Gardening in South Africa Mon, 19 Mar 2018 10:27:06 +0000 en-gb Colour your garden warm this winter and spring.

Dianthus Bouquet Purple. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyDoes your summer flower garden start to fizzle out as soon as the cooler weather arrives? If so, you need a new plan to keep your beds blooming, and one which doesn’t cost a fortune either! It’s very hard not to get carried away at the garden centre when confronted with all those trays of delightful flowering seedlings, but please take a deep breath and stick to your original plan. Also, remember that no prize-winning flower garden can be created in the first year and a bit of planning beforehand will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

To ensure that you always have some colour in your garden, introduce a couple of new flowering perennials to your garden each season, and you will soon build up a framework of permanent flowering plants. These perennials, together with your selected shrubs and trees, will form the framework around which you can create an attractive and continuous display of colour in your garden. Perennials will also reduce the amount of annuals you need to plant each season, not only saving you a lot of cash but a lot of time also. Autumn is an exciting time in the garden and there are many beautiful perennials in bloom now; so ‘get out there’ and visit your favourite garden centre for some autumn inspiration and great advice.

Bellissima mixed Bellis Picture Courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyThe addition of flowering annuals should complete your garden for all seasons, with all the various plants supporting each other visually to weave a rich patchwork of texture and colour. Colour is what most people are drawn to in a garden and should be tactfully incorporated into your design for maximum impact. You can create a mood or even change the perspective of a garden by using certain colours.

Think about how you want to use colour, not only for the way you think it will look but also for the mood you want to create in the garden. For glorious, instant gratification - nothing beats bedding plants - and just a few trays of seedlings will transform your garden into a kaleidoscope of brilliant colour.

Many bedding plants grow beautifully in containers, and a few strategically placed groupings of flowering pots and hanging baskets will instantly add a warm and welcoming touch to entrances, patios and other areas. Colour will also enhance the visibility of your business, and bold floral plantings can be changed seasonally to continually attract attention.

In cold winter regions which experience early frosts, gardeners generally start planting out trays of winter seedlings, or sowing seeds, once the soil Carpet mixed Petunia. Picture courtesy Ball Hortiultural Companytemperatures have cooled down significantly in autumn. In subtropical and humid regions, late summer, autumn and winter are the best times to plant a flower garden; and many winter annuals, as well as summer flowering annuals are sown during these cooler months. Sowing and planting times vary from region to region, and not all so-called “winter annuals” are fully hardy to frost, so it is always best to check with your local garden centre to ensure that you plant the correct varieties at the right time.

Remember to water the beds and the trays of seedlings thoroughly the day before planting out, and always plant in the cool of the morning or late afternoon. To avoid damaging the seedlings, gently coax them out of their trays by pushing them out from below. A common mistake gardeners make is to plant their seedlings too deep - never bury the stems or cover their crowns with soil, as this can cause them to rot. Water well after transplanting and keep the soil moist but not soggy until they are established. If you are planting a mixture of seedlings, remember to group plants which have the same watering requirements together.

Most bedding plants need well drained soil to thrive and thorough soil preparation is vital. Start by digging the bed over thoroughly and adding generous quantities of compost or other organic matter and a handful of bone meal to each square meter of bed. For pots, use a very well drained potting mixture and add some bone meal or a slow-release fertiliser.

TIP: Do not plant the same seedlings into the same beds year after year as this can cause soil borne fungal diseases and will deplete the soil of nutrients. This is especially relevant for seedlings like petunia, pansy and viola.

With the wide selection of beautiful bedding plants available to South African gardeners, there is no excuse not to have a beautiful flowering garden all year round. The list below should inspire you to incorporate a fresh ‘new look’ in your garden every season, by using different colour schemes and plant varieties. Combine this with the fast-maturing versatility of annuals, and your garden can become a canvas, and you an artist!

African Daisy Picture courtesy Scot ParrishAfrican or Namaqualand Daisies are hardy water-wise annuals which are hardy to even severe frost. They love full sun, and grow quickly to about 35cm tall. Their flowers are so prolific that the leaves are almost invisible when the blooms appear; and they are available in the traditional bright orange and yellow flowers, as well as in many pastel shades and pure white. Sow them in masse into large beds, rockeries or borders for hassle-free colour. These easy to grow annuals are sown directly into garden beds in autumn when the soil temperatures have dropped significantly.

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Aquilegia F1 Hybrid. Picture courtesy grow in semi-shade to sun and are hardy to frost but are not suited to humid or very dry regions. They remain firm favourites to plant in shade gardens and flower in late spring and summer. Their attractive fern-like leaves are a perfect foil for the exotic- looking flowers, which are available in shades of pink, red, blue, violet, rose and burgundy, white, yellow and orange. There are compact, dwarf varieties which grow +-20cm tall; and larger varieties which vary from +-40 to 75cm tall. Plant them in mixed flower borders, or behind spring flowering bulbs for a delicate contrast. The dwarf varieties are perfect for planting in pots and window boxes.

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Alyssum mixedAlyssum is hardy to frost and available in lovely in shades of pink, rose, purple, mauve, white, and yellow. It grows best in full sun but takes light shade. New varieties are very compact; growing +-15cm tall. They are ideal edging plants and great in hanging baskets, mixed with other annuals. Their tiny seeds can be sown directly into well-prepared garden beds or seedling trays.

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Bellis Habanera. Picture courtesy or English Daisies grow well throughout the country provided they are watered well in dry regions. They are hardy to frost and will grow +-10 to 15cm tall, in semi-shade to full sun. They are loved for their double daisy flowers in all shades of pink to rose, scarlet and white. They grow easily in pots and make excellent border and bedding plants. Seeds can be sown directly into well-prepared garden beds or seedling trays in autumn.

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Bokbaai Vygie. Picture courtesy Vygies are compact, low-growing plants +-15cm tall, which thrive in very hot beds in full sun. They are water-wise, grow well in poor soils, and are hardy to frost. Vygies are unrivalled for their multitude of dazzling, brightly coloured flowers; and if planted in massed beds, make a striking groundcover or border plant. They are also perfect to use in hanging baskets and containers of all kinds. Seeds are sown directly into well-prepared garden beds in autumn.

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Canterbury Bells. Picture courtesy Ann SonghurstCanterbury Bells are hardy to frost and grow in sun or light shade. They are not suited to very hot, dry, or humid regions. Plants vary in height from 90 to 120cm, depending on the variety; and their tall flower spikes and bell-shaped flowers come in a lovely range of colours; from purple to violet, blue, lavender, pink and white; and last long in a vase. They are essential in cottage gardens and an excellent backdrop for the flower bed. They do well if sown in late summer and autumn, to flower in spring or early summer. Seeds are sown directly into well-prepared garden beds or trays.

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Calendula 'Yellow' Picture courtesy grow quickly, germinate easily, are hardy to all but extremely severe frost, and will grow in full sun or light shade. They produce large, single or double flowers that last long in a vase. The clear, bright colours are orange to apricot orange and golden to lemon yellow. Both dwarf and tall strains are available, varying in height from +-20 to 75cm tall, but the dwarf varieties are the most freely available. They are ideal for beds, borders and containers. The large seeds are sown directly into garden beds in autumn.

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Chrysanthemum paludosum. Picture courtesy like C. paludosum with its small white daisy flowers and golden central discs; or C. multicaule with its charming yellow daisy flowers are both hardy to moderate frost and grow in full sun or semi-shade. Because they only grow +-20cm tall, they make good edging, bedding or border plants, and also grow well in hanging baskets and other containers, mixed with other flowering annuals. They can be sown almost throughout the year, directly into garden beds or seedling trays.

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Dwarf Cineraria. Picture courtesy are tender to frost and thrive in semi-shade. They grow well in the winter rainfall regions and are not suited to very dry or humid areas. When in full bloom the plant is almost completely covered by immense clusters of velvety, daisy-like flowers in many vibrant colours like blue, purple, lilac, white, pink and rose. Both single colours and bicoloured strains are available, as well as dwarf and tall varieties. Seeds can be sown in seedling trays in late summer.

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Cornflower. Picture courtesy Stig MadsenCornflowers love full sun and are hardy to frost. They bloom prolifically in late winter and spring, and their rich shades of blue are much sought after, both for garden decoration and for the cut-flower industry. Garden varieties normally include shades of pink, red, lilac and white. They are a must-have for flower beds in cottage or wild meadow gardens. Seeds can be sown directly into garden beds or in seedling trays in autumn.

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Delphinium 'Magic Fountains Mixed' Picture courtesy do not like humidity and very dry regions. They are hardy to frost and can be planted in full sun to semi-shade. Delphiniums vary in height from +-75cm to 1.8m tall and are truly the ‘queens’ of the flower border, with their tall, striking upright flower spikes in exquisite shades of blue, lavender, pink and white, all with contrasting white or dark centres. Seeds can be sown directly into garden beds or seedling trays, in autumn or spring.

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Diathus Mixed. Picture courtesy are hardy to frost and grow well throughout South Africa for most of the year, but are not suitable for very humid regions. Plant them in full sun where they will grow +-15 to 20cm tall. These dwarf, compact carnations are grown for the classical beauty of their flowers, and come in many shades of pink, red, violet and white; are available in clear colours as well as bi-colours; and last well in a vase. Use it as a border plant or in containers. Seeds can be sown into seedling trays in autumn or spring.

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Foxglove 'Camalot Lavender' Picture courtesy grow best in regions with high rainfall and are hardy to frost; but are not suited to very humid or hot, dry regions. The varieties vary in height, but most of the modern strains are compact and grow +-60 to 90cm tall.  Their velvety flowers last long in a vase and have marbled markings in all shades of white, yellow, cream, lavender, rose and red. Because of their tall, striking flower spikes they are invaluable in woodland gardens and shady flower beds. Seed can be sown in seedling trays in autumn or spring, to bloom in spring and summer.

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Godetia. Picture courtesy are easy to grow in full sun and are hardy to frost, but are not suited to hot humid regions. Dwarf and tall varieties are available which vary in height from +-30 to 90cm tall. They are excellent cut-flowers; producing satiny cup-shaped blooms in shades of rose to pink and peach, lavender and white; darkening at the base or shading to white or red. These are popular cool season annuals will flower in late spring and early to mid-summer, depending on when they are sown, but because they prefer cooler weather are generally sown directly into garden beds in autumn.

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Iceland Poppies. Picture courtesy Poppies will brighten up even the coldest winter day. They love full sun, are hardy to frost and grow well throughout South Africa, except for those very dry regions. They vary slightly in height from +-30 to 45cm. These popular cut flowers are available in bright and pastel shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, cream and white, as well as bicoloured varieties. Because poppies do not like undue disturbance, seeds are best sown directly into well-prepared garden beds. If you do sow them in seedling trays, transplant them into the garden as soon as they are strong enough, not allowing them to grow too large in the trays.

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Enchantment Linaria. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyLinaria or Baby Snapdragons are hardy plants that love full sun and grow well throughout South Africa. The varieties vary slightly in height from +-20 to 35cm tall and produce clusters of tiny snapdragon flowers in a rainbow mixture of red, pink, yellow, purple, blue and white. They look best when sown in large clumps and make a beautiful addition to the mixed flower border; and also grow easily in pots. Seeds are sown directly into well prepared garden beds in spring or autumn. In regions that experience severe frost, it is best to sow them in spring and early summer.

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Lobelia 'Sky Blue'  Picture courtesy can be grown almost throughout the year in South Africa in full sun or semi-shade; and are semi-hardy to moderate frost. They produce a profusion of tiny flowers in shades of light and dark blue, lilac, purple, pink, carmine and white. Some varieties have bronzy foliage and others bright green leaves. Modern varieties are compact and grow +-15cm tall, and there are also cascading ones, making them perfect for hanging baskets as well as borders. Seeds are sown into seedling trays in autumn or spring.

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Lupins. Picture courtesy are hardy to moderate frost and love full sun. They are not suited to very hot, dry or humid regions. These unusual plants produce long-stemmed spikes, 60 to 80cm tall, bearing pea-shaped flowers in shades of yellow, white, rose, lilac and blue. Lupins are eye-catching when planted in large groups. They are excellent cut-flowers and both the flowers and berries are used by florists. Seed can be sown directly into garden beds in spring or late summer.

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Mimulus 'Magic Mixed' Picture courtesy Flowers are moisture loving plants that thrive in semi-shade, and grow +-30cm tall. Because they are tender to frost, they are generally grown as summer annuals in South Africa; but in warmer regions they can be planted all year round. Their gay flowers are available in single or mixed shades of bright scarlet, pink, white, yellow, ivory, and orange. They are perfect planted into hanging baskets and pots, or as a border to the flower garden. Seeds are sown into seedling trays in spring or autumn.

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Sundrops mix Nemesia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyNemesias grow best in regions with mild winters but are semi-hardy to frost if planted in a protected position in the garden. They are not suited to hot, humid regions. Their spectacular little snapdragon-like flowers come in intense colours like gold, yellow, orange, rose, pink, peach, red and white. Nemesias grow quickly to +-30cm tall and look beautifully in containers, borders, and in massed displays. Seeds can be sown in trays or directly into well-prepared garden beds in autumn.

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Ornamental Kale. Picture courtesy Kale loves full sun and is completely hardy to cold and frost, with the colourful pigmentations only appearing after prolonged cold weather and frosts. This is a fun plant if you want something a bit different to add impact to your garden. It grows +-30cm tall and the foliage can be plain or ruffled, and is available in white, pink, purple, or red. Ornamental kale looks spectacular if planted in large groups, and also does well in containers. Seeds can be sown into trays or directly into garden beds.

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Pansy 'Designer Pastel Mixed' Picture courtesy and Violas are hardy to frost, but do not like humidity. They vary in height from +-15 to 20cm and are timeless favourites, which come in a staggering range of bright or pastel shades; including pink, blue, yellow, gold, orange, purple, violet, red, russet, white and even black. They are available in clear single shades as well as bi-colours; and are perfect planted in hanging baskets and borders. Seeds are best sown in seedling trays in late summer to early autumn.

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Schizanthus. Picture courtesy Man's Orchids grow well throughout South Africa, except in regions that experience severe frost. They enjoy cool, yet sunny positions; in cool regions plant them in sun to light shade; and in hotter regions in semi-shade. Hybrids vary from +-20 to 40cm tall and produce a profusion of cut flowers in colours like pink, blue, violet, lavender, magenta, white, yellow, orange, gold, red and salmon. They are excellent border plants; and bloom best when their roots are restricted, making them great in containers. Seeds are sown in seed trays in late summer.

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Primula acaulis mixed. Picture courtesy acaulis or Common Primroses grow about 12cm tall and thrive in semi shade. They are hardy to frost but will not tolerate heat. This primrose flowers profusely and is grown for its intensely coloured flowers in every colour except green. Plant them into pots, window boxes and hanging baskets, or use them as a border to the shady flower garden. They also combine beautifully with spring flowering bulbs. Seeds can be sown into seedling trays in autumn.

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Primula malacoides. Picture courtesy malacoides or Fairy Primroses are hardy to moderate frost, but do not like high humidity. Plant them in semi-shade where they will grow +-30cm tall. They remain firm favourites with gardeners for their masses of delicate flowers in delightful shades of lilac, purple, pink, carmine-red and white. They grow beautifully in window boxes, hanging baskets and pots in shady areas; and their delicate flowers make a striking edging plant and put on a brilliant show if displayed in massed flowerbeds. Seeds can be sown in seedling trays or very well-prepared garden beds in late summer and autumn.

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Primula obconica. Picture courtesy obconica or German Primroses are semi-hardy to frost if planted in a protected position outdoors, but they will not tolerate heat. Plant them in semi-shade where they will grow +-20cm tall. These small growing plants are like miniature floral bouquets with their clusters of flowers in a rainbow of colours, from yellows and oranges, to red, pink, lilac, blue, purple and white. They flower profusely and do well in pots, window boxes and hanging baskets, or as a border to the shady flower garden. Seeds can be sown in seedling trays in late summer and autumn.

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Petunia mixed. Picture courtesy can be planted almost all year round in South Africa and are semi-hardy to moderate frost, but do not like high humidity. They love full sun and varieties vary in height and spread, so check carefully before making your selection.  They are available in a wide range of colours, from fiery reds, burgundy and purples, to all shades of pink, lilac, blue, yellow, black and white.  If planted in mass, petunias will provide brilliant colour for months on end. Use the cascading varieties in containers and the compact varieties in the garden.  Seeds are best sown into seedling trays. 

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Phlox 21st Century. Picture courtesy can be grown almost throughout the year in South Africa, but does best in the cooler season. They can be planted in full sun to light shade and are hardy to all but severe frost. In humid regions they are planted in autumn. The new compact varieties will grow quickly to about 25cm tall; and produce large clusters of delicate blooms in many pastel and bright shades of red, pink, coral, blue, lilac, purple and white. Use them in flower borders or in containers. Seed can be sown in autumn or spring into seedling trays.

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Antirrhinum Dwarf Mixed. Picture courtesy love full sun and are hardy to frost. Dwarf and tall varieties are available in nearly every flower colour, or bicolour; including red, bronze, yellow, orange, pink, purple, cream, and white. The short varieties are wonderful edging plants and grow well in containers; taller varieties mix beautifully with other plants in the flower border. Seed and can be sown in trays or directly into garden beds almost throughout the year in South Africa. 

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Stocks. Picture courtesy are among our oldest and dearly-loved garden flowers and are grown throughout South Africa in winter and spring. They love full sun and are hardy to frost. These cut flowers have a sweet perfume at night and come in shades of pink, mauve, crimson, purple, cream, yellow, peach and white. Both dwarf and tall varieties are available, ranging in height from +-30 to 70cm. Stocks are invaluable in the flower border and the dwarf varieties are easy to grow in containers. Seeds are sown into seedling trays in late summer.

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Sweetpeas. Picture courtesy are highly scented cut-flowers that bring cheer to any winter's day. They are hardy to moderate frost and grow well throughout South Africa, except for those extremely cold regions. In very cold regions, where the weather remains cool during spring and early summer, late flowering varieties can be sown in spring to flower in early summer. Climbers will grow +-2m tall and bush varieties vary in height from 30 to 90cm. Try planting the dwarf varieties in pots, hanging baskets and window boxes, or as a border to the flower garden. Grow the climbing varieties up a protected, sunny wall or fence. Seed can be sown directly into garden beds or into seedling trays.

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Sweet William. Picture courtesy Karina BjorkSweet William remains an old-fashioned summer flowering favourite which is prized for its sweetly-scented, long-lasting cut-flowers, in lovely shades of pink, rose, red, purple and white, and sometimes bicoloured with fringed petals. Newer varieties have been bred to flower in the first year from seed; seed that is sown into trays in late spring and summer will take about 15 to 17 weeks to flower, and seed sown in late summer and autumn will take 17 to 22 weeks to flower. There are both tall and dwarf varieties which vary in height from +-15 to 60cm tall. This lovely bedding or border plant is used in cottage gardens; perennial flower borders; and grows well in containers.

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If you are not sure which varieties to plant each season; or when to sow or plant them for best results "Growing Bedding Plants in South Africa” e-book will show you how.

It is written especially for South African gardeners and covers everything you need to know about growing or your own seedlings.

I hope it will inspire you to create a beautiful flower garden, no matter how large or small.

All 78 pages are packed with useful information; like the best planting and sowing times for each variety, as well as ideal germination temperatures and days to flowering.

Whether you sow your own seeds or buy seedlings from your garden centre, you will find growing bedding plants a most rewarding hobby.

"Growing Bedding Plants in South Africa” e-book will inspire the artist in you and I hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Click here to order or read more.

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]]> (Darlene Roelofsen) January Thu, 08 Mar 2018 11:45:17 +0000
Cosmos is a lovely non-toxic flower which is recommended for children’s gardens and safe around cats and dogs.

Sonata Mix Cosmos. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCosmos are beautiful summer flowering annuals native to Mexico, where most of the species occur, as well as the United States, as far north as the Olympic Peninsula in Washington; and Central and South America, as far south as Paraguay. One species, the commonly called “Mexican Aster” (Cosmos bipinnatus) escaped gardens and naturalized itself across much of the eastern United States and eastern Canada, growing abundantly on disturbed land besides roads, and in fields and waste areas. It is also widespread over the high eastern plains of South Africa, where it was introduced via contaminated horse feed imported from Argentina during the Anglo-Boer War. In South Africa they flower religiously around Easter time, transforming open fields and roadways with their masses of flowers, and the flowering can continue until the first frosts.

Spanish priests grew cosmos in their mission gardens in Mexico, and it was their perfect, evenly placed petals which led them to christen the flower "Cosmos," the Greek word for harmony or ordered universe. Although there are 20 known species of cosmos, two annual species, the commonly called Yellow Cosmos (Cosmos sulphurous) and the Mexican cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) are most familiar to home gardeners, and easy to tell apart.

The Mexican cosmos is a tall, bushy annual growing between 1 and 2m high, with very finely divided mid-green leaves, and large pink or white flowers with a central disc of tightly clustered, usually yellow, inner disc florets. Plant breeders have been hard at work, and today this cosmos comes in many named selections which include single, semi-double or fully double blooms in a variety of awesome colours ranging from lilac to deep carmine, scarlet red, and even Cosmos 'Antiquity' Picture courtesy Ball Straathofpeachy-pink and pale yellow. These new hybrids flower very profusely and for much longer, and exciting new dwarf varieties are also available which are extremely compact, and because they only grow 30 to 50cm tall, are suitable for even the smallest gardens and grow beautifully in pots - even if you only have a sunny balcony, you can grow at least one!

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Antiquity' is a good example of a new and beautiful dwarf variety of cosmos with rich burgundy coloured flowers that change to antique bronze and salmon with age. This little gem may only grow about 38cm tall, but makes up for its lack in stature with its masses of flowers.  It is also a tough garden performer that tolerates poor soil, heat and humidity.

Cosmos sulphureus 'Bright Lights' is also known as Sulphur Cosmos and Yellow Cosmos. It is freely available and remains popular, not only for its ease of growth, but also for its lacy foliage and profusion of brilliant flowers in shades of orange, yellow, and flame-red, blooming from early summer until the first frosts. It loves full sun, tolerates humidity and grows quickly to a height of 90cm, and like other cosmos, thrives on poor soils.

 Sonata Carmine Cosmos. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyIn the Garden:

Because cosmos is non-toxic and so easy to grow, it is recommended for children’s gardens. It is also safe around dogs and cats.

Modern cosmos hybrids are compact, easy-to-grow and very free-flowering. They also last well in a vase, and the more you pick them, the more they will bloom, attracting butterflies, bees and other beneficial insect pollinators to the garden.

The taller varieties make a wonderful background plant for the flower garden and are marvellous in wild meadow and cottage gardens. Dwarf strains are perfectly charming if planted as borders and thrive in containers, making them perfect for brightening up patios, balconies and courtyard gardens.

Modern cosmos hybrids are compact, easy to grow and very free-flowering, but to flower well they require full sun and moderately fertile soil which drains well - if the soil is too rich and fertile they will not perform as well. This makes them ideal to grow in many of the drier summer rainfall regions of the country where the soils are less than perfect. In the winter rainfall regions, they will require regular summer watering, and in very humid regions they are susceptible to fungal diseases, although newer hybrids will tolerate more humidity.

Potted plants and seedling trays are available from garden centres, which can be planted out at any time, making them very handy for small gardens and containers, but gardeners on a budget prefer to sow the seeds directly where they are to grow, in late spring. Germination should take place within 4 to 7 days in ideal soil temperatures between 18 and 21°C. Lightly cover the seeds with soil, and thin out the small seedlings to space them correctly - check the plant label or seed packet. Cosmos grows quickly, and modern hybrids can start blooming within 10 to 12 weeks after sowing, but in some climates, cosmos sown in spring may not come into full bloom until the days become shorter in late summer.
Sonata Pink Cosmos. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyBesides moderate watering during dry spells cosmos will need no further attention or feeding, besides keeping the beds free of weeds. Cutting flowers for the vase, and deadheading spent flowers regularly will prolong flowering, but at the end of the season leave a few seed heads to ripen and self-seed, or collect and store for next season.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

If grown correctly cosmos suffer from no serious insect or disease problems, but may occasionally be attacked by aphids or red spider mites, which can be treated with insecticide soaps or other appropriate insecticides.

During moist, warm weather, and in humid regions, they can be susceptible to powdery mildew and other fungal diseases.

]]> (Darlene Roelofsen) January Thu, 22 Feb 2018 10:40:29 +0000
Traditionally mid to late summer is the time to sow vegetable crops that enjoy growing in the intermediate to cool seasons.

Broad Beans with white Primulas in frontWant to save money on the family budget this year? Vegetable prices are very high right now, so why not try growing your own - it's really easy and nothing beats the flavour of home grown veggies. Also, if you practice organic gardening you will have peace of mind, knowing that your veggies are truly fresh and packed with vitamins and minerals, and do not contain unhealthy chemical residues.

Vegetables are more nutritious if they are consumed as fresh as possible and fruiting vegetables, like beans, tomatoes, peppers and sweet corn, have the best flavour if they are eaten as quickly as possible after harvesting. Growing your own veggies also gives you a wider choice, and unusual varieties are sometimes difficult to obtain in grocery stores, but are easily grown in the home garden.

Many vegetables like frilly lettuce and 'Bright Lights' spinach are also very ornamental and can be grown for their good looks as well as their produce.

When growing vegetables it is important to understand that there are cold season crops, warm season crops and intermediate crops.

The cold season crops grow best in temperatures between 10ºC and 20ºC. They can tolerate even colder conditions and are hardy to frost. Intermediate crops prefer temperatures between 15ºC and 25ºC. Warm season vegetables are tender to frost and should be grown in temperatures of 20ºC or more.

Sowing times may vary slightly from region to region, so check with your local garden centre for the exact sowing times and follow the sowing instructions on the back of your seed packet. Some vegetables in the intermediate group tend to 'bolt' to seed if sown out of season.

In subtropical climates many warm season plants are grown almost all year round but cool season crops might only have a very short growing season or none at all.  Modern hybrid seeds allow many crops to be grown out of season so check your varieties carefully before purchasing your selection.

In the winter rainfall region it is time to start sowing broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts into seedling trays. These will be ready to plant out in early autumn, when the weather cools down. It is the last month to sow bush beans and fast maturing squashes like baby marrows and patty pans.

In frosty regions this is the last month that you can sow bush beans. Start sowing broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts into seedling trays. These will be ready to plant out in early autumn, when the weather cools down.  You can also still sow lettuce, Swiss chard, carrots, leeks, turnips and parsnips.

In the subtropical regions you can start sowing peppers, eggplants and tomatoes in seedling trays now.

If you want a flourishing winter vegetable garden you really have to get cracking this month, so if you are not already a member, sign up today -  our veggie section has all the info you require to ‘grow your own’.

If you prefer an e-book, “Growing vegetables in South Africa” will get you off to a quick start. Read more here..

Broccoli is essentially cool season crop that requires cool, moist conditions to develop good heads, but new hybrid seed is available that will extend the growing season into summer, so choose your varieties carefully.

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Cauliflower is usually sown from mid-summer to autumn. There are early, mid-season and late varieties, so choose your cultivars carefully. The plants are sensitive to sudden changes in temperature.

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Brussels sprouts are a cool season crop and very hardy to cold and frost. Sow the seeds from December to February for transplanting in early autumn.

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Cabbages are good intermediate to cool season crops but new hybrid varieties allow you to sow them virtually throughout the year. May, June and July are not good months for sowing seeds in very cold regions.

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Broad beans remain a popular intermediate to cool season crop. Seeds can be sown from February to June, but are best sown in March and April in frost free regions, and in April and May in frosty regions.

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Turnips are best grown as a cool season crop but can be sown almost throughout the year in South Africa, with mid-winter being the worst time to sow, unless you live in subtropical areas. They can be harvested about 8 to 10 weeks after sowing.

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Beetroot is an intermediate to warm season crop but can be grown almost throughout the year in South Africa, with spring to autumn being the best time to sow in frosty regions. It is semi-hardy to frost but in cold regions winter sowings will grow slowly with poorer yields. Sow in autumn and winter in subtropical regions.

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Parsnips are a cool season crop that is best sown in February and March or in August and September. In hot regions sow the seed in late summer and autumn. In very cold regions do not sow seed in late autumn or winter as the plants will produce small roots and may run to seed prematurely.

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Endives are an intermediate to cool season crop that is similar in appearance to lettuce and  are grown in much the same way.

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Lettuce is an intermediate to cool season crop but varieties are available that can be sown almost all year round. June and July are the least favourable months to plant unless you live in subtropical regions.

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Celeriac is closely related to celery and is grown in the same way. It is a good intermediate to cool season crop that can be harvested at about four months.

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Celery is a good intermediate to cool season crop, but can be sow from August to February in South Africa. Seeds are sown from spring to autumn in temperate regions and in late summer and autumn in hot summer regions.

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Kohlrabi is essentially a cool season to intermediate crop but is most adaptable and grows in all the climatic zones of South Africa, and can be sown from August to April. It can be harvested after eight to ten weeks when the bulb is about the size of a tennis ball.

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Carrots are a good intermediate crop but modern hybrids allow them to be sown virtually throughout the year - in very hot summer regions they are best sown during late summer to early winter. May, June and July are not good months to sow carrots in very cold regions.

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If you want a flourishing winter vegetable garden you really have to get cracking this month, so if you are not already a member, sign up today -  our veggie section has all the info you require to ‘grow your own’.

If you prefer an e-book, “Growing vegetables in South Africa” will get you off to a quick start. Read more here..


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]]> (Darlene Roelofsen) January Mon, 19 Feb 2018 08:11:32 +0000
This little birdfeeder is worth its weight in gold.

People love attracting birds to their gardens because they bring life, movement, bird song, and hours of joy. Here the Red Bishops and the little Cape Sparrows vie for space, but somehow they all manage to get their share.

There are many types of bird feeders available, so select those you prefer - they all work well. It is incredible how quickly the birds find the food, it can be within hours, or perhaps a day or so at the most, but once they discover it you will find them returning time and again for their free smorgasbord! I don’t feed every day in summer because it becomes very expensive and they do still need to forage for their own food, but in winter I give a regular supply.

When selecting a place to hang your feeder, remember, although garden birds can become quite tame, at first they are quite shy and startle easily, so select a secluded place, perhaps close enough to your outdoor entertainment area, so you can watch the fanfare without disturbing them. Providing a bird bath will also help them spot the food, and water is much appreciated by our feathered friends, especially during hot and dry summer spells.

The Red Bishop (Euplectes ) is common in southern Africa, except for the Kalahari region, southern and coastal Namibia, and most of Botswana. They favour grasslands and savanna, but are rarely found far from permanent water. They are gregarious birds, forming large colonies in reed beds and the breeding male is easily recognisable by its distinctive bright red and black plumage. A single male may build a dozen nests or more in his territory, and acquire about seven wives in the course of a single breeding season!

The nest is most commonly built among reeds and is beautifully woven with grasses and other plant materials. It is snuggly designed and closed, with a side entrance under a small projecting ‘porch’, suspended between reeds or plant stems. Southern Red Bishops feed mainly on seeds and also on insects and other invertebrates, and they are able to catch dragonflies and damselflies on the wing.

Because they are also to be found in large numbers in areas cleared for cultivation, and can damage crops, these birds are not very popular with farmers, especially in the wheat-growing areas of the Western Cape, where they are considered a pest, but that does not mean we can’t attract them to our gardens.

I find it amazing how adaptable birds are and how quickly they become accustomed to our presence, at first they seem startled by any movement, and forget about trying to lift a camera up to film them, but within days they learn that you mean them no harm, so treat yourself with a feeder or two for your garden, you can even try one on your balcony if you don’t have a garden. The birds are sure to arrive in droves, much to the delight of everyone.

]]> (Darlene Roelofsen) January Mon, 19 Feb 2018 06:59:30 +0000
Hanging baskets overflowing with flowers are hard to resist!

Summer hanging basket for semi-shade.Have you ever admired a lush hanging basket bursting with blooms but simply thought it a bit overpriced? Well, not really,  a well-designed hanging basket in full bloom has probably taken months of care to get it to a sellable size, and this is labour intensive too, so if you can afford one of these ’ready to go’ beauties, spoil yourself, you’re worth it!

However, if your budget is tight and you have the time and patience to allow them to grow, you can duplicate the look of a professional flowering hanging basket at home for a lot less, using high quality materials and dense planting techniques. In fact, once you have purchased the soil, fertiliser, coir, plants etc. you require, you will probably find you have enough left over to plant at least one or two extra baskets - not bad for a gardener on a budget!

Overflowing hanging baskets are hard to resist and will have all your friends and family gushing over them. Strategically placed, they add another dimension to the garden by raising the beauty of the garden to eye level, and bringing the flowering abundance to where their beauty can be admired, sniffed, and touched.  In smaller gardens hanging baskets are becoming the new wall art, breaking the starkness of blank walls and adding that extra special touch to your outdoor space. Even if you have a postage-sized garden or a tiny balcony garden, hanging baskets can deliver a traffic-stopping display of flowers.

Hanging baskets focus on the plants, not the containers, and sometimes one can’t be sure if a container even exists under all of those trailing flowers. They can be made out of virtually anything too, from actual baskets to small wooden crates, or homemade containers of all kinds.  As long as the container has sufficient space for the plants to grow and has adequate drainage holes, it’s good to go.

Lobelias are fantastic in hanging baskets.Store bought wire baskets usually come with a fitted coir liner, but if they don’t you can make your own with loose Coco coir or moss liners. These materials offer excellent drainage and look good too. Even sack cloth, landscaping material, dense shade cloth or a similar material can be used.

Although good drainage is important, you don’t want the soil to dry out too quickly, so once you have the coir liner in place, It’s a good idea to line the inside of the basket with plastic, punched with drainage holes. If you are planting around the sides of the basket you may prefer just to line the bottom of the basket to prevent excess water from rushing out of the bottom during irrigation. You can simply place a plastic drip tray, a piece of plastic garbage bag, or, believe it or not, even a new disposable diaper in the bottom, to increase water retention.

Choose only the best quality potting soil for your basket, which can be mixed with a small quantity of compost. If you don’t want your basket to weigh a ton, add a very generous amount of vermiculite or perlite, which will not only keep your basket light, but will also help to retain moisture. Special water retaining granules are available at garden centres and well worth the money spent, especially if you are planting baskets for full sun.  Peat moss is not essential but always good to use if you have some.  Mix everything together in a bucket or bowl, adding a generous dressing of bone meal and a good flowering plant food. Slow release fertilisers work especially well for hanging baskets because they release slowly and you will not have to fertilise again that season. Fill your basket and press the soil down firmly. By now you will be eager to start planting, but it is important that you water the soil well and allow it to drain thoroughly before starting, as the soil will settle and you will probably have to add more soil. Once the soil has partially dried out you can start planting.

It is critical for your success that your select plants which enjoy the same growing conditions and which require about the same amount of watering, it simply won’t work to plant a sun-loving plant with a shade-loving one, nor will a succulent do well in a basket with other plants which require lots of water.

Start with your focal point, which should stand out above the other plants when fully grown, so it needs to be vigorous with a long blooming season. You could use fuchsia, coleus, angelonia, impatiens, pelargoniums, begonias or salvia - even a single celosia would be an attention-grabber at the centre of your basket.

Fuchsias are perfect in Hanging baskets.Surround your focal plant with flowers that have spreading and trailing habits like alyssum, million bells, lobelia, petunias, verbenas and portulaca. These plants will fill in the blank spots quickly, giving you a full look with fewer plants. There are many high performing plants you could use, so pay a visit to your local garden centre to find your personal favourites.

If you’re really feeling adventurous you may try planting a “blooming ball” by planting through the sides of the basket so the entire surface area of your basket is covered with plants. You can plant the same trailing plants you used at the edge of the basket for the sides. Use a utility knife to cut several slits into the sides of your basket, and grasping the small transplants by the root ball, gently insert them into the slit.

Water your newly planted basket thoroughly and place it in a sheltered and shady spot for a day or two before moving it to its permanent position. Even though you have planted correctly with all the right ingredients to help conserve water, it is still most important to check your baskets regularly, and especially those growing in full sun.  Densely planted flowering plants drink more water than you may imagine and once a basket wilts, it may take a long time to recover and look its best again. If you did not use a slow release fertiliser, after the first month you can start feeding with a liquid fertiliser for flowering plants as per the instructions. This, together with regular deadheading of the spent flowers, will keep your basket looking neat and healthy throughout the season.

In the pretty summer hanging baskets for shade pictured here, I found two gorgeous fuchsias growing in small pots, at a good price, so I decided to use them as my central focal points, with impatiens and lobelias around the edges. They have grown beautifully, and if I cover the fuchsia at night in winter, it will hopefully survive and not need replacing next season. For winter I will probably fill in with primulas, and who knows what I will experiment with next season!  

Hanging baskets really are worthwhile and inspiring, so create your own each season and just have fun doing it!

]]> (Darlene Roelofsen) January Fri, 02 Feb 2018 14:14:23 +0000
Million Bells is rather like a miniature petunia on steroids!


Cabaret Cherry Rose Calibrachoa. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyMillion Bells (Calibrachoa syn Petunia) are short lived perennials which are often planted as summer annuals in South Africa - growing and flowering at an amazing rate! They bloom abundantly all spring and summer, until the first frosts, and in warm frost-free regions can flower all year round.

It is a relatively recent newcomer to the garden scene, having only been around since the early 1990s – and that’s not long in plant years! Plant breeders have been hard at work on this little marvel, and today Calibrachoa hybrids are available to gardeners in many amazing shades of cherry, red, rose, pink, violet, blue, yellow, lemon, terracotta and white.

These summer sizzlers are closely related to petunias and found across much the same region of South America as petunias, from southern Brazil across to Peru and Chile, inhabiting scrub and open grassland. And, although they look like a miniature petunia, and were previously included in Petunia, scientists now say they are not quite petunias, because, amongst other things, petunias have 14 chromosomes and calibrachoa has 18.

In sunny garden beds they generally remain below 15cm in height with a spread of +-30 to 60cm, making them good partners for other sun loving annuals and perennials in the garden. In pots they will cascade up to 60cm or more, and their sprawling habit adds a beautiful cascading accent for all kinds of containers and hanging baskets.  Whether you let them trail down banks, over low walls or tall pots, or simply use them in massed plantings for a quick, colourful groundcover, Million Bells is sure to impress.

Callibrachoe'Peach'Million Bells are easy to grow as long as you meet their growth requirements. They flower best in full sun, although in very hot regions some midday shade may be welcome. Although they will grow in most garden soils which have perfect drainage, Million Bells thrive in slightly acidic soils, so if your soil is alkaline, add acid compost to the planting beds. If you're planting into containers, use a top quality, free-draining potting mixture.

They also require good air movement around their leaves, so place them where there is a slight breeze. And, although the plant is water-wise, this does not mean that it does not need watering! Water as needed in hot weather, but allow the soil to partially dry out before watering again. Overwatering is the leading cause of plant failure, causing black root rot.

Calibrachoa 'Red'The plants are self-cleaning, meaning that they shed their spent flowers naturally and replace them with new ones, but an occasional light pruning and a bit of dead-heading won’t harm them.

Because these plants bloom continuously, those growing in garden beds will benefit from a monthly feeding, using a fertiliser for flowering plants. For potted plants, feed every second week with a liquid fertiliser, which is easiest to apply without burning, and you can also mix slow release fertiliser into the soil when planting.

Calibrachoa can be propagated easily from cuttings but propagation is prohibited by plant breeder rights in many countries. Although the plants produce few seeds, the seed is also easily propagated.

Calibrachoa 'Violet'If grown correctly, Calibrachoa is generally very healthy. However, too much moisture and shade will make it susceptible to root rot, crown rot, and collar rot. To help prevent this, water early in the day and provide plenty of sunshine to keep the foliage and the flowers dry. This is especially important in humid areas.

Calibrachoa is less sensitive to pests than petunias, but may attract a few pesky bugs like thrips, aphids, and whiteflies. These can be treated with organic insecticidal soap sprays.

]]> (Darlene Roelofsen) January Thu, 25 Jan 2018 12:53:33 +0000
Warm summer breezes will waft the scent of Gardenia throughout the whole garden, much to the delight of everyone.


Gardenia augustaThere are many cultivars of Gardenia augusta, including groundcover, dwarf and medium-sized varieties, so there’s a gardenia for every size garden. All the cultivars also grow beautifully in containers, so even if you only have a small patio or balcony garden, you can plant a Gardenia.

Gardenia augusta is a fragrant flowering evergreen tropical plant that is a favourite in warm temperate and subtropical gardens worldwide. The common name, Cape Jasmine derived from the earlier belief that the plant originated in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. However, Gardenia augusta originated in Asia and is most commonly found growing in Vietnam, Southern China, Taiwan, Japan, India, and nearby regions of the subtropical eastern hemisphere. It is essential in all romantic and perfumed gardens, and makes a beautiful freestanding specimen shrub to plant close to a patio, entrance, garden bench or window; where its fragrance, shape and beauty can be appreciated; it also makes a good hedge or screening plant.

Mature Gardenia augusta shrubs usually have a round shape, growing +-1.8 to 2.5m tall, with almost an equal spread, producing their gorgeous fragrant flowers over a fairly long season from late spring to late autumn,  with the main flush in the months leading up to Christmas. The flowers are white, turning to creamy yellow as they age, and have a waxy feel. Their powerfully sweet fragrance can perfume an entire room, making them a favourite with florists; and warm summer breezes will waft the scent through the whole garden, much to the delight of everyone. Fleshy or leathery berries follow the flowers, and the large leathery leaves are highly glossy and remain attractive throughout the year.

Cultivars are available that are distinctly different from the plant described above. Flowers can be white or yellow; and single, semi-double, or double rose-like forms are available.

(Gardenia 'Florida') produces large double white blooms and grows +-1.2 to 1.5m tall and almost as wide.

(Gardenia 'Golden Magic') has double cream flowers that turn butter yellow with age. It grows +-80 to 100cm tall and +-80 to 100cm wide.

(Gardenia 'Professor Pucci') produces large, double pure white flowers in profusion. It grows + -1.2 to 1.5m high and +-80 to 100cm wide.

(Gardenia 'Impulse var Grandiflora Star') produces single, pure white, star-shaped flowers and grows +-50cm high and 30cm wide.

(Gardenia 'Four Seasons') grows +-50cm high and 30cm wide and produces single pure white, star-shaped flowers.

(Gardenia 'Impulse White Gem') has small single white, star-like flowers. It grows +-40 to 50cm tall and +-40 to 80cm wide.

(Gardenia 'Radicans') is a compact and low-growing groundcover with very small leaves; +-30 to 40cm tall, and spreading +-80cm to 1m wide. It produces small (3cm) double white flowers and is often used for bonsai.


Gardenia's are evergreen and grow best in warm, moist regions, but are semi-hardy to moderate frost if planted in a protected position in the garden. Select a site that receives semi-shade to sun, or morning sun. In very hot regions the plant will appreciate some shade in summer, during the hottest part of the day; but in cooler areas they are quite happy in full sun. Ensure that the planting site is protected from strong winds and that the soil drains well. Prepare the planting holes very well, incorporating lots of compost and a dressing of bone meal. Gardenias love slightly acid soil, so if your soil is not acid enough, use lots of acid compost.

They enjoy an evenly moist soil that is not soggy, so water them year round, but particularly in spring and summer when the plant is flowering. Gardenias are heavy feeders and need to be fertilised on a regular basis with a balanced fertiliser. Pruning is sometimes necessary to help shape your plant or to keep it a smaller size. It is important that pruning be done after the plant has finished flowering, or you may cut off newly forming buds.

Propagation is by semi-hardwood cuttings which root easily in moist soil during the warm summer months; or by seed sown in spring and early summer.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Gardenias are susceptible to several pests, primarily sucking insects. Insect attacks are aggravated by lack of air circulation in small walled gardens and courtyards. The presence of insects may also be a sign that your plant is under stress, so ensure that it is well watered and correctly fertilised. Aphids, whitefly, spider mites, scale insects, mealy bug and sooty mould are common problems, which can be easily controlled by spraying with environmentally safe soap and oil sprays. Use a commercial sticker liker G-49 with your insecticide to help the poison stick to the glossy leaves.
Gardenias are very susceptible to nematodes, especially in sandy soils. Nematodes are mobile worm-like microscopic organisms which attack the roots of plants. They are easily recognisable, causing wart-like lumps on the roots about the size of a match head. Signs of nematodes are wilting and yellow leaves which persist even after fertilising. Potent chemicals are not suitable for use in the home garden, so rather sow marigolds near susceptible plants and dig them lightly into the soil when they have finished flowering. Khaki weed also works well to help control nematodes.

Gardenia flower buds may go brown, drop, or fail to open. This is fairly normal and occurs mainly because the plant tends to keep producing flower buds right through autumn, even though the plants growth is slowing down. The plant will often hold these buds right through winter and drop them in spring. Bud drop can also be caused by weevil or leaf hopper damage.

Yellow leaves can appear at any time of the year, but are particularly prevalent in spring. Yellowing is generally attributed to a magnesium deficiency and is treated with applications of Epsom salts (sulphate of magnesium). If your plant has been planted correctly, is fed regularly with a good all- purpose organic fertiliser, and is watered correctly, yellowing of the leaves should not become a problem. It is especially important to fertilise in spring when the weather warms up.


Gardenias are not poisonous. Like other plants, though, they should still be cultivated cautiously around small children, as plant parts may present choking hazards. Sensitive or allergic individuals may also experience a reaction to contact with the plant, so it is a good idea to wear gloves when working extensively with a gardenia.

]]> (Darlene Roelofsen) January Tue, 23 Jan 2018 08:26:43 +0000
Chillies are not only good to eat!

Chillies are stunning in a simple wooden container. Chillies make great gifts for all occasions, gifts you can easily make at home and which don’t cost the earth either!  To make them special requires only a little flair of your own, so let your imagination run wild and use whatever items you have around the house that can be re-cycled. Red chillies are perfect gifts to give for Christmas, and here a wooden crate is decorated with a red ribbon, but once the chillies are added the magic happens – it’s just that simple!

Next time you visit your local garden centre and spot those little herb pots with chillies in full fruit, grab three or four to take home. Planting two or three of these little plants together in one container will give you the best effect, but even a single plant in an interesting container can be enchanting. You might want to add a couple of extra plants to your trolley for yourself too, because you won’t want to part with all your creations once they are done.

If cared for correctly, potted chillies in full fruit will look good for a couple of months before the fruits begin to shrivel up – outlasting any fresh bouquet!  Plus you can pick them occasionally to add to dishes, so place them near the kitchen or outdoors entertainment areas.

When the plants are in full fruit they will last longer outdoors if the pots are placed in morning sun and afternoon shade, or semi-shade throughout the day. Remember, small containers dry out quickly, so water regularly, especially on very hot summer’s days. Indoors, they can be positioned in a warm room where they receive good light, and even a bit of sunshine, through light curtains.  One or two additional feedings with a liquid fertiliser won’t do any harm either, but is not really necessary. Once the fruits start to shrivel, you can harvest them to dry and use as chilli flakes, and, don’t forget to save some seeds to sow in the garden or into pots next summer.

Whether your budget is tight, or you really want to splurge on a special friend, making your own living gifts can be a lot of fun, and people appreciate it so much more if they know you created it yourself. So, next time you have some spare time and want to get outdoors for a while and have some fun - visit your garden centre to select whichever plants get your creative juices going!

]]> (Darlene Roelofsen) January Sun, 14 Jan 2018 09:40:03 +0000
Sutera, with its profusion of delicate flowers all summer long, is creating quite a buzz amongst gardeners!

Sutera "Bermuda Sky" Picture courtesy Sutera, Bacopa
- Chaenostoma cordatum (= Sutera cordata)

Sutera remain firm favourites with gardeners around the world for their ease of growth and profusion of flowers throughout spring and summer. They are hardy, vigorous, low-growing plants which can spread +-50 to 60cm, while only reaching a height of +-15 to 20cm. Plant breeders have developed many new and improved strains of Sutera which not only flower even more profusely, but also have larger blooms, with some varieties even sporting lovely yellow foliage. They are available in beautifully delicate shades of blue and pink to lavender and white. Some of the new cultivars include: Sutera ”Snowstorm”; Sutera “Blue Showers” and  Sutera “Lavender Showers”

These charming but hardy little South African plants are found growing wild from George in the southern Western Cape to East London in the Eastern Cape, with the possible exception of the Algoa area. It ranges in altitude from sea level to about 1000m and can be found along the coast and also inland in scrubland and forested kloofs, from the Outeniqua Mountains around George to Grahamstown.

Sutera cordata "Blizzard" picture courtesy plant has undergone several Latin name changes over the years, but because most gardeners still refer to it as Sutera or Bacopa, for this article we will call it by its common name Sutera.

In the Garden:

Sutera are perfect to plant in hanging baskets, window boxes and pots of all sizes. Try mixing them with other summer annuals for a colourful summer display. Planted in mass, they make a wonderful groundcover and will stabilise the soil on slopes. They also make lovely rockery and edging plants for the garden, and because their colours are so delicate, Sutera blends beautifully with other garden plants.

Abunda Pink Bacopa. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCultivation:

Sutera is a short lived perennial plant that is tender to frost and is most often grown as a summer annual. It can be grown both inland and at the coast, and can survive temperatures as low as -1° C, but in cold regions will die down completely in winter - if you mulch the roots to keep them warm, the plant should shoot again in spring. It is very hardy, heat tolerant, and a low-maintenance annual which thrives in semi-shade to full sun. In cooler regions it can take lots of sun, but in extremely hot regions it does better in semi-shade or morning sun.

Although exceptionally heat tolerant, it is vital to water your plants regularly during hot summer weather, and especially those growing in pots. Sutera likes regular watering, but does not like being overwatered either, so water thoroughly and then allow the soil to almost dry out completely before watering again. Never allow the plants to dry out completely.

Sutera requires rich well- drained soil for good results, and regular applications of a flowering plant food will keep your plants blooming repeatedly all summer and into autumn. Feeding is most important for potted specimens.

Although these plants are self-cleaning and do not require deadheading, a light pruning during the growing season will help to keep them bushy and looking good for longer.

Abunda Colossal Sky Blue Bacopa. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyPropagation:

Sutera is easily propagated by cuttings if they are placed in a mist-unit, where rooting will occur in 2 to 3 weeks. (Use a plastic bag to make a mini-greenhouse if you have no mist unit.) Seed can be sown in spring in a 1:1 mixture of fine bark and coarse river sand.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

If the plant becomes drought stressed it will drop both its flowers and buds before it wilts, and it can take up to two weeks for it to fully recover and start flowering again. To avoid this, monitor your plants regularly and water before the soil dries out totally.

Watch out for aphids, thrips, whitefly and fungus gnats.

]]> (Darlene Roelofsen) January Mon, 08 Jan 2018 11:32:54 +0000
With just a little TLC, Amaryllis will delight you with their gorgeous blooms year after year.

Amaryllis Christmas Star. Picture courtesy for their festive, oversized flowers, amaryllis bulbs are commonly sold for the Christmas holiday season. Varieties include single flowered, double flowered and miniature’s, ranging in colour from red to salmon, orange, white and pink, with many varieties having stripes or contrasting edges.  New hybrids can have flowers up to 22cm across and the double flowers from Japan are particularly beautiful. These large varieties usually produce a single stem with 4 flowers, and very large bulbs may produce 2 stems. Sonatini hybrids are true miniatures with blooms between 6 and 12cm across - this may not sound small, but for Amaryllis flowers it is! These smaller varieties make up for what they lack in stature with their blooming generosity, with a single bulb producing up to 3 flower spikes, crowned with up to 6 delightful blooms on each spike.

The plants we commonly call “Amaryllis” are actually Hippeastrum hybrids, and the confusion surrounding the two genera stems from their complex history dating back to the 18th Century. During the 1820s, British botanist, Dean Herbert (1778–1847), showed that the Amaryllis which is native to the Cape Province in South Africa, and Hippeastrum, also known as “Knight’s Star Lily” to be fundamentally different botanically and he assigned them to different genera. Considerable confusion has always surrounded the correct naming of this plant with many breeders, growers and traders persisting in referring to the plant incorrectly as “Amaryllis”.  Because almost everyone still calls these bulbs, Amaryllis, for the purpose of this article, they will also be referred to by their common name. To put it simply, the true Amaryllis is a bulb which belongs to our indigenous Amaryllis belladonna, commonly called “Belladonna Lily” - a genus with only one species that is found in the south-western Cape.

Amaryllis Sonata double Alfresco. Picture courtesy, however, are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas from Argentina, north to Mexico and the Caribbean. The Hippeastrum genus comprises around 80 species within the Amaryllidaceae family, which also includes two other well-known bulbous crops: Narcissus and Galanthus. In the 18th century Dutch growers imported the first bulbs from South America to grow commercially, and this continued into the 19th century with even more botanists and explorers bringing back Hippeastrum species from South American countries. These magnificent blooms truly captured the imagination of plant breeders who worked diligently to create new hybrids and cultivars for the markets. Breeding developments continued throughout the second half of the 20th century, resulting in an explosion of new hybrids and types, in an expanded colour range. This period was also characterized by the establishment of many significant cultural research projects that resulted in the rapid expansion and professionalization of commercial hippeastrum cultivation.

In 1946 two Dutch growers moved to the Union of South Africa and began cultivation here, producing many beautiful hybrids for the world markets, and our bulb growers are still counted amongst the best in the world, with South African bred Hippeastrums being sought after across North and South America, all of Northern Europe, Japan, Russia and Iceland.

Amaryllis Sonatini Assorted. Picture courtesy yourself this festive season with a selection of gorgeous Amaryllis - they are quite easy to grow if you understand their needs, and with good care you can enjoy their blooms year after year!

Amaryllis is traditionally grown in small pots but can also be planted into garden beds, where they look best if planted in groups. And, like hyacinths, amaryllis bulbs can also be grown on water by placing the bulbs on top of pebbles or marbles in a glass container and filling the container with water until just below the bulb. The roots will naturally grow down into the water, so never allow the bottom of the bulb to sit in the water or it will rot.

Amaryllis bulbs take approximately 6 to 8 weeks to bloom once planted out, and if you want blooms at Christmas time, plant them out around the 10th of November. This can be done by manipulating the bulbs to flower at a specific time, by placing them in a paper packet and storing them in the refrigerator. This tricks the bulbs into thinking that it is still winter and they remain dormant. Check the stored bulbs regularly, and if they do start shooting, plant them out immediately.

Amaryllis Symphony single Gold Medal. Picture courtesy the garden Amaryllis will grow in most good, well-drained soils. They flourish in sun to semi-shade, but the flowers will last longer if they are protected from the hot midday sun. Water your plants regularly in summer, never allowing the soil to dry out totally but not allowing it to remain soggy either. For the best results, feed every two weeks during the growing season with a special bulb food or liquid fertiliser for flowering plants.

Most amaryllis bulbs must produce at least four healthy leaves in order to bloom well the following year.  Some species will grow leaves and bloom at the same time, while others will grow leaves only after they have bloomed.  After the flowers fade, cut off the stems at ground level and allow the leaves to continue to grow and nourish the bulb for next season’s blooms. You should also continue to water and fertilise the plant, but towards the end of summer gradually reduce watering so that the leaves die back naturally. Once all the leaves are brown, cut them off and allow the bulb to rest by lifting and storing it in a paper bag, in a cool, dry place for at least 2 months. When the bulb is ready to grow again it will start to produce a green leaf or stem, and can be planted again in fresh soil.

If the soil drains well the bulbs can be left in the soil and divided only when they become overcrowded. It is not necessary to water the dormant bulbs from about April to the end of August, and you can wait for the new spring growth to emerge before feeding and watering again. However the bulbs won’t be harmed if watered lightly in winter, together with other winter bloomers, as long as the soil has perfect drainage.

Amaryllis Symphony double Inferno. Picture courtesy you live in the winter rainfall regions, or have a small garden, you may wish to lift and store the bulbs at the end of summer, but only do this after the foliage has died down naturally in autumn. The mother bulb will produce small ‘bulblets’ and these can be gently teased off and potted, but they will only be large enough to start flowering again in two to three years.

Container grown specimens are treated in the same way as those growing in the ground, but if you are planting into containers, do so before they begin to sprout. Amaryllis love growing in small containers, so select a pot only about 3cm larger in diameter than the bulb. Use a good potting mixture that drains very well, and plant the bulbs so that a third of the bulb is visible above the soil. Water and place in a warm location, watering very sparingly thereafter until the first signs of new growth appear in about 3 weeks. Once actively growing, feed every two weeks as for those growing in the garden, and water when the potting soil is almost, but not totally dry. Remember, potted bulbs do not like standing in water, so empty the water from drip trays. Also, turn the pot regularly so that the plant stems grow straight.

When your potted plants are in full bloom, you may prefer to move them indoors to enjoy, or you may move then into a more shady and secluded spot outdoors, which will keep the blooms looking good for longer. Once the leaves have died down naturally at the end of summer, the containers can be moved into a sheltered part of the garden where it is relatively dry and warm, to over-winter.

Amaryllis Sonatini Amalfi. Picture courtesy you are growing your amaryllis indoors, planting and caring for them is the same as for potted specimens growing outdoors. Indoors they will require very good, bright light, and although they don’t need sun, a little sunlight won’t harm them either.  To prevent root rot, water sparingly until the flower stem appears, but when it starts to grow, increase the amount of water you give, and check your plants regularly, because flowering plants are thirsty.

Amaryllis is a wonderful gift to give at any time of the year, but especially during the Christmas season. They never fail to delight and are certainly well worth investing in, and whether you are purchasing bulbs to plant out yourself, or those already in full bloom, these beauties are sure to steal your heart.

Find all your favourite bulbs and how to care for them in our Bulb Plant Section - signing up as a member is easy and affordable, so spoil yourself this Christmas with a subscription, its worth it!.

]]> (Darlene Roelofsen) December Wed, 13 Dec 2017 12:32:29 +0000