Thursday, 25 July 2013 00:28

Stocks - Matthiola incana

Vintage Mixed Matthiola Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyVintage Mixed Matthiola Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyStocks are among our oldest and dearly-loved garden flowers. They are native to the lands along the Mediterranean from Spain to Turkey and south to Egypt, where they grow on rocky cliffs and harsh, dry land. They were introduced to England in the 1500s and are grown for their sweet perfume at night and handsome cut-flowers in shades of pink, mauve, crimson, purple, cream, yellow, peach and white.

There are both dwarf and tall varieties available, ranging in height from 30 to 70cm tall. Stocks are invaluable in the flower border and the dwarf varieties are easy-to-grow in containers. Plant them near the house beneath windows, along walkways, and in containers on patios where their perfume can be enjoyed.

Vintage Red Matthiola. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural Company Vintage Red Matthiola. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural Company Double-flowered stocks are prized by gardeners for their floral display but are sterile and have to be produced from single varieties. Therefore, stocks do not always produce double flowers but modern strains produce doubles in high proportions of 60% or even 80%.

Stocks are grown throughout South Africa in winter and spring. They love full sun and are hardy to frost. They need deeply-dug soil enriched with compost and prefer a slightly alkaline soil, so add a dusting of agricultural lime to beds. Good drainage is essential to avoid root-rot.

Seed can be sown in seedling trays in late summer and germinate best in soil temperatures between 18 and 24°C. Cover the seeds lightly with vermiculite or palm peat. The seeds can take 3 to 5 days to germinate and the plants will take about 12 to 15 weeks to flower, depending on the variety and the climate. Keep humidity high until germination and then reduce humidity. Do not overwater.

Thursday, 25 July 2013 00:28

Sweet Pea - Lathyrus odoratus

Sweetpeas. Picture courtesy Sebastian Crump Visit his flickr photostreamSweetpeas. Picture courtesy Sebastian Crump Visit his flickr photostreamSweet Peas are highly scented cut-flowers that will bring warmth and cheer to any winter's day. They are native to the eastern Mediterranean region from Sicily to Crete and have been cultivated since the 17th century, resulting in a vast number of cultivars. They are available in a selection of single and mixed colours ranging from almost black to the softest pink, blue, lilac, purple, red, white and all the shades in-between.

Pick large bunches and fill your home with them. The more you pick them; the more they flower. Children love growing them and the seeds are large enough for even tiny fingers to handle. Climbing, knee-high and extra-dwarf varieties are available, so there is no excuse not to have some of these easy-to-grow plants in even the smallest of gardens.

Climbers will grow about 2m tall and 60cm wide and require a support to grow up.Bush varieties vary in height from 30cm to 90cm tall. Try planting the very 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.

Sweet peas are hardy to moderate frost and grow well throughout South Africa, except those extremely cold regions. In very cold regions where the weather remains cool during spring and early summer the late flowering varieties can be sown in spring, to flower in early summer. Sweet peas are hungry plants that love rich soil, regular feeding and as much sun as they can get. Climbing varieties should be planted in a trench for best results. Dig a trench about 60cm deep and 30cm wide a few weeks before planting. Add lots of compost and well-rotted manure Sweetpea. Picture courtesy Sebastian Crump Visit his flickr photostreamSweetpea. Picture courtesy Sebastian Crump Visit his flickr photostreaminto the soil. Dig in a light dressing of agricultural lime, bone meal and organic 2:3:2 and then put the soil back into the trench, forming a long mound in which to sow your seeds. Dwarf sweet peas need not be planted in trenches, but prepare your soil and care for them as for the climbing varieties. Pinch back your plants when they are about 15cm tall to encourage bushy growth. Feed every 2 weeks during the growing season with a balanced, water-soluble fertiliser and water thoroughly every few days. In hot, dry regions water them overhead with a fine mist spray.

Seed can be sown directly into your beds or in seedling trays when the temperatures are between 13 and 20°C. To speed up germination soak the seed overnight in tepid water before sowing. The seeds will germinate within a week or two, depending on the soil temperature and will take 16 to 20 weeks to flower. Sow the seeds into the soil about 5cm deep and about 15cm apart.

Seed can be easily saved from the previous year's plants, although not all varieties reproduce exact replicas of the parent. Remove the seed pods from the plants and put them in a paper bag to dry out. Once they are dry, the pods can be popped open to release te seeds. Store in a cool, dry place.

Thursday, 25 July 2013 00:28

Lupins - Lupinus hartwegii

Lupins. Picture courtesy Sylvia OreifigLupins. Picture courtesy Sylvia OreifigThis unusual plant is native to Mexico and produces long-stemmed spikes, bearing pea-shaped flowers in winter and spring, in shades of yellow, white, rose, lilac and blue. They are excellent cut-flowers and both the flowers and berries are used by florists. They are wonderful cottage garden plants that are most eye-catching when planted in large masses.

Lupins grow best in regions that receive good summer rainfall and have cool winters, and are not suited to very hot, dry or humid regions. Lupins are hardy to moderate frost and love full sun. Plant them in rich well-drained, lime-free soil and water them regularly. Protect them from strong wind and stake the flowers if necessary. Cut back the stems when they are finished blooming to ensure continued flowering. They will grow about 60 to 80cm tall and 30 to 45 cm wide.

Lupines fix nitrogen into the soil that feeds other plants. At the end of the growing season, cut the foliage down to the ground, leaving the roots, and dig the entire plant into the soil.

Seed can be sown directly into garden beds in spring or late summer when the daytime temperatures are about 15 and 20°C. Sow them in drills about 30cm apart and about 6mm deep. You should nick the seeds outer coating before sowing, by rubbing the outer shell of the seed with sandpaper or a file. It takes a little practice to make a cut that is deep enough to help, but not deep enough to damage the seed. Soak the seeds in warm water overnight. Seedlings should emerge within 10 to 21 days, depending on soil and weather conditions. They will bloom from 12 to 14 weeks later.

Thursday, 25 July 2013 00:28

Phlox - Phlox drummondii

Picture courtesy Malcolm MannersPicture courtesy Malcolm MannersPhlox are garden annuals of exceptional quality and character. They are native to Texas and are widely distributed in the south-eastern United States. The latest varieties are both free-flowering and compact growing. The flowers are fragrant and splendid for cutting and the large clusters of delicate blooms come in many pastel and bright shades of red, pink, coral, blue, lilac, purple white and even yellow. Some varieties have beautiful fringed, star-shaped petals with a white edge. Use them in the flower border or in containers. These low-growing plants mass beautifully and are always attractive in annual flowerbeds and along walkways. They also grow easily in containers of all shapes and sizes.

Phlox grow well throughout the country as long as they can be watered regularly in dry regions. In very hot areas plant them where they will receive shade during the hottest part of the day and in humid regions plant them in autumn. Phlox grow easily in full sun to light shade and are hardy to all but severe frost. Plant them into good well-drained soil and water them regularly. The new compact varieties will grow quickly to about 25cm tall and 20cm wide.

Picture courtesy Malcolm MannersPicture courtesy Malcolm MannersPhlox can be grown almost throughout the year in South Africa but grow best in the cooler season. Sow seed in seedling trays in autumn or spring. Germination will take 3 to 7 days in ideal soil temperatures between 15 and 21°C. Use a sterile, soil-less growing medium like perlite or palm peat. Cover the seed with about 1cm of vermiculite as darkness is required for germination. Place the trays in a cool place. Make sure that the compost is moist but not wet and seal the trays with a clear plastic bag or a pane of glass until germination. Your plants will bloom about 12 to 14 weeks after sowing. To help prevent fungal diseases, water your transplanted seedlings moderately for the first two weeks and then allow them to dry out moderately before watering. Do not however, allow your seedlings to wilt. Pinch out the main shoot to promote bushy growth and feed every 6 weeks with a liquid fertiliser.

Thursday, 25 July 2013 00:28

African Daisy - Dimorphotheca

saflag Condensed Version:Namaqualand Daisy Image by NauticalVoyager from PixabayNamaqualand Daisy Image by NauticalVoyager from Pixabay

Namaqualand Daisies grow quickly to about 35cm tall and 30cm wide, and their daisy flowers come in the traditional bright orange and yellow, as well as pastel shades like salmon, cream and pure white.

They are sown directly into garden beds in autumn and require as much sunlight as you can provide as the flowers only open in the sun and will close at night or on overcast days. In your seed packet you are likely to find both types of seed i.e. the well-known “flake” seed (a light, disc-shaped cream seed) and a dry or “stick” seed. Never throw away the small little stick-like seeds as they will germinate and produce the same species.

In the winter rainfall regions seeds are sown in late autumn or early winter (April to May), and in the rest of the country they are best sown when the daytime temperatures are between 18 to 22°C.

Namaqualand daisies will adapt to most garden soils with good drainage but love light, well-drained soil. Prepare the beds by digging them over well, breaking down any clods of soil and removing stones, and in poor soils the addition of some compost will do wonders. Once the beds are prepared water the ground before you sow as a wet bed makes it easier for the light seed to stick to the surface of the soil.

Choose a calm, wind-free day to sow or the winged seeds may just blow away. Sprinkle the seeds evenly across the bed and then lightly rake it in, or you can cover the seed with about 2cm of soil, also raking it in lightly. To eliminate any air spaces between the soil and seed, which could be fatal to the tender emerging radicle, it is important to gently press the soil down. This can be done by hand, or by rolling the soil with a piece of plastic piping, or even a flat plank. Finish off with a light sprinkling with a fine hose.

Keep the soil moist but not soggy until the seeds germinate, and when the young plants are a few centimetres tall, thin them out to space them about 20 to 25cm apart. Namaqualand daisies will take anything from 4 to 14 days to germinate, and will flower about 3 months after sowing.

In the winter rainfall regions, once the seedlings have established themselves they will not need supplemental watering, but in the summer rainfall regions they will require moderate watering throughout winter. 

African Daisy. Picture courtesy Scott ParrishAfrican Daisy. Picture courtesy Scott ParrishFull Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

Namaqualand Daisies (Dimorphotheca sinuate) are easy to grow winter and spring flowering annuals which are sown directly into sunny garden beds in autumn. They will grow quickly to about 30cm tall and 30cm wide, and their daisy flowers come in the traditional bright orange and yellow, as well as pastel shades like salmon, cream and pure white.

These showy indigenous annuals belong to the genus Dimorphotheca, a southern African genus consisting of 15 species. Dimorphotheca is a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae), which includes well-known members like cosmos, everlastings, chrysanthemums, sunflowers, and blackjacks, and the name “Dimorphotheca” means ‘fruits with two forms’, referring to the two different kinds of seeds produced in some species, with some producing wingless and stick-like fruits, while others form flattened 2-winged seeds. The name “sinuate” means ‘wavy edged’ or ‘sinuous’ and is in reference to the wavy leaf margins.

Namaqualand daisies grow naturally in the winter-rainfall regions of South Africa, from Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape to Namaqualand in the Northern Cape, and extending into Namibia. They grow wild in sandy or disturbed places, and are renowned worldwide for the abundance of flowers they produce, carpeting the bare veldt from mid-winter to spring (August to October), and drawing visitors from far and wide to see the spectacular show they put on in Namaqualand, after good winter rains.

In the Garden:

Namaqualand daisies also adorn many gardens at this time, and remain a favourite for gardeners because they are economical, water-wise, and easy to grow from seed sown directly into garden beds. An added bonus is that at the end of the growing season you can collect seeds to sow next season, so you only have to buy them once.

These daisies will attract butterflies and bees to the garden, providing a vital food resource at a time of year when nectar is scarce, so even if you have a small garden, sow a small packet this autumn and you will find yourself adding these lovely flowers to your garden each year.  

Namaqualand daisies are used as a low cover around shrubs in hot, sunny beds, or as the focal point in mass plantings. They make cheerful fillers amongst dormant roses, and pretty borders, so sow them in mass into large beds, rockeries or borders for hassle-free winter and spring colour.

Cultivation/Propagation:

These easy to grow winter annuals are sown directly into garden beds in autumn. They require as much sunlight as you can provide as the flowers only open in the sun and will close at night or on overcast days. They grow quickly to about 30cm tall and 30cm wide, and are hardy to severe frost.

In your seed packet you are likely to find both types of seed i.e. the well-known “flake” seed (a light, disc-shaped cream seed) and a dry or “stick” seed. Never throw away the small little stick-like seeds as they will germinate and produce the same species.

In the winter rainfall regions seeds are sown in late autumn or early winter (April to May), and in the rest of the country they are best sown when the daytime temperatures are between 18 to 22°C.

Namaqualand daisies will adapt to most garden soils with good drainage but love light, well-drained soil. Prepare the beds by digging them over well, breaking down any clods of soil and removing stones, and in poor soils the addition of some compost will do wonders. Once the beds are prepared water the ground before you sow as a wet bed makes it easier for the light seed to stick to the surface of the soil.

Choose a calm, wind-free day to sow or the winged seeds may just blow away. Sprinkle the seeds evenly across the bed and then lightly rake them in, or you can cover the seed with about 2cm of soil, also raking it in lightly. To eliminate any air spaces between the soil and seed, which could be fatal to the tender emerging radicle, it is important to gently press the soil down. This can be done by hand, or by rolling the soil with a piece of plastic piping, or even by pressing it down with a flat plank. Finish off with a light sprinkling of water with a fine hose.

Keep the soil moist but not soggy until the seeds germinate, and when the young plants are a few centimetres tall, thin them out to space them about 20 to 25cm apart. Namaqualand daisies will take anything from 4 to 14 days to germinate, and will flower about 3 months after sowing.

In the winter rainfall regions, once the seedlings have established themselves they will not need supplemental watering, but in the summer rainfall regions they will require moderate watering throughout winter.  

The brownish seeds with their papery wings appear soon after the flowers wilt, and because they are easily blown away by the wind, if you wish to collect some to sow again next season, they need to be collected as soon as they become brown. Collecting seed has always been a favourite with small children, and sowing them again next season from their own seeds is even more exciting.

Pests & Diseases:

As the weather warms up in spring, aphids can become a problem. They can be treated with insecticidal soap.

Ensure that the plants are correctly spaced to allow for good airflow around the leaves as this discourages fungal infections.

Warning:

We did not find this plant listed as poisonous, but it is always advisable to supervise small children in the garden, and to discourage your pets from chewing on pants.

Iberis Purity. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyIberis Purity. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural Company

Condensed Version:

This easy to grow and fast-flowering little annual will quickly cover any unsightly bare spots in the garden throughout summer. It grows about 25cm tall, with a spread of 40cm, and is loved by gardeners for its abundant clusters of sweetly scented, pure white, lavender or pink flowers in spring and summer, showing off beautifully against the attractive dark green leaves.

Candytuft grows well throughout South Africa but does best in the cooler regions of the country which receive good rainfall. It is fully frost hardy and although it thrives in full sun, will take light shade. It prefers a light well drained soil, but adapts to most garden soils, as long as they drain well. Candytuft can be sown directly into garden beds almost throughout the year in cool regions, but germinates best in autumn or spring when the soil temperatures are between 15 and 22°C, and flowering should begin about 12 weeks after sowing.

Full Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

This Candytuft is native to the Mediterranean region, and can be found growing in most parts of Europe, but is especially abundant along the coasts, from Spain to Greece, where it favours growing on dry rocky hillsides, in bushy areas and in clearings, preferably on calcareous soils, at an altitude of 0 to 1,300 metres above sea level. Calcareous soils are mostly or partly composed of calcium carbonate - in other words, containing lime or being chalky.

The name Candytuft conjures up images of sweet confections, but it is actually named for the Mediterranean area of Candia, the former name of Iraklion on the Island of Crete. The genus name comes from the name "Iberia", the ancient name of Spain, while the Latin name for the species "umbellata", means "umbrella" and refers to the shape of the flower clusters.

During the 16th century, candytuft seed was brought from Crete to England, and it became known in colonial American gardens in the late 18th century, when well known horticulturist Bernard McMahon first offered the seed for sale in the 1804 edition of his Catalogue.

This low-growing, spreading little plant only grows about 25cm tall, with a spread of 40cm, and is loved by gardeners for its abundant clusters of sweetly scented, pure white, lavender or pink flowers in spring and summer, showing off beautifully against the attractive dark green leaves.

Uses:

A member of the mustard family, this Colonial favourite was used for centuries as a seasoning, and always included in the herb garden as a treatment for rheumatism.

In the Garden:

Candytuft is so versatile in the garden, and considered one of the best plants to grow for edging purposes, and particularly useful for providing a colourful ground cover. It is also wonderful in scented and cottage gardens, and even rock or gravel gardens. This easy to grow and fast-flowering annual will quickly cover any unsightly bare spots in the garden throughout summer. The flowers last well in a vase and are perfect for small, romantic posies.

Cultivation/Propagation:

This annual Candytuft grows well throughout South Africa but does best in the cooler regions of the country which receive good rainfall, and will struggle in very hot, dry regions. It is fully frost hardy and although it thrives in full sun, will take light shade.  Preferring a light well drained soil, but adapting to most garden soils, Candytuft can grow in chalk, loam or sandy soils which are mildly acid, neural, or alkaline to very alkaline, as long as they drain well.

Candytuft can be sown directly into garden beds almost throughout the year in cool regions, but germinates best in autumn or spring when the soil temperatures are between 15 and 22°C. Lightly rake the seeds into the soil and keep them moist until germination, which can take 2 to 3 weeks. Thin out the seedlings to space them about 20cm apart. Flowering should begin about 12 weeks after sowing. Water regularly, especially during hot, dry spells, and cut back after flowering. At the end of the season, leave a few plants to die down and self-seed, others can be pulled up and composted.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

A healthy plant but prone to slugs, snails and caterpillars.

Warning:

Nothing was found documented for Iberis umbellate, but the sap of Iberis sempervirens is listed, and may cause a skin rash or irritation. Wash the affected area of skin with soap and water as soon as possible after contact. The rashes may be very serious and painful. Call the Poison Control Centre or your doctor if symptoms appear following contact with the plants.

Bokbaai vygie Picture courtesy Maria KlangBokbaai vygie Picture courtesy Maria Klangsaflag Condensed Version:

Bokbaai vygies are grown for their multitude of silky-textured flowers in a dazzling range of colours like yellow, cream, pink, lavender, magenta, and orange. This winter-growing annual is a succulent which forms a low groundcover, +-10cm tall and 30cm wide. The green or maroon-tinted leaves are spoon-shaped and more or less flat, and the conspicuous raised surface cells on the leaves are modified for water storage, and glisten beautifully in bright sunlight. They can be used just about anywhere you have full sun in the winter garden. Their attractive succulent foliage is wonderful in rock gardens, cascading over a wall, draping from a mixed container planting, or carpeting a garden bed. They are particularly beautiful if sown in large drifts

Bokbaai vygies are suited to cultivation in low humidity, frost-free environments, but will take light frost. They perform best in full sun and although they thrive in poor, sandy soil, will adapt to most garden soils with good drainage. In their natural habitat they receive winter rainfall and do not require watering, but in the summer rainfall regions of the country they will need moderate watering in the garden.

Seeds are sown directly into well-prepared beds in autumn when the temperatures are between 18 and 20°C and the soil has cooled down. Mix the fine seeds with sifted compost or flour to help you to sow them evenly. Do not cover the seeds as they are very fine, rather rake them lightly into the beds and water well afterwards. Germination takes place within 7 to 14 days, and the seedlings should be thinned out to provide ample space for them to spread.

Full Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

Bokbaai vygies are one of South Africa’s most famous wildflower exports, and they are grown worldwide for their multitude of silky-textured flowers in a dazzling range of colours like yellow, cream, pink, lavender, magenta, and orange. This winter-growing annual is a succulent which forms a low groundcover, +-10cm tall and 30cm wide. The green or maroon-tinted leaves are spoon-shaped and more or less flat, and the conspicuous raised surface cells on the leaves are modified for water storage, and glisten beautifully in bright sunlight. The common name Bokbaaivygie commemorates a farm which was owned by the Duckitt family for generations, called “Bokbaai“ (Buck Bay,) near Darling on the Cape west coast, where this species grows in abundance.

Of the 14 species of Cleretum endemic to the winter rainfall regions of South Africa, the Bokbaai vygie (Cleretum bellidiforme) is the most attractive and well known species, and widely distributed in the Fynbos and Succulent Karoo Biomes of the Western and Northern Cape, from Namaqualand to the Cape Peninsula, eastwards to Riversdale in the southern Cape and inland to Laingsburg and Calvinia along the southern and western fringes of the Great Karoo, respectively. It occurs in numerous vegetation types and can be found growing on open, sandy flats, gravelly clay slopes, limestone ridges, and on humus-rich soil on granite outcrops.
The seeds germinate after the first autumn rains and grow quickly in order to produce their flowers from early to late spring, before the dry summer season sets in. The flowers only open fully on warm, sunny days, remaining closed in cold or rainy weather.

In the Garden:

Bokbaaivygies can be used just about anywhere you have full sun in the winter garden. Their attractive succulent foliage is wonderful in rock gardens, cascading over a wall, draping from a mixed container planting, or carpeting a garden bed. They are particularly beautiful if sown in large drifts, but can be grouped together with other annuals like alyssum, lobelia, nemesia, poor man’s orchid, poppies and delphiniums, for a brilliant display. An added bonus is that they will attract butterflies and bees to the garden.

Cultivation/Propagation:

Bokbaai vygies are suited to cultivation in low humidity, frost-free environments, but will take light frost. They perform best in full sun and although they thrive in poor, sandy soil, will adapt to most garden soils with good drainage. In their natural habitat they receive winter rainfall and do not require watering, but in the summer rainfall regions of the country they will need moderate watering in the garden.
Seeds are sown directly into well-prepared beds in autumn when the temperatures are between 18 and 20°C and the soil has cooled down. Mix the fine seeds with sifted compost or flour to help you to sow them evenly. Do not cover the seeds as they are very fine, rather rake them lightly into the beds and water well afterwards. Germination takes place within 7 to 14 days, and the seedlings should be thinned out to provide ample space for them to spread.

Pests & Diseases:

The leaves are relished by snails and slugs, which can devastate the plants, so put down some snail bait after planting. Young seedlings may need protection from birds who also like to eat the fleshy leaves. In insufficiently well-drained soil, the roots may succumb to fungal attack.

Warning:

This plant is not listed as toxic.

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