I am a fan of the Jeremy Maggs show on DSTV and recently watched a program on Checkers and their “Little Garden” promotional campaign. With my little nephew in mind, I regretted not taking advantage of the previous “Little Shop” campaign as I remember how much I loved playing with my Oumie’s collection of mini boxes of Kellogg’s Cornflakes, Omo, Silvo etc. as a child. But I have to confess I thought the new idea of mini seedling kits was a little silly and that even people with only a passing interest in gardening wouldn’t be captivated by the thought of raising tiny samples of seeds into plants.
The first indication of how wrong I was came from a friend who is a self-confessed Facebook fanatic cum couch potato. Not only did she start collecting the Little Gardens with great enthusiasm, she now also regales anyone who will listen with details of her new hobby - how tall her radish seedlings now are or how many of the alyssum seeds came up. And I have since heard about others, young and old, who have developed quite a passion for what is actually a rather specialised (and sometimes disheartening) aspect of gardening.
Who would have thought! Perhaps there is a latent gardener in everyone just waiting for the right spark to get the fire going.
IN THE GARDEN
A rather early cold snap has us fully in winter mode now, clearing overgrown areas, moving plants and trying to catch seeds. Hopefully there are still some warm days left before winter really sets in.
It’s the time of year when I resign myself to all the bare patches and focus on the plants that just keep on giving. The thunbergias and moonflowers are covered in flowers, the iochromas, salvias and abutilons still look lovely and the Strobilanthus hamiltoniana are coming into bloom. The Dombeya burgessaie is a hive of bee actiivity!
Even when the nights and early mornings are chilly, Mother Nature makes sure that there is always something to enjoy in the garden.
A selection of Abutilons
IN THE NURSERY
Click here to view all the plants featured in this newsletter.
· Indigenous plants
Argyrolobium tomentosum is a lax 1.2 m high evergreen shrub with trifoliate leaves, golden stems and bright yellow flowers in autumn that fade to orange. It comes from the Natal Midlands so is very hardy! Plant in semi shade.
We have a fabulous new miniature form of Bulbine natalensis, in stock. It is an evergreen, hardy aloe like perennial with a basal rosette of thick fleshy leaves and spikes of yellow flowers all year. A good container plant, it likes semi shade and grows just 20 cm high!
Kleinia fulgens is a water wise sun loving succulent that is evergreen and very hardy and grows about 40 cm high. This little plant doesn’t seem to capture the imagination of many, but I find its bright orange red button like flowers at this time of year a real delight. The fleshy chalky silver leaves are also very attractive.
Leonotis leonorus alba is a showy upright shrub with narrow rough toothed leaves that grows about 1.2 m high. The velvety white flowers from summer to autumn attract birds, butterflies and bees and do well in the vase. Evergreen and very hardy, it likes full sun. The flowers on the plants in the nursery are a lovely almost pure white. Jason Sampson alerted me to the fact that the white Leonotis form is actually often a sickly off white ash colour so we are very happy with our stock!
Petalidium oblongifolium is a low growing hardy evergreen shrub with veined oblong grey green leaves and pale blue flowers all year round. I have previously recommended this plant for harsh, very sunny and dry areas but mine only gets morning sun and is looking fabulous.
· Exotic plants
We finally have a good selection of Abutilon hybrids in stock. These are wonderfully versatile and floriferous evergreen plants that will even provide colour through the winter months. They grow in sun or semi shade and can be used as a shrub or trained as a climber as they range in height from 60 cm to 2.5 m. They are available in a variety of colours from white and soft pink to yellow, peach and deep maroon.
Eranthemum pulchellum is an interesting evergreen shrub with textured veined dark green leaves and spikes of rich blue flowers that attract bees and butterflies from winter to spring. It grows to a height of about 1 m in Gauteng but up to 2 m in warmer areas. It is semi hardy and prefers semi shade.
The fast growing evergreen perennial Strobilanthes hamiltoniana is well worth having in the garden for its sprays of tubular mauve flowers from winter to spring. It also has attractive veined waxy serrated leaves. Growing about 1.5 m high, it is semi hardy and tolerates both sun and shade.
The trailing ground cover Tradescantia “Blushing Bride” has pink flowers in summer but its real attraction is the variegated strap like leaves of green and cream with purple tips. The colour differentiation is more pronounced in winter and increases if you cut back. It is very hardy and evergreen and is happy in sun or semi shade.
I have known Leon Kluge for many years and it has been wonderful to see this young man from Nelspruit become an internationally recognised garden designer who brings his special brand of creativity to plant expos all over the world. This year he is responsible for South Africa's stand at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show for the first time, and what a breath of fresh air he has been! Do yourself a favour and visit his Facebook page to see how he and his team built a circular display featuring not only the always splendid Cape protea and fynbos but a large variety of indigenous plants from the other - usually overlooked - regions of the country. The stand won a well deserved gold!
Botantical artist Gillian Condy has reminded us about the Botanical Art Worldwide exhibition that is running at the Everard Read Gallery in Rosebank until 9 June. Gill is one of the members of the Botanical Artists Association of South Africa whose exquisite paintings are on show. I'm sure it is worth a visit.
Don't forget to mulch and add the frost cover - and of course allow yourself and your garden to enjoy the winter rest.