One year after the fire and the hills are alive with Fynbos.

Posted by on October 16, 2018 in Gardening | 0 comments

One year after the fire and the hills are alive with Fynbos.

Travelling to Brenton these days is such a pleasure, the views are open and wide, no more encroachment of wattle to spoil the wonderful vistas of lagoon and sea. The country side has made a remarkable recovery after last year’s fires.  The hillsides are now covered with bietou, selago, and lately large colonies of  Senecio elegans, Senecio glastifolius, Felicia echinata  and Ursinia paleacea appeared – the hues of pinks and mauves are truly a feast for the eyes. Felicia echinata has always been there, albeit a bit scraggly, not showy at all.  This year the bushes are ‘fat’ and round, covered with hundreds of flowers.  Ursinia paleacea provides sunny splashes of bright yellow flowers between the subtle hues of mauve and pinks.  They were also there before the fire, also scraggly due to lack of enough sun.  Senecio elegans use to be restricted to the sandy dunes flanking the beach, there were also a few miserable specimens around the Brenton Hotel – this year they are spectacular, almost representing  scenes from Namaqualand. And then we have Senecio glastifolius, a regal, tall elegant  plant towering over the other vegetation, making a statement of prominence and beauty.  All four belong to the Aster family, they are all easy to grow and a great addition to any  fynbos garden. Senecio elegans ( L ) Common names: wild Cineraria (Eng.); strandblommetjie (Afr.) The leaves are soft and curly, sometimes almost succulent. The flowers grouped together at the top of the stem make a beautiful display when flowering in mass, with colours varying from white to dark mauve and bright pink. The centres of the daisies are bright yellow, full with pollen and nectar which attracts bees and beetles. Once pollinated the flower heads turn into fluffy white balls, ready for the wind to disperse the seeds. This plant occurs the coast in the southern Cape and Western  Cape. Flowers are pollinated by bees and beetles and the seed is wind dispersed. Growing Senecio elegans:  Senecio elegans may be a bit weedy by some gardener’s standards, but planted densely in large groups they offer a great reward for very little effort. Adapted to the coast and summer drought they do well in disturbed, sandy and windy areas. The dry summers they survive as seed and germinate freely in autumn with the start of the winter rains. To grow in a garden the seed must be sown in autumn in areas with a winter-rainfall. In summer-rainfall areas the plants will need watering in winter, or the seed could be sown in early spring once the danger of frost has passed. Sow in seed trays or directly in the open ground. A sunny position in well-drained soil is ideal. The seed germinates within a week or two and are easy to transplant about 2 months later, or as soon as the seedlings are big enough to handle. Senecio glastifolius L. f. Common names: large Senecio (Eng.); waterdissel (Afr.) It is an upright perennial growing about 1 m tall with a woody base and glossy green foliage along the branched stems. The cheerful flowers are large daisies, a single row of mauve petals around a yellow centre, formed at the tips of the stems. The edges of the lanceolate (lance-shaped) leaves are coarsely toothed and can be quite prickly. These leaves are so distinct that even...

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EXCITING TOMATO VARIETIES

Posted by on September 26, 2018 in Gardening | 0 comments

EXCITING TOMATO VARIETIES

Time is running out for tomato growers if they want a juicy harvest before Christmas. Journalist Alice Spenser-Higgs, The Citizen | Wednesday, 26 September 2018, 07:43 Plants do best with morning sun, afternoon shade. AGRICULTURAL NEWS – For the serious cook or tomato addict there is only one way to experience the “true” taste of tomatoes: grow your own! But time is running out. If you want ripe tomatoes by Christmas, don’t delay.  Sow seeds now, plant out seedlings or look out for patio tomatoes that are available as young plants. Heirloom tomatoes Heirloom tomatoes are varieties originally grown by families or communities where the seed was handed down from generation to generation. Besides red, there are black, purple, yellow, green and striped varieties. Heirloom tomatoes are known for their intense and interesting flavours. Many varieties are now available in seed packets, with by far the largest selection being offered by RAW. These include Green Zebra (sweet, sharp flavour), Clear Pink (sweet and tangy Russian variety), San Marzano (a Roma tomato from Italy), Brandywine (beefsteak variety dating back to 1885) and Principe Borghese (Italian heirloom). Seed sowing tips Sow in trays or pots using germination, not seedling mix. Don’t let the soil dry out during germination. Feed with Margaret Roberts Organic Supercharger after germination. Transplant at about 15cm tall. Shortcut to seedlings Planting out trays of seedlings from the garden centre can buy you time. The choice is not as large, but growers have extended their range from the tried-andtrusted Rodade, Floradade and Heinz to heirloom varieties. Look out for Sweet ‘n Neat (dwarf cherry tomato), Black Krim (dark-red Russian heirloom), Little Napoli (Roma tomato) and Tumbling Tom (cascading cherry tomato for hanging baskets). Good to know Prepare beds before buying the seedlings so they can be planted immediately. Tomatoes like fertile soil that drains well. Dig in plenty of compost and aerate the top layer by turning it over and breaking down clumps. Buy sturdy-looking seedlings with dark-green, healthy leaves. They should not be leggy or have pale green leaves. Water seedling trays well before planting out. Water with Margaret Roberts Organic Supercharger after planting. Perfect for pots If you like the idea of growing tomatoes in pots, the Simply Delicious Patio Range has three new varieties that deliver lots of fruit on compact-growing plants. Midnight Snack is an indigo cherry tomato that ripens to red with a glossy black-purple overlay when exposed to sunlight. This coloration comes from the accumulation of anthocyanin pigments, the same reason blueberries are blue and contain antioxidants. The vines should be staked and this encourages them to bear plenty of fruit. It is a quick-maturing salad tomato. Sunrise Sauce is a quick-maturing, orange Roma-type. It is a small, determinate hybrid that is good for small gardens or large containers. Its yields are high and the orange fruit is sweet and meaty. It can be eaten raw, but the best flavour is achieved through cooking. Makes an eye-catching orange salsa and sauce. Although the plants don’t need staking, they do benefit from some support or cages, which will result in a more concentrated harvest. A good tomato for preserving. Candyland Red has dark-red, sweet fruit which is smaller than the cherry tomato and ready to pop into your mouth straight from the garden. The plant...

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Sweet little violet, where did you come from?

Posted by on September 19, 2018 in Gardening | 0 comments

Sweet little violet, where did you come from?

The fire and the accompanied windstorm of last year brought with it surprise packets  of seeds.  In my neighbourhood abandoned plots have become seedbeds for unwanted wattles, bugweed, peanut butter cassias, vincas, Flanders poppies, campions, cherry tomatoes, gooseberries etc.  Some wonderful indigenous species also sprung up;   Blue fountain bush (Psoralea affinis), Cape mallow  (Anisodontea scabrosa), Pokkiesblom  (Hermannia hyssopifolia), and miniature arum lilies, (Zantedeschia sp.)    In my garden a pure white form of sweet violet  (Viola odorata) appeared,  it is pretty little plant, however the scent is not quite as alluring as the purple violet.   The delicate fragrance of sweet violets has won them a place in the hearts of most gardeners for many centuries. The origin of the violet, a member of the Violaceae family, is lost in antiquity.  One of the ‘Adonis flowers’, the tiny charming flower, so richly endowed with delicate perfume and exquisite royal purple colour, was the symbol of Athens, the proud emblem of Athenians, as much revered by them as the rose of England is cherished by the English, the shamrock by the Irish, and the fleur-de-lis by the French. The violet has – perhaps more than any other flower – been used to express regard, faithfulness and love.  Called the symbol of modesty (because of the shy manner in which the blooms nestle among the leaves) it is also associated with motherhood.  Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honour of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.”  On that day all servants were permitted to go home to visit their mothers, and as Sunday fell during the flowering season of the violet, it became customary for them to take home a bunch of sweetly-scented violets. Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service. Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s. Although violets are grown primarily for their scent and delicate beauty, they have culinary uses, too, and they were once widely used medicinally.  During the medieval period the violet was included among the plants that were regarded as ‘powerful against evil spirits’.  It was cultivated mainly for its medicinal properties and for cooking purposes.  The ancient Greeks used it as a sweetener, a practice followed until the introduction of sugar.  The wild rose and the violet were in great demand to sweeten both meat and game, and together with the lily, hollyhock, paeony and coriander, they were all used for flavouring foods, and as ingredients in medical preparations.  They were also grown commercially from earliest days in Persia and Greece, mainly for their sweetening properties. They grow naturally in damp shady places in or near woodland. Plant them in drifts, like ground cover, as individual plants they...

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Indigenous geraniums.

Posted by on September 15, 2018 in Gardening | 1 comment

Indigenous geraniums.

Many people find the difference between Geranium and Pelargonium confusing for both belong to the family Geraniaceae, and pelargoniums are often commonly called geraniums. The difference is very easy to see: it is all in the shape of the flower. Geraniums have a very simple circular shaped flower with five equal sized petals while the pelargoniums have huge variation in their irregular shaped flowers that usually have two petals pointing up and three petals pointing down.         Geranium (Wayside garden centre}                                        Pelargonium (Davenport garden centre) Around the world these perennials thrive as wildflowers.  Famous for their delicate, jewel-toned flowers, attractive foliage and a low mounding habit they make the ideal plant for a wildflower garden Plants from this family, especially the geraniums and pelargoniums, have been hybridized and are widely cultivated the world over for their spectacular displays of flowers and striking colours. Geranium is a genus of 422 species of flowering annual, biennial, and perennial plants that are commonly known as the cranesbills. There are 33 species in southern Africa of which 4 species occur in the Cape.  (I’m discounting the introduced species which have naturalised in many parts of our area) In the surrounding areas of Knysna  we have 3 indigenous species: Geranium incanum var. incanum, Geranium incanum var. multifidum  and Geranium ornithopodon. The name Geranium is derived from an ancient Greek word geranos, a crane, referring to the similarity of the long beaked fruit (seed capsule) to the bill of the crane, incanum = hairy, hoary,  grey or silver coloured,  multifidum = many divided (referring to the leaves), ornithopodon = “bird feet”, from the Greek ornithos (“bird”) and pous (“feet”); … Geranium incanum Burm.f. var. incanum Family: Geraniaceae Common names: Carpet Geranium; Horlosies, Vrouetee, Bergtee, (Afrikaans); ngope-sethsoha, tlako (Sotho). It carpets the verges of national roads and covers large patches of grassland at the coast.  The leaves are deeply divided with the odd leaf turning shades of yellow, orange and red. Distribution and habitat It occurs naturally in the southwestern and eastern parts of the country where it can be found scrambling about through natural vegetation. They are plentiful in Steenbok Nature Reserve, Leisure Isle and can also be seen along the N2 to George. Uses This plant is used traditionally by both African  and Europeans to make a medicinal tea from the leaves which is used to offer relief from certain complaints such as bladder infections, venereal diseases, and conditions relating to menstruation. Growing Geranium incanum Planted near walkways, they soften the edges, in rockeries they can be tucked into crevices creating a softness in a hard landscape. Geranium incanum is easily propagated from both seed and cuttings. Selected forms, such as those with darker coloured flowers, are best grown from cuttings. Fresh seed sown in spring or autumn is easily germinated and will produce a variety of darker and paler forms. Seed can be sown directly onto a well prepared seedling medium in trays and lightly covered. Once watering has been commenced the trays should never be allowed to dry out completely. Seedlings can be transplanted into separate containers once they are large enough to handle. Plants from this family, especially geraniums and pelargoniums, have been hybridized and are widely cultivated the world...

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