Newsletter May 2020

Lockdown certainly seems to have put many of us in touch with DIY and self-reliance. Stories abound on social media about people experimenting with bread making or beer brewing and tackling their own home maintenance.

I am sure that without the luxury of being able to pop round to the garden centre to buy plants, gardeners have also changed their strategies. Perhaps you have started moving plants around, looking for “babies” that can be redistributed to fill up bare patches, taking cuttings or trying your hand at growing from seed. I suspect that, like many other newly discovered skills and interests, this might be the future of gardening, even post COVID-19. There is much to be said for the thriftiness and satisfaction of producing your own crops – not to mention the control you have over what fertilisers and pesticides your vegetables are exposed to!

LivingSeeds, specialists in heirloom seeds, included the following “tips for becoming a seed starting pro” in a recent newsletter:

  1. Sow root crops directly into the ground.
  2. Leaf and fruiting crops should generally be transplanted.
  3. Larger seeds, such as beans and sunflowers, are typically planted directly into the ground.
  4. Plant seeds 3x deeper than they are long.
  5. Use a seed starting mix. Seedling mix is for seedlings.
  6. Seeds with a very hard coating, such as Swiss chard and beetroot, benefit from being soaked before planting.

You can click here for more details. I also highly recommend a visit to the LivingSeeds website.  I for one will definitely be sowing my own vegetable seeds come Spring.

I daresay we will be talking about the businesses that fell victim to this devastating pandemic for many months, if not years. One that will be sorely missed in the gardening world, unless a buyer comes forward very soon to save the day, is the iconic Garden and Home magazine. The really sad thing is that this is not one of the publications whose circulation has dropped over the past few years, and its demise will be due to solely to these recent events. Whatever happens (and let’s pray for a miracle), I will be forever grateful for the generous exposure given to Petal Faire Nursery over the years and the honour of having articles published alongside contributions by such illustrious gardeners. REMOVE FULLS TOP as Zoe Gilbert and Una van der Spuy. No member of the gardening fraternity was too humble to be given space between the covers of Garden and Home.

Click here to read the fascinating history of this magazine that started out as The South African Home Gardener and Poultry Keeper in 1946!


Wow, winter popped out with a vengeance this week.  We have moved plants and covered the entire nursery with frost cover.  When we do water, which will be done with circumspection, it will be between 10:00 and 13:00 whilst the cold weather lasts.  

The nursery in its winter coat

The autumn flowers are coming to an end but there still seems to be so much colour about from various climbers, salvias, Chinese lanterns, pentas and moonflowers.  

Abutilon Sunny

Winter colour on the Thunbergi Alata

I have noticed that our bees are in fact not going into hibernation, so I am thrilled that the winter garden has some flowers to offer them.  The moonflowers, which I think prefer the cooler weather to our hot, hot summers, and the Dombeya burgessaie are alive with bee life. And then there are some flowers that they just ignore. Strange creatures, these bees...

A bee festival

One of the many decisions made in my extensive (mental) garden redesigning during the first month of lockdown was to move a particular moonflower and one other shrub. We now have an entire flowerbed that needs to be replanted; something that does not happen very often here!  Both Lebo and I are savouring the situation.


Click here to view all the plants featured in this newsletter.

·         Indigenous plants

It’s rather ghastly common name of Nelson’s slime lily, Albuca nelsonii is one of my favourite plants for shady areas. A rare grassland bulb indigenous to the coastal areas of KZN and the Eastern Cape, it has fleshy lance shaped leaves and sprays of green striped white flowers in spring. It is evergreen and hardy, and reaches an average height of one metre.

Not only is Cotula sericea happy in very hot, dry, sandy conditions, it also has pretty yellow button like flowers all year round. This fast growing groundcover is evergreen and hardy, and has an average height of 10 cm and spread of 40 cm.

Platycarpa glomerata is another good choice for those difficult dry, sandy patches. This is an interesting perennial with a basal rosette of spiny toothed leaves and stalkless pink flowers from spring to summer. Evergreen and very hardy, it wants full sun. It grows about 30 cm high.

Here is one for all those succulent collectors out there! Senecio serpens (or blue chalksticks – how delightful!) has fleshy red-tipped finger-like grey leaves and clusters of white flowers in summer. Evergreen and hardy, it obviously wants full sun and dry sandy soil. It does extremely well in our Gauteng garden. Height about 10cm and gorgeous planted en masse.

·         Exotic plants

We finally have various Abutilon hybrids for sale! These rewarding shrubs flower all year round, so I highly recommend them for anyone who can’t bear to be without colour during the winter months.  They are happy in sun or semi shade and need very little attention apart good prune at least three times a year. Read more here.

Allium triquetrum (the three cornered leek) is an edible deciduous Mediterranean bulb with unusual triangular stems, strap like leaves and green-striped white flowers that attract bees in spring. It grows about 40 cm high and likes semi shade. Along with Lychnis flos cuculi, these are always the first to flower in the nursery when spring is around the corner.

A lovely plant for a woodland garden, Lychnis flos cuculi is a mat forming exotic perennial with a rosette of lanceolate leaves and narrow petaled pink flowers from spring to summer. Evergreen and very hardy, it reaches an average height of 60 cm. Plant in sun or semi shade. It goes by the more attractive common name of Ragged robin!

With its furry silver leaves and striking combination of purple black flowers in pale green calyxes, Salvia discolor is one of the most gorgeous of the species. The lax stems make it rather a sprawling plant so I find it looks best in a pot. The blooms attract birds and butterflies from summer to autumn. Ours are looking good despite the cold snap. They are happy in sun or semi shade.


A big thank you to all our customers – walk-in and online, new and old – for your support during this past month. It is so appreciated.

Stay healthy, mask up – and happy gardening!


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