August in the GardenAugust 1, 2023
Back to Basics with Trees in PotsSeptember 1, 2023
The local magic spring brings
The season of renewal is upon us, bringing in hope and fresh positivity. Spring is Mother Nature’s reminder that even after periods of hardship, the storm will always pass when we embrace and trust in the great cycle of life. Turn to your garden for some uplifting enchantment as we explore the stunning local magic spring brings this September. Life is a Garden, with help from our industry experts – Random Harvest Nursery and Tree Factor, have complied a list of SA’s most unique and unusual plants and trees.
Indigenous fairy tale trees
Sweet and special – The Snuffbox tree (Oncoba spinosa)
- Appropriately named after its local use for snuff making by crushing the edible hard-shelled fruit. The fruit is round and shiny red-brown in colour.
- They grow to a height of 3 to 4 metres, have a non-invasive root system, and will flourish in full sun with sandy, loam soil.
- Trees are valued for their dramatic white flowers that have a special melon-like scent, making them a perfect choice as a fragrant ornamental too.
Odd and extraordinary – The Sausage tree (Kigelia Africana)
- After treating us to a blood-red/maroon flower show that hangs off branches in long panicles, sausage-shaped fruit are an equally amazing sight.
- The smelly flowers, which bloom all night, attract pest-controlling bats that pollinate them. The sausage fruit is a huge berry and can grow up to 5m and weigh an astonishing 6.5kg’s! Beware – these sausage berries are not for human consumption but many garden visitors will feast on them.
- Grow these trees in full sun with composted soil that is slightly acidic to neutral.
“Ultimately, I believe if we don’t start planting trees in urban zones we’ll never catch up. If everyone plants at least one or two trees in their lifespan, it will make a huge difference” – Brett Hughes, Tree Factor.
Personality in a pot – The Forest elder (Nuxia floribunda)
- This angelic tree is full of fantasy with sweetly scented cream-white flowers borne in large clusters, resting whimsically upon the branch’s end.
- Ideal for the sun to semi-shade patio pot as the roots are non-invasive and branches can be pruned to maintain a lush, full and round shape.
- Flaky cream bark adds to the allure of this tree, as do the purplish branches that become paler with age – a real elder (or wise braai guardian).
More magical contenders
- Wild plum (Harpephyllum caffrum): best in warmer regions, is a delightful medium evergreen, produces berries for wildlife, and is ideal for screening off areas.
- Fever tree (Vachellia xanthophloea): a big and bold beauty with strong character, lovely foliage and flowers, and is a great nesting tree for birds (especially weavers).
- Paperbarks (Melaleuca quinquenervia): good for colder regions, have a lovely flat-topped habit and wide canopy, are wildlife attracting and perfect as a shade tree.
“A tree for the children to climb or to build a swing on. We plant trees for our future generation to enjoy” – Brett Hughes, Tree Factor.
Top tree maintenance tips
- Water well during the hotter summer months but seldom during winter.
- Never be afraid to prune your trees. Pruning encourages new growth and assists with light and air coming through to other leaves and branches.
- Protect trees that are planted on the lawn from lawnmowers and weed eaters. Many trees planted in lawns are killed or damaged due to ringbarking that will restrict a tree’s growth.
- To support young trees planted in lawn areas, create a dam around them to prevent your grass from taking all the nutrients and water.
- Remember to protect tender young trees from the cold during winter with frost cover for the first few years.
For the beginner botanical boss, try Jacket plum (Pappea capensis), Lavender tree (Heteropyxis natalensis), White ironwood (Vepris lanceolata), and Wild olive (Olea sub. Africana).
Peculiar plants for Mzansi magic
Create a mysterious meadow garden
Planting with indigenous grasses that bring in both texture and wildlife is a waterwise solution to filling empty spaces. You can grow a truly unique, standout feature by playing with colour. Try these suggestions below:
- For full sun: Boom grass (Miscanthus junceus) stands out with lovely soft pink plumes while Snowflake grass (Andropogon eucomis) has fluffy white seed heads. Sickle grass (Pogonarthria squarrosa) has seed plumes that are almost black when the sun catches them.
- For shade beds: Bushman’s grass (Stipa dregeana) is an uncommon choice. The actual clumps of leaves are about 25cm tall, bright green and basically evergreen. Tall spikes of seed heads turn a light golden hue when mature and appear elegantly wispy when the light plays on them. This grass is ideal for widespread use because of its ease of growth and low maintenance. A hard prune right down to the ground once or twice a year will increase height without adding denseness to a space.
“Clever placement of grass species, depending on their ultimate growing height, and the interplanting of flowering species, creates a rich, seasonally changing garden” – Jonathan Taylor, Random Harvest Nursery.
Charismatic colour charms
If you are looking for bold, showstopping colour and a few raised eyebrows about your unusual plant picks – you can’t go wrong with these special local charmers:
- For full sun: Blue felicia bush (Felecia amelliodes) combined with gloriously bold Bushy bulbine (Bulbine abbysinica) is simply wow! The bulbine has intense yellow spikes of flowers carried above cylindrical succulent-like stems. It is not uncommon for a happy plant to have more than 10 flower stalks at a time! The lower growth habit of the Felecia, more like a groundcover, hugs the soil and is almost always covered in deep blue daisy flowers. Both love full sun and are not overly thirsty garden partners.
- Moody vibes: For a touch of foliage contrast, try Tulbaghia violacea ‘Silver Lace’ which adds a mysterious grey to the sunny landscape. The variegated upright foliage adds a colour of its own and won’t disappoint in terms of texture and mood.
- For shady spaces: African blood lily (Scadoxus puniceus) bulbs are simply striking. These robust oddities are a sight to see when in flower. The bulb lies dormant during winter cold and then bursts forth as an unusually large, blood-red powderpuff flower in spring. This is followed by red berries that are loved by birds. The foliage of the bulb is lush and almost tropical looking.
Aloe-homora – unlock the door to immortal plants
Aloes in general are a superb choice for a touch of Mzansi magic as many birds feed off their nectar, helping to maintain your garden’s natural pest-to-predator balance. Grow our African sunset and try this almost immortal bad boy:
- Greathead’s spotted leaf aloe (Aloe greatheadii) is an unmissable stunner that needs sun or light semi-shade to thrive. Tolerant of drought, frost, and even fire – this plant is difficult to kill and in fact, thrives on a little neglect. Make sure the soil drains well and that there isn’t an abundance of compost around it.
Turn to our local plants and trees this month and uplift your spirits! Turn over a new, indigenous leaf with your garden and enjoy being the odd one out – in the best possible way. Turn heads, become a bird person, and support our registered GCA Garden Centres that provide you with quality approved plants. Life is a Garden – and it’s filled with magic (and is cheaper than therapy).
Source: Life is a Garden