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Thursday, 30 January 2014

Cosmos flowers in South Africa

Every March and November respectively our countryside explodes with colour when pretty pink and white cosmos flowers bloom in early autumn and then again in late summer. They grow easily in the soil at the side of the roads disturbed by the road scrapers widening the verges.

Crawling among the cosmos, taller than me, next to the side of the road to try and get a good shot of these annual flowers was quite an experience. I almost fell in a rabbit hole, got black jacks all over my pants, walked straight through a huge Orb Web Spider’s web before I realised it and even disturbed a family of Partridges, who scared the daylights out of me as they all raucously took to the air!

Cosmos is a genus of about 20-26 species of annual and perennial plants in the famil Asteraceae, native to scrub and meadow areas in Mexico (where the bulk of the species occur), the southern United States (Arizona, Florida), Central America, South America, south toParaquay, and South Africa.

Cosmos in Mpumalanga, South Africa

They are herbaceous perennial plants growing 0.3-2 m tall. The leaves are simple, pinnate, or bipinnate, and arranged in opposite pairs.

White Cosmos in my garden

The flowers are produced in a capitulum with a ring of broad ray florets and a center of disc florets; flower color is very variable between the different species.

Cosmos next to a stream

Cosmos, along with many of our succulent and aloe species, have become regarded as indigenous in South Africa and bloom in various colours - white, pink, cerise and red - no yellow in South Africa. Having them in your garden ensures a wonderful display of colour during early autumn and summer.

It's against the law to pick the flowers next to the side of the road, but Cosmos seeds are now packaged and available at most nurseries. Growing them in the garden is easy and they make a wonderful country-style cut-flower arrangement.

Cosmos flowers is a favourite subject of, and has inspired, artists throughout the years and have been depicted on many a canvas.

Cosmos in my garden


Friday, 24 January 2014

Exhausted, hot... and happy!

An African Skink enjoying the summer sun on my garden wall

We're heading towards the end of summer. I know it sounds a bit early, but the Marigolds are all seeding and some have already died off. It’s one way that I know that the season is slowly shifting and that autumn is on our doorstep. My garden will be devoid of their lovely colour until September when all their seeds will once again pop up in the most unexpected places to honour me with their presence.

Mid- and end-of-summer chores always include getting the garden ready for her winter siesta - the last composting is done, the edges and pathways are all neatened up, flowering plants are dead-headed and seeds harvested and collected, ready for use in spring.

The pathway Joseph so painstakingly created is now filled with Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Bulbinella and anything else that saw fit to take root. But soon it will be restored to it's previous glory (below) although I do love the randomness of the flowers all over the pathways ...

Borders have been fixed up and fresh crusher stone brought in to try and deter the chickens from destroying all semblence of a border!

 Some termites decided that my display log is the best thing since Christmas and soon there won't be much left of it...

 My water bottle hanging in the shade of a tree sporting some of the last Nasturtiums

It's always a good idea to have a few places to take a rest, cool off and have a nice cup of coffee

 This Hen & Chicks (Chlorophytum comosum) has managed to escape the onslaught of the chickens and hopefully I can harvest some chicks to plant in spring.

 Given good soil, lots of water during summer and some tender loving care, this succulent (Echeveria elegans) will reward you with beautiful, healthy looking rosettes and an abundance of flowers. Unfortunately they are not frost-hardy and every winter I bring them inside or under some cover for over-wintering.

 Marigolds everywhere!

 The insects are still enjoying the last of the Kniphofias (Red Hot Pokers) and I hope to be blessed with many more of their flowers this coming spring

 Some of my more tender succulent and cactus collection on a plant stand on my patio 


Sunday, 19 January 2014

Erigeron and summer in the garden

Erigeron karvinskianus 'Profusion', originated in Mexico but is now naturalized in many other areas of the world, such as parts of Africa, Europe, New Zealand, and the west coast of the United States.

Erigeron is an amazingly versatile plant, being low-growing, happy in sun or partial shade and thriving in any well-drained soil. It's also tolerant of coastal conditions.

The variety is aptly named as the flowers are produced in great profusion from early spring to late autumn. The daisy-like flowers open white but change to deep pink as they mature, so that at any one time flowers in any shade between will be found on one plant.

This rather superb bushy plant forms a low mound of grey-green leaves and flowers in only three months from seed, with a long flowering period, from September to February/March here in South Africa.

Try it as an edging plant in a mixed border, alongside paths, in a gravel garden, spilling over walls, or planted in the cracks in paving. The natural trailing habit and their drought tolerance makes them ideal for hanging baskets and containers. They can be planted under trees if enough light is given. Bees and butterflies love all erigeron and they make a wonderful addition to a wildlife garden.

Erigeron is an excellent hanging basket specimen - pic from Pinterest

Pic source unknown, was sent to me by e-mail

Easy to grow from seed and very rewarding… some folks would find the charming daisy-like blooms to be grand payment for so little work.

Erigeron are best planted in well-drained soil in full sun but will tolerate most soils in full sun and can tolerate partial shade. Good drainage and plenty of sunshine are essential for plants to survive cold damp winters. These plants are extremely trouble free when they just get enough sun and a chat every now and then!

Two butterflies mating on the lawn

With summer at its peak, the garden is also bursting with colour and greenery. Soon we'll be heading for cooler weather, already the Marigolds are almost all seeding, leaving their treasures for next year as they slowly die down, leaving empty patches as their dead bodies are lifted and thrown out. It amazes me that those seeds lie dormant for months and then, with the first spring rains, burst forth everywhere.

The chores seem never-ending during summer. Chrissie, my trusted gardener, seems permanently to be busy with cleaning up and fixing edges and pathways that the chickens seem to find irresistible as favourite scratching places.

Chrissie (and I) sharing a joke about something or another

The patio also needs attention

Chrissie's gardening shoes discarded in favour of bare feet on the cool grass

Thank you, Summer, for sharing your bounty with me, next year we'll do the same!


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