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Gardening in South Africa

If you love celery you will be delighted to discover that it is one of the world’s healthiest foods.

Celery "Utah Tall" Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaCelery "Utah Tall" Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaWhether you consider celery to be a vegetable or herb, bland and boring, or delightfully unique in flavour, celery remains one of the world’s healthiest foods and a required addition to many classic dishes. In many countries it is served as a vegetable and in others the seeds, stems and leaves are used for flavouring as well as medicinally.

The celery we know today is a direct descendant of the wild celery (Apium graveolens) commonly called “smallage”. A member of the parsley or carrot family, this wild celery can be found growing on boggy riversides and marshy ground, giving a clue to its growth requirements. It has been cultivated since antiquity, and although it is thought to be from the Mediterranean region where it has been cultivated since at least 3,000 years ago, the "wild" relatives of celery can be traced from the British Isles to Sweden, Algeria, Egypt, China, and India. Celery was cultivated in Egypt about 3,000 years ago and the seeds were buried with the pharaohs for strength in the afterlife; and the ancient Chinese ate it to slow down the ageing process.

The spectacular flowers of the paintbrush lily will have your friends and family reaching for their cameras!

Scadoxus puniceus. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaScadoxus puniceus. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaThe spectacular paintbrush lily is a member of the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae) and one of South Africa's most striking bulbous plants with its large, glossy green tropical leaves, brilliant bright-red paintbrushes and fat red fruits.  The name Scadoxus is derived from "doxus" meaning glory or splendour, and ‘’punicues’’ meaning crimson, scarlet or purple. The 9 species are found in tropical Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, where they can be found growing wild in tropical woodlands. Three species: S. puniceus, S. multiflorus and S. membranaceus occur in South Africa. Scadoxus was formerly classified as Haemanthus to which it is closely related, but was separated in order to distinguish those plants with elongated stems (Scadoxus) from those with broad, stemless leaves (Haemanthus).

Plant a "carbon sponge" in your garden or home with the beautiful Spekboom

Portulacaria afra. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaPortulacaria afra. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaThe spekboom belongs to a large and widespread family (Portulacaceae) which includes the popular summer flowering annual Portulaca, although this annual is not a South African species. Portulacaria afra has a growing reputation for saving the planet and recent research has dubbed the spekboom "an excellent carbon sponge" because of its ability to absorb more free carbon from the atmosphere than most other plants. Studies have shown that this amazing succulent can store more than four tons of carbon per hectare, creating what is called a "carbon sink" when planted in large plantations, and making it one of the best plants to grow in order to combat warming of the earth's atmosphere. In fact, this beautiful yet unassuming succulent has become so famous it even has its own Facebook page!

Peace Lilies are one of the best plants for improving air quality indoors.

Peace lilies are one of the most commonly known houseplants and also one of the easiest to grow. They may also be grown outdoors in frost free conditions. The NASA Clean Air Study found that these plants are fantastic for improving air quality indoors because they have one of the top removal rates of toxic solvents like formaldehyde, ammonia, benzene and carbon monoxide.

Summer flowers to beat the heat

Gazanias grow well with grasses. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaGazanias grow well with grasses. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaDoes your summer flower garden start to fizzle out as soon as the really hot weather arrives? If so, you need a new plan to keep your beds blooming. The good news is that while many plants and flowers seem to be fainting away, there are others which just breeze through the mid-summer heat.

If you plant a framework of hardy perennials now, which will bloom again next season, inter-planted with summer annuals which thrive in the heat, your garden will not only look great this summer, but next season as well. Reducing the amount of summer annuals you need to plant each season will not only save you a lot of cash but also a lot of time. Also, many of these plants are water-wise and will save you on water bills. You can experiment a little each season until you find combinations that suit you, your garden, and your climate.

I have re-published this article from last year because it was so popular.

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Books

Gardening in the Shade

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Growing Vegetables in South Africa

Growing Bedding Plants in South Africa

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