If bold, bright and beautiful is what you are after, then December’s companions are right up your alley. Celosia offers up a colour feast of red, orange, yellow, hot pink, rose, mahogany and magenta which are vivid and remain so for about eight weeks while Portulaca, our versatile little companion is available in scarlet, pink, orange and yellow for the bolder gardener.
Celosias are exceptionally hardy little plants and are very wind tolerant so this would be a particularly good choice for gardens exposed to strong winds as well as coastal gardens.
Location: Originating on the dry African slopes should give some clues as to the type of home you should look at providing these lovelies. Full sun and well-draining soil is a good start! They are perfect for borders, in beds, to fill gaps in rockeries or even to brighten up those sunny patio pots.
Watering: Celosias prefer to grow slightly drier rather than wetter. Try not to plant them with other annuals or plants that require regular watering, especially if you’re using an automated sprinkler system. Not that one generally requires a reason to enforce the benefits of water wise plants, but celosia are also prone to root fungus, which is just one more reason to ensure you keep the watering to a minimum.
Care: The blooming time that normally lasts about eight weeks, undaunted by our unrelenting sun, can be stretched even longer with deadheading. That being said, they really don’t enjoy the cold, so expecting them to last past the first frosts might be a tad optimistic. Getting them into the ground as early in spring as possible will ensure the longest possible show.
Plant up your portulacas in rockeries, hanging baskets, pots, between stepping stones and even as a ground cover if that is what you need. Their eye-catching colours will make any of these areas impossible to miss. There is no need to deadhead portulacas, but giving them a good (few inches) haircut in late summer when they get leggy will afford you another blooming burst in autumn. An added feature, which not many people are aware of is that they attract bees in their droves! Don’t get a fright if your flowers die after the bees have visited though because it’s perfectly natural for them to do so about an hour after pollination.
Angelonia, more affectionately known as summer snap dragons, is our pot choice for December and are perfect for hot summer gardens. The colours are cool in comparison to our other bold choices, offering a range of colours from lilac and purple to pink and even white. Angelonia need little water to establish themselves affording them the honour of carrying the prestigious water wise label. They are care free continuous bloomers that spread to approximately 30cm at maturity.
Weeds are of ‘particular evil’ in times of drought. They utilise unnecessary water, outcompete desirable plants and are quick to seed and spread. Control weeds manually (ie. dig them out) or treat with the appropriate herbicide. Mulching is highly recommended after weeding, and here’s why:
- Conserves moisture in the soil
- Maintains soil temperatures
- Reduces weed growth
- Prevents soil erosion
- Organic mulches (like bark chips, peach pips or macadamia shells) improve soil fertility
- Reduces garden maintenance
- Beautifies the garden