April 8, 2015

Side Garden Update

This post is a follow-up of my post from last April, to show what's been happening in the side garden... You may recognize some of the "before" photos, from when we bought the house in February 2013, but this is what the garden looked like at the end of 2014 after the new paving and plants were added last Easter.

My Garden in Cape Town: before Gardening in Cape Town: my garden after
Left: February 2013; Right: October 2014.

My Garden in Cape Town: before Gardening in Cape Town: my garden after
Left: February 2013; Right: October 2014.

March 10, 2015

Featured Plant: Osteospermum fruticosum

Osteospermum fruticosum Osteospermum fruticosum

Osteospermum fruticosum is now known as Dimorphotheca fruticosa. It has a variety of common names, the most popular being Creeping Marguerite and Trailing African Daisy.

This evergreen groundcover is quite fast-growing. It grows to a height of just under 30cm and a width of 70cm. The flowers are about 5cm wide and appear mostly in spring, but there will be a few random flowers spread throughout the year. The flowers close at night and on cloudy days. In nature Osteospermum fruticosum has white flowers, but hybrids with pink, maroon, or yellow flowers are also available.

Osteospermumm fruticosum is native to South Africa, growing along the coast in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. It should be planted in full sun and well-drained soil with some compost added. It is quite drought-tolerant once established. I water mine once every second week, but small plants should be watered more regularly, especially in hot, dry weather.

Osteospermum fruticosum grows very easily from cuttings, taken during autumn or spring. They will be ready for planting out in the garden within a couple of months. Remember that in Cape Town autumn (especially the month of April) is the best time for planting out most indigenous plants.

Osteospermum fruticosum Osteospermum fruticosum

November 5, 2014

Featured Plant: Agathosma ciliaris

Agathosma ciliaris - close up of flowers Agathosma ciliaris growing in my garden in Cape Town, South Africa

Agathosma ciliaris is known as the Bergboegoe in Afrikaans, but does not have a widely used common name in English. Translated, the name means "Mountain Buchu".

This small evergreen shrub has tiny fragrant leaves. It grows about 60cm tall and up to 1 meter wide. The white flowers appear during Winter (July / August).

Agathosma ciliaris is native to the Western Cape province of South Africa. It grows well in full sun or semi-shade, but requires a thick mulch to keep the roots cool and prevent it drying out during Summer. (A 5cm thick layer of straw or some other organic material works well.) It needs regular watering while small, but copes with dry summers once established. Avoid the use of chemical fertilizers - only apply organic liquid fertilizers if necessary.

Agathosma ciliaris can be propagated by cuttings. The cuttings should be taken during Autumn and kept moist and in shade until they have formed roots. Cuttings of Agathosma ciliaris are normally large enough for planting out in the garden after about 2 years.

October 31, 2014

How to plant a tree

There are many options when it comes to planting a tree, but the method described below works well in dry and mediterranean climates like Cape Town.

The best time to plant a tree is Autumn for trees native to winter-rainfall areas, or Spring for trees from summer-rainfall areas.

Step 1: The hole

Dig a square hole that is at least 3 times wider than the pot the tree was growing in. The hole should be at least 50cm deep, to accomodate the plactic pipe that will be used for watering and applying liquid fertilizers later.

Note that the hole should not be round, as this can sometimes cause the tree's roots to grow in a circle all around the edge of the hole in areas with hard or compacted soil. A square hole will force the root to break out into the surrounding soil when it reaches the corner.

Step 2: Initial watering

Fill the hole with water and wait for it to drain away. This will ensure that the surrounding soil is moist and that there will be adequate moisture available for the tree at root level.

Step 3: Install watering pipes and stake

It can be difficult for water and fertilizer to reach a tree's roots after it has been planted. So to make your life easier later on, this is a good time to prepare.

Get some round plastic pipes that are at least 5cm in diameter and 50cm in length. Drill evenly spaced holes in the bottom two thirds of the pipe. Place the pipes in the hole, ensuring that a short piece will stick out above ground level once finished. (After the tree has been planted, you will use these pipes to water and fertilize the tree more efficiently.)

If the tree needs to be staked, also place the stake in the hole now, so that the tree's roots will not be damaged if you push the stake into the soil later.

Step 4: Plant the tree

Add soil and compost until the hole is shallow enough that the surface of the soil will match the level / depth at which the tree was planted in it's pot. Mix compost with the original soil removed from the hole (use a 50/50 ratio of compost to soil).

Remove the tree from it's pot and place it in the hole. Continue filling the hole with the mix of compost and soil until it is filled. Punch the soil with your hands to ensure that there will be no air pockets and that the soil is firm around the tree. Some people will stomp their feet, but this may cause the soil to become compacted, so using your hands to firm the soil is a safer bet.

Step 5: Finishing touches

Tie the tree to the stake. The trunk should still be loose enough to sway in the wind without blowing over. Don't tie it so tightly that the tree doesn't move at all, as that discourages it from developing a thick, strong trunk and standing upright by itself when mature.

Mix a liquid fertilizer with water and pour it into the pipes. Continue watering and fertilizing the tree for the first year or two until it is well established.

Also apply a thick mulch around the tree to prevent the soil drying out.

October 29, 2014

Featured Plant: Clivia miniata

Clivia miniata Clivia miniata growing in my garden in Cape Town, South Africa

Clivia miniata is also known as the Bush Lily.

This evergreen plant has no bulb, but grows from an underground rhizome with thick, fleshy roots. It grows about 50cm tall and wide (80cm tall while flowering), with long strap-like leaves and trumpet shaped orange flowers. The flowers appear in Spring, mainly August and September.

Clivia miniata is native to South Africa, growing from the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Swaziland. It grows in large colonies in the dappled shade of subtropical forests. Sun damages the leaves and makes them turn yellow and sickly, so Clivias should be planted in the shade. It requires well drained soil with compost and will benefit from liquid fertilizer in Summer (although it will usually grow fine without the fertilizer). The soil should be covered in a thick layer of mulch. As this Clivia originates from summer-rainfall areas of the country, it should be watered in Summer (about once every 2 weeks) and kept dry in winter. It does fine in Cape Town's wet winters though, provided that it's not planted in a boggy area of the garden.

This bulb also grows well in containers and can be used as a house plant. It flowers well when pot-bound and the container should be allowed to dry out between waterings. The leaves can be wiped with a damp cloth if they get dusty in the house.

Clivias are poisonous and should not be eaten or used in any home-made herbal concoctions!

Clivia miniata can be propagated by division or seeds. The seeds are ripe when the fruit turns bright red. Remove the pulp and skin around the seed and sow immediately, while it is still fresh. The seed should not be buried too deeply - the top should be flush with the soil surface. It will germinate after about a month and the seedlings will need several years before they are large enough to plant out in the garden. As the seedlings grow slowly, dividing a clump of Clivias is a much faster method of propagation. Simply divide the clump with a spade and plant immediately. (Note that dividing a clump may cause the plant to not flower for up to 2 years.)