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

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


Sunday, July 5, 2009


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.