Newsletter Sep 2021

With our August newsletter devoted to ladybugs, let’s focus on another beneficial insect and talk about earthworms.

I think the nutritional virtues of earthworm castings are almost old news by now. If you haven’t tried some form of vermi-compost and vermi-tea yet, I recommend that you do, but there is more to the value of earthworms than what they produce. Actually having them in your garden is also great for the soil structure because their tunnels and trails provide passageways for water and oxygen, and for plant roots to spread easily to seek out nutrients.

If there seems to be a dearth of earthworms in your garden, think about what it is that they need to flourish. There is a bit of a Catch22 in that, while they contribute greatly to the quality of your soil, they also need some level of quality to work with in the first place. I think it is fairly obvious that they are not going to thrive or even survive in soil that has been over-fertilised or exposed to insecticides or inorganic matter. Dry, sandy conditions and a pH that is either too high or too low are also not their friend.

While some of these things may seem out of your control, you can start building up the quality of your soil by covering it with layers of organic compost, mulching to trap in moisture, and limiting your digging. When the soil is disturbed as little as possible, earthworms, bacteria and fungi can carry on doing what they do best; creating an environment in which everyone can thrive, including your plants. YouTube gardening guru Hew Richards describes the no-dig method as nothing short of a gardening revolution, although books were already written about it in the 1940s. It appears that my pet hate – the standard practice among many gardeners of tilling the top 2cm of soil – is not going to give you more earthworms or better soil!


The garden is now going for gold! We wander through the garden every morning and marvel at the wonderful season Mother Nature has blessed us with.

The Beautiful Tabebuia rosea (or Rosy trumpet - such an apt name) is always our first sign that spring is on its way, and what a show we have this year. The African dogrose, Xylotheca kraussiana, is also once again full of flowers.  Although the blooms are definitely smaller than those of the “cousins” who grow in warmer climes, ours makes up for it with a very long flowering season. Many of the Chinese lanterns are blooming, giving us an opportunity to decide what to keep, and the Geum seedlings we planted earlier this year are a real show stopper. What a picture these beautiful long-stemmed flowers make. My best so far! 

Abutilon Anabelle

Xylotheca kraussiana

Geum orange


Buddleja salvifolia blue

We have lots of colour and growth to appreciate and enjoy as we wait for rain, which I believe is coming this week (hopefully?)


Click here to view all the plants in this newsletter on the website.

·        Indigenous plants

The white variegated leaves of the rare Dietes iridioides variegata are what make it special. A clump forming perennial with pretty white flowers with lavender and yellow markings all year, it grows on average 40cm high. Evergreen and hardy, it can take sun to semi-shade, but is particularly lovely in shady parts of the garden.

There are always gardeners looking for something for those difficult dry sandy patches in full sun. Although short-lived, Lessertia frutescens is worth having for its pinnate silvery leaves and bright orange flowers from spring to summer, followed by bladder-like seedpods. Considered to be a miracle medicinal plant, it is evergreen and very hardy, and grows about 1m high. We have plants in 10 litre bags.

Pelargonium gibbosum is another good candidate for a dry sandy garden. This semi-succulent evergreen perennial has notched blue-grey leaves and clusters of night-scented lime-yellow flowers that attract night pollinators. Growing on average 50cm tall, it blooms from summer to autumn.

The chincherinchee, Ornithogalum thyrsoides, was a favourite in the gardens of our mothers and grandmothers, and should still be – not least because it makes such a good cut flower. A deciduous hardy bulb with smooth soft-textured leaves and gorgeous tight clusters of white star-like flowers in summer, it grows on average 60cm high. It likes full sun but moist soil.

·        Exotic plants

We have the white Alstroemeria in stock. Another old garden favourite, the Inca lily is a deciduous fleshy-rooted herbaceous perennial with spreading clumps of erect stems, narrow lance-shaped leaves, and – in this case - umbels of showy funnel-shaped white flowers in summer. Plant in sun or semi-shade. These ones grow about 75cm tall.

Calceolaria mexicana is a self-seeding annual whose bright yellow balloon-like flowers are perfect for lighting up dark corners in the garden. It reaches a height of about 40 cm, and likes sun to semi-shade and acid soil.

Lonicera tatarica has the dual advantage of being waterwise and fast growing. This deciduous, very hardy bushy honeysuckle from Russia and Central Asia has blue-green lance-shaped leaves and two-lipped pink flowers in summer.  According to "the Book,” it is supposed to grow to about 3m high, but it never gets taller than about 1m in my garden.  

The lilac flowers of the rare Syringia vulgaris add a wonderful fragrance to the spring garden. This multi-stemmed upright suckering shrub is deciduous and very hardy, and grows on average 3m high. It likes sun to semi-shade but be warned - it is not suited to warmer climates.



Make sure you enjoy Garden Day on 17 October. We will be celebrating but definitely not with flower garlands!


Happy gardening!



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