GCA nurseries around the country recommend the following all-rounders as their best sellers for smart planting in January:
‘Kaleidoscope’ is a dwarf Abelia grandiflorahybrid (70 x 90cm) with ever-changing foliage. The new growth in spring is bright yellow around the edges with light green in the centre of the leaves. In summer, the brightyellow changes to golden yellow, and the centre of the leaf turns deep green. In autumn, the yellow turns bright orange, and by winter it burns a fiery red. With its compact growth, ‘Kaleidoscope’ is the perfect feature plant for small gardens and is guaranteed to give you years of joy. Abelias are frost and cold hardy, fairly wind resistant, and they grow well in coastal gardens.
Little leaf boxwood (Buxus microphylla‘Faulkner’) is a tough, evergreen shrub. This compact, upright growing plant with its dense coat of oval-shaped, bright green leaves (which sometimes have a coppery sheen) is a much-loved container, hedge or topiary plant. It likes full sun to light shade, regular water and will flourish in cold, frosty gardens, as well as the hottest and windiest gardens at the coast.
‘Little Ruby’ (Alternanthera dentata LRU30) is a perfect, mounding ground cover with a compact habit and trendy deep burgundy foliage with ruby red reverse. This plant loves humidity, but can also tolerate frost better than other Alternantheras. Plant it in sheltered areas if there is a danger. Good for full sun and light shade. Mature plant size ± 35 x 60cm.
Along cool waters…
As January is a hot month, we keep close to our cooling ponds and water features. If your water element is a bit sparse on the vegetative side, consider the following plants to add some pizzazz:
Paper Reed ‘Little Giant’ is a new and compact form of Egyptian papyrus with sturdy green stems that are topped with large tufted “mop heads” making it ideally suited to smaller gardens. It is more shade tolerant than regular Cyperus papyrus. Plant it next to, or into, the water feature.
‘Tea Cups’ (Colocasia esculenta) is a magnificent elephant ear with dark green upturned leaves which form a cup. The leaf-petioles are dark, purplish-black which creates a striking contrast in the pond or garden. Grow in part shade to full sun in moist soil, or in water about 15cm deep.
Common rush (Juncus effusus) is a reed which produces multiple culms arranged in dense tufts which grow about 1 metre tall. The narrow, smooth stems are rounded with pointed tips and no obvious leaves. These lustrous green culms are strong but flexible. In the summertime, unobtrusive coppery inflorescences appear along the side of the culms. This ornamental rush adapts to a wide variety of growing conditions but is found most often in sunny wetlands or water gardens. It performs well in full sun to part shade, planted in standing water to 15cm deep or moist soil. The common rush provides cover and nesting sites for wetland birds and other wildlife, so definitely a must-have in your garden.
Ravishing rose: This month, try Rosa x Clocolan KORcloco(N). This is fast-growing rose, which will form a neat shrub, reaching about hip height. It’s clothed with glossy, green leaves that are impervious to diseases and it keeps on producing large apricot blooms deep into winter. Apart from watering, fertilising and winter pruning, it is maintenance free. A winner on all accounts.
One of summer’s least welcome critters is flies which can spread dreadful diseases far and wide. Consider the following ideas to curb the problem:
- Home hygiene – the rotting fruit bowl, uncovered cooked food and dirty dishes in the kitchen will attract them. So will overflowing garbage bins with lids which do not close tightly. Keep a neat kitchen and wash all fresh produce properly before eating. Empty garbage bins regularly, and wash them every time with a strong disinfectant to kill off lurking fly maggots.
- Garden hygiene – regularly remove rotting fruit and vegetables lying on the ground and pick up dog poop on the lawn every day. Consider a commercial composter to turn garden waste into compost, a worm farm to recycle things like vegetable peels into worm tea, and a tight-sealing bokashi bin to ferment all material like cooked food, safely and without emanating odours. Clear out anything that can hold standing water like the wheelbarrow. Leaving standing water around can also invite mosquitoes to breed.
- Use repellent herbs – fill up pots on your patio, at the backdoor, and even on a sunny kitchen windowsill with herbs like rosemary, lavender, mint, lemongrass and basil. Flies do not like them. You can also buy essential oils extracted from these herbs. Mix with a little water in a spray bottle and spritz your rooms frequently.
- Use pyrethrin based insecticides as fly repellents. Pyrethrin originates from chrysanthemum flowers and is biodegradable – it breaks down on exposure to light or oxygen.
If you are planning to hold a summer fiesta and need something bright to decorate your table, pick up some floriferous specimens out of the bright ‘Conga’ range of mini petunias (Calibrachoa), with a naturally compact habit which is perfect for pots. The flowers surround the plants to such an extent that one can hardly see the foliage. Keep them in bright light and when the festivities are over, pop them in a hanging basket or another container, for a long-lasting and rewarding display.
Other plants which are perfect for festive occasions and quite willing to grow indoors, are ornamental chillies which are grown for their looks rather than their flavour.
The Vinca ‘Pacifica’ series is a mounded but compact and uniformly growing range of annuals with shiny, green foliage. It has bright flowers which are larger than other varieties, and can be found in a wide array of colours: apricot, blush, cherry, orange, deep orchid, pink, red, white, white with a red eye and mixed colours. The plant grows up to 20-35cm high and spreads to 15-20cm wide. Easy to grow and an excellent, low water, heat tolerant choice.
New Year resolutions to keep
Harvest and recycle every drop of water. This means rainwater harvesting tanks, the use of bath and washing water and even garden ponds, to use as an auxiliary water source.
Some quick water-saving tips include:
- Repair leaking taps and hose-pipes
- Fix your borehole and install a water wise irrigation system
- Replace damaged hose fittings (they really don’t cost much!)
- Water deeply and less frequently
- Schedule watering to take place in the early morning or in the evening
- Override computerised sprinkler systems after and during rains
- For specific areas planted up with perennials, shrubs and roses, use a soaker hose rather than a sprinkler. Less water is required because the water is concentrated on the soil nearer the roots and there is less evaporation.
Rose care for January
- Keep them foliated as densely as you can, to keep the inside of the plants shaded. Do this by spraying regularly and preventatively against black spot, rust, mildew and red spider mites.
- If your roses have become oversized – too tall and wide – attend to a summer pruning or grooming.
- Study your roses. If the leaves are a bleak light green colour, they need rose fertiliser. Bad performance can mean that the roots are too dry, or robbed of food and water by other plants’ roots.
(Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)
Don’t allow evergreen hedges and topiaries to grow out of shape. Keep them neat by trimming them lightly, but often.
Feed fruit trees like mangoes, avocados and lemons.
Be aware that stagnant water in bromeliads is a breeding place for mosquitoes.
Nip out the growing tips of Chrysanthemums and Poinsettias, to encourage bushy growth.
Best pals: Dahlias and roses complement each other, because they enjoy the same growing conditions. Add a bright border of bedding Dahlias to hide the bare stems of large rose bushes. You will find them in full flower in seedling trays now.
(Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)
Tame overgrown shrubs, except those which will flower and produce berries in winter and spring.
Thin out deciduous climbers like Wisterias, Boston ivy and ornamental vines.
Carry out a light trimming, espaliering and dead-heading of rambling roses now.
Rotate indoor and shady patio plants, as well as hanging baskets, regularly towards the light to ensure even leaf growth.
Pull out the old flowering stems of Inca lilies with a firm tug.
Cut spent lilium flowers, leaving the leafy stems to produce enough food for next season. Keep well-watered and well-fed until they die down.
If you left your clivia seeds on, they should be a good shade of red now. Sow them while fresh, into seed trays.