bulb which belongs to the Alliaceae family, the same family as onions, shallots and leeks. It produces flat grey-green spear like leaves and white, pink or mauve globular flower heads. Garlic dies back after flowering and the garlic we consume is really a series of young bulbs or cloves encased in a papery covering; and the cloves are the stored food the plant uses to generate new growth the following season. If you can grow a daffodil or a freesia then you can grow your own garlic – it’s that easy! The garlic we know today is a domesticated crop but many researchers consider Central Asia to be its place of origin because it is also home to (Allium longicuspis) and (Allium tuncelianum.) Both are widely distributed throughout Turkey and were probably used there since Neolithic times. Both smell of garlic when crushed and are used locally as a substitute for the modern cultivated forms.
Remember class photographs at school? The tallest kids always had to stand at the back, with the shorties in front. The same principle applies to dahlias if you intend to make all your blooms visible. This week we’ll focus on the tallest versions of this plant, which grows from a tuberous root and belongs to the Asteraceae family. Although there are 30 species of dahlia available (originating from Colombia and Central America, where the Aztecs used the plant for medicinal purposes and even fed on the petals), many varieties of hybrids and cultivars occur around the world today.
The tallest of these are the Cactus (80cm-1m), Decorative (80cm-1m) and Dinner Plate (1.5m-2m) dahlias. The Dinner Plates are not just tall; their flowers can be as massive as 25cm in diameter! And the Decoratives offer even more than you bargain for by popping up in double bloom, while the Cactus varieties, on the other hand, are known to have narrow, spiky florets. All just as varied as the kids in your Grade Five class!
Pineapple Sage, Pynappelsalie (Salvia elegans)
Pineapple sage is simply spectacular when in full bloom in late summer, with its masses of tubular blood red flower spikes that contrast perfectly against the bright green leaves. It is known for its healing properties and its name means 'to save or heal'. Its fragrant, pineapple flavoured leaves and edible flowers are great to use in the kitchen and sage is also a good companion plant for the vegetable garden and looks lovely planted in the mixed flower border. It is an easy and rewarding plant to grow and the flowers are a favourite of bees, butterflies and nectar loving birds.
This evergreen perennial is tender to frost, but will tolerate moderate frost if planted in a protected position in the garden. In severe frost regions it will die down completely in winter but should grow back the following spring. It loves full sun and will adapt to most garden soils which drain well; growing +-90cm tall and 1m wide. Sage is a water- wise plant which once established will thrive on a deep watering about once a week.
Frangipani are exotic tropical shrubs with heavenly perfumed flowers all summer long; so plant them near your patio or windows, where their fragrance can be enjoyed. Each of the separate species bears differently shaped leaves and their growth habits are also distinct. They also vary in height depending on the cultivar; from about 4 to 8m tall, and can spread as wide. The frangipani grows best in the warm, moist, sub-tropical regions of the country and is tender to all but light frost. It will grow in drier regions if watered regularly in summer. Although this plant likes regular watering, it does not like 'wet feet'; so allow the soil to partially dry out before watering again. In the winter rainfall regions it must be protected from winter rainfall by planting in extremely well-drained soil, or in a pot. Frangipani is deciduous and in autumn you must reduce the amount you water; stopping altogether when the plant is totally dormant in winter. Resume watering in spring when the new leaves appear. Frangipani is very easy to grow in full sun as long as the soil drains well and is moderately fertile. Protect it from strong winds and feed with a complete organic fertiliser in spring, and every 6 to 8 weeks in summer. Prune in winter, if required.