Cape Town - January is the time to sit back and gaze at your garden. Look carefully at the way you have designed your beds and planted up the borders, and consider what you might do differently this year.
Each year, landscape design shows reveal design trends for the upcoming year. Many gardeners look to the Chelsea Garden Show to glean the latest garden design trends, and this year’s 100th show (May 21-25) is set to be a major event on the international gardening calendar.
Kirstenbosch will also celebrate a centenary this year with the launch of Professor Brian J Huntley’s magnificent book, Kirstenbosch: The most beautiful garden in Africa (1913-2013 Centenary Edition), one of several high-profile events celebrating the milestone this month.
South Africa’s top exhibition designers, David Davidson and Ray Hudson, will be at Chelsea in May to design their 20th Kirstenbosch-South Africa exhibit.
By all means look, listen and glean ideas from top design shows, but don’t miss out on what you can do in your garden this weekend. Cool days, big heat, fierce wind and occasional rain has had a significant impact on gardens this summer.
January is the time to check your lawn, plant a spectacular hibiscus and stock up on the latest erica and protea hybrids. Follow these tips:
l Lawns: Lawns take strain in the midsummer heat and need to be cut on a high mower setting at least twice a month in January. Allow leaf blades of both kikuyu and buffalo lawns to be at least 8cm long during the heat of summer. Avoid shaving your lawn down to the roots as it will burn, and you will have dead patches appearing next month. Give your lawn a fertiliser boost by sprinkling a half handful (30g) of lawn fertiliser granules or organic pellets per square metre. Water thoroughly after application.
l Mulch: Make sure the roots of your hydrangeas, azaleas, camellias and gardenias are covered with a 5cm thick layer of pine needles or acid mulch. Visit your local park and sweep up the pine needles, or purchase large bags of peanut shells, apricot pips or bark nugget mulches from a garden centre.
A 5cm layer of mulch (compost, bark or dry leaves) on garden beds protects roots against the heat, and retains moisture in flower beds. If any soil in your garden is exposed to the sun, you have a problem. It’s time to cover up.
l Roses: January is a good time to give your roses a summer trim. Attend a summer rose pruning demonstration and learn how to trim back your roses to stimulate fresh new growth that prolongs the flowering period into autumn.
If you need to move a rose and you can’t wait for June, transplant it this month. Prune back rose bushes by half before moving.
Feed roses by sprinkling 60g of rose fertiliser granules around the roots of rose bushes. Foliar feed two weeks later with Seagro, Multifeed, Nitrosol or any good liquid fertiliser.
l Hibiscus time: These shrubs are in full flower at garden centres. Choose a spot that receives at least eight hours of full sun a day and is sheltered from wind. Hibiscus flourish in a paved, hot spot beside a swimming pool, and in large well-drained containers not less than 70cm high or 50cm wide.
Shrubs and standard varieties should be planted at least 1m away from walls. Plant in a hole that is two or three times the volume of the plant bag (75cm x 75cm). Mix in compost and two cups of hoof and hornmeal to the soil. Avoid adding chemical fertilisers at this stage as they can burn the roots.
Hibiscus shrubs hate wet feet and will suffer from root rot in poorly-drained clay soils or in over-irrigated gardens.
For the best flowering results, sprinkle a handful of general fertiliser around the base of your hibiscus once a month in summer.
l Proteas and ericas: Plant proteas, pincushions and ericas to attract birds, insects and chameleons.
Choose a sunny open position on sloping ground, or in a rockery. If your garden has poor drainage, you could grow them in raised beds.
l Perennials: Remove any dead flowers or untidy leaves from summer-flowering perennials such as agapanthus, alstroemeria, daisy bushes and cannas. Avoid letting hanging baskets dry out by watering every second day. Baskets of flowering fuchsias that get a few hours of morning sun can quickly dry out, and need to be checked regularly.
l Bulbs: Although liliums have finished flowering, continue to feed them so that the bulbs can build up food to produce healthy flowers next season.
A tablespoon of general granular fertiliser (3:1:5) dissolved in five litres of water applied to the root area will do the job.
l Annuals: Deadhead colourful annuals – such as petunias, marigolds, salvia and dianthus – to prolong their flowering period into autumn.
Established seedlings in colour bags can be found at local garden centres, and if planted up in containers will revitalise your patio or entrance.
Easy-to-grow heat-resistant varieties include petunias, bedding dahlias, marigold, portulaca, vinca and zinnia.
l Keep a garden journal. It takes the guesswork out of when to sow seed and plant shrubs, what flowers when, and for how long. Botanical illustrator Daphne Mackie has produced a beautiful Kirstenbosch Journal, published by Random Struik. Decorated with glorious African wild flowers, the 100-page journal is designed exactly for this purpose.
l What could be more practical than pots of colourful nasturtiums and culinary herbs grouped near the kitchen door? Pots are also useful for growing succulents that require excellent drainage, or for confining vigorous growers such as bamboos and mint.
l Plants growing very close to the sea are often damaged by salt deposits rather than by the wind. So if you live on the seafront, get into the habit of hosing down the foliage of your plants regularly, particularly after a few days of strong wind. Getting rid of this salty deposit will work wonders.
l Introducing water in some form can enhance the mood of a garden. The sound of water spilling from a freestanding or wall fountain is not only soothing, it also helps to mask noise from passing traffic and neighbours.
l Plants of differing structure and texture are essential in a garden for creating year-round interest. Don’t think because the garden is small that it automatically follows that plants must also be small. By introducing bold foliage and strong vertical forms into a garden you will create a better balance .
l With so much vibrant colour at this time of year, it makes a pleasant change to include white flowers such as agapanthus, gaura, hydrangea, marguerite daisy, Shasta daisy, galtonia and summer-flowering watsonia. l Avoid damage from wind by thinning out some branches on top-heavy trees. This allows wind to pass through more easily. - Weekend Argus