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Choose a tree for Arbor Day

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clivia lib

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Clivia. Picture: Sophia Stander

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffet

Tree-planting is well to the fore as we approach Arbor Week (September 1-7). First of all, when selecting a tree, it is important to visualise the eventual size it is likely to reach, as well as its suitability for the site.

The water berry (Syzygium cordata), for instance, one of the three trees chosen for 2012, should not be planted close to water features or near boggy areas, such as in some parts of Betty’s Bay, where it is likely to become invasive. Neither is this handsome evergreen useful as a shade tree, for it bears masses of edible fruits which litter the ground beneath. It does, however, make a good screening plant for a large garden. It is fast-growing, reaching a height of 20m, and its presence is indicative of a shallow water table.

The other two trees selected for 2012 are also water-lovers. They are the red beech (Protorhus longifolia), which grows to 10m, and the black mangrove (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza), which is smaller.

* Driving past a park near Kirstenbosch this month, I was charmed to see wide drifts of snowflake (Leucojum vernum) flowering beneath the trees.

The leucojum is often mistakenly called a snowdrop, instead of the galanthus – which does not do well here, preferring really cold weather. The leucojum, which is called the summer snowdrop in Britain, on the other hand, flowers here in winter and early spring.

* This is a good time for planting almost anything, and when doing so, it is useful to add an application of Kelpac, which is a plant growth stimulant produced from freshly harvested kelp seaweed. Used with a general fertiliser, this will give your plant a good start.

A dry form of Kelpac has been formulated recently, which makes application even easier. There are small pellets for lawns and slightly larger ones for garden beds and potted plants. Simply water in after application, which, for optimum results, should be carried out about four times a year.

“Plant-it” discs are also available. Put one or two of these into the hole, close to where the roots will be, before planting a shrub or tree, to boost its root development. Smaller discs are available for smaller plants. Kelpac is a completely natural product.

* The clivia is one of the most popular SA plants worldwide. A spectacular show of these can be seen during September at Babylonstoren farm in the Drakenstein Valley, between Franschhoek and Paarl.

There, over 9 000 flowers in shades of yellow, peach, orange and deep red bloom beside a meandering stream.

A shade tunnel has been planned to showcase Mick Dower’s collection of potted clivias. Opening times are Wednesday-Sunday, 9am to 5pm. Entrance fee is R10.


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