Monday, September 20, 2010

Easy-to-grow Veronica

I’ve mentioned before that my father loved blue flowers, that’s why he always had Veronica growing somewhere in his garden.

Gardeners who love the colour blue know that veronica provides some of the clearest, truest blues in the perennial border. Other flower colours are also available, including pink, rose and white. Veronicas have flower spikes that are composed of dozens of densely arranged, small florets, that open progressively from the base upwards to form a long lasting spike.

I love using this very versatile plant along my garden paths and in the seating areas, where butterflies can collect on this long-blooming flower.

Although low-growing varieties are available, the most common veronicas form attractive 30cm to 90cm tall mounds. Narrow spikes of tiny flowers adorn the plant in midsummer and are superb in bouquets.

The lower spreading varieties seldom exceed 10cm in height and are a very good groundcover addition in your garden.

Veronica can be a workhorse in the cut flower garden; it will provide a full second crop of stems if cut down completely to the ground after the first harvest. Veronica is a spiky or linear type flower that provides movement, action, or life to an arrangement, and is long lasting in the vase.

For the full low-down on growing Veronica, including a list of good companion plants, visit my website

Shasta Daisies in the garden

As a child I always seemed to have hayfever if I got too close to the Shasta Daisies in my father’s garden. But what I remember most, was the dazzling brightness of the white blooms that always offset the bright colours of the dahlias, larkspur, gazanias, arctotis and zinnias that grew so prolifically under the African sun.

Just over 100 years ago, horticulturalist Luther Burbank introduced his Shasta Daisy to the world. Burbank had spent 17 years creating the hybrid he named for the pure white snow on Mount Shasta that Burbank could see from his garden.

Burbank admired the fresh white flowers and yellow eye of the wild Oxeye Daisies. He wanted to create a garden version of the plant that would be good for cutting as well as the perennial border.

The Shasta Daisy of today was the result of crossing the Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) with English field daisies (Leucanthemum maximum) and then crossing the best selections from that match with the Portuguese field daisy (Leucanthemum lacustre). After six years of selectively breeding within this pool, Burbank added the pollen of Japanese field daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum), for its pure white flowers.

The simple white flowers with yellow button centres are a symbol of purity and are perfect for cutting. Easy to grow, they are a favourite for beginner flower gardeners and are effective when planted in small groups.

The full story on how to grow Shasta daisies visit my website now

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Colourful Rhododendrons and Azaleas

Every year in September the famous Cheerio Halt garden in the quaint gold rush hamlet of Haenertsburg (in South Africa’s Limpopo Province) erupts in an explosion of colour.

Botanist Sheila (Box) Thompson created the delightful blossom garden here over a period of 48 years, and crammed it with azaleas and other flowering shrubs such as crab apple and flowering cherry, peach and pear. Seeing the garden on this misty mountain when it is in top form is an unforgettable experience.

What, today, made me think about my last visit to Box Thompson’s garden? I have just posted a new profile on Rhododendrons and Azaleas on my website and never again can I see or think about a Rhododendron without thinking about the spectacle of those colourful flowers reflecting in the water of the Pond at Cheerio Halt.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t also enjoy the pleasure of what are among the most decorative shrubs available for the home garden.

Varying in size from mat‑like dwarf shrubs only a few centimetres high to trees higher than 7m, Rhododendrons and Azaleas can be planted in any size of garden and thrive in a variety of positions.

The flowers of rhododendrons and azaleas have a wide range of colour: white, pink, lavender, violet, purple, yellow, crimson, scarlet and orange. The shapes of the flowers range through tubular, starry, funnel, bowl and bell‑shaped, varying in size from 2‑15 cm wide and 2‑10cm long.

Rhododendrons need to be grown in dappled or light shade. The soil should be moist and acid — the plants will not thrive in soil containing chalk or lime. Given the right conditions, a succession of varieties can be in flower for several months of the year.

Generally, the plants look their best in a natural or wilderness garden, where they are not restricted to the formal confines of beds and lawns, but I have also grown them successfully in containers in a secluded courtyard.

Because rhododendrons and azaleas range in size from tree‑like giants to prostrate dwarfs, you should decide on the space you have to fill before buying your shrubs.

For the full story on Rhododendrons and Azaleas visit my website now .

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lovely, easy, Larkspur

One of my Twitter friends mentioned that her grandfather had grown Larkspur in the garden every summer. That reminded me of the larkspur my father always grew near the kitchen door of the house, so that he could see the rich colour (he loved blue flowers) every time he exited the door.

The Larkspur is an easy and delightful plant for many landscapers and gardeners, adding old-fashioned charm to any bed or border.

Bold and attractive, these hardy annuals grow light, feathery flowers atop tall spikes. Use larkspur in cottage gardens, or butterfly gardens. Larkspur also makes an excellent cutting flower so landscapers can use it in cut flower gardens.

Larkspur is a beautiful and popular annual that comes in colours of blue, lavender, white, rose, and pink, although blue is the most popular colour. Larkspur has a lacy kind of foliage (much like Cosmos) with blooms highly compacted on long tapering spikes that give it a tall, regal appearance. It generally grows in 30cm or 60cm high spires, although some people have reported heights of up to 1.2m and more.

These big plants grow quickly to produce flowers in spring, earlier than many annuals. Larkspur makes an excellent garden flower, and also looks great in vases, although its vase life is seven days or less. They can also be dried for winter arrangements. Larkspur is excellent massed in groups. Tall plants look their best in the back of the flower garden.

This multi-use annual is so easy to grow — just get it started and it will be happy to reseed itself for the next year!

The plant profile I posted on my website explains how to propagate, grow and care for Larkspur. Go there now!

Seductive Jasmine

Plant Jasmine and experience the delight of a very fragrant spring and summer garden. I couldn’t imagine my garden without the evening scent of Jasmine.

The name Jasmine is derived from the Persian yasmin which means ‘a gift from God' — so named because of the intense fragrance of the blooms of Persian or common jasmine Jasminum officinale. There are over 300 jasminum species that occur mainly in the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world — including South Africa — although a few are found in countries with cold winters. Jasmine is a very popular flower around the world, because of its unique fragrance.

Unlike most genera in the Oleceae family, which have four corolla lobed petals, Jasmines often have five or six lobes. Jasmine is widely cultivated for its shining leaves and beautiful clusters of fragrant flowers.

Flowering in Jasmines takes place in summer or spring, usually six months after planting. The Jasmine flower releases its fragrance at night after the sun has set and especially when the moon is waxing towards fullness. Jasmine flower buds are more fragrant than the flowers.

Most species grow as scrambling climbers or sprawling shrubs and can also be massed as groundcover in large gardens. Most will also grow well in containers.

The new Jasmine profile posted on my website not only tells you how to grow and care for Jasmine, but also provides descriptions for 12 great species of jasmine, including some that can tolerate temperatures as low as -18oC. Go there now!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Delightful Cottage Gardens

Cottage gardens embrace charm and character, but they rely on the same basic principles as any other style of garden.

Start by creating a basic shape of hard landscaping, then add ‘core’ trees, shrubs and perennials that give the garden its personality. Leave the fine detail until last.

Cottage gardens conjure up small gardens full to the brim of plants, so much so that the plants dominate the garden — and why not? Mix every colour and shape and pack them all into a small space to create a sense of fun.

These gardens offer somewhere to potter about in and lose yourself for a while. All those little nooks and crannies to hide gardening objects, like those that you see in the small Flower Show gardens. Objects like old bikes, wheelbarrows, bird baths and terracotta pots can add fun and personalise your garden.

Anyone who has ever attempted to create a cottage garden has probably already discovered that the concept is somewhat hard to define in an exact and precise manner. I do, though, disagree with people who insist that you cannot have a cottage garden without a cottage. While there are many elements that may be present in the majority of cottage gardens, as the term is more widely applied, it is also true that some ambiguity applies as to whether certain items and design characteristics are required as essential features.

The cottage garden is an adaptable style and one can easily venture away from the mould of the traditional. One could easily create a cottage garden of only native plants or use only the new and exotic. This style is especially suited to the plantaholic that is continually searching out the rare and unusual and would definitely lead to the creation of a non-traditional cottage garden.

I have had a great deal of fun writing the extensive post on cottage gardens which you will find on my website Drop by, you’ll enjoy the visit.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Alluring and Healing Agapanthus

Easy-to-grow Agapanthus (African Lily) produce glorious clusters of lily-like blooms that last throughout the summer.

Yesterday I posted a new Agapanthus plant profile on my website.

The six or so species that comprise the genus Agapanthus (African Lily) are found growing wild along the coastal belt and inland mountainous regions of southern Africa. These clump forming perennials have been collected from their natural habitats and developed into many spectacular garden hybrids that adorn landscapes all around the world.

I guess, as I live and garden in South Africa, the native home of Agapanthus I have tended to take this amazing plant for granted. The gardens of my childhood home always included masses of both blue and white varieties. As children we loved to use the tall flower stems (after the flowers had withered) for Zorro style sword fights! My garden now, has a number of the indigenous species all of which give great pleasure.

Perhaps what most gardeners fail to give much thought to, is the wonderful medicinal properties of so many of the plants we grow in our gardens. In South Africa, many of the indigenous African people consider Agapanthus to be both a magical and a medicinal plant, and the plant of fertility and pregnancy.

Traditionally Xhosa women (of the Eastern Cape) use the roots to make antenatal medicine, and they make a necklace using the roots that they wear as a charm to bring healthy, strong babies.

The Zulu people of KwaZulu-Natal use Agapanthus to treat heart disease, paralysis, coughs, colds, chest pains and tightness. It is also used with other plants in various medicines taken during pregnancy to ensure healthy children, or to augment or induce labour. In some tribal groupings it is used as a love charm and by people afraid of thunderstorms, and to ward off thunder.

Margaret Roberts a renowned herb grower, author and specialist in the use of herbal remedies, advises hikers to put leaves in their shoes to soothe the feet, and to wrap weary feet in the leaves for half an hour. The long, strap-like leaves also make an excellent bandage to hold a dressing or poultice in place, and winding leaves around the wrists are said to help bring a fever down.

Agapanthus contains several saponins and sapogenins that generally have anti-inflammatory (reduce swelling and inflammation), anti-oedema (oedema = swelling due to accumulation of fluid), antitussive (relieve or suppress coughing) and immunoregulatory (have influence on the immune system) properties. Although the precise activity of Agapanthus compounds is not known, preliminary tests have shown uterotonic activity (increases the tone of uterine muscles).

Agapanthus is suspected of causing haemolytic poisoning in humans, and the sap causes severe ulceration of the mouth so the plant should not be chewed or swallowed.

If you would like to know more about the propagation, planting and growing of these wonderful plants and the many hybrids now available, visit my website . I am sure that you will find the visit rewarding.