Cape Town - Last Sunday, the equinox marked the start of autumn in the southern hemisphere.
The equinox occurs when the sun crosses the equator, moving from south to north. On the day of the equinox, day and night are of equal length.
In the northern hemisphere, the vernal equinox in March signals the start of spring. Easter falls on the first Sunday after a full moon on or after the vernal equinox. While spring heralds new life and celebration, autumn symbolises the harvest and preparation for winter in many cultures.
How colourful is your autumn garden? Rich autumn tree colour is found in acers, cornus, combretum, liquidamber, malus, nanaberry (Searsia dentate), swamp cypress, and in shrubs Nandina “Pygmaea”, oak-leaved hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), Japanese snowball (Viburnum plicatum) and V. opulus.
Mauve flowers of the ribbon bush (Hypoestes aristata), purple flowers of the bush violet (Barleria obtusa) and plectranthus in white, pink, mauve and purple offer a contrast to the fiery shades of autumn.
The sasanqua camellia is a graceful autumn-flowering evergreen shrub witha graceful growth habit, glossy dark green leaves and satiny pink, red or white flowers. Continue the camellia display in your garden with winter-flowering Camellia japonica cultivars and Camellia reticulata for spring.
Autumn is the best time to plant fynbos so plants settle in before winter. Choose a sunny place with good drainage and air circulation. Fynbos plants have low nutrient levels and should not have soil enriched with fertiliser, phosphate, bone meal, manure or mushroom compost. Take care not to damage the root when planting or cultivating around them as they are sensitive to root damage.
Buy spring bulbs
To ensure the best quality and variety, buy winter and spring-flowering bulbs like anemone, chincherinchee (ornithogalum), daffodil, Dutch iris, freesia, grape hyacinth (muscari), ixia, lachenalia, sparaxis, tritonia, ranunculus and veltheimia as soon as they become available at garden centres. Wait for soil temperatures to cool down before planting next month in borders, rockery pockets and containers.
Plan a spring “quilt” to spread over a sunny garden patch \[gael.reagon\]in the garden with brightly coloured bulbs - deep blue muscari (grape hyacinth; purple anemone; red ranunculi; yellow and lavender freesia;harlequin sparaxis and violet ixia.
Planting for spring
Be imaginative. Choose a flower you like and plant a large group to make a bold statement. Imagine a carpet of gold, rust and wine-coloured pansies or a tapestry in antique shades of cream, apricot, rose and burgundy.
Instead of a single row on either side of a path, plant a triple row of English daisies (Bellis perennis) in filtered shade to give a fuller look. Another option for shady places is fairy primrose (Primula malacoides) with white, pink and mauve flowers. Both would make charming groundcovers for “Foxy’ foxgloves.
April is the main planting month for sweet peas. If fragrance is what you must have in sweet peas want, plant the Heirloom range of sweet peas available in Kirchhoff’s Blue Shades Mixed, Strawberry and White Shades and Dwarf Mixed Colours, and in Ball Straathof’s Old Spice Series.
Fill your spring garden withbeautiful poppies in paint-box colours. They are at home in a meadow-style or cottage garden and in the grandest border where they are best grown in clusters with delphinium, penstemon and scabious.
10 ideas for your garden
1. Instead of the conventional central lawn with flower beds around the boundary,how much prettier it would be to look into go for a large central grouping of flowers planted on either side of a small path and framed by a series of arches painted Giverny green or a soft blue for climbing roses and clematis.
2. Add subtle depth in a border with flowers held on thin or wiry stems that allow a glimpse of what lies behind, such as the butterfly flowers of gaura, frothy flower heads of lace flower and the finely cut foliage and bright petals of silky petals of cosmos.
3. Use changes of level to break up the garden into different areas, such as a herb garden, water garden, white garden or a\[loren.barale\] raised seating area.
4. Encourage roses to flower at different heights in the garden by growing them over arches and up columns, and training those with whippy canes over low steel “umbrellas”.
5. Include edible flowers, borage, pansy, viola, lavender, rosemary, pineapple sage, dianthus and scented geraniums to add colour and attract pollinators to your veggies patch.
6. Use different paving materials to define changes - shredded bark for a woodland path, a brick path in a cottage garden, lawn between borders and gravel in a water-wise area.
7. Make sure there is a framework of permanent shrubs with good form and interesting textures as a backdrop for seasonal annuals and bulbs. Bold foliage and strong vertical forms create a better balance and avoid a ‘fussy’ look in a garden.
8. Define the edges of paths and borders with bricks set side by side at an angle, rope edgings or terracotta tiles.] Main paths in a garden should be of sufficient width to allow two people to walk comfortably together.
9. When choosing plants for pots, match the plant to the pot, such as an aloe in a clay pot, a mauve pot for lavenders or a maroon New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) in a contemporary stainless steel container one.
10. Colour in the landscape is not just about plants, it is also about using colour on exterior doors and gates, walls, trellis, garden sheds, outdoor furniture and pots.
INDEPENDENT HOME, Kay Montgomery