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Gardening: Summer’s colour spectacular

ONE of the most beautiful of all the summer flowers is kniphofia or red-hot poker which come in many different colour forms and flower shapes.

ONE of the most beautiful of all the summer flowers is kniphofia or red-hot poker which come in many different colour forms and flower shapes.

Published Feb 20, 2022


Chris Dalzell

Durban - Living in the sub tropics is never dull because every month, something will be flowering.

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Last month I joined the annual walk down Sani Pass and enjoyed the summer flowers that make this pass so famous. It is only 9km from top to the SA border at the bottom, but it felt like 30km because the gravel road was very difficult to walk on.

I have never seen dieramas, geraniums and kniphofias in such profusion along with many of the alpine plants that only grow on this mountain, at that altitude, and nowhere else in the world.

I spend a big portion of my working day driving between projects, which may seem boring but never is because it gives me the chance to see what is flowering and where.

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Probably the most beautiful of all the summer flowers would be kniphofia or red-hot poker. There are many different colour forms and flower shapes that make this a must for your garden.

I know that once they have finished flowers the leaves look very untidy, but who says gardens must be always tidy? The flower will stand up proud above the vegetation and bring a spark of red to the landscape. Try to plant them in mass because single flowers will never be as spectacular on their own. The flowers should last a few weeks and may have sequential flowerings, keep flowering for a month. Remember where you planted your pokers because they will go dormant in winter ‒ the leaves will completely disappear until the days warm up and the first rains appear. New leaves will then appear and, in late January and February, will push a long flower spike ending in a head of flowers that not only provide enjoyment to us but to the sunbirds and butterflies that feed on the sweet nectar. Probably the most popular of the pokers would be the common marsh poker, kniphofia linearifolia, which grow in wet areas.

Tulbaghia violacea or wild garlic flowers from early December through February.

The two most common groundcovers that have mass shows of colour and are easy to grow are Agapanthus praecox and Tulbaghia violacea or wild garlic. Both flower from early December through February.

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Agapanthus does not require much maintenance and once established will grow on its own, other than the odd removal of old leaves and the flower spike once it has finished flowering. Tulbaghia can survive quite easily with little attention, but needs more water than agapanthus. It should get this during the wet summer months. You will also need to lift, split, and replant every few years after preparing the soil with lots of compost and mulch.

Once they have finished flowering and the flowers have been pollinated by bees, they will produce heads of seed pots full of very viable seeds that you can collect and sow in your garden.

Groundcovers are easy to grow and provide the spit and polish to complete your garden. The challenge is to select the right plants and to place them so they all complement each other’s growth and flower in sync.

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Karomia speciosa, or the southern Chinese hats or wild parasol flower, produces paper-like flowers with a pink and purple colour combination for about six weeks in summer. Loved by humans and butterflies.

Shrubs are another challenge, especially if you have a small garden. Never plant too many different types; select 3-5 different shrubs that flower at different times. One of my favourites is a summer flowering shrub called Karomia speciosa or the southern Chinese hats or wild parasol flower. It produces paper-like flowers with a pink and purple colour combination. It flowers for about 6 weeks and once finished flowering can be pruned hard to keep its shape and size. Plant it in a sunny position close to your house so you can enjoy it. Loved by humans and butterflies alike.

A shrub that is popular and should be grown in all gardens is anisodontea julii which displays its deep pink to purple flowers throughout summer. Quite a large shrub that can become untidy if not pruned correctly but when in full flower will give you much joy.

Things to do this month:

We had lovely rain this summer, but a few hot weeks have wreaked havoc on our gardens. Water the more sensitive plants in your collections such as plectranthus which can go from spectacular to dead in a few hot weeks.

Continue fertilising. With rain, heat, and long days ahead until late March there is still lots of growth. Wait until it rains before fertilising to allow it to be evenly distributed throughout the soil and to the roots. Use a natural fertiliser such as bounce back to protect your soils and the environment.

Remove dead or diseased leaves and branches. This is where most of your decay happens, resulting in death of your plants.

Continue cutting your lawns at least once a week. Just remove the top of the grass. Once your lawn is established and has a good root growth you should not have to water your lawns. Water is precious so use sparingly.

Mulch flower beds with fallen leaves or buy well-decomposed compost and apply a thin layer over the root base of shrubs.

Lift groundcovers such as agapanthus, tulbaghia and dietes. Prepare the soil with lots of compost. Split the groundcovers and replant. Water well for the for the first few weeks.

Watch for fungal and insect infestation during the hot humid days when plants are most vulnerable. Treat according to the problem.

Happy gardening.

  • This article is sponsored by Chris Dalzell Landscapes, specialising in landscaping, consultation, plant broking and botanical tours. If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]

The Independent on Saturday

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