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Summer hanging basket for semi-shade.Have you ever admired a lush hanging basket bursting with blooms but simply thought it a bit overpriced? Well, not really,  a well-designed hanging basket in full bloom has probably taken months of care to get it to a sellable size, and this is labour intensive too, so if you can afford one of these ’ready to go’ beauties, spoil yourself, you’re worth it!

However, if your budget is tight and you have the time and patience to allow them to grow, you can duplicate the look of a professional flowering hanging basket at home for a lot less, using high quality materials and dense planting techniques. In fact, once you have purchased the soil, fertiliser, coir, plants etc. you require, you will probably find you have enough left over to plant at least one or two extra baskets – not bad for a gardener on a budget!

Overflowing hanging baskets are hard to resist and will have all your friends and family gushing over them. Strategically placed, they add another dimension to the garden by raising the beauty of the garden to eye level, and bringing the flowering abundance to where their beauty can be admired, sniffed, and touched.  In smaller gardens hanging baskets are becoming the new wall art, breaking the starkness of blank walls and adding that extra special touch to your outdoor space. Even if you have a postage-sized garden or a tiny balcony garden, hanging baskets can deliver a traffic-stopping display of flowers.

Hanging baskets focus on the plants, not the containers, and sometimes one can’t be sure if a container even exists under all of those trailing flowers. They can be made out of virtually anything too, from actual baskets to small wooden crates, or homemade containers of all kinds.  As long as the container has sufficient space for the plants to grow and has adequate drainage holes, it’s good to go.

Lobelias are fantastic in hanging baskets.Store bought wire baskets usually come with a fitted coir liner, but if they don’t you can make your own with loose Coco coir or moss liners. These materials offer excellent drainage and look good too. Even sack cloth, landscaping material, dense shade cloth or a similar material can be used.

Although good drainage is important, you don’t want the soil to dry out too quickly, so once you have the coir liner in place, It’s a good idea to line the inside of the basket with plastic, punched with drainage holes. If you are planting around the sides of the basket you may prefer just to line the bottom of the basket to prevent excess water from rushing out of the bottom during irrigation. You can simply place a plastic drip tray, a piece of plastic garbage bag, or, believe it or not, even a new disposable diaper in the bottom, to increase water retention.

Choose only the best quality potting soil for your basket, which can be mixed with a small quantity of compost. If you don’t want your basket to weigh a ton, add a very generous amount of vermiculite or perlite, which will not only keep your basket light, but will also help to retain moisture. Special water retaining granules are available at garden centres and well worth the money spent, especially if you are planting baskets for full sun.  Peat moss is not essential but always good to use if you have some.  Mix everything together in a bucket or bowl, adding a generous dressing of bone meal and a good flowering plant food. Slow release fertilisers work especially well for hanging baskets because they release slowly and you will not have to fertilise again that season. Fill your basket and press the soil down firmly. By now you will be eager to start planting, but it is important that you water the soil well and allow it to drain thoroughly before starting, as the soil will settle and you will probably have to add more soil. Once the soil has partially dried out you can start planting.

It is critical for your success that your select plants which enjoy the same growing conditions and which require about the same amount of watering, it simply won’t work to plant a sun-loving plant with a shade-loving one, nor will a succulent do well in a basket with other plants which require lots of water.

Start with your focal point, which should stand out above the other plants when fully grown, so it needs to be vigorous with a long blooming season. You could use fuchsia, coleus, angelonia, impatiens, pelargoniums, begonias or salvia – even a single celosia would be an attention-grabber at the centre of your basket.

Fuchsias are perfect in Hanging baskets.Surround your focal plant with flowers that have spreading and trailing habits like alyssum, million bells, lobelia, petunias, verbenas and portulaca. These plants will fill in the blank spots quickly, giving you a full look with fewer plants. There are many high performing plants you could use, so pay a visit to your local garden centre to find your personal favourites.

If you’re really feeling adventurous you may try planting a “blooming ball” by planting through the sides of the basket so the entire surface area of your basket is covered with plants. You can plant the same trailing plants you used at the edge of the basket for the sides. Use a utility knife to cut several slits into the sides of your basket, and grasping the small transplants by the root ball, gently insert them into the slit.

Water your newly planted basket thoroughly and place it in a sheltered and shady spot for a day or two before moving it to its permanent position. Even though you have planted correctly with all the right ingredients to help conserve water, it is still most important to check your baskets regularly, and especially those growing in full sun.  Densely planted flowering plants drink more water than you may imagine and once a basket wilts, it may take a long time to recover and look its best again. If you did not use a slow release fertiliser, after the first month you can start feeding with a liquid fertiliser for flowering plants as per the instructions. This, together with regular deadheading of the spent flowers, will keep your basket looking neat and healthy throughout the season.

In the pretty summer hanging baskets for shade pictured here, I found two gorgeous fuchsias growing in small pots, at a good price, so I decided to use them as my central focal points, with impatiens and lobelias around the edges. They have grown beautifully, and if I cover the fuchsia at night in winter, it will hopefully survive and not need replacing next season. For winter I will probably fill in with primulas, and who knows what I will experiment with next season!  

Hanging baskets really are worthwhile and inspiring, so create your own each season and just have fun doing it!

Gardening in South Africa

Summer hanging basket for semi-shade.Have you ever admired a lush hanging basket bursting with blooms but simply thought it a bit overpriced? Well, not really,  a well-designed hanging basket in full bloom has probably taken months of care to get it to a sellable size, and this is labour intensive too, so if you can afford one of these ’ready to go’ beauties, spoil yourself, you’re worth it!

However, if your budget is tight and you have the time and patience to allow them to grow, you can duplicate the look of a professional flowering hanging basket at home for a lot less, using high quality materials and dense planting techniques. In fact, once you have purchased the soil, fertiliser, coir, plants etc. you require, you will probably find you have enough left over to plant at least one or two extra baskets – not bad for a gardener on a budget!

Overflowing hanging baskets are hard to resist and will have all your friends and family gushing over them. Strategically placed, they add another dimension to the garden by raising the beauty of the garden to eye level, and bringing the flowering abundance to where their beauty can be admired, sniffed, and touched.  In smaller gardens hanging baskets are becoming the new wall art, breaking the starkness of blank walls and adding that extra special touch to your outdoor space. Even if you have a postage-sized garden or a tiny balcony garden, hanging baskets can deliver a traffic-stopping display of flowers.

Hanging baskets focus on the plants, not the containers, and sometimes one can’t be sure if a container even exists under all of those trailing flowers. They can be made out of virtually anything too, from actual baskets to small wooden crates, or homemade containers of all kinds.  As long as the container has sufficient space for the plants to grow and has adequate drainage holes, it’s good to go.

Lobelias are fantastic in hanging baskets.Store bought wire baskets usually come with a fitted coir liner, but if they don’t you can make your own with loose Coco coir or moss liners. These materials offer excellent drainage and look good too. Even sack cloth, landscaping material, dense shade cloth or a similar material can be used.

Although good drainage is important, you don’t want the soil to dry out too quickly, so once you have the coir liner in place, It’s a good idea to line the inside of the basket with plastic, punched with drainage holes. If you are planting around the sides of the basket you may prefer just to line the bottom of the basket to prevent excess water from rushing out of the bottom during irrigation. You can simply place a plastic drip tray, a piece of plastic garbage bag, or, believe it or not, even a new disposable diaper in the bottom, to increase water retention.

Choose only the best quality potting soil for your basket, which can be mixed with a small quantity of compost. If you don’t want your basket to weigh a ton, add a very generous amount of vermiculite or perlite, which will not only keep your basket light, but will also help to retain moisture. Special water retaining granules are available at garden centres and well worth the money spent, especially if you are planting baskets for full sun.  Peat moss is not essential but always good to use if you have some.  Mix everything together in a bucket or bowl, adding a generous dressing of bone meal and a good flowering plant food. Slow release fertilisers work especially well for hanging baskets because they release slowly and you will not have to fertilise again that season. Fill your basket and press the soil down firmly. By now you will be eager to start planting, but it is important that you water the soil well and allow it to drain thoroughly before starting, as the soil will settle and you will probably have to add more soil. Once the soil has partially dried out you can start planting.

It is critical for your success that your select plants which enjoy the same growing conditions and which require about the same amount of watering, it simply won’t work to plant a sun-loving plant with a shade-loving one, nor will a succulent do well in a basket with other plants which require lots of water.

Start with your focal point, which should stand out above the other plants when fully grown, so it needs to be vigorous with a long blooming season. You could use fuchsia, coleus, angelonia, impatiens, pelargoniums, begonias or salvia – even a single celosia would be an attention-grabber at the centre of your basket.

Fuchsias are perfect in Hanging baskets.Surround your focal plant with flowers that have spreading and trailing habits like alyssum, million bells, lobelia, petunias, verbenas and portulaca. These plants will fill in the blank spots quickly, giving you a full look with fewer plants. There are many high performing plants you could use, so pay a visit to your local garden centre to find your personal favourites.

If you’re really feeling adventurous you may try planting a “blooming ball” by planting through the sides of the basket so the entire surface area of your basket is covered with plants. You can plant the same trailing plants you used at the edge of the basket for the sides. Use a utility knife to cut several slits into the sides of your basket, and grasping the small transplants by the root ball, gently insert them into the slit.

Water your newly planted basket thoroughly and place it in a sheltered and shady spot for a day or two before moving it to its permanent position. Even though you have planted correctly with all the right ingredients to help conserve water, it is still most important to check your baskets regularly, and especially those growing in full sun.  Densely planted flowering plants drink more water than you may imagine and once a basket wilts, it may take a long time to recover and look its best again. If you did not use a slow release fertiliser, after the first month you can start feeding with a liquid fertiliser for flowering plants as per the instructions. This, together with regular deadheading of the spent flowers, will keep your basket looking neat and healthy throughout the season.

In the pretty summer hanging baskets for shade pictured here, I found two gorgeous fuchsias growing in small pots, at a good price, so I decided to use them as my central focal points, with impatiens and lobelias around the edges. They have grown beautifully, and if I cover the fuchsia at night in winter, it will hopefully survive and not need replacing next season. For winter I will probably fill in with primulas, and who knows what I will experiment with next season!  

Hanging baskets really are worthwhile and inspiring, so create your own each season and just have fun doing it!

Gardening in South Africa

 

Cabaret Cherry Rose Calibrachoa. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyMillion Bells (Calibrachoa syn Petunia) are short lived perennials which are often planted as summer annuals in South Africa – growing and flowering at an amazing rate! They bloom abundantly all spring and summer, until the first frosts, and in warm frost-free regions can flower all year round.

It is a relatively recent newcomer to the garden scene, having only been around since the early 1990s – and that’s not long in plant years! Plant breeders have been hard at work on this little marvel, and today Calibrachoa hybrids are available to gardeners in many amazing shades of cherry, red, rose, pink, violet, blue, yellow, lemon, terracotta and white.

These summer sizzlers are closely related to petunias and found across much the same region of South America as petunias, from southern Brazil across to Peru and Chile, inhabiting scrub and open grassland. And, although they look like a miniature petunia, and were previously included in Petunia, scientists now say they are not quite petunias, because, amongst other things, petunias have 14 chromosomes and calibrachoa has 18.

In sunny garden beds they generally remain below 15cm in height with a spread of +-30 to 60cm, making them good partners for other sun loving annuals and perennials in the garden. In pots they will cascade up to 60cm or more, and their sprawling habit adds a beautiful cascading accent for all kinds of containers and hanging baskets.  Whether you let them trail down banks, over low walls or tall pots, or simply use them in massed plantings for a quick, colourful groundcover, Million Bells is sure to impress.

Callibrachoe'Peach'Million Bells are easy to grow as long as you meet their growth requirements. They flower best in full sun, although in very hot regions some midday shade may be welcome. Although they will grow in most garden soils which have perfect drainage, Million Bells thrive in slightly acidic soils, so if your soil is alkaline, add acid compost to the planting beds. If you’re planting into containers, use a top quality, free-draining potting mixture.

They also require good air movement around their leaves, so place them where there is a slight breeze. And, although the plant is water-wise, this does not mean that it does not need watering! Water as needed in hot weather, but allow the soil to partially dry out before watering again. Overwatering is the leading cause of plant failure, causing black root rot.

Calibrachoa 'Red'The plants are self-cleaning, meaning that they shed their spent flowers naturally and replace them with new ones, but an occasional light pruning and a bit of dead-heading won’t harm them.

Because these plants bloom continuously, those growing in garden beds will benefit from a monthly feeding, using a fertiliser for flowering plants. For potted plants, feed every second week with a liquid fertiliser, which is easiest to apply without burning, and you can also mix slow release fertiliser into the soil when planting.

Calibrachoa can be propagated easily from cuttings but propagation is prohibited by plant breeder rights in many countries. Although the plants produce few seeds, the seed is also easily propagated.

Calibrachoa 'Violet'If grown correctly, Calibrachoa is generally very healthy. However, too much moisture and shade will make it susceptible to root rot, crown rot, and collar rot. To help prevent this, water early in the day and provide plenty of sunshine to keep the foliage and the flowers dry. This is especially important in humid areas.

Calibrachoa is less sensitive to pests than petunias, but may attract a few pesky bugs like thrips, aphids, and whiteflies. These can be treated with organic insecticidal soap sprays.

Gardening in South Africa

 

Gardenia augustaThere are many cultivars of Gardenia augusta, including groundcover, dwarf and medium-sized varieties, so there’s a gardenia for every size garden. All the cultivars also grow beautifully in containers, so even if you only have a small patio or balcony garden, you can plant a Gardenia.

Gardenia augusta is a fragrant flowering evergreen tropical plant that is a favourite in warm temperate and subtropical gardens worldwide. The common name, Cape Jasmine derived from the earlier belief that the plant originated in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. However, Gardenia augusta originated in Asia and is most commonly found growing in Vietnam, Southern China, Taiwan, Japan, India, and nearby regions of the subtropical eastern hemisphere. It is essential in all romantic and perfumed gardens, and makes a beautiful freestanding specimen shrub to plant close to a patio, entrance, garden bench or window; where its fragrance, shape and beauty can be appreciated; it also makes a good hedge or screening plant.

Mature Gardenia augusta shrubs usually have a round shape, growing +-1.8 to 2.5m tall, with almost an equal spread, producing their gorgeous fragrant flowers over a fairly long season from late spring to late autumn,  with the main flush in the months leading up to Christmas. The flowers are white, turning to creamy yellow as they age, and have a waxy feel. Their powerfully sweet fragrance can perfume an entire room, making them a favourite with florists; and warm summer breezes will waft the scent through the whole garden, much to the delight of everyone. Fleshy or leathery berries follow the flowers, and the large leathery leaves are highly glossy and remain attractive throughout the year.

Cultivars are available that are distinctly different from the plant described above. Flowers can be white or yellow; and single, semi-double, or double rose-like forms are available.

(Gardenia ‘Florida’) produces large double white blooms and grows +-1.2 to 1.5m tall and almost as wide.

(Gardenia ‘Golden Magic’) has double cream flowers that turn butter yellow with age. It grows +-80 to 100cm tall and +-80 to 100cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Professor Pucci’) produces large, double pure white flowers in profusion. It grows + -1.2 to 1.5m high and +-80 to 100cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Impulse var Grandiflora Star’) produces single, pure white, star-shaped flowers and grows +-50cm high and 30cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Four Seasons’) grows +-50cm high and 30cm wide and produces single pure white, star-shaped flowers.

(Gardenia ‘Impulse White Gem’) has small single white, star-like flowers. It grows +-40 to 50cm tall and +-40 to 80cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Radicans’) is a compact and low-growing groundcover with very small leaves; +-30 to 40cm tall, and spreading +-80cm to 1m wide. It produces small (3cm) double white flowers and is often used for bonsai.

Cultivation/Propagation:

Gardenia’s are evergreen and grow best in warm, moist regions, but are semi-hardy to moderate frost if planted in a protected position in the garden. Select a site that receives semi-shade to sun, or morning sun. In very hot regions the plant will appreciate some shade in summer, during the hottest part of the day; but in cooler areas they are quite happy in full sun. Ensure that the planting site is protected from strong winds and that the soil drains well. Prepare the planting holes very well, incorporating lots of compost and a dressing of bone meal. Gardenias love slightly acid soil, so if your soil is not acid enough, use lots of acid compost.

They enjoy an evenly moist soil that is not soggy, so water them year round, but particularly in spring and summer when the plant is flowering. Gardenias are heavy feeders and need to be fertilised on a regular basis with a balanced fertiliser. Pruning is sometimes necessary to help shape your plant or to keep it a smaller size. It is important that pruning be done after the plant has finished flowering, or you may cut off newly forming buds.

Propagation is by semi-hardwood cuttings which root easily in moist soil during the warm summer months; or by seed sown in spring and early summer.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Gardenias are susceptible to several pests, primarily sucking insects. Insect attacks are aggravated by lack of air circulation in small walled gardens and courtyards. The presence of insects may also be a sign that your plant is under stress, so ensure that it is well watered and correctly fertilised. Aphids, whitefly, spider mites, scale insects, mealy bug and sooty mould are common problems, which can be easily controlled by spraying with environmentally safe soap and oil sprays. Use a commercial sticker liker G-49 with your insecticide to help the poison stick to the glossy leaves.
 
Gardenias are very susceptible to nematodes, especially in sandy soils. Nematodes are mobile worm-like microscopic organisms which attack the roots of plants. They are easily recognisable, causing wart-like lumps on the roots about the size of a match head. Signs of nematodes are wilting and yellow leaves which persist even after fertilising. Potent chemicals are not suitable for use in the home garden, so rather sow marigolds near susceptible plants and dig them lightly into the soil when they have finished flowering. Khaki weed also works well to help control nematodes.

Gardenia flower buds may go brown, drop, or fail to open. This is fairly normal and occurs mainly because the plant tends to keep producing flower buds right through autumn, even though the plants growth is slowing down. The plant will often hold these buds right through winter and drop them in spring. Bud drop can also be caused by weevil or leaf hopper damage.

Yellow leaves can appear at any time of the year, but are particularly prevalent in spring. Yellowing is generally attributed to a magnesium deficiency and is treated with applications of Epsom salts (sulphate of magnesium). If your plant has been planted correctly, is fed regularly with a good all- purpose organic fertiliser, and is watered correctly, yellowing of the leaves should not become a problem. It is especially important to fertilise in spring when the weather warms up.

Warning:

Gardenias are not poisonous. Like other plants, though, they should still be cultivated cautiously around small children, as plant parts may present choking hazards. Sensitive or allergic individuals may also experience a reaction to contact with the plant, so it is a good idea to wear gloves when working extensively with a gardenia.

Gardening in South Africa

 

Gardenia augustaThere are many cultivars of Gardenia augusta, including groundcover, dwarf and medium-sized varieties, so there’s a gardenia for every size garden. All the cultivars also grow beautifully in containers, so even if you only have a small patio or balcony garden, you can plant a Gardenia.

Gardenia augusta is a fragrant flowering evergreen tropical plant that is a favourite in warm temperate and subtropical gardens worldwide. The common name, Cape Jasmine derived from the earlier belief that the plant originated in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. However, Gardenia augusta originated in Asia and is most commonly found growing in Vietnam, Southern China, Taiwan, Japan, India, and nearby regions of the subtropical eastern hemisphere. It is essential in all romantic and perfumed gardens, and makes a beautiful freestanding specimen shrub to plant close to a patio, entrance, garden bench or window; where its fragrance, shape and beauty can be appreciated; it also makes a good hedge or screening plant.

Mature Gardenia augusta shrubs usually have a round shape, growing +-1.8 to 2.5m tall, with almost an equal spread, producing their gorgeous fragrant flowers over a fairly long season from late spring to late autumn,  with the main flush in the months leading up to Christmas. The flowers are white, turning to creamy yellow as they age, and have a waxy feel. Their powerfully sweet fragrance can perfume an entire room, making them a favourite with florists; and warm summer breezes will waft the scent through the whole garden, much to the delight of everyone. Fleshy or leathery berries follow the flowers, and the large leathery leaves are highly glossy and remain attractive throughout the year.

Cultivars are available that are distinctly different from the plant described above. Flowers can be white or yellow; and single, semi-double, or double rose-like forms are available.

(Gardenia ‘Florida’) produces large double white blooms and grows +-1.2 to 1.5m tall and almost as wide.

(Gardenia ‘Golden Magic’) has double cream flowers that turn butter yellow with age. It grows +-80 to 100cm tall and +-80 to 100cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Professor Pucci’) produces large, double pure white flowers in profusion. It grows + -1.2 to 1.5m high and +-80 to 100cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Impulse var Grandiflora Star’) produces single, pure white, star-shaped flowers and grows +-50cm high and 30cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Four Seasons’) grows +-50cm high and 30cm wide and produces single pure white, star-shaped flowers.

(Gardenia ‘Impulse White Gem’) has small single white, star-like flowers. It grows +-40 to 50cm tall and +-40 to 80cm wide.

(Gardenia ‘Radicans’) is a compact and low-growing groundcover with very small leaves; +-30 to 40cm tall, and spreading +-80cm to 1m wide. It produces small (3cm) double white flowers and is often used for bonsai.

Cultivation/Propagation:

Gardenia’s are evergreen and grow best in warm, moist regions, but are semi-hardy to moderate frost if planted in a protected position in the garden. Select a site that receives semi-shade to sun, or morning sun. In very hot regions the plant will appreciate some shade in summer, during the hottest part of the day; but in cooler areas they are quite happy in full sun. Ensure that the planting site is protected from strong winds and that the soil drains well. Prepare the planting holes very well, incorporating lots of compost and a dressing of bone meal. Gardenias love slightly acid soil, so if your soil is not acid enough, use lots of acid compost.

They enjoy an evenly moist soil that is not soggy, so water them year round, but particularly in spring and summer when the plant is flowering. Gardenias are heavy feeders and need to be fertilised on a regular basis with a balanced fertiliser. Pruning is sometimes necessary to help shape your plant or to keep it a smaller size. It is important that pruning be done after the plant has finished flowering, or you may cut off newly forming buds.

Propagation is by semi-hardwood cuttings which root easily in moist soil during the warm summer months; or by seed sown in spring and early summer.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Gardenias are susceptible to several pests, primarily sucking insects. Insect attacks are aggravated by lack of air circulation in small walled gardens and courtyards. The presence of insects may also be a sign that your plant is under stress, so ensure that it is well watered and correctly fertilised. Aphids, whitefly, spider mites, scale insects, mealy bug and sooty mould are common problems, which can be easily controlled by spraying with environmentally safe soap and oil sprays. Use a commercial sticker liker G-49 with your insecticide to help the poison stick to the glossy leaves.
 
Gardenias are very susceptible to nematodes, especially in sandy soils. Nematodes are mobile worm-like microscopic organisms which attack the roots of plants. They are easily recognisable, causing wart-like lumps on the roots about the size of a match head. Signs of nematodes are wilting and yellow leaves which persist even after fertilising. Potent chemicals are not suitable for use in the home garden, so rather sow marigolds near susceptible plants and dig them lightly into the soil when they have finished flowering. Khaki weed also works well to help control nematodes.

Gardenia flower buds may go brown, drop, or fail to open. This is fairly normal and occurs mainly because the plant tends to keep producing flower buds right through autumn, even though the plants growth is slowing down. The plant will often hold these buds right through winter and drop them in spring. Bud drop can also be caused by weevil or leaf hopper damage.

Yellow leaves can appear at any time of the year, but are particularly prevalent in spring. Yellowing is generally attributed to a magnesium deficiency and is treated with applications of Epsom salts (sulphate of magnesium). If your plant has been planted correctly, is fed regularly with a good all- purpose organic fertiliser, and is watered correctly, yellowing of the leaves should not become a problem. It is especially important to fertilise in spring when the weather warms up.

Warning:

Gardenias are not poisonous. Like other plants, though, they should still be cultivated cautiously around small children, as plant parts may present choking hazards. Sensitive or allergic individuals may also experience a reaction to contact with the plant, so it is a good idea to wear gloves when working extensively with a gardenia.

Gardening in South Africa

1 2 3 7