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Monday, 27 April 2015

Kalanchoe rotundifolia

Kalanchoe is one of a number of plant species which are presently being tested for their suitability to be grown as Green Roof plants in the Durban region that have initially shown good results. They all occur naturally within a radius of 50 km of the Durban city centre. Kalanchoe rotundifolia is widely distributed in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

It is a very common plant found growing as a pioneer plant on poor soils in full sun and partial shade on road cuttings, road verges, on rooftops and derelict land and this brittle succulent (making it very easy to break off pieces for propagation) has an upright growth habit with fleshy, rounded or lobed leaves that are 2.5cm broad and are clustered at the base of erect stems. They reproduce naturally by means of vast amounts of very small seed which germinates readily under ideal conditions.

The robust red flowering specimens are rewarding garden plants, flowering for many weeks. This is an easy plant to propagate from both seed and cuttings. The seeds of these plants are very fine and must be collected as soon as they are ripe before they disperse. The best time to sow these seeds will be early spring in order to give them plenty of time to grow before late autumn. Sowing may be done either in seedling containers or directly into the garden.

Some new propagations of Kalanchoe in a good draining potting soil

Kalanchoe rotundifolia plants are very drought resistant often growing where there is virtually no soil. However, they are susceptible to attack by thrips and red spider mites if they are grown in nutrient rich well watered medium.

A cutting I planted a couple of months ago growing well in a pot

My original Kalanchoe rotundifolio where I found them growing in a pot next to my Echeverias. I have no idea how they got there, must have been seeds brought in by the wind!

Some more Kalanchoe cuttings (in the plastic pot on the right) taking root next to some Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' and a Vygie

Family: Crassulaceae
Common names: Common Kalanchoe, Nentabos, Plakkie (Afrikaans) and umadinsane (Zulu).

Indigenous to South Africa.


Thursday, 23 April 2015

Converting an exotic garden to an indigenous garden

Perhaps you, like many gardeners, want to change your garden from being predominantly exotic to predominantly, or even totally, indigenous. Here is a wonderful article from Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery telling you exactly how to go about this.

There are many good reasons to go indigenous, but the more common ones are because you are environmentally aware and want to increase the biodiversity in your garden, want to use less water, or use fewer pesticides. Or you have realized that indigenous plants can add colour and interest to a garden, require less maintenance or maybe you just want to stay trendy.
If you are new to gardening, or have not gardened with indigenous plants before, the prospect of converting your existing garden can be daunting, even more daunting than starting a new garden.  It need not be a traumatic an experience, and if you do your homework first and treat it as a long term project, it should be interesting and fun.

What is meant by “indigenous”.

A Celtis africana in my garden

Plants are deemed “indigenous” to an area if they occur naturally in that area, so, for example, Celtis africana (White Stinkwood, Witstinkhout) is indigenous to Africa. Plants are considered to be indigenous to southern Africa if they occur naturally anywhere south of the Kunene or Zambezi Rivers or the northern borders of Namibia and Botswana between these rivers. So, from our previous example, Celtis africana is also indigenous to southern Africa. Strictly speaking though, when speaking of indigenous plants, these should be limited to those plants that occur naturally within area you are speaking about. Most gardeners accept the broader definition for southern Africa. We can extend this by also including hybrids that have been bred from plants that are indigenous to southern Africa.

Do your homework

Before starting the conversion of your garden, find out which plants will grow in your area. There are some good books on gardening with indigenous plants in the summer rainfall regions. One of the best is Pitta Joffe’s Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants. (Afrikaans edition ISBN 978-1-875093-36-6 and a new English edition co-authored with Tinus Oberholzer, launched on 1 September, ISBN 978-1-875093-99-1.) Also good are those by David and Sally Johnson, and Charles and Julia Botha, but remember that they garden in KwaZulu-Natal, where winters are in general not as harsh as those in parts of the South African interior.  Fanie & Julye-Ann Venter’s Making the most of Indigenous Trees is strongly recommended. The Gardener’s Tanya Visser and Anna Celliers’ book, Homegrown Garden Design, is about landscape design using indigenous plants.
SANBI and some indigenous nurseries have good websites that provide information about indigenous plants and gardening with them. Find sites that are based in your area or at least a similar region so that information is applicable to your garden. If there is a National Botanical Garden in your area, visit it to see what the plants look like in cultivation and how they have been used.

Euryops pectinatus (Golden Euryops, Gouemagriet) growing and flowering beautifully in the dappled shade of Acacia karoo (Sweet thorn, Soetdoring) in the Free State Botanical Gardens, Bloemfontein. By visiting botanical gardens you will be able to see what plants will look like in cultivation, as well as how you can use them in your garden.

My 10-year old Acacia karroo in my garden

Establish your starting point.  Identify what plants you already have in your garden. Identify which plants in your garden are indigenous. You may be very pleasantly surprised to realize that you already have quite a few indigenous plants. Many common, widely grown garden plants, like Plumbago auriculata and Freylinia tropica (Blue Honeybell Bush, Blou Heuningklokkiesbos) are indigenous without gardeners realizing it. If you are uncertain of the plants, cut samples and take them to your local nursery and ask them to help. If you cannot get joy there, send us close-up pictures of the leaves, flowers and fruit (if available) and we will try to help you. Then determine which of the exotic plants are invasive or potentially invasive, as these will be the ones you should remove first.

The white form of Freylinia tropica (Blue Honeybells, Blouheuningklokkies) has become a very popular garden plant, but many gardeners do not realise that it is indigenous to southern Africa.
Remember that you can use indigenous plants to create whatever style of garden you would like, from very formal to wild and woolly.  Plan for the style you want before you physically start changing your garden.
Phase the changes
It is very seldom that an existing garden needs to be totally trashed and re-started from scratch, rather phase the conversion.  If you decide to replace existing trees, see if you can use them to shelter their replacements for a few seasons before you do remove them. Remove the declared invasive plants before attacking the more benign plants. If you do need to fell the trees immediately, do not despair, because if planted correctly, most indigenous tree are quick growing and will quickly fill the gap. For shrubs, remove 1 in 3 or 4, plant their indigenous replacements and give them time to establish themselves before repeating the process. In this way you will not be left with a naked garden while the new shrubs get established, and use the existing plants to give more cold-sensitive plants protection through winter.

Remember to group together plants that have similar water and soil needs.
If you are converting to an indigenous garden to attract more birds and other wildlife to your garden, select plants that will provide different types of food. Include a variety of plants that provide fruit, seeds, flowers and nectar. Select some that are hosts to insect larvae and so provide food to insect eaters, while ensuring that there are butterflies in your garden. You will be amazed at the life your indigenous garden will attract.
Gardening is meant to be fun, so take time and plan carefully, and you will enjoy the journey to your new garden!


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Going crazy for succulents!

This past summer I went totally crazy and purchased dozens of new succulents! My collection primarily consisted of Echeverias, some cacti and a few aloes. Now I have some new babies to look after and it's taking up a lot of my time, experimenting with sun and shade, how much water and learning all the names, where they grow naturally and generally just pampering and loving them!

Three Mammilleria cacti in small pots - to find exactly which specie each one is, is a nightmare!

 Cotyledon orbiculata

 Crassula arborescens ssp. undulatifolia - indigenous to South Africa

Crassula perfoliata ssp. falcata

Since I bought this Crassula in January 2015, it his just recently started producing a flower (2nd March 2015)! I believe this can take a while before it fully opens...

Flower as at 16th March 2015 - now I'm just waiting for the full blossoms!

A dish garden with mainly some Echeverias

Sedum rubrotinctum

Echeveria harmsii

Echeveria harmsii just starting to flower

This Cotyledon (Paddle plant) - Plakkie in Afrikaans - was a single leaf I "stole" from a pavement garden in Modderfontein and look at it now!

At the end of January, I participated in an on-line succulent auction on FaceBook and I was the highest bidder! I received my 25 beautiful little plants by courier in the first week of February and since then I've been keeping a close eye on each and every one, and last week I was rewarded with my first flowers from the Pleiospilos compactus!

Now the question is just whether I'm going to bring them inside for winterizing... At the moment most of them are under an overhanging tree on a stand on my patio where they get early morning sun and some late afternoon sun, so they might be protected from the very bad frost we sometimes get here. But I will be checking on them EVERY day to watch for any cold damage.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

An Organic Insecticide

I came upon this organic insecticide on Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery's website -
Here is a recipe for an organic insecticide that we have used with some success in the nursery to control Amaryllis as well psyllids (that cause those unsightly ‘bubbles’ in the leaves of many plants, notably citrus, Erythrina (Corral Trees) and Hypoestis (ribonbush).
We got this recipe from Strilli Oppenheimer and Dawid Klopper, who have used the recipe in the Gardens at Brenthurst.
Please note that this is an insecticide and is non-selective, so will kill the good guys along with the baddies.
We try to spray our Clivias, Crinums and Nerines every 7 to 10 days. Use with care.

    4 Large onions
    1 Head of garlic cloves
    1 Handful of HOT chillies
    1 Tablespoon of dish-washing liquid
    1 Tablespoon of cooking oil

    Finely chop up the onions, garlic and chillies

    Add to 3 litres of boiling water, allow to stand overnight

    Strain and add the dish-washing liquid and cooking oil

    Mix 150 ml of fresh water to each 250 ml of the tea.

We substitute a tablespoon of Biogrow’s Bioneem or Pyrol for the tablespoon of cooking oil.
Just one more warning: do not wipe your eyes or touch any sensitive body parts, before washing your hands very well, during or after, cutting up the chillies. It may be very painful if you do!


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Harvest from the Earth

COMPOST -Brown Gold
Healthy plants need healthy soil and well-made compost is at the top of the list of soil improvers. It supplies a mix of nutrients as well as coarse organic material that helps aerate the soil.

Earthworm manure, or vermicompost, is 10 times more nutritious than commercially bought compost. It is a natural fertiliser and soil conditioner. Plants that receive vermicompost are healthier, disease resistant and drought tolerant.

Vegetables are more productive and full of flavour. The earthworm species (Eisenia fetida), which produce vermicompost, feed on decomposing organic matter and produce waste (called castings) that contains five times more nitrogen than topsoil, as well as high amounts of potassium and phosphate.

Another by-product is earthworm tea. It is a combination of earthworm urine and the liquid leached from the decomposing material. It can be diluted with water (1:50) and used as a foliar feed, as a rooting agent or as a pre-soak for seeds. The only way to harvest this waste, is to keep a wormery. This is simply a container in which the earthworms are kept, in conditions that are dark, warm and moist. They are fed whenever necessary, on fruit and vegetable scraps, or soft garden waste. It is as simple as that. The cost of a ready-made domestic system can be from R550.00 (approx. $55.00) to several thousand rand, but it includes the worms and once it is in place, can last virtually forever.

Green tea is made from soft, dark green leaves such as comfrey, yarrow and borage leaves. Green tea is best for leafy vegetables. the dilution rate is generally 1 part tea to 7 parts water.

Manure tea is made from any kind of manure. some manure is strong than others. For instance, only two handfuls of chicken manure are needed compared to three to five handfuls of cow or horse manure.

Good sources are stables, dairies, as well as nurseries that sell manure in bags.
The final tea should be the colour of weak tea. Manure tea is a good root drench for vegetables, flowers and containers.

If using seedlings, the dilution rate should be 1:12, but for larger plants can be 1:7 or 1:10.

The ideal site is a level piece of ground with the top and sides open to the air to aid decomposition. Ready-made compost bins and drums are also available from garden centres and hardware stores.

The basic method is to alternate wet, green material (nitrogen rich) with dried (carbon rich) material, interspersed with activating materials like manure, already made compost or soil.

  • Dried leaves
  • Grass cuttings
  • Garden waste, like shrub prunings, spent annuals, weeds (without seeds or flowers)
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Kitchen waste: vegetable and fruit peelings (except potato peels and citrus), eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds.
  • Ash from a wood fire
  • Manure
  • Pine needles, hay, peanut shells

Meat and fish left-overs, cat litter, dog droppings, coal ash, magazines, synthetic fibres, glass, tin or plastic.


Saturday, 11 April 2015

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