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 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 now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


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  now!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


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  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