Sunday, November 29, 2009

Easy-growing Gerberas


I planted some vividly coloured Gerberas (also known as Barberton daisy or Transvaal Daisy) a couple of years ago and am starting to see great results as the plants clump and produce lots of blooms.

The species is indigenous to South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province and its common name arose from the old gold‑rush town of Barberton, where it grows in great profusion. In its natural environment Gerbera jamesonii grows in well‑drained soil in grassland areas.

If grown in the right conditions, the plants will flower for many months through summer and into winter. Although these daisies grow best in sheltered, frost‑free positions, they will tolerate some frost. The soil should be well drained, and mixed with plenty of organic material. If the soil in your garden is heavy, compensate by raising the beds 15‑30 cm above ground level and mixing some river sand into the soil.

Gerbera daisies are among the best and most attractive flowers for cutting, but they should be cut a day or two before they are to be displayed, because the flowers tend to close up the night after they are cut. To make the flowers last longer you should dip the ends of their stems in boiling water after cutting.

There is a full profile on Gerbera daisies with good growing tips on my website http://tinyurl.com/yesg4sy. Drop by now to find out just how easy it is to grow these magnificent plants.

Make ground covers your friend


Ground covers can be among the most attractive and useful plant groupings in your home landscape.

We’ve been getting lots of rain and the ground covers are thriving. Some have needed some radical trimming, but they do add a lushness to the garden. I have been thinking about some of the gardens I have visited that absolutely cry out for the addition of ground covers. And others where gardeners have simply planted the wrong groundcovers in the wrong places, ending up with strangled flower beds or shrivelled ground cover plants in shady areas.

Ground covering plants are just that — they spread or creep over the ground to form a dense, living carpet of foliage which can take the place of a lawn or fulfil many other useful purposes in the garden.

They include plants that propagate quickly to form a dense, lawn‑like carpet of greenery, plants that have coloured foliage or which flower profusely, and others that are really small, spreading shrubs. There is a large variety of texture and leaf form too, and there are ground covers to suit varying soil types and virtually any terrain, whether a rocky, steep bank or a damp, shady corner.

Ground covers are particularly well suited to informal gardens, and areas that are difficult to landscape in a conventional way. It is often difficult, or impossible, to grow a lawn on steep, rocky blocks of land, and even if a lawn can be established, mowing and maintenance could be a problem. Choose the right plant for the right place.

I have now added the first in a new series dealing with Ground Covers to my website http://tinyurl.com/yl5txaq. Head over there now for the lowdown. Future posts will deal with Propagation of ground covers, Planting and Caring for ground covers, and profiles of a number of popular ground covers.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lilies are easy to grow


I have been filling some gaps in my garden with lilies (for now, planted in their pots). Lilies add rich colours and splendid form to almost any landscape. From the classic to the ornate, they will delight your senses and enhance your gardening experience.

Lilies provide an easy to grow, colourful addition to your garden and landscape. By choosing a combination of early, mid-season, and late-blooming cultivars, you can have lilies in flower throughout. These hardy bulbs require only minimal care. Each has the capacity to grow, eventually, into a large cluster of flowering stems.

Valued for thousands of years, lilies are among the most varied of plants in their colour, size, and flowering time, and also in the conditions in which they will grow

One of the oldest of all cultivated flowers, the lily has been cherished since the days of the earliest civilis­ations. Records show that lilies were grown in Rome, Greece, China, Japan, and in ancient Egypt at least 3 000 years ago.

Few plants are as versatile as the lily, a genus of mainly hardy bulbs with about 90 species. All are perennials, but they vary widely in size, colour, flowering period, and the conditions in which they will thrive.

The first of a three-part series on Lilies is now up on my website http://tinyurl.com/yhh5dzd. Part Two of this series will be posted soon and will deal with Planting and Caring for Lilies. Part Three covers Propagation of Lilies.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Clivia — a garden delight


My Clivia garden is currently providing a colourful spectacle. Clivia is a wonderful flowering plant. Elegant and imposing, it’s easier to grow than an orchid and more unusual than an amaryllis

A Clivia plant will produce dense clusters of lily-like flowers. Equally important, the strap-like, dark evergreen leaves are virtually blemish free, making Clivia an attractive foliage plant, even when not in bloom.

Given the regal quality of the plant, a Clivia is surprisingly easy to grow. Clivia are hardy, low maintenance, shade-loving plants. They don’t like wet feet and need to be well-drained, may tolerate a little early morning sun, but prefer full shade, and are frost tender.

Six species of Clivia are endemic to South Africa, the most commonly grown being Clivia miniata, which is now cultivated all around the world.  Many Clivia growers are using the species to create interspecific hybrids (the crossing or breeding of two species of the same genus). This is resulting in many varied shapes and colours in Clivia.

In late winter or spring, tall stalks shoot up from the leaves and bear crowded clusters of brightly coloured blossoms, after reaching 3-5 years of age. These evergreen plants typically have a large head (umbel) of between 12 and 20 trumpet shaped flowers on top of a thick stem.

The long-lasting flowers are usually orange with yellowish centres, but there are forms that bear scarlet, dark red, salmon, and yellow flowers.   Little is known about the pollinators of Clivia and studies are now being undertaken to discover what pollinates it. Seed is dispersed by birds.

If you have a shady, frost-free corner in your garden, or if you would like to grow a spectacular flowering house plant, give Clivia a try. You will be well rewarded.

For the full story on propagating and growing Clivias visit my website http://tinyurl.com/yd46yfo now.

Superbly easy Scabiosa


Easy-to-grow Scabiosa must be one of the prettiest garden flowers. Growing in small clumps, the flowerheads stand above the foliage, gently moving with the slightest breeze.  On warm summer days, butterflies are often seen on the flowers, for Scabiosa is one of their favourite nectar plants.

The Dipsacaceae or Scabious family is found in Africa and Asia, but is most abundant in the Mediterranean region where there are 11 genera and 290 species. Two genera are indigenous to southern Africa, Cephalaria and Scabiosa. In South Africa there are nine species of Scabiosa.

The Scabiosa family is large and so plants grown in the garden may be hardy annual, half hardy annual, hardy biennial or Hardy perennial in nature.

Scabiosa range in height from 15 to 60cm. They bloom from spring through to the first months of autumn, and carry domed flowers of white, blue, purple, red or yellow atop long stems.

As they are often mat forming they make ideal plants for use in garden borders.

Some of the more common names for Scabiosa include, Scabious, Sweet Scabious, Pincushion flower and Mourning-bride.

The timing of the sowing of Scabiosa depends on their nature. Annuals are usually sown after the last frost, perennials may be sown at the start of spring or autumn. Scabiosa seeds should be lightly covered once sown and spaced at about 30 to 40cm apart. They like to grow in sunny areas that have good drainage. Ideally the soil that Scabiosa grows in should be humus rich, slightly alkaline (pH7 to pH8) and moist.

For the full story on propagating and growing Scabiosa visit my website http://tinyurl.com/yaazqdz now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

EASY-TO-GROW HEATHERS BRING YEAR ROUND COLOUR


Heathers have long been our go-to plant for winter colour, flowering when most other plants quit, appreciating our acidic soil, and graciously holding onto their leaves in the process.

What many gardeners don’t know is that there are so many kinds of heather out there that if planted with a bit of forethought, one could have heathers blooming all year long. Add gorgeous gold, blue, orange and chocolate leaves to the mix and the result is spectacular.

When people mention heather, they are almost always talking about two different genera of plants: heaths and heathers. Although both belong to the Ericaceae family, they are botanically different and are divided into the Calluna genus and the Erica genus. For practical purposes, however, they are nearly identical, sharing colour, form, and growth habits.

We had enjoyed a close relationship with heather for many centuries before they became garden staples. They supplied forage and bedding for goats, cattle and sheep, a sleeping place for lonely shepherds on the moorlands, the major food source for some bird species and even a building material. Fuel and dyes were derived from them, and the nectar from the flowers produced some of the finest honey. Brushes, baskets, screens and hurdles are still made from the plants.

But though they have many uses, it is as decorative plants that heathers are supreme, producing flowers from late summer into winter, and from spring back into summer.

Acid soil is perfect for this plant, as with all ericaceous plants, but because it thrives naturally in poor soil, it will live on the cusp of acid, even tolerating a degree of alkaline soil and salt-laden coastal winds. Its other advantage is that it has a lovely range of flower colour and foliage.

For the full story on growing Heathers and Heaths visit my website  http://tinyurl.com/m9hldd  now!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

GROW A BUTTERFLY GARDEN


Butterflies are among the most beautiful and interesting creatures on Earth. By planting a butterfly garden with all of the right kinds of plants and flowers that butterflies love to feed on and lay eggs on, you will certainly have a yard full of butterflies throughout the growing season.

Butterfly gardens can be any size — a window box, part of your landscaped yard, or even a wild untended area on your property. The design for your butterfly garden is a matter of personal preference. Typical points to consider are the size of your garden and the types of flowers and plants you want to grow. Pick a style of garden that appeals to you, but ensure it also contains the plants and flowers that appeal to the butterflies you wish to attract.

Apart from sipping the occasional bit of nectar for energy and pollinating flowers as they go, butterflies have a very important function in life; to mate and for the female to lay her eggs on specific plants (called host plants) that are suitable for 'her' caterpillars to feed on. Each butterfly species has host plants that are specific to it. After mating, the female must begin the hunt for suitable plants, and will move from area to area (or garden to garden), gaining strength by sipping the odd bit of nectar from particular flowers along the way. She will continue her journey until she has located a suitable host plant in good enough condition to support hungry caterpillars.

Cultivate a wide selection of host plants and a variety of beautiful free‑flowering shrubs and perennials to supply nectar refreshment. Caterpillars rapidly grow into butterflies and the tree will soon boast a brand new set of bright and shiny leaves. Feeding caterpillars is a small sacrifice to make for the privilege of having brilliant butterflies flitting through the garden.

Butterfly gardens are a great source for your own enjoyment, photo opportunities, or an outlet for artistic talent.

For the full story on Butterfly Gardens visit my website http://tinyurl.com/npgn4k  soon!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gazania — an easy to grow gem from Africa


If you have a sunny, dry spot in your garden where most plants don’t do well because it is too hot, consider  growing Gazania there.

This genus of 16 species of annual and perennial daisies in the family Asteraceae hails mostly from South Africa, with one species extending the range to the tropics. They feature lovely showy flowers, which are large and brightly colored, and in favorable climates they can be relied upon to flower over a long period — in the southern Hemisphere from August till January reaching a peak in October and November. The species usually produce yellow or orange flowers, but the plants seen in cultivation are mainly hybrids and there are countless color forms and seedling strains.

The gazania flower grows easily in full sun, but can also do well in part-shade so long as they see a majority of sun during the day. Caring for these plants is very easy as they require very little in the way of watering or fertilising and they don't attract many pests. They are one of the ultimate waterwise plants and they flower prolifically.
The plants are relatively short-lived, up to about three years depending on various conditions.

Gazania is pollinated by a number of insects: bees, bee flies, beetles, butterflies and ants, have all been seen visiting its bright flowers. This is another reason why they are able to thrive in most environments, as they do not have any specific pollinators.

For the full story on growing Gazanias visit my website http://tinyurl.com/mqazhq

Friday, August 7, 2009

THE LOTUS QUEST

In his new book, author Mark Griffiths traces the history of the sacred plant Nelumbo nucifera the edible, incredible lotus flower.
Across Japan in the next few weeks, in lakes and tubs, ponds and paddyfields, the massive buds of the lotus flower will open in the dawn. From Ueno Park in downtown Tokyo to the remotest rural fastness, lotus-viewing festivals will take place, turning a flower show into a mass spectator sport during what is known as the Time of the Lotus

Already fixtures in the Japanese diet, lotus rhizomes and seeds will be devoured in even greater quantities than usual; rice wine will be poured onto the plate-like leaves and their hollow stalks stuck between the lips to act as metre-long drinking straws. Around the middle of the month, a vast harvest of flowers and leaves will bring the lotus into millions of homes where it will play an essential role in Obon, Japan's great annual celebration of the returning dead.

This magical flower, which has touched so many civilizations and reconciled nature and culture, science and spirituality, has disappeared from our gardens and consciousness. Yet Nelumbo is easy to grow in a tub filled two thirds with soil, one third with water, and we have conservatories and sunny terraces aplenty. It is time for a revival.

The Lotus Quest by Mark Griffiths is published by Chatto & Windus.
This blog by the book's author is extracted from http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2009/aug/06/lotus-flower


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Something Different from Africa








I have just returned from a wonderful few days in a remote corner of South Africa’s Limpopo Province.  

This rugged patch of Africa is remarkable for its rock formations, deep gorges and hundreds of rock art sites featuring the painting of early San (bushman) and Khoe Khoe settlers as well as later Northern Sotho protest art.  Almost as remarkable as the landscape and concentration of  important rock art, is the astounding variety of native plant life. Featured here are a few aloe species I photographed on the trip. Soon I will post full profile of each of these aloes on my website http://gardeningisezee.com/

Come back to this blog over the next few days as I post pictures of Giant Candelabra trees, an indigenous Gardenia, the little known Elephant’s Foot and more!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Astonishing Asters


Excellent for massed bedding and as a cut flower, asters are easy to grow and there are both annual and perennial varieties (annual asters sown for late summer bedding are properly called callistephus).

Asters grow well in average soils, but needs full sun. Although some varieties flower in summer, Asters are best known for being a beautiful addition to an autumn flower garden. When so many other flowers end of their growing season, asters continue to thrive and provide brilliant colour and scent to an otherwise sad landscape.

Asters are easily grown from division. Aster plants do best if divided every two to three years. Simply dig out half to two thirds of the plants, leaving the remainder in place. Then separate the portion you dug out into two sections and plant in another location or give them to a friend.

Plant asters into your garden into an area where they can be grown for years. Spacing depends upon size with miniature varieties spaced four to 15cm apart, and giant varieties 30cm to 60cm apart. Place smaller varieties around the front of your flower garden as a border. Put larger varieties towards the back of the flowerbed

Asters will grow well in average soils. But, like all plants, they will reward your with bigger blooms and a healthier plant if you add plenty of compost. Also, add a general purpose fertilizer once a month.

Once your perennial asters are established, they should grow well for years. Soil should be moist, but not wet. They will withstand dry periods. Water them during dry periods, once or twice a week to keep growth vibrant.  Add mulch around the plants for appearance and to keep weeds down.

Don't let another season pass without Asters. For the full story visit my website http://gardeningisezee.com/

 

Sunday, July 5, 2009

YOUR JULY DIARY


This month we should start reaping the rewards for the work done in autumn — all the spring annuals and bulbs are coming into flower and it is just a question of enjoying them.

Fortunately there are few pests and diseases to worry about, occasionally one does see an amaryllis caterpillar on the narcissi but as there are so few they can easily be dealt with.

BULBS

The winter‑flowering bulbs must be watered, fed and the faded blooms cut off. When removing faded daffodils just take off the blooms and leave the stems, the food in them will return to the bulbs. Never arrange daffodils with other flowers in a vase immediately after picking them but put them in water by themselves for a while. The other flowers will fade rapidly if the daffodils are put with them as soon as they are cut. The more anemones are picked the more the plants will produce. Ranunculus need abundant water when they come to flower, especially in the dry summer rainfall areas.

Inspect bulbs in storage as was done last month.

POT PLANTS

Again it is a question of routine care, feeding and watering those in flower and keeping the soil of those resting just damp. If African violets are fed regularly they should bloom nearly all year round. There is a special soluble fertiliser on the market for them.

If the hippeastrums (amaryllis) need repotting prepare the soil for them and start repotting towards the end of the month. Use pots about twice the diameter of the bulbs and make sure there is plenty of drainage material at the bottom of the pots. Do not forget to add some super­phosphate to the potting mixture and a few lumps of charcoal in it will help to keep the soil sweet. Plant the bulbs with their necks well above ground level.

The lawn needs little attention except to be watered about once during the month in the summer rainfall areas. The grass may need mowing down in the warm coastal districts of Natal.

TREES, SHRUBS AND CLIMBERS

Shrubs which flower on the new wood sent out in spring, can be pruned this month. Remove thin spindly growth and shorten the old flowering wood back by about a third.

Visit the nurseries and choose shrubs in containers which can be planted at once. Make sure the soil in the containers is thoroughly moist before transplanting the shrubs. Plant them at the same depth they were growing at before except, if the roots are exposed, plant a little deeper.

Camellias and azaleas are coming into flower so visit the nurseries often to see them and choose new ones for the garden — they are very rewarding. Remember to water those in your garden once a week.

THE FLOWER GARDEN

Carry on with the regular care of the winter‑flowering annuals, paying particu­lar attention to removing the faded flowers from pansies, primroses and violets and picking Iceland poppies and sweetpeas often. If the lower leaves of stocks and larkspur are turning yellow it is a sign of nitrogen deficiency. Two or three applica­tions of limestone ammonium nitrate (LAN) every two weeks will soon remedy this. Dissolve a tablespoonful of LAN in 4,5 litres of water and apply to a square metre. Apply to damp soil and water in after application.

Sow seed of petunias and bedding bego­nias, water the pans from the bottom and place them in a warm semi‑shaded place. Cover at night or bring them inside to protect them from cold. If the seed is sown now the plants will flower by mid‑summer.

Continue pruning all fruit trees and vines and spraying twice with winter strength lime sulphur (one cup lime sulphur to eight cups water) after they have been pruned. Allow ten days between the applications and make sure the trunks, branches, twigs and the soil under the trees are thoroughly doused.

VEGETABLES

Continue watering and feeding when neces­sary. Remember to remove old cabbage and cauliflower stumps when these vege­tables have been harvested. Pick broad beans regularly and start picking the peas as soon as the pods are well filled.

Start preparing for summer vegetables. Dig over vacant ground adding compost and/or old well‑rotted manure and fertili­ser according to the requirements of the crops to be planted in the ground. When preparing ground for tomatoes add some seaweed meal.

Prepare seed pans for sowing early toma­toes, brinjals and peppers (disinfect the soil with Jeyes Fluid and also prepare indivi­dual pots for sowing seeds of marrows). If they get away early in the season they are less likely to be stung by pumpkin fly.

Continue sowing lettuce, radishes and peas and start sowing parsnips and Swiss chard again.

Friday, June 26, 2009

HERBS ARE A MUST-HAVE


So many gardeners who are successful flower gardeners seem reluctant to test their skills at growing herbs. I believe strongly that every garden needs a herb section, even if it is a few containers in a sunny courtyard.

Mediterranean herbs are some of the most rewarding plants you can grow. Their leaves flavour everything from meats, soups, and stews to pizza and spaghetti. And the plants add beauty to kitchen gardens — many are evergreen in temperate climates. Most tolerate drought and less than perfect soil (though they prefer excellent drainage).

My own herb garden contains some old favourites such as rosemary, parsley, sage and thyme, as well as newer introductions, such as conehead thyme (whose flavour is similar to winter savoury) and Italian oregano thyme (which true to its name is a thyme with oregano overtones).

Most herbs are tough, wild plants that have changed remarkably little despite centuries of cultivation. Almost all of them do best in sunny locations and fertile, well-drained soil, but some will survive in partial shade and poor soil.

Herbs can occupy their own part of the garden or they can be grown with other plants. Herb gardens are often arranged in intricate patterns to accentuate the contrasting colours and textures of their foliage.

To avoid confusion when sprouts come up, label each bed carefully. Better still, draw a precise map of your planting pattern. Plan the beds so that the taller plants do not cast shade on the low-growing ones.

I am currently working on plant profiles for a whole range of popular herbs that I will be adding to my website. In the meantime I will, this weekend, add a Herb Growing Basics feature to the site. Go to http://gardeningisezee.com/?cat=10

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ARUM LILIES — Plant some!


While you are planning what you are going to change for your summer garden this year, give some thought to including Arum Lilies

The familiar Arum Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica), with its opulent and sophisticated pure white spathes which brighten up watercourses and wetlands throughout the region in spring and summer, belong to an indigenous genus which is restricted to the African continent. Seven species are recognised: Zantedeschia aethiopica, Z. albomaculata, Z. elliottiana, Z. jucunda, Z. odoratum, Z. pentlandii (Golden Arum) and Z. rehmannii (Pink Arum). The common arum is found from the Western Cape through the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and into Limpopo Province. It is evergreen or deciduous depending on the habitat and rainfall regime. In the Western Cape it is dormant in summer and in the summer rainfall areas it is dormant in winter. It will remain evergreen in both areas if growing in marshy conditions which remain wet all year around.

The white arum forms large colonies in marshy areas ranging from the coast to an altitude of 2,250m. Thus one will find them contending with humid, salt laden air at the coast and freezing, misty mountain grasslands at high altitudes. They are very versatile in the garden as a result.

For a much more in-depth look at Arums visit http://gardeningisezee.com/?p=150

Thursday, June 18, 2009

CHARMING PHLOX


Although it is only mid-June I am busy developing the planting scheme for my summer annuals.  

I realised that I have not planted phlox (phlox drummondii) for the past two years. As I am looking for a brightly coloured display of profusely blooming flowers in a sunny area that has arisen because I had to remove an old tree, I am going to go crazy with phlox.

This is an old fashioned annual that deserves more recognition than it gets. The large clusters of flowers are very showy on compact plants. Compact is an understatement, as these plants grow only 15-45 cm tall. The most common Phlox is annual. There are also perennial varieties.

Phlox are great in containers or window boxes. A native of North America, the jewel-like flowers grow in clusters at the top of the stems. These bright coloured blossoms include shades of red, purple, scarlet, yellow, and white. Many new hybrids include striped petals.

Phlox are easily grown from seeds. Phlox seeds can be directly seeded into your flower garden or seeded under cover for transplanting later. For spring blooms, start indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Young seedlings will transplant well into their permanent home.

A more comprehensive profile of Phlox  can be found in the Annuals category of my website. Check it out at http://gardeningisezee.com

TODAY’S FEATURED HERB


Basil (Sweet Basil) (ocimum basilicum)

I am just crazy about sweet basil. I use it all the time in soups, pasta and salads and enjoy using basil pesto. I grow my basil in big, round, fairly shallow containers in a sheltered, sunny courtyard. I also grow parsley, rocket and mint in similar containers.

Basil germinates easily from seeds and these can be sown in trays in August and kept protected until all danger of frost is past. Once the seedlings reach the four‑leaf stage they can be transplanted easily into well-drained fairly rich soil. Place them 50 cm apart and keep them shaded for a day or two. If planted in situ, sow seeds in early summer when the danger of frost is past. Newly planted out seedlings do well with a little extra compost to keep the roots cool. They also need to be watered regularly to ensure lush succu­lent growth. Basil makes an easy pot‑plant for a sunny window‑sill in winter.

A full profile of sweet basil can be found in the herb category of my website. Check it out at http://gardeningisezee.com. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Colourful Zinnias


For brilliant colour in the hottest, sunniest part of the garden, zinnias are ideal.

Zinnias are available in almost every shade except the blues, and in a range of sizes from tiny dwarf plants with charming miniature flowers to large plants with ruffled and curly petals (yes, the hybridists have been very busy, much to the advantage of this popular flower).

Zinnias are best used in massed garden displays. Dwarf forms grow to 20cm in height while large forms can reach 70cm or more. They prefer full sun with protection from very strong wind. They are best grown in warm or tropical areas but may not do well at the coast as they are prone to mildew in humid or damp environments.

For sowing and growing tips visit my website http://gardeningisezee.com. Check out the Annuals category for a whole lot of information about zinnias.

 

Annuals and the Flower Garden


Many Southern Hemisphere gardeners are fortunate as the mild climate allows them to have both summer and winter gardens. 

Annuals give life and sparkle to the garden, providing a change of scene from season to season and tear to year. It pays handsomely to take pencil to paper and plan the summer and winter bedding schemes before the sowing seasons. Use foliage plants such as euphorbia marginata, ornamental basil and grey leaved plants to tone down and blend bright colours.

For bright contrasting colours annual plants have no match. They can be used in massed beds, for filling in gaps between perennials and shrubs, and for an attractive show of flowers in tubs and hanging baskets. In most cases they are economical plants and need only a little time and attention from a gardener before producing results. Find a lot more about the flower garden on my website http://gardeningisezee.com

Shrub gardens need planning


Whether your garden is a tiny subur­ban plot or several thousand square metres in extent, you can have year‑round interest and beauty by growing shrubs. But do the planning!

There are so many new housing estates, exclusive clusters and so on being developed around all our cities. What an opportunity for new home owners to lay out a great garden from the get go. Sadly, I have seen so many new gardens where the intrepid owner has laid out some flower beds, planted lawn, placed a few containers near the new pool and then . . .  stuck a few shrubs almost randomly around the garden without any thought to spatial relationship, height, texture, colour or anything else. 

Planted in good soil, shrubs require little or no fer­tiliser, very little pruning and seldom any spraying against pests or diseases. They will reward you in many different ways — by providing colour in the garden each month of the year and sprays of leaves, flowers or berries for indoor arrangements; by sheltering your home from wind; by creating a screen to ensure privacy; by introduc­ing variety in form and foliage texture, and a perpendicular line or mass; and by hiding an ugly view or framing a good one.

You do not have to be a highly skilled gardener to make a charming shrub garden. You need to know something about the kind of cli­mate they prefer, their height and spread, the season of the year when they are at their best, any special characteristics of their foliage, whether they are deciduous or evergreen, what soil they like, and what situation they prefer — sun or shade.

Every garden needs a master plan that will guide the long-term development of the garden, especially where trees and shrubs are concerned. Plan care­fully before planting because, once planted, shrubs should not be moved. Transplanting at a later date may not kill them if it is carefully done, but it entails a good deal of unnecessary work and may slow down the growth of the shrubs for a time.

I have just written a post for my website on planning a shrub garden. The article also deals with soil preparation so please check it out. Feel free to post your comments at the foot of the website page.