Newsletter May 2017

Robert and I were recently in the Cape for a family wedding where the venue, décor and floral arrangements were quite a breath of fresh air. The bride’s bouquet was simply made up of leaves and flowers from the garden, and you could hardly call the flowers on the tables “arrangements” - random sprigs of plectranthus, salvias and other bits and pieces popped into  glass beakers.

The wedding took place in a barn and the showstopper (apart from the bride, of course) was the donkeys who peeped through the stable doors to be fed titbits by the guests.

The addition of donkeys is maybe a tad rustic for most tastes but the simplicity of it all got me thinking about how easily most of us start to think that “more is more”. Many weddings and other celebrations are overdone and no expense is spared to outdo the Joneses with vehicles, decorations, food and dresses. This wedding showed that an appreciation for the real and earthy things in life can also be very elegant.

Naturally it has not taken me long to introduce gardens and gardening to this train of thought. At the risk of stepping on some toes, dare I suggest that the type of garden design we sigh over these days has perhaps lost the something special that comes with a real connection with the earth? I admit that there is something tranquil about a well-planned, orderly and carefully pruned garden, but I wonder if “keeping it real” and taking a more relaxed approach to our green spaces might not help us be more relaxed about our lives in general.

PS Of course I left with a doggy bag of propagating stock!

IN THE GARDEN

Autumn is the time for planting.  Our first priority at this time of the year is to lift plants from the garden and pot them up for the nursery.  It is quite amazing how much stock we are able to generate in this way. 

We have restructured beds and replanted to accommodate our ever expanding selection of bearded irises.  Hopefully they will be flaunting their beautiful blooms in early spring.

The tree dahlias have finally started flowering.  This year we seem to have “younger” plants that are not as robust and intrusive as their more elderly sisters. We are enjoying the more intense winter colour of the thunbergias, particularly Arizona Glow which is breathtakingly beautiful with the darkest red flowers imaginable. The purple “bowties” on our Dalechampia dioscoreifolia are also still looking fabulous and the salvias are living up to their reputation as prolific bloomers. Still much to enjoy in the garden despite the sudden arrival of winter!

We were delighted when Passiflora “Fata Confetto” started flowering last September.  It is now eight months later and the buds and blooms just keep coming.  The bees have made this fabulous climber their first port of call in the morning.  We will definitely have plants for sale in the new season.

IN THE NURSERY

Indigenous plants

The summer dormant aquatic perennial Aponogeton distachyos, more commonly known to South Africans as waterblommetjie, will give you edible white flowers over the coming winter months. It has dark green floating oblong leaves with a spread of about 1m, is semi-hardy and likes full sun.

We have Watsonias in stock in four different colours. A popular cut flower, this hardy clump forming corm reaches a height of about 80cm and flowers all season in a sunny spot.  It is also summer dormant.

Ornithogalum juncifolia is a gorgeous bulb which multiplies well. It has white star like flowers all summer and spikey grass like foliage. Evergreen and hardy, it grows about 30cm high in sun or semi-shade.  It seems to be able to cope with both bog and dry conditions.  Any comments?

Falkia repens is a tough 10cm high groundcover which makes a wonderful indigenous daisy lawn in sun or shade. Evergreen and hardy, it has pale pink cup shaped flowers in spring which are pollinated by moths and bees.

Exotic plants

Filipendula rubra is a bold upright deciduous perennial with jagged edged leaves and panicles of fragrant pink flowers in summer. It is very hardy, can take sun or semi shade and grows to a height of about 1m.  I think this one is more suited to colder areas.

A spreading 40cm high perennial, Lysimachia ciliata has lance shaped dark maroon leaves and sprays of open yellow flowers in summer. It is evergreen and very hardy and likes semi shade.  I like to use it where cover is needed in a flowerbed.

Sedum mexicanum Lemon ball is a very hardy, tough, spreading groundcover with soft linear leaves and bright yellow star shaped flowers in late spring. A good container plant, it likes full sun.

If you are looking for a fast growing shrub, Fuchsia arborescens is a good choice. Evergreen and hardy, it grows about 2m high and has bright green lance shaped leaves, panicles of rose to magenta flowers from winter to summer and edible purple seeds. Plant in semi shade.

And lastly, a reminder that the Louisiana iris web page has been updated for those who are looking for specific specimens. A separate page about our bulk sales special has also been added to give you an indication of what you can expect in the random selection we put together for you if you want to take advantage of the discount prices.

SNIPPETS

Every year at this time I roll my eyes bags of leaves that get put out with the trash and the trailer loads that are driven away by garden services. Nothing makes a better mulch to protect plants from harsh winter temperatures and leaves have the added bonus of turning into beautiful compost in the beds. I have no qualms about stopping and loading bags into my car to supplement what our own trees provide, with the dogs sometimes pushed into a little corner to make space. We also keep an eye on activities in the park next door so that as soon as municipal workers have raked the leaves into convenient piles we can pounce! Do yourself a favour and get into the habit of collecting what autumn makes available – you won’t be sorry.

We hear reports that a mild winter is on its way.  Who knows, but I still count the days till spring.

Happy gardening,

Leoné