One of the fun things about thinking up stories for the newsletters is the opportunity to reminisce. I recently remembered one of my favourite nursery “encounters” which was with someone who wasn’t even in the country!
About a year ago I received a phone call from a lady with a foreign accent looking for Impatiens tinctoria. We unfortunately had no stock, but she made contact again every so often until mid-May 2017 when I was able to tell her I had managed to source bulbs. She and her husband would hotfoot it over, she told me.
At our meeting it transpired that it was in fact her father in Serbia, an avid plant collector, who was looking for the plant. Bata Ninkovic had stumbled upon Petal Faire Nursery on the internet and asked his daughter who lives in Johannesburg to contact us. The couple were leaving the next day to visit the family in Europe and wanted to take the Impatiens tinctoria with them. That safely secured, they did a thorough tour of the nursery, sending photos and taking telephonic orders from an excited purchaser thousands of kilometres away. In the end, a couple of gingers also found their way into those suitcases. I was assured that Bata has a hothouse so the plants would be very happy in their new home.
The joys of technology - except of course when it fails us! A spate of issues with various computers and internet access are to blame for there being no newsletter in June.
IN THE GARDEN
The garden’s winter rest is well underway but there is at least still some colour to be had from the abutilons, salvias, many of the climbers and the lovely leaves of Croton pseudopulchellus.
And I have to mention Salvia karwinskii which is an absolute delight through the winter months.
We are keeping busy with cleaning up and potting on as well as layering plants that are difficult to propagate like the Akebia and Quisqualis. We hope to see some rooting soon. This is a first for us so I will keep you posted you on the progress.
Layering in progress
This is also the start of the pruning season so we are sharpening up those shears in preparation.
Now is the time to start feeding the Louisiana irises if you want a good spring show. We have decided to use a high potassium fertiliser for the entire growing season as recommended by Pieter van der Walt of Aquaflora Nursery. Let us see if it makes a difference to our display.
IN THE NURSERY
In spite of the cold weather and frost cover there are still a few gems to be found in the nursery.
Dombeya burgessaie is one of those plants that can be relied on for some winter colour. A strong growing shrub (or small tree, at a height of 4m), it has downy heart shaped leaves and very pretty fragrant clusters of pink veined white flowers from winter to spring. It is evergreen and semi hardy and grows in sun or semi shade.
Polygala virgata is a very hardy evergreen self-seeding shrub with spikes of purple flowers all season which attract insects. It grows to a height of about 2m. They are best grouped for effect in the garden. Plant in sun or semi shade. Excellent cut flowers.
Another plant for some winter colour is Cyrtanthus mackennii, a hardy evergreen bulb with narrow strap like leaves and scented tubular flowers from winter to spring. We have the yellow and peach bulbs in stock. It grows to a height of 40cm in full sun.
A plant that multiplies well is always welcome in the garden and Lychnis flos cuculi (Ragged Robin) is one of those. Lovely in a woodland garden, this is a very hardy mat-forming perennial with rosette forming lanceolate leaves and narrow petalled pink flowers in spring and summer. It grows about 50cm high in sun or semi shade.
Justicia rizzinii is a very attractive compact rounded shrub (60cm in height) with small leaves and yellow tipped red flowers from winter to spring. It is evergreen and hardy and likes sun or semi shade but seems to tolerate deep shade quite well.
A summer deciduous bulb and therefore growing at the moment, Allium triquetrum is an interesting Mediterranean bulb that grows to a height of about 40cm in semi shade. It has triangular stems, strap like leaves and green striped flowers that attract bees in spring. For the adventurous cook, all parts of the plant are edible!
It seems that many folk are looking for Zygocactus (lidrose) plants to buy. Dave Wyllie has a large selection of plants for sale. Please contact him on 082 926 8888.
I highly recommend a short course on the fascinating topic of how plants communicate which will be presented Prof Braam van Wyk on 5 August from 09:00 to 12:00 in the National Herbarium Lecture Hall of the Pretoria National Botanical Garden. The course costs R150 per person. Book by emailing Linette Ferreira firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be holding our Open Weekend on the first or second weekend in September so make a note in your diary. I will confirm closer to the time and let you know what highlights you can expect.
Well, we have passed the winter solstice and can start looking ahead to warmer days and stirrings in the garden. In the meantime, wrap up and enjoy the mild winter sun. I have noticed the frogs starting to mumble…..