Preparing your garden for spring

By Hilary Mauve Time of article published May 13, 2014

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Simply sowing seed, watching life emerge, weeding, pruning, harvesting and clearing gives a satisfying rhythm to life. – Eileen Campbell.


Cape Town - Autumn is a busy time for the gardener and the cooler weather and rains encourage one to tackle chores such and sowing and planting with enthusiasm.

Sweet peas are colourful, fragrant cut flowers, but seem to be out of fashion with many. This is probably because they require a sunny bed and tall support to be provided solely for their benefit for several months. And, for best results, one should first dig a deep trench, line it with newspapers, and add generous amounts of compost and manure to the soil.

Instead, this year in my garden I am trying out a low-growing variety called Old Spice Miss Willmott. This little beauty has been popular ever since its introduction in 1902 and can be grown in a trough or among small annuals.

Seeds of other spring flowers such as viscaria, scented Virginia stocks or linaria can be sown now, as well as Namaqualand daisies to brighten your verge or indigenous garden.

I have found the only drawback to spur flowers (plectranthus), of which I have many species, is that they all need a good pruning after flowering. Reduced in size, these cuttings can then be added to your compost heap, given to friends or rooted in your own garden.

A slogan of the late gardening guru Herbie Nash was always “mulch”, and what better material to use than your own compost? This will keep beds from drying out in summer and acts as a sort of blanket to protect the soil in the wetter months.

As I stood admiring a Constantia garden, its owner attributed its fecundity to his compost. Tucked away behind tall shrubs, lay his compost-making factory, with piles of fallen leaves and grass cuttings waiting to be added. As he proudly drew back a large piece of old underfelting (used to preserve moisture), he revealed a pile of perfect compost – dark chocolate brown in colour, crumbly and scentless.

Many kinds of spring bulbs can be put in now including daffodil, freesia, tritonia, sparaxis and anemone. Also, plant shrubs and trees, to give them a good start ahead of spring.

At last month’s Kirstenbosch Plant Fair, one could acquire a number of longed-for bargains. I was able, for instance, to buy the last available Swedish ivy (Plectranthus oertendahlii). Its large, silvery leaves make it an attractive addition year round to the shady garden.

There, too, I found some acmadenias and my favourite aloe, A. striata, which is compact, has spineless leaves and bears umbels of coral flowers from July to October. Acmadenia heterophylla is one of the finest of the small buchus. It has bright pink, round-petalled flowers, unlike most buchus, and aromatic leaves.

It likes full sun and can be grown in acid or alkaline soils. Plant it to the forefront of your rockery, among dwarf fynbos bulbs like babiana or as an edging to herbaceous borders, to scent your garden.

Cape Argus

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