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Summer

 

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

 
Sutera "Bermuda Sky" Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.za Sutera, Bacopa
– Chaenostoma cordatum (= Sutera cordata)

Sutera remain firm favourites with gardeners around the world for their ease of growth and profusion of flowers throughout spring and summer. They are hardy, vigorous, low-growing plants which can spread +-50 to 60cm, while only reaching a height of +-15 to 20cm. Plant breeders have developed many new and improved strains of Sutera which not only flower even more profusely, but also have larger blooms, with some varieties even sporting lovely yellow foliage. They are available in beautifully delicate shades of blue and pink to lavender and white. Some of the new cultivars include: Sutera ”Snowstorm”; Sutera “Blue Showers” and  Sutera “Lavender Showers”

These charming but hardy little South African plants are found growing wild from George in the southern Western Cape to East London in the Eastern Cape, with the possible exception of the Algoa area. It ranges in altitude from sea level to about 1000m and can be found along the coast and also inland in scrubland and forested kloofs, from the Outeniqua Mountains around George to Grahamstown.

Sutera cordata "Blizzard" picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaThe plant has undergone several Latin name changes over the years, but because most gardeners still refer to it as Sutera or Bacopa, for this article we will call it by its common name Sutera.

In the Garden:

Sutera are perfect to plant in hanging baskets, window boxes and pots of all sizes. Try mixing them with other summer annuals for a colourful summer display. Planted in mass, they make a wonderful groundcover and will stabilise the soil on slopes. They also make lovely rockery and edging plants for the garden, and because their colours are so delicate, Sutera blends beautifully with other garden plants.

Abunda Pink Bacopa. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCultivation:

Sutera is a short lived perennial plant that is tender to frost and is most often grown as a summer annual. It can be grown both inland and at the coast, and can survive temperatures as low as -1° C, but in cold regions will die down completely in winter – if you mulch the roots to keep them warm, the plant should shoot again in spring. It is very hardy, heat tolerant, and a low-maintenance annual which thrives in semi-shade to full sun. In cooler regions it can take lots of sun, but in extremely hot regions it does better in semi-shade or morning sun.

Although exceptionally heat tolerant, it is vital to water your plants regularly during hot summer weather, and especially those growing in pots. Sutera likes regular watering, but does not like being overwatered either, so water thoroughly and then allow the soil to almost dry out completely before watering again. Never allow the plants to dry out completely.

Sutera requires rich well- drained soil for good results, and regular applications of a flowering plant food will keep your plants blooming repeatedly all summer and into autumn. Feeding is most important for potted specimens.

Although these plants are self-cleaning and do not require deadheading, a light pruning during the growing season will help to keep them bushy and looking good for longer.

Abunda Colossal Sky Blue Bacopa. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyPropagation:

Sutera is easily propagated by cuttings if they are placed in a mist-unit, where rooting will occur in 2 to 3 weeks. (Use a plastic bag to make a mini-greenhouse if you have no mist unit.) Seed can be sown in spring in a 1:1 mixture of fine bark and coarse river sand.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

If the plant becomes drought stressed it will drop both its flowers and buds before it wilts, and it can take up to two weeks for it to fully recover and start flowering again. To avoid this, monitor your plants regularly and water before the soil dries out totally.

Watch out for aphids, thrips, whitefly and fungus gnats.

Gardening in South Africa

RudbeckiaAsk any experienced gardener and they’ll tell you that no garden bed is complete without a representative of this group of annuals bringing their particular brand of hardy good cheer. Dianthus is one of those all-rounder’s that satisfies, no matter your priorities. If it’s a colourful show you’re after these little stunners can be coaxed into flowering throughout the year!

If you’re looking for something different this summer, look no further than a globe amaranth, aka Gomphrena. You’ll be forgiven for the “what?” expression since these lovely globe like flowers are not very well known, at least not yet. Their intense purple blooms are an eye catching addition to any garden though and will no doubt have your guests asking about them before the drinks are even served.

Dianthus

The delicately fringed blooms, typical of many of the dianthus, lend form and texture to borders, rockeries, small flower beds and balconies while their generosity of flowers, with a little coaxing, promise a bright splash of year-round colour. Plant your seedlings 15cm apart, with a thick layer of mulch between the plants, in a sunny Dianthus position (although they will tolerate some shade in summer) in compost enriched soil and give them a fortnightly booster of a well-balanced fertiliser to ensure a bumper crop of blooms. Being “Water-Wise” Dianthus prefer infrequent but deep watering- another plus for this family of favourites.

Restricted to pots or simply yearning to bring your garden closer to your home? All of the dianthus group adapt exceptionally well to pots. Once in full bloom Dianthus can be brought inside as a living bouquet. Pay pots on sunny patios a little closer attention than you do the Dianthus in your garden by being more generous and frequent with your watering.

GomphrenaGomphrena

Gomphrena, aka globe amaranth, is a bushy, hairy leaf annual with globe-like purple flower bracts that sit atop thick stems. With South Africa’s hot and humid summers, our climate is ideal for these stunners to thrive. They are both heat and fairly drought tolerant and work well in both containers or as borders and edging.

Gomphrena do best in half shade and full sun positions in well-draining soil. They grow to about 60cm in height and make excellent cut flowers! The showy blooms attract butterflies too, so make sure to place them where they can be appreciated for both the blooms and their visitors!

Dill

Dill, an often overlooked herb is actually used in a wide variety of dishes, from the leaves which have a pronounced tang all the way to the seeds which taste similar to caraway. Grown in well drained composted soil, dill attracts your more beneficial insects like the tiny wasps that eat aphids

DillRudbeckia

Rudbeckia, aka Denver daisies, offer up masses of show stopping yellow colour in the form of a low maintenance compact plant. What more can you ask for from a container plant? Well they flower for months on end, attract butterflies and tolerate heat too, so a perfect December choice for your patio planters! Deadheading will definitely go a long way to making that flowering period even longer, and with flowering stalks between 45 and 50cm high, cut flowers for the house are not out of the question either.

Information supplied by the Bedding Plant Growers Association. For more, go to www.lifeisagarden.co.za

Gardening in South Africa

RudbeckiaAsk any experienced gardener and they’ll tell you that no garden bed is complete without a representative of this group of annuals bringing their particular brand of hardy good cheer. Dianthus is one of those all-rounder’s that satisfies, no matter your priorities. If it’s a colourful show you’re after these little stunners can be coaxed into flowering throughout the year!

If you’re looking for something different this summer, look no further than a globe amaranth, aka Gomphrena. You’ll be forgiven for the “what?” expression since these lovely globe like flowers are not very well known, at least not yet. Their intense purple blooms are an eye catching addition to any garden though and will no doubt have your guests asking about them before the drinks are even served.

Dianthus

The delicately fringed blooms, typical of many of the dianthus, lend form and texture to borders, rockeries, small flower beds and balconies while their generosity of flowers, with a little coaxing, promise a bright splash of year-round colour. Plant your seedlings 15cm apart, with a thick layer of mulch between the plants, in a sunny Dianthus position (although they will tolerate some shade in summer) in compost enriched soil and give them a fortnightly booster of a well-balanced fertiliser to ensure a bumper crop of blooms. Being “Water-Wise” Dianthus prefer infrequent but deep watering- another plus for this family of favourites.

Restricted to pots or simply yearning to bring your garden closer to your home? All of the dianthus group adapt exceptionally well to pots. Once in full bloom Dianthus can be brought inside as a living bouquet. Pay pots on sunny patios a little closer attention than you do the Dianthus in your garden by being more generous and frequent with your watering.

GomphrenaGomphrena

Gomphrena, aka globe amaranth, is a bushy, hairy leaf annual with globe-like purple flower bracts that sit atop thick stems. With South Africa’s hot and humid summers, our climate is ideal for these stunners to thrive. They are both heat and fairly drought tolerant and work well in both containers or as borders and edging.

Gomphrena do best in half shade and full sun positions in well-draining soil. They grow to about 60cm in height and make excellent cut flowers! The showy blooms attract butterflies too, so make sure to place them where they can be appreciated for both the blooms and their visitors!

Dill

Dill, an often overlooked herb is actually used in a wide variety of dishes, from the leaves which have a pronounced tang all the way to the seeds which taste similar to caraway. Grown in well drained composted soil, dill attracts your more beneficial insects like the tiny wasps that eat aphids

DillRudbeckia

Rudbeckia, aka Denver daisies, offer up masses of show stopping yellow colour in the form of a low maintenance compact plant. What more can you ask for from a container plant? Well they flower for months on end, attract butterflies and tolerate heat too, so a perfect December choice for your patio planters! Deadheading will definitely go a long way to making that flowering period even longer, and with flowering stalks between 45 and 50cm high, cut flowers for the house are not out of the question either.

Information supplied by the Bedding Plant Growers Association. For more, go to www.lifeisagarden.co.za

Gardening in South Africa