Pot 'n Patio Mix Aster. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyPot 'n Patio Mix Aster. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCondensed Version:

Asters are very showy summer annuals which bloom from early summer to autumn. Their chrysanthemum-like flowers come in all tones of pink, red violet, blue and white, and in a wide variety of plant heights and flower sizes. The dwarf varieties start at +-30cm in height and the taller varieties can reach a height of 90cm or more; and the blooms are available in double, single; pom-pom shaped or feathered forms, leaving gardeners spoilt for choice.

The short varieties make delightful border plants, and grow easily in containers, and the giants are great fillers for the middle or back of a perennial border.
Asters grow throughout South Africa as long as they are watered well in dry regions. They adapt to most fertile garden soils which drain well, and although they love full sun, will take some semi- shade.

Full Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

Meteor Yellow Aster. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyMeteor Yellow Aster. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyAsters are very showy summer annuals and so rewarding with their brilliant colours and profusion of blooms over a very long season extending from early summer to autumn. Their soft chrysanthemum-like flowers come in all tones of pink, red violet, blue and white, and show off beautifully against the broadly ovate to triangulare, deeply toothed dark green leaves. Gardeners cat resist asters because they are so versatile, thanks to the wide variety of plant heights, flower sizes and colours available. The dwarf varieties start at +-30cm in height and the taller varieties can reach a height of 90cm or more.

There is only one known species of Callistephus, found in China where it occurs on stony slopes, wastelands, and cultivated fields. It belongs to the family Asteracea, a large family that also includes dahlias, chrysanthemums, sunflowers, zinnias and coreopsis. They are excellent cut-flowers and the blooms are available in double, single; pom-pom shaped or feathered forms, leaving gardeners spoilt for choice.

In the Garden:

The short varieties make delightful border plants, and grow easily in containers. The  giants are great fillers for the middle or back of a perennial border. Asters are essential for cottage and cutting gardens, but look stunning in any garden. Pick them often to use in boquets, as this will keep them blooming continuously.

Cultivation/Propagation:  

Asters grow throughout South Africa as long as they are watered well in dry regions. Performs best in rich loamy or sandy soils that drain well. Prefers neutral to alkaline soil that is kept moist.They need fertile, well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. Protect them from strong winds and stake tall growing varieties. Deadhead regularly for successive flowering.

Seeds are sown into seedling trays in spring and germinate best is soil temperatures between 20 and 21°C. Cover the seeds with vermiculite as they need darkness to germinate. Seeds should germinate within 4 to 10 days and flower about 12 to 20 weeks after sowing; depending on which variety is being grown. The dwarf  'Pot 'n Patio Series' flowers in about 90 days but the tall, cut flower varieties take longer to mature.

Seed Saving: Allow the flowers to mature into seed heads. The dried heads will contain tiny tan seeds of a rounded shape. Remove the heads and spread them out to dry completely, away from directed sunlight. Crush or open the heads to release the seed. Store the cleaned seed in a cool, dry place.

Pests & Diseases:

Watch out for pests and disease, since aphids and various foliar diseases tend to target this flower; immediately remove and discard leaves that have become infected to prevent the disease from spreading, and grow the plant in a different place next year.

Numerous fungal pathogens attack aster leaves, usually presenting as leaf spots. Fungal leaf infections are generally most problematic where there is low sunlight, prolonged wetness on or humidity around leaves, and mild temperatures, so taking steps to increase circulation and sunlight reduces the presence of fungi. Powdery mildew appears as a white, powdery growth on either or both leaf surfaces and leaves wither and die. Rusts, caused by Coleosporium asterum or Puccinia, appear as orange spore masses on the lower leaf surfaces. If necessary, properly applied fungicides offer control for foliar fungal diseases.

Root rots are problematic in water-logged soils, so ensure that your soil has perfect drainage.

Warning:

Non-Toxic to Dogs, Cats and Horses.

Thursday, 25 July 2013 00:28

Hollyhock - Althaea rosea

HollyhockHollyhockThe hollyhock is a native of China and is widely cultivated for its handsome single or double rose-like flowers in summer. They are available in shades of pink, red, yellow, purple, cream and white. Hollyhocks include annual, biennial, and perennial forms. They are well suited to cottage gardens where their towering height is used at the back of the informal border to add a strong vertical interest.

Annual hollyhocks that flower in their first year are usually grown in South Africa. They grow well throughout the country but are not suited to humid and very hot regions. In the winter rainfall regions plant them out in spring as they do not like to have wet-feet in winter.

They love full sun and grow best in rich, loamy, well-drained soil, to which a sprinkling of lime has been added. Hollyhocks can reach up to 2.8 m tall and need to be spaced 60 to 90cm apart. The perennial varieties can be cut back to ground level in autumn and will flower again next season.

Deadheading wilted flowers will encourage re-blooming and should be done until the end of the season, unless self-sown seedlings are desired. Individual plants are short-lived but self-sowing happens frequently, so the clumps are often perennial in nature. Hollyhocks are quite sturdy plants and do not require staking but in regions that experience heavy rainfall and on windy sites it is best to stake them.

Seeds are usually sown directly into well-prepared garden beds or seedling trays in late summer or spring. Germination usually takes 10 to 20 days in soil temperatures between 15 and 20°C. Light is beneficial to germination so do not cover the seeds with soil.

Thursday, 25 July 2013 00:28

Spider Plant - Cleome hassleriana

Sparkler Blush Cleome. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanySparkler Blush Cleome. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural Company


Queen Rose Cleome. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyQueen Rose Cleome. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural Company

This easy-to-grow annual plant is native to South America and produces spectacular flowers on stems reaching as high as 120cm, and will bloom continually throughout the summer until the first frost. The flowers are available in soft pastel shades of pink, rose, white and lilac and its large green leaves are most attractive. It is dubbed "Spider flower" because of its long stamens and clawed petals. Use it to add dramatic accent and vertical interest to the back of a mixed flower or informal shrub border. The flowers last well in a vase.

The Spider Plant grows well throughout South Africa in full sun. In very hot regions it can be grown in semi-shade. It thrives in light, fertile soil but is adaptable to most conditions as long as the soil drains well. The plants grow quickly and once established, should require a deep watering about once a week, making them reasonably water- wise. Too much water results in prolific leaf growth at the expense of the flowers.

Protect your plants from strong wind and space the seedlings 45 to 60cm apart. They will grow about 90 to 120cm tall. These plants will self-seed freely in the garden and can become invasive. Deadheading regularly will prevent this and keep them looking neat and flowering for longer.

Seeds can be sown directly into garden beds or seedling trays, in spring or summer when all danger of frost is over. They germinate best in soil temperatures between 21 and 22°C. The seeds require light to germinate so do not cover them with soil and place the trays in good light. Seed germinates in 10 to 18 days, depending on soil temperature and weather conditions. Patience is necessary during this phase as germination may be erratic from year to year. The plants should start blooming within 11 to 14 weeks after sowing.

'Enchantment' Linaria. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural Company'Enchantment' Linaria. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCondensed Version:

This quick-blooming annual is easy to grow and the seeds are sown directly into garden beds in full sun. They grow quickly, producing their miniature snapdragon-like flowers in a rainbow mixture of red, pink, yellow, purple, blue and white. The varieties vary slightly in height from 20 to 45 cm tall with a spread of 20 to 30cm.

Linaria are hardy plants that grow well throughout South Africa, and can be sown during spring and early summer, or late summer and autumn in frost-free regions. In cooler climates they can bloom from spring to autumn, but in hot climates, in the heat of summer they usually stop blooming, especially if they do not receive rainfall, but will resume flowering once temperatures drop. Although they thrive in full sun, the plants will take light shade, and in very hot climates, will appreciate some relief from the hot midday sun.

They grow best in light, sandy, well-drained soil, but will adapt to most garden soils as long as they drain well. Although Linaria should not be overwatered, they will appreciate watering during long, dry summer spells.

Seeds usually take around two weeks to germinate at temperatures of 20 to 30°C and will flower around 8 to 10 weeks from sowing. The seeds need warmth and light to germinate, so do not cover them with soil.

'Enchantment' Linaria Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural Company'Enchantment' Linaria Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyFull Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

This quick-blooming annual is sure to become one of your favourites - if it isn’t already! It's also so easy to grow and the seeds are sown directly into garden beds in full sun, quickly producing emerald green leaves and charming, two-lipped, miniature snapdragon-like flowers. The genus Linaria contains 125 species, native to the Northern Hemisphere and South America, seven of which are found in England. Linaria maroccana is native to Morocco and the wild variety is purple with a white palate, but breeders have developed it into a rainbow mixture of red, pink, yellow, purple, blue and white. The varieties vary slightly in height from 20 to 45 cm tall with a spread of 20 to 30cm.

In the Garden:

Linaria give a truly spectacular show, so try them in gravel or rock gardens, and sow them in beds, borders, meadows or cottage gardens. They look simply stunning when heavily seeded in an isolated area and will happily mingle with other annuals, perennials or grasses. The dwarf strains are effective in containers, baskets and window boxes, making these little charmers perfect for city and courtyard gardens.

The bright coloured blooms last well when cut, making darling bouquets in a small jug or vase - the more you pick them more the plant will blossom with renewed vigour

Cultivation/Propagation:

Linaria are hardy plants that grow well throughout South Africa, and can be sown during spring and early summer, or late summer and autumn in frost-free regions. They require no special care, and the seeds can simply be thrown directly where they are to grow, filling any sunny nook or cranny, for months at a stretch.

In fact, in cooler climates they can bloom from spring to autumn, but in hot climates, in the heat of summer, they usually stop blooming, especially if they do not receive rainfall, but will resume flowering once temperatures drop. Although they thrive in full sun, the plants will take light shade, and in very hot climates, will appreciate some relief from the hot midday sun. They grow best in light, sandy, well-drained soil, but will adapt to most garden soils as long as they drain well.
Although Linaria grow in arid regions and should not be overwatered, they will appreciate watering during long, dry summer spells. Once they are established the plants need little care, but after the first flush of flowers is spent, the plants can be sheered by two-thirds to encourage them to re-bloom. No feeding is required to keep them blooming continually, but those growing in small containers may appreciate the occasional feeding with a liquid fertiliser for flowers.

Seeds usually take around two weeks to germinate at temperatures of 20 to 30°C and will flower around 8 to 10 weeks from sowing. The seeds need warmth and light to germinate, so do not cover the seed with soil.

Because the seed of Linaria is very fine, gardeners often mix them with dry sand, and then broadcast this mix very thinly. This usually provides enough spacing between seedlings so that little if any thinning-out is necessary. Seedlings which do come up in patches will require thinning out to ensure good air circulation around the plants, and although the seedlings which have been removed can be transplanted elsewhere, these transplants do not perform as well as those that have grown their entire life without transplant shock.
 
Weeds will crowd-out or overshadow the delicate, small seedlings, and are often very difficult to remove amongst the tiny Linaria seedlings without damaging them, because they are so fine, small and shallow-rooted. To avoid weed competition it is usually best to prepare the planting site in advance and then let the bed settle. Allow whatever weed seed there is in the bed to germinate, then rake or weed this out. Repeat the process once or twice prior to sowing seed.

Plants will re-seed themselves in the garden if the seeds fall on bare ground and are not disturbed, so if you do not want seedlings popping up all over the garden, cutting back the plants after flowering will help to prevent this.

Pests & Diseases:

Linaria is not affected by any serious insect or disease problems but watch out for aphids, and powdery mildew.
 
Warning:
    
At the time of the writing of this article, Linaria maroccana was not found in any poisonous plant databases we researched.

Thursday, 25 July 2013 00:28

Chrysanthemum - Chrysanthemum paludosum

Chrysanthemum paludosum. Picture courtesy Green Acres Nursery CaliforniaChrysanthemum paludosum. Picture courtesy Green Acres Nursery CaliforniaCondensed Version:

If you want a carpet of charming white daisies all summer long, and way into autumn, look no further than Chrysanthemum paludosum. These low-growing little daisies are quick to flower and easy to grow, reaching +-25cm in height with a 30cm spread. Chrysanthemum multicaule is another charming little chrysanthemum which needs the same growing conditions as C. paludosum. It has bright yellow flowers and is more compact; growing about 20cm tall and 25cm wide.
 
Creeping chrysanthemums are available in pots or seedling trays at garden centres and seed is also freely available. In the warmer regions of the country these daisies can be grown all year round, and in regions which experience only moderate frosts, they can also be grown almost all year round, as long as they are planted in a sheltered position in the garden, away from freezing winds. Their one nemesis is strong winds, so no matter where you are growing them in the country, be sure to place them in a protected space.

These cuties love full sun but will take light shade, and adapt to most well-drained garden soils. To look their best in the summer garden they require a deep heavy watering once a week. If planted in fertile soil, no further fertilising may be required, but an occasional feeding won’t harm the plants, and potted specimens can be fed together with other annuals. Seed is generally sown directly into garden beds in spring or early summer, after all danger of frost is over, and will bloom about 3 months after being planted from seed.

Full Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

If you want a carpet of charming white daisies all summer long, and way into autumn, look no further than Chrysanthemum paludosum. These low-growing little daisies are native to the Mediterranean basin and have been cultivated there for centuries. They are quick to flower and easy to grow, reaching +-25cm in height with a 30cm spread. Chrysanthemum multicaule is another charming little chrysanthemum which needs the same growing conditions as C. paludosum. It has bright yellow flowers and is more compact; growing about 20cm tall and 25cm wide.

In 1753 the famous botanist Carl Linnaeus gave the chrysanthemum flower its genus name, derived from Greek words meaning “golden flower”, and because daisy flowers habitually only open in the morning and close at night, the poet Chaucer gave this family of flowers the common name “day’s eye”, and a common saying of the era stated, “when you can put your foot on seven daisies, summer is come”. Daisies - who doesn't love them - and in the language of flowers, they symbolize innocence, simplicity, and modesty.

In the Garden:

Because of their neat, compact, yet spreading habit, creeping daisies look great planted in the foreground of annual and perennial flower gardens to supply a continuous splash of colour. Try planting them together with snapdragons, salvia and Barberton daisies (Gerbera) for a wonderful display. These little daisies are also perfectly sized for rock gardens, but are just as comfortable growing as a groundcover. Creeping daisies are so versatile, lending themselves to very many garden styles, but are essential in all cutting, cottage and meadow gardens.

Their creeping nature makes them delightful specimens for eye-catching hanging baskets, containers and window boxes. Plant them singly or in combination with other colourful summer annuals for months of colour. In fact, you can pop one in anywhere you need a little filler plant.

An added bonus is they will attract butterflies to the garden, and make delightful, long-lasting cut flowers for small, romantic posies.

Cultivation/Propagation:

Creeping chrysanthemums are available in pots or seedling trays at garden centres and transplant very easily into the garden. Seed is also freely available, and can be sown directly into well-prepared garden beds in spring after the last chance of frost. In the warmer regions of the country they can be grown all year round as short-lived perennials, and in regions which experience only moderate frosts, they can also be grown almost all year round, as long as they are planted in a warm, sheltered position in the garden, away from freezing winds. Their one nemesis is strong winds, so no matter where you are growing them in the country, be sure to place them in a protected space.

These fast growing cuties love full sun but will take light shade, and because they grow quickly, make sure that you space them correctly. They will adapt to most well-drained garden soils but favour Mediterranean type soils that are loamy but also sandy and dry, allowing for perfect drainage. These little plants have shallow roots and drought will cause woody and stunted growth, so to look their best in the summer garden they require a deep heavy watering once a week.

If planted in fertile soil, so further fertilising may be required, but an occasional feeding won’t harm the plants, and potted specimens can be fed together with other annuals. Pinch back the growing tips regularly to encourage a more compact plant, and cut out the dead flowers often to encourage more blooms. If blooming decreases mid-season, cut the plants back by half, and feed lightly to encourage new growth. Also, don’t be shy to prune the plants right back once they’ve finished blooming.

Seed is generally sown directly into garden beds in spring, after all danger of frost is over. Sow onto the surface of the soil and press the seeds down, before watering well. Keep the beds moderately moist until germination, which should take place within 10 to 14 days. Transplant or thin the seedlings as soon as they reach a height of several centimetres, and water regularly until they become established. These daisies will bloom about 3 months after being planted from seed.
 
Creeping daisies will self-seed liberally in the garden and spread slowly by rhizomes. Mature plants can be divided in autumn or early spring. If you wish to collect some seed to save for next season, allow the blossoms to fully mature at the end of summer, and when the centres turn brown, cut them off and spread them out to dry away from direct sunlight. After about two weeks, or when the heads have fully dried, rub them lightly to separate the seed from the husks, and store in a cool, dry place.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

If grown correctly creeping daisies are relatively healthy but can be affected by leaf spots, root and stem rot, blight, brown and white rust and powdery mildew. Fungal diseases are prevalent during moist, warm weather, and to help prevent them, ensure that the plants receive sufficient sunlight, your soil drains well, and they are spaced correctly, ensuring a good air flow around the leaves. Also, water early so the leaves have a chance to dry before nightfall. An appropriate fungicide can be applied if the condition persists.

Also, watch out for snails and slugs, caterpillars, leaf miners, aphids and red spider mites.

Warning:

Though rarely fatal, chrysanthemums can cause some miserable symptoms if eaten. All parts are potentially toxic to dogs, cats, horses and other mammals. Ingesting the plant can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive salivating, rashes or a lack of coordination. How a specific animal reacts to the plant varies, depending on the animal, its size, the amount it consumed and the chrysanthemum species.

Some humans develop contact dermatitis after extended exposure to garden chrysanthemums. This is an occupational hazard of florists, nursery workers, and gardeners. Wear gloves when handling them.

Thursday, 25 July 2013 00:28

Bedding Dahlia - Dahlia x hybrid


Melody Series Dahlia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyMelody Series Dahlia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCondensed Version:

Bedding Dahlias provide invaluable colour all summer and autumn and the flowers are available in single semi-double and double forms, and in lovely shades of pink, violet, white, yellow, red, orange and russet. The compact bedding varieties generally mature at a height of 30 to 60cm, and can have an equal spread.

Dahlias grow well throughout South Africa as long as they can be watered regularly, and they are planted in a sunny location in the garden with a minimum six hours sun per day. In humid regions fungal diseases like powdery mildew can be a problem. They will adapt to most fertile garden soils which drain well.

Trays of bedding Dahlias can be purchased from your garden centre or you can sow your own seeds directly into well-prepared garden beds or seedling trays in spring, when all danger of frost is over. If you are planting seed varieties, the plants will produce tubers during their growing season, just like other Dahlias.

Full Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

Bedding Dahlias are native to Mexico and remain popular summer annuals worldwide, providing invaluable colour all summer and into autumn. Flowers are available in single semi-double and double forms and come in lovely shades of pink, violet, white, yellow, red, orange and russet. The variations of colours are too numerous to mention but it should suffice to say that they are available in all possible colours except for true blue.

The compact bedding varieties generally mature at a height of 30 to 60cm, and can have an equal spread. The stems are thick and the medium sized leaves are generally ovate in shape and serrated at the edges, varying from a shiny dark green to a dull lighter green.

The genus Dahlia consists of 35 species all of which are found in the highlands of Mexico and Central America, and most species have very restricted ranges and are probably rarely available to the dahlia collector. Very little is known about the dahlia prior to the time of the Aztecs, but it is believed that they used parts of the plant for food and medicines. Unfortunately this information cannot be verified since much of the Aztec culture was destroyed following the Spanish Conquest.

Much information has, however, been documented regarding its earliest cultivations. In 1570 King Phillip II of Spain sent Francisco Hernandez to Mexico to study the natural resources of the country. He stayed for 7 years and described plants that resemble dahlia species under the names, Acocotli and Cocoxochitl. The first drawings of Dahlias were done by an associate who was traveling with Hernandez, and published in 1651.

In 1789 the director of the Botanical Garden at Mexico City sent plant parts to the Royal Gardens of Madrid, Spain, and from these three new Dahlia plant forms were bred: Dahlia pinnata, D. rosea, and D. coccinea; and the genus Dahlia was named after Andreas Dahl, a Swedish botanist. By the early 1800’seed and plant parts of dahlias had spread throughout Europe, and it was during this time that the scarlet Dahlia coccinea was crossed with a mauve-flowered species, possibly D. pinnata, which ultimately resulted in the first modern dahlia hybrid.

These new hybrids were easy to grow and hybridize, quickly becoming very popular in both European and American gardens. Throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s thousands of new forms were developed, and by 1936 14,000 cultivars were officially recognized. In the past century, nearly 50,000 named varieties have been listed in various registers and classification lists. All these dahlia forms were hybridized from at least two, and possibly all three of the original Dahlia species from Mexico.
 
In the Garden:

Bedding Dahlias are beautiful in a happy, carefree way, and they are sure draw attention to themselves, bringing a sense of carnival to the garden with their flamboyant flowers. These little divas are small enough to grace even the smallest of gardens, and if space is limited, even thrive in containers.  

Cultivation/Propagation:

Dahlias grow well throughout South Africa as long as they can be watered regularly, and are planted in a sunny location in the garden with a minimum of six hours sun per day. In humid regions fungal diseases like powdery mildew can be a problem. Select a site that is not battered by strong winds and where the soil drains well. Although Dahlias love to be watered regularly in summer, it is most important that their roots do no sit in water logged soil, or they may rot. They thrive in rich, slightly acid soils but will adapt to most garden soils, but before planting, prepare the soil by adding generous amounts of compost or well-aged manure.

If you are planting seed varieties, the plants will produce tubers during their growing season, just like other Dahlias. If you live in a frost free zone, these tubers can be left in the ground and they will begin flowering again next season. However, if you live in frost zones, it is best to lift the tubers in late autumn to store for replanting the following year.

Removing spent flower heads regularly will encourage more blooms, as will regular feeding with a balanced fertiliser every six weeks. Dahlias are, however, adverse to water soluble, high nitrogen and fish fertilisers.

Trays of bedding Dahlias can be purchased from your garden centre or you can sow your own seeds directly into well-prepared garden beds or seedling trays in spring, when all danger of frost is over. Cover the seeds lightly with soil as they require darkness to germinate and keep the soil moist but not soggy. Germination is quick and should occur within one week in soil temperatures between 19 to 21°C. The plants should start flowering within 12 to 14 weeks after sowing.

Pests & Diseases:

Dahlias are a firm favourite with slugs and snails, so watch out for them during wet weather. During hot, dry spells, red spider mites can become a problem - look out for tell-tale strands of thin webbing on the leaves and treat with an appropriate insecticide to break their breeding cycle.
Thrips can rarely kill Dahlias but they can make the appearance of the plant really ugly, causing stippled leaves, leaf drop and stunted growth. These also need to be treated with a poison specific to thrips.

Caterpillars and grasshoppers may also enjoy the occasional munch on Dahlia foliage. Caterpillars are easily be spotted by the way they roll themselves up in the leaves, and can be removed by hand.

Avoid pesticides which are dangerous for bees and other beneficial insects. Many pests, including spider mites, aphids and thrips, are easily treated with an insecticidal soap spray. Also, seek out chemical-free snail and slug pellets.

Because Dahlias are prone to mildew type diseases, especially when humidity is high, correct spacing of the plants is most important as this allows a good air flow around their leaves.

Warning:

Dahlia tubers and leaves contain phototoxic polyacetylene compounds that can cause skin irritation in humans who are handling the plants leaves and tubers in sunlight. The plant can be toxic if eaten in large amounts, according to the North Carolina State University Extension.

Dahlias are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. Clinical signs are mild gastrointestinal signs and mild dermatitis. Its toxic principles are unknown.


 

Angelonia 'Angel Mist' Lavender. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyAngelonia 'Angel Mist' Lavender. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCondensed Version:

These tropical evergreen perennials are tough, easy to care for, and are planted in summer for their lovely snapdragon-like flowers, born on slender upright spikes. They bloom continuously during the hot summer months; have attractive bright green willow-like leaves; and hybrids are available in clear flower colours or two-toned combinations of rose, pink, blue, lilac, violet-blue, purple, and white. Their rounded upright growth habit and long blooming season make them perfect bedding plants and worthwhile additions to background plantings in flower borders. Numerous hybrids have been bred for flower performance and compact growth; making them an ideal choice for colourful container plantings.

Summer snapdragons thrive in humid tropical and warm sub-tropical conditions; they are tender to frost and are planted as a summer annuals in Angelonia 'Angel Mist' Deep Pllum. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CopmpanyAngelonia 'Angel Mist' Deep Pllum. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural Copmpanycold regions. They grow well throughout the country but are not suited to very dry summer regions, unless they can be watered well. Angelonia are can take heat and full sun, but they will still flower in very light shade. These ‘toughies’ will even withstand heavy thunderstorms. They love sandy soils but will grow in all fertile, well-drained garden soils. Although the plants are drought tolerant and water-wise in tropical gardens, it is best to water moderately during dry spells. A monthly feeding will keep the plants flowering abundantly. Summer snapdragon hybrids grow +-25 to 40cm tall and will spread +-30 to 40cm.

Full Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

There are about 30 species of Angelonia, and these tropical evergreen perennials are members of the snapdragon family, and native to Mexico, Cuba and parts of the West Indies. They are tough, easy to care for, and are planted in summer for their lovely snapdragon-like flowers, born on slender upright spikes. Summer snapdragons will bloom continuously during the hot summer months, continuing into autumn, or as long as the weather remains warm. They have attractive bright green willow-like leaves; and hybrids are available in clear flower colours or two-toned combinations of rose, pink, blue, lilac, violet-blue, purple, and white.

Angelonia 'Angel Mist' White. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyAngelonia 'Angel Mist' White. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyIn the Garden:

Angelonia has gone from obscurity a decade ago to one of the best-selling plants for the summer garden. Their rounded upright growth habit and long blooming season make them perfect bedding plants and worthwhile additions to background plantings in flower borders. Numerous hybrids have been bred for flower performance and compact growth; making them an ideal choice for colourful container plantings. Mix summer snapdragons with other flowering annuals in containers, window boxes and hanging baskets, to give your plantings height and accent, without overpowering the other plants.  Angelonia flowers last well in a vase and will attract butterflies to your garden. Treat yourself to a few of these delightful plants this summer, you will not be disappointed.
 
Cultivation:

Summer snapdragons love growing in humid tropical and warm sub-tropical conditions; they are tender to frost and are planted as a summer annuals in cold regions; plants grown in containers can be difficult to overwinter indoors. They grow well throughout the country but are not suited to very dry summer regions, unless they can be watered well. Angelonia are called summer snapdragons because they can take heat and full sun, but they will still flower in very light shade. These ‘toughies’ will even withstand heavy thunderstorms. They love sandy soils but will Angelonia' Angel Mist' Purple Stripe. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyAngelonia' Angel Mist' Purple Stripe. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural Companygrow in all fertile, well-drained garden soils. Although the plants are drought tolerant and water-wise in tropical gardens, it is best to water moderately during dry spells. A monthly feeding will keep the plants flowering abundantly. It is best to not remove old flowers because ‘deadheading’ actually hurts the continual blooming characteristic of the plants. It is also not necessary to prune because this will ruin their naturally beautiful form; but if you simply must trim it won’t harm your plants. Summer snapdragon hybrids grow +-25 to 40cm tall and will spread +-30 to 40cm.

Propagation:

Propagation is from tip cuttings, by division of the root mass, or by seed. Certain cultivars like ‘Angelmist’ ‘Angelface’ and ‘Serena’ are patented and may not be commercially propagated without a propagation license from the patent holder.

Pests & Diseases:

Angelonia does not suffer from and serious pest or disease problems, but watch out for aphids and powdery mildew.

Primula acaulis 'Blue'Primula acaulis 'Blue'Condensed Version:

Common primroses are synonymous with spring and one of the first flowers to peek out - like a little splash of sunshine in a bleak wintry world. This makes them a real favourite with gardeners, and commercially they are marketed as bedding plants, potted house plants and perennials. These little gems may only grow +-12cm tall and 15cm wide, but they are hard to ignore when in full bloom and covered in a profusion of intensely coloured flowers in every colour except green. They are essential in romantic and cottage gardens, but with the right combination of plants, can look just as stunning in a modern garden. Try massing them as a border to the spring garden, or plant them in pots, window boxes and hanging baskets, combined with other spring beauties.

Although most gardeners prefer to buy their primroses in trays or small pots, they can also be grown from seed, to flower the following spring. Primulas are quite tolerant of being transplanted, even when they are in bloom, and newly purchased plants can be planted out into the garden in early spring. Common primroses prefer cool, humid climates, and do well in maritime situations. Under these growing conditions they are perennials, and although they love to bask in the spring sunshine, as the weather warms and the last flowers fade, the plants need to be kept cool and in the shade. In hot regions they are discarded for summer blooms.

Primroses are fully hardy and will adapt to most garden soils, but for the best results, try to emulate a forest floor with damp, moist, cool soil which is rich with organic material like leaf litter. They must be planted so that their crowns are at soil level and at least 15cm apart, and require regular watering. For spectacular results apply a liquid fertiliser for flowering plants once every fortnight during the growing season.

Primula acaulis 'Pink'Primula acaulis 'Pink'Full Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

The wild primrose is a cheerful little flower with its pretty pale yellow flowers with orange-yellow centres, peeking above a rosette of fat, wrinkled leaves - like a little splash of sunshine in a bleak wintry world. Although they often flower in winter, primroses are synonymous with spring, and in their countries of origin are one of the first wild flowers to show their faces - even their name derives from the Latin for “first rose”.

This makes them a real favourite with gardeners, and commercially they are marketed as bedding plants, potted house plants and perennials. These little gems may only grow +-12cm tall and 15cm wide, but they are hard to ignore when in full bloom and covered in a profusion of intensely coloured flowers in every colour except green, and if you pick the flowers for your first spring posies - for each blossom plucked, another long scrolled bud springs up.

The Primula family is very large and diverse, and species may vary greatly in shape, size and form, and exist in widely differing environmental, climatic and atmospheric conditions. They can be found growing in the wild throughout most of the temperate regions of Western Europe, including Britain, from Norway south and east to North Africa and Western Asia.

Historically, primula were difficult to produce commercially and were short lived in the landscape, with a limited range of garden colours available, but breeding programs throughout the last twenty to thirty years have greatly improved its attributes, and today Primula vulgaris hybrids produce even more blooms, and these strains can be single or double-flowered but maintain the form of the beautiful old 'named' primroses, most of which have now vanished. These newer strains are stronger in constitution and much more enthusiastic in performance. A Polyanthus primula is very similar to Primula vulgaris -but with one major difference. The bunched ‘clusters’ of Primula vulgaris flowers are borne on stems, and are not ground hugging like polyanthus primulas. Hence their common name, “stalked primroses”.

The ancient Greeks named the flower "paralisos" after a youth who was said to have died from grief after the sudden death of his sweetheart, Melicerta, whom the gods were thought to have turned into a primrose or cowslip. Shakespeare first wrote of it in his play Hamlet, using it as reference to a path of uncertain pleasure, he also used the primrose as a symbol of death in the play Cymbeline. Catholics link the common primrose to both St Agatha and St Bertulf, and it is also known as "our lady's keys" as it is thought to represent the keys held by Mary Mediatrix, which opened the store houses of heavenly grace.

In ancient times Primula was believed to be a flower originating in Paradise, with the five petals representing birth, initiation, consummation, repose and death, and a primrose with six petals is said to bring luck in love and marriage. This small blossom was also considered a symbol of safety and protection, and it was said that if primroses were placed on a doorstep it would encourage the faeries to bless the house and all who lived there, so posies would be left for them there. A German legend tells of a little girl who found a doorway covered in flowers and when she touched it with a primrose, it opened up into a beautiful enchanted castle. Ancient Celtic wisdom associates seeing a large patch of primroses with a gateway or portal into the faerie realms, and another old superstition claimed that if you ate the blossoms of a primrose you would see a fairy, so children would eat the flowers copiously, hoping and believing to see them.

Primula acaulis 'Yellow'Primula acaulis 'Yellow'Uses:

The flowers are edible, raw or cooked, and make an attractive garnish for salads. They are often made into jams and fresh flowers are fermented with water and sugar to make a very pleasant and intoxicating wine.

Because the leaves are often available all throughout winter, young leaves were often used a potherb and added to soups, stews etc. They have a mild flavour, but the texture can be a bit tough. The flowers were once popular in the dish known as "primrose pottage", which featured rice, almonds and honey, saffron and ground Primrose flowers. An infusion of the petals was also made into primrose tea.

In the past primroses were thought to be a powerful medicine for treating painful conditions such as paralysis, rheumatism and gout, and the leaves were used to dress wounds.

Primula acaulis mixed bicolour. Picture courtesy www.nuleaf.co.zaPrimula acaulis mixed bicolour. Picture courtesy www.nuleaf.co.zaIn the Garden & Home:

In cooler regions primroses are valuable garden perennials which seed themselves freely in the shade garden. In hot summer regions they are grown as winter and spring flowering annuals, and planted together with other annuals and bulbs for a spectacular spring show. Primroses favour growing on shady banks and under hedgerows, doing exceptionally well when planted underneath deciduous trees, where they receive winter sunshine but are sheltered from the heat of summer. They are essential in romantic and cottage gardens, but with the right combination of plants, can look just as stunning in a modern garden. Try massing them as a border to the spring garden, or plant them in pots, window boxes and hanging baskets, combined with other spring beauties.

These are great plants for the early pollinators and will attract butterflies and moths to the garden. In season they are available in tiny pots for indoor decoration, so if you love them but don't have a garden, you certainly can have at least one primrose!

Cultivation/Propagation:

Common primroses prefer cool, humid climates, and do well in maritime situations. Under these growing conditions they are perennials, and although they love to bask in the spring sunshine, as the weather warms and the last flowers fade, the plants need to be kept cool and in the shade. In hot regions they are discarded for summer blooms.

Primroses will adapt to most garden soils, acid, neutral and alkaline. The soil may be light (sandy), medium (loamy) and even heavy (clay). For the best results, try to emulate a forest floor with damp, moist, cool soil which is rich with organic material like leaf litter. Water regularly and deeply, as the plant has shallow roots and prefers soil that is consistently moist, but not soggy. Primroses are of course fully hardy and will self-seed freely in the garden producing a lovely mixture of colours. For spectacular results apply a liquid fertiliser for flowering plants once every fortnight during the growing season.

Primulas are quite tolerant of being transplanted, even when they are in bloom, and newly purchased plants can be planted out into the garden in early spring. They must be planted so that their crowns are at soil level and at least 15cm apart.

Older plants can be divided and transplanted right after they are finished blooming. Spread a 1cm layer of compost or leaf mulch around them to keep the roots cool and moist. Mulch is important especially in climates with hot summers. Don't apply more than 1cm at a time, as a thick layer of mulch provides a convenient hiding place for slugs.

Although most gardeners prefer to buy their primroses in trays or small pots, they can also be grown from seed, which is sown in seedling trays in early spring, on a seed bed of moist peat moss which has been layered over sterile potting soil. The seeds are very tiny, so do not cover them! The tray must then be chilled in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks, after which it must be kept between 15 to 20°C during germination, which takes anything from 1 to 3 weeks. During germination maintain moderate moisture levels, never allowing the soil to dry out or to become saturated. A sheet of clear plastic or glass placed over the tray will help to retain moisture until the seeds sprout, at which time the cover sheet should be removed.

Following germination, reduce moisture levels somewhat, allowing the growing medium to dry out slightly before watering, this helps promote rooting. Transplant the seedlings into individual pots when they are about 5cm tall, and place in a cool, shady place. They will be ready to bloom the following spring.

Primrose plants can be grown indoors if you are able to provide them with cool night temperatures between 10 to 15°C, and daytime temperatures below 26°C. They also require filtered sun and moist soil. When they have finished blooming in the house it is best to discard the plants or plant them into the garden.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Watch out for slugs and snails as well as aphids and mites. Spray with insecticidal soap spray if you notice pests. Insecticidal soap spray is useful because it kills only on contact, and has no residual effect that kills bees and other beneficial insects. However, the spray must be reapplied every five to seven days. Spray the plant thoroughly, wetting both the tops and bottoms of the leaves.

Warning:

Primula vulgaris is non-toxic to humans but it is always advisable to keep young children from eating any plants. It is toxic to cats, dogs and horses, causing mild vomiting.

 

Browalia 'Bells Blue' Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyBrowalia 'Bells Blue' Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCondensed Version:

The bush violet is a lovely mounded, sprawling plant with oval leaves with pointed tips, and which feel slightly sticky to touch. It is related to petunias and flowers just as profusely, all summer and into late autumn.  Hybrid varieties are available in vibrant shades of purple, blue, violet or white, and are cultivated as a summer annuals, growing quickly to +-25 to 35cm tall. The bush violet is also a popular indoor houseplant, doing well in a warm, bright room.

The Bush Violet is a summer flowering plant that is tender to frost. It grows well both at the coast and inland, taking both heat and humidity. It does best in a warm, bright, semi-shaded position, or morning sun, and in very hot and dry regions, some midday shade is essential. Also, ensure that it is sited where it is protected from strong winds. The bush violet will adapt to most fertile garden soils which drain well but grows best in sandy soil mixed with good compost. Water regularly but do not over water, and fertilise monthly with a liquid fertiliser for flowering plants to keep them blooming well all season.

It is well worthwhile to purchase trays or small pots of the bush violet so you can enjoy a full season of blooms.

Bells Blue Browalia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyBells Blue Browalia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyFull Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

The bush violet is a lovely mounded, sprawling plant native to tropical South America, and especially Columbia. This tender perennial has oval leaves with pointed tips, and which feel slightly sticky to touch, is related to petunias, and flowers just as profusely, all summer and into late autumn.  It can be found growing wild in open areas, roadsides, pastures and vacant lots; in moist and seasonally dry regions at elevations between 150 to 1200m, and is prized for its profusion of violet, white-eyed flowers.  Hybrid varieties are available in vibrant shades of purple, blue, violet or white, and are cultivated as a summer annuals, growing quickly to +-25 to 35cm tall. The bush violet is also a popular indoor houseplant.

In the Garden:

The bush violet grows beautifully outdoors in sheltered positions in semi-shade and will make a stunning display when planted together with Petunia, Impatiens, Bedding Begonia and Alyssum. Because of its sprawling habit it is ideal to plant into hanging baskets, window boxes and containers of all kinds, and looks lovely if allowed to cascade over a low wall.

In the Home:

The bush violet will thrive indoors if it is placed in a warm room with bright light.  It does fine in a warm sunny window where it gets a couple of hours of morning sun, or in a shady corner that's in a sunny room. However, it does not like very hot rooms, which will tend to shorten the life of the flowers.

Water moderately, enough to make the potting mixture thoroughly moist, but allowing the top two-thirds to dry out before watering again. Once new plants are established, begin applications of a standard liquid fertiliser for flowering plants every two weeks and continue throughout the growing season.
Their attractive trailing habit makes them wonderful in hanging baskets, or in pots where they can spill over the edges. For a more upright look, the wiry stems will need to be supported. As new growth develops, nip out the growing tips of the stems to encourage bushy growth.

Bush violets are usually sold in small pots for indoors and will not need repotting. They should be discarded after flowering.

Cultivation/Propagation:

The Bush Violet is a summer flowering plant that is tender to frost. It grows well both at the coast and inland, taking both heat and humidity. It does best in a warm, bright, semi-shaded position, or morning sun, and in very hot and dry regions, some midday shade is essential. Also, ensure that it is sited where it is protected from strong winds.

The bush violet will adapt to most fertile garden soils which drain well but grows best in sandy soil mixed with good compost. Water regularly but do not over water, and fertilise monthly with a liquid fertiliser for flowering plants to keep them blooming well all season.

It is well worthwhile to purchase trays or small pots of the bush violet so you can enjoy a full season of blooms.

It is propagated by cuttings or by seed. Seeds germinate best in soil temperatures between 24 and 26°C and will germinate within 7 to 15 days. Cover the seed lightly with vermiculite. The plants should start blooming within 16 to 18 weeks after sowing.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

No serious insect or disease problems affect the bush violet, but look out for aphids, leafhoppers and whiteflies. These can easily be controlled with an insecticidal soap.

Fungal leaf spots may occur but can be effectively controlled using either systemic and non-systemic fungicides. Plant hygiene will help to prevent these diseases, as will proper air circulation around the leaves.

The base of the plant rots if the plant is given too much water, and unfortunately, once the base has started to turn black, the plant cannot be saved and must be discarded.

Yellow leaves occur when the plant is too cold - move it to a warmer position. If the plant is droopy, it needs more water.

Over fertilisation, especially with fertilisers high in nitrogen causes leaf growth at the expense of flower production, so always use a fertiliser for flowering plants.

Warning:

Not much is listed for Browallia, except for one source which listed the fruits as toxic but not life threatening.

 

Thursday, 25 July 2013 00:28

Nasturtium - Tropaeolum majus

Nasturtium 'Orange'Nasturtium 'Orange'These reliable plants are native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America and were introduced into other regions as cultivated garden plants. They are grown for their long-lasting displays of brightly coloured flowers and attractive round, shiny leaves. There are many different varieties of Nasturtiums. Some are climbers, some semi-trailers and some dwarfs.Both single-flowered and double varieties are available and the flowers come in bright shades of orange, golden-yellow and cherry-red, as well as pastels like soft-salmon, lemon- yellow and apricot-orange. The dwarf varieties make a beautiful flower border and grow easily in pots and hanging baskets. The climbers look great if trained up a wooden trellis.

This plant is so quick and easy-to-grow that it is an excellent choice for children's gardens. They will love their bright flowers and may even be persuaded to eat their healthy, edible leaves, in cheese sandwiches.

Nasturtiums are grown as summer annuals in South Africa and grow well throughout the country as long as they can be watered regularly and are planted in full sun. They will tolerate some shade but may not flower as well. They are hardy to moderate frost and in frost-free areas. Nasturtiums are evergreen and self-seeding, flowering almost all year round. They will grow in most soils but prefer moderately fertile soil that drains well. If they are planted in very rich soil or are over-fertilised, the plants will produce leaves at the expense of the flowers.

Seeds are usually sown directly into garden beds or seedling trays in spring, when all danger of frost is over and the soil temperatures are between 18 and 21° C. Cover the seeds with soil or press them about 5cm into the soil. They germinate quickly, within 2 to 5 days and the plants will start blooming 8 to 9 weeks after sowing.

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