Plants can gladden the heart

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Cut roses cleanly, at an angle, sloping down from an outer bud.

“A garden provides a rest to the mind, a cheerer of spirits, a diverter of sadness (and) a calmer of unquiet thoughts.” Sir Henry Notham.

I was reminded of the therapeutic qualities of a garden when, after my car window was smashed by a night prowler, I opted for some radical pruning. After an hour or so, my sense of outrage was much diminished.

The object of my attack was the creeping foxglove (Asystasia gangetica), an innocuous-seeming, white-flowered groundcover that had made a takeover bid while I was away on holiday.

This indigenous plant is perfect for when one needs to cover bare ground speedily, for it is a vigorous grower. It thrives in sun or shade, even on sand dunes. But I realise it was a mistake to plant it in my small plot, for it soon outgrew its allotted space.

My situation requires non-invasive plants like the dainty Swan River daisy. Its botanical name, Brachycome iberidifolia makes me wonder why such delicate flowers are given alarmingly long and difficult names!

In sharp contrast to the creeping foxglove, this species needs full sun and is only half hardy.

Its blue-mauve flowers, which appear in spring and summer, resemble our South African felicias, but, as its common name suggests, it originates from Perth, Australia, where the river is home to unusual black swans. The Swan River daisy is small, low-growing and not in the least invasive.

Gardeners often enjoy the challenge of experimenting with a plant they have not grown before.

This year, after admiring arches of white Mandevilla splendens flourishing in my area, I decided to plant one too. I chose a coral pink specimen and because space is limited, put it in a hanging basket.

Although it is supposed to bloom from early summer into autumn, mine has been delighting the eye during the winter months as well, with its trumpets of long-lasting flowers and shiny leaves. Formerly known as a dipladenia, this beauty comes from Brazil and does well in temperate to subtropical areas, preferably in full sunlight.

It is essentially a creeper and prefers a trellis to wall support, for it likes air movement around it. Propagation can be achieved by layering.

Rose pruning is at its height now. Always cut the stems cleanly, at an angle, sloping down from an outward-facing bud.

When removing weak stems or dead wood, cut as close as possible to the parent stem. For hybrid tea roses, the desired shape is that of a cup, fairly open in the centre. In Turkey, I noticed roses along roadsides had been pruned almost to the ground and by spring had rebounded with vigorous new growth. - Weekend Argus

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