March 2020

Autumn is my favourite gardening season, not only because the weather starts getting a little cooler and altogether more tolerable. A far cry from the heat and humidity of the past summer. It’s also a wonderful growing and planting time in the garden. So many trees and shrubs have a last growth spurt before the onset of winter. Deciduous plants start shedding their leaves which adds to the charm and allure of this colourful time. Some spring flowering shrubs flush in autumn as well – azaleas, gardenias and viburnums are just some of them. Besides all of these assuring factors, autumn is the time to get the garden ready for spring.

It’s the most important planting season for flowers, shrubs, herbs and vegetables

Having made this bold and decisive statement it must be stressed that there is a definite need to be patient. Wait until it cools down significantly before you start planting out winter and spring plants. The earlier part of March is still warm to hot in many parts. Get the garden ready and prepared for planting, but don’t undertake serious planting until the weather is suitable. Pansies and violas need cool night temperatures to grow well. This holds true for many other plants. My suggestion is to wait patiently until early to mid-April, especially in the more sub-tropical climates before embarking on your autumn planting spree.

There are definite trends and fashions in plants and gardening, even with regards to indoor house plants. It would appear that flowering plants are out of favour and that décor with green leaves, both large and small is the current trend. With this in mind I was pleased to see some interesting Rhipsalis being offered locally. These are true cacti that grow in tropical forests as semi-epiphytes with string like stems sporting fine white prickles. They form compact clumps comprising many stems and look a bit like seaweed. They’re cool and funky both indoors or outside in the shade and are an unusual addition to displays on tree trunks or driftwood. They have small flowers (usually white or yellow) followed by shiny mistletoe-like berries. Look out for these rather strange plants. One type is even indigenous – being the only true cactus found on the African continent.

Reflecting on the past summer I have been impressed with the magnificent display put on by so many Pride of Indias in many suburban gardens. Lagerstroemia indica (or crape myrtle) was cultivated extensively during the mid-1900’s with a plant a two growing in most gardens and many suburban street trees. Today they are seldom found in nurseries or garden centres. However, a new range of hybrids from America has recently been launched on the local market – Black Diamond has dark almost black foliage and contrasting flowers in different shades – white, red, lavender, purple. Lovely deciduous shrubs that grow 2 to3 metres and thrive in most climates. Check them out.