Tag Archives: Gardens

Jazzing up the winter browns

We’re past the winter’s longest day, but we still have at least two months of cold and brown gardens. I long for a bit of colour.

The best way to get it is to head for our local nursery. I’ve been writing all morning and I think I’ve earned a break. I have an empty pot ready to be planted with a cheerful annual or two, and I position it where I can see it through the kitchen window.

I choose violas in a lovely periwinkle blue, white alyssums and a shocking pink geranium. Now that’s colour. I also grab a bag each of potting soil and compost and some bonemeal. I still have some fertilizer in the garage – one that encourages flowering.

Once home I place a pebble or two over the pot’s drainage holes, mix the soil and fertilizer to give the plants a good start, plant them and stand back to look. Right there in front of me, that’s therapy for banishing winter browns.


A colourful combination of alyssum, geranium and violas

Already the first bees have come to visit the sweetly fragranced alyssum.  I feel better already! I love plants! Let me know if you agree by adding a comment.


My Bromeliads – finding a new home



When we moved into our home several years ago we had a patch of Bromeliads which had been planted in a warm, rocky area where they were receiving far too much sun. As a result their leaves were pale, green-to-yellow, with unattractive scorched edges. I realised just how hardy these plants were, having survived and even multiplied in conditions to which they were obviously unsuited. Another clump of these plants looked far happier in shaded parts of the garden.

On virtually the opposite side of the garden was a scraggly patch of lawn under a small Sickle-bush tree, backed by a rocky outcrop covered with aloes. Mowing there and around the aloes had always been a tricky business.

South Africa’s current drought conditions have forced us to clamp down on our water usage, and as Kikuyu lawns are water-guzzlers it makes sense to me to eradicate more of our lawn and plant substitute plants that require less of the precious resource. The penny dropped and I decided to uproot the lawn under the sickle-bush tree, replacing it with the stressed Bromeliads.

Step 1

First the lawn was removed, the soil was loosened and we dug in a generous dose of general fertilizer (2:3:2), bonemeal and compost, then raked it level.


Step 2

I laid down some stepping stones to allow me to get to the other side when necessary.



Step 3

I planted an evergreen creeper close to the tree (Mandevilla Splendens) to create extra shade during the wintry months when the Sickle-bush Tree has lost some of its leaves.20160412_170539

This creeper flowers in pinks, reds and varying shades, but I chose white as the prolific flowers positively glow as dusk approaches. It is also a hardy creeper that does well with little watering. I love the large white flowers with the golden throat. For whimsy, I hung a strand of Spanish moss, which I picked off another tree in the garden.


Mandevilla Splendens






Step 4

Then it was time to plant the Bromeliads in their new home. I say plant, but actually it’s more a case of sticking them in some lumped-up soil, as they don’t have a large root system. All they really need is a place to be anchored. Others I’ve tied to trees, and they’ve grown with great success. They’re happy as long as they have a little water in their cup-shaped centres.


Step 5

I added a few Echeveria (Succulent Roses) as a border in front of the
Bromeliads. As I didn’t have enough to fill and complete the edge I broke off a few leaves and placed them above the soil to form babies.


Step 6

Next I planted a whole lot of miniature Mondo Grass. These were the only plants I bought, in trays from the nursery. Many could be split to fill up the bed.


Step 7

Finally, I dragged over a small log I found (which I plan to plant up with some miniature, red Bromeliads and the orchid I received for Mother’s Day) and backed them with a few bushes of Sunpatiens for more colour. In the month since I planted them they have grown into fat, colourful bushes of about a half-metre in width and are filled with a mass of pink and magenta flowers, so lovely amongst the winter browns. By this time the sun’s rays were low on the horizon and painted the aloes with their golden light. Three Giant Bromeliads were planted apart to the right of the picture.

I also hung a bird bath on the low branch of the Sickle-bush, which collects water when I spray the area, and the White-eyes love it. A hanging basket filled with a creeper that drapes over the sides completes the picture.

I can’t wait for the Giant Bromeliads to grow and live up to their name, for the lovely creeper to reach up into the tree and adorn it with flowers, and for the Succulent Roses to cover the border to the edge of the paving. But some things are worth waiting for. By the time Nature has done it’s work here, I’ll post another pic on this blog.


Getting Orchids to Flower

Orchid Splendour: Tips on how to get yours to bloom like this!For years, I’d been nursing the Cattleya orchids that I’d received as gifts on Mother’s Days and birthdays, but despite all my attempts at feeding, watering and pampering them, they just never flowered again.

I eventually put them outside on a shelf in a protected courtyard where they stood for perhaps a year. They grew increasingly unhappy and I noticed scale starting to grow on them.

Step 1

In desperation of losing my precious gifts, I took them all down one day, cleaned the leaves with a weak solution of dishwashing liquid and water, and wiped them down carefully.

Step 2

Then, I went in search of a tree log and dragged it into an area of dappled sunlight under some trees.

Step 3

I removed the orchids from their pots, spread out the roots and positioned them over the bark of the log. I then tied them to the log, using twine.

Step 4

Instead of watering them with one of those regular orchid feeds, I diluted the orchid feed with water in a spray bottle and sprayed all the orchids once a month using this fertilizer. The spray bottle works better than simply pouring water over them as I had done previously, because it simply runs off the plant.

I did not give them any more attention than usual, besides watering about twice a week. And SURPRISE! Look at these beautiful blooms. There is something so satisfying about growing plants and seeing them perform to their ultimate capacity. How beautiful.

Hope this helps you accomplish the same with your orchids. I’ve heard one can do the same with Cymbidiums, but I’m really no expert. Perhaps some orchid lovers could inform me better. I must just add that I’m fortunate to live in a subtropical area, so please bear this in mind when considering following my advice.

Simply useful tip, isn’t it?