Durban — Turn up the romance this February with outdoor living and entertaining on the patio, around the pool, braaing, and moonlight picnicking in the garden.
Prepare for date night in the garden, surrounded by gorgeous blooms and tasty edibles. Don’t forget to grab a new pair of gardening gloves from your nursery – you may need them with all this flower power to dig into this month.
The end of the month will be a great time to sow Sweet William seed to provide splashes of colour to your love nest. As part of the carnation family, Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) bears masses of single flowers that are mostly striped and have pretty, serrated edges, available in pinks, whites, purples, violet and more.
Scatter the seeds onto the soil in a sunny spot and water lightly every few days. These biennials have a sweet, peppery perfume and are prized as a cut flower. Their nectar attracts bees, butterflies and birds and they tend to self-seed.
Looking for the perfect potted gift? The dwarf parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans) hails from tropical rainforests and has such a sexy and lush appearance that it has earned itself the common name of “love palm”. It is the ideal love token to grab a Valentine’s attention.
If you are your own secret Valentine, treat yourself to the trendy and elegant Kentia palm tree (Howea belmoreana). It has arching, erect, feather-like fronds with green leaves. Both these palms will love a well-lit area inside your home where you can admire them daily. Remember that plants respond to good vibes, so keep up all those sweet nothing whispers as you pass by.
Need more atmosphere in the garden? Annuals that can be planted for late summer and autumn colour include petunias, begonias, marigolds, vincas, verbenas, portulacas, and especially celosias, which will brighten up any area with their flame-like, feathery flowers in shades of red, orange, pink and yellow.
Take your love to new heights Your pergola, trellis, fence, pillars, and garden arches are all waiting for you to bring them to life! Growing vertical saves space while effortlessly adding greenery to your home.
Try the magnificent mandevilla (dipladenia) along a barren fence. Once planted, it will treat you to beautiful clouds of bright and soft pink or white trumpet-shaped flowers, depending on the variety you choose. These lovelies will flourish in full sun, although tolerating partial shade as well.
Mandevillas can tolerate light frost in temperate summer rainfall regions. Play it safe by protecting them with frost cover in winter. They flourish in subtropical gardens but can suffer from wind damage if planted too close to the coast.
In dryer regions with cold winters, plants will need water regularly during summer. In winter rainfall regions, mandevilla can sometimes be semi-deciduous during winter, but they will always deliver a breathtaking performance in summer and deep into autumn.
Vining plants will naturally climb vertically by themselves. Support your climbers by providing additional twine or other flexible ties to encourage their growth. Check plants regularly to see if they attach to the trellis on their own. If not, encourage the plant to climb by gently weaving the vines through the trellis. After a while, their little tendrils will grab on as they grow.
Top tip: Mandevillas do not like stifling-hot places, walls that reflect heat, or poor air circulation. They are happiest on sturdy, free-standing structures such as trelliswork, arches, fences, and gazebos. Don’t forget they need supporting wires or a framework to grow along.
EDIBLES ARE EVERYTHING
It is almost autumn and that means harvesting season. Growing berries has become quite the trend and is actually much easier than you may think.
Ensure your berries receive plenty of direct sun and always work in some compost before planting. Here are some popular berries you can expect to harvest now and in the coming months:
Blackberries are ready to pick when plump and shiny. Rinse the berries just before eating to avoid a soggy harvest. Most blueberry varieties have a matt, dull look to them when ripe. If you have a large harvest, try freezing your berries for a home-grown smoothie supply.
Cape Gooseberries (Physalis edulis) can be picked as they are starting to change colour. Early berries will be quite hard and tart but are great for making pies, crumbles, and tarts. Once they change colour to an orangey-yellow and you can feel some give when gently pressed between your fingers, they are fully ripe, much sweeter and ready to eat fresh. If you haven’t started picking and berries are falling off the bush, this is your cue. Look out for ready-to-plant strawberry plants in nurseries. Plant them in window boxes or hanging baskets, feed, and water often and enjoy their beauty, even when not in fruit anymore.
Clean up the veggie garden by removing summer vegetables that are coming to the end of their productive cycle to make space for the next seasonal harvest. Add compost to veggie beds and make sure your soil is nice and loose, reloaded with nutrition.
Your February sowing list includes spinach, globe artichokes, parsley, carrots, radish, cauliflower, celery, cabbage, oriental vegetables, sweet basil, coriander, nasturtium, and flat-leaf parsley. Buy seedlings of bush beans, onions, spinach, lettuce, beetroot and Swiss chard. Plant your first crop of seed potatoes for an early winter harvest.
Top edible tip: Don’t forget about companion planting as your secret pest and pollination weapon. Increase your crop yield and utilise the bad-bug-repelling power of flowers.
- Join the Life is a Garden community by visiting www.lifeisagarden.co.za or email @lifeisagardensa for expert advice.
Independent on Saturday