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.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cottage gardens are all about plants.

So often the cottage garden tends to be glorified, as if it stepped out of the pages of a fairy tale or a Thomas Kinkade painting. In reality, along with being beautiful, it is a highly useful style of garden. It can be, and has been, adapted to fit our modern life styles and its appeal is truly global.

Cottage gardens reflect your own personal mix of plants — whether flowers, fruit or vegetables. The emphasis is on the year-round pleasure of enjoying their form, flowers and scent - not to mention picking your own salads, herbs, fruit and vegetables.

I am currently working on a new section for my website that will deal with concepts for cottage gardens, the plants that are most appropriate, the use of hard and soft landscaping and so on. Looking back at the many plant profiles I have posted on the site, I suddenly realised how many of the plants are suited to cottage gardens. I have subconsciously gravitated towards writing about the plants of my childhood, the plants that my own father favoured in the garden.

Two of my most recent posts to my website deal with what are quintessential cottage garden flowers — Hollyhocks and Delphiniums. What gloriously reliable plants these are.

You can never have too many delphiniums. They are glorious plants with flower spikes that can grow up to 180cm tall. Normally, they are a range of blues, but are also available in white, pinks, and purple. They are standouts as background plants.

Hybridisation of delphiniums has resulted in many new colours and attractive flower forms and growing heights. Flower colours range in shades of blue from palest sky, through to gentian and indigo; rich purple, lavender, pink to purest white.

The resurgence in Hollyhock popularity comes from several factors. Renewed interest in cottage gardens, a desire for drought and heat tolerance in garden flowers and the introduction of many new varieties are all helping fuel their new popularity.

Hollyhock plants are a fun and easy to grow flowering plant. It’s an old time favourite. Hollyhocks are a large plant with big leaves and big blossoms. They produce a profusion of big flowers from summer through autumn. They are perfect to fill large areas, and the back of a flowerbed. Hollyhocks can be used in perennial, biennial and annual applications depending on the type and treatment.

If you would like to know more about these venerable cottage garden plants visit for information about hollyhocks and for the low-down on Delphiniums. It really will be worth the effort!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Strelitzia — the Bird of Paradise or Crane Flower

Although my personal tastes in gardening lean towards cottage gardens, here on the Highveld (South Africa’s central plateau that is mainly a grassland biome), indigenous South African plants are my preference — because they tolerate the rugged environment, are more drought and frost tolerant, appeal to local birds and butterflies and lend themselves to appropriate landscaping for this environment.

The fascinating blooms of Strelitzia reginae are sold as cut flowers by the million. In Los Angeles strelitzias are so extensively planted that it is regarded as the emblem of the city. Strelitzia reginae is, however, indigenous to South Africa where it grows wild in the Eastern Cape. Here the strelitzias grow in rocky grassland and between other shrubs along the riverbanks and in clearings in the coastal bush.

Strelitzia reginae is a bold structural plant, which forms large evergreen clumps of stiff leaves growing up from the base. The grey-green banana-like leaves grow about 1,5 m in height and the flowers stand above the foliage at the tips of long stalks. Mature plants are very floriferous with flowers in autumn, winter and spring. These produce abundant nectar that lures insects, and birds which (in South Africa) include White-bellied, Black, Grey, Collared, Malachite and Marico Sunbirds and the Cape White‑eye.

Popular with landscapers, this architecturally pleasing plant is ideal for modern landscapes, creating an impact not only in home gardens, but also in office complex gardens, schools and large parks. This Strelitzia can form an impressive groundcover when mass‑planted in very light partial shade.

For detailed information about growing Strelizia reginae and the other Strelizia species visit I am sure you will find the content very useful.

And now for Anemones . . .

My father had a great love for Anemones, and their cousin Ranunculus, and while I always recall his spring garden awash with colour, it was the Anemones that fascinated me.

Anemones have rich bright colours that are great for mass colour in garden beds in sunny positions. Anemones are also great cut flowers and produce successions of flowers over a long period.

The Anemone family is a large one (over 120 species), but it is Anemone coronaria, which is the gem of the Autumn planting selection. Best known and generally sold as a 'bulb' the 'bulbs' are more correctly described as tubers.

Anemone coronaria is an excellent subject for container gardening and is a reliable performer. For Autumn planting fun and great container charm, Anemone Coronaria remains a winner.

If you would like to know more about growing Anemones, visit You will find some very useful information

You can never have too many delphiniums

I am currently working on a feature for my website on Cottage gardens, and today I posted a piece on growing Delphiniums. In my view, you can never have too many delphiniums in a cottage garden.

Delphiniums are glorious plants with flower spikes that can grow up to 180cm tall. Normally, they are a range of blues, but are also available in white, pinks, and purple. They are standouts as background plants.

The delphinium is a genus of fully to half-hardy perennials, biennials and annuals so much admired particularly in the cottage garden setting. When grown in warm zones they are generally treated as annuals while in cool zones they can be successful as perennials. Delphiniums are tall, majestic plants with showy open flowers on branching spikes.

Another name for Delphinium is ‘Larkspur’. These beautiful blooms add a touch of grace to any garden and make a wonderful bouquet of cut flowers that will last about seven days in a vase. The modern delphinium is one of the most spectacular and popular of garden flowers. There are wide ranges of colours, several flower forms, and varieties of different heights.

The modern delphinium is the result of hybridisation of delphinium species from wide and varied parts of the world. Crosses made by growers keen to improve specimens they were able to acquire have resulted in the modern plants, which are truly spectacular. Many are varieties that are disease resistant, offering protection against both powdery mildew and black spot.

If you are interested in knowing more about growing Delphiniums go to I am sure you will find the post interesting!

An apology

Hi everyone.

No, I did not fall off the end of the earth during my travels. I have been battling with eye problem for months, that limited my use of the computer and I simply couldn't keep the blog going. I did manage to keep posting to my website and some of you have probably read those posts.

Everything is much better now, so from today I will attempt to play catchup with some new posts that I hope you will find interesting. I am looking forward to sharing with you again!