Mak­ing the most of spring

A new sea­son starts to­mor­row and there are plenty of spring flow­ers and veg­gies that can be planted now, writes Alice Spenser-higgs

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

IN SA it feels as if we only re­ally have two sea­sons — sum­mer and win­ter. Spring is most fleet­ing, but ac­cord­ing to the gar­den cal­en­dar, spring ac­tu­ally ex­tends to Novem­ber.

The nights can of­ten be cool and there are flow­ers and veg­gies that grow bet­ter dur­ing these cooler months than at other times. What does spring of­fer? Of the in­dige­nous spring flow­ers that start bloom­ing from midAu­gust, the showiest are with­out doubt Clivia mini­ata, os­teosper­mum and gaza­nias.

Clivia mini­ata is a for­est plant, hap­pi­est in dap­pled shade, and ideal filler for those parts of the gar­den. The orange flower-heads bring the first splash of in­dige­nous colour into the win­ter gar­den. Even af­ter the flow­ers are over the dark green, strappy fo­liage re­mains a fea­ture.

Clivia clubs tra­di­tion­ally hold their an­nual shows in Septem­ber and one of the big­gest is the Joburg Clivia Club. This year’s show is on Septem­ber 15 and 16 at Gar­den World. It is at these shows that you will find the great­est va­ri­ety of clivia and the best ad­vice on how to grow them.

Os­teosper­mum (Cape daisy) has be­come an ex­cit­ing spring flower. No longer just avail­able in white, its colour range has ex­tended to red, gold, laven­der, deep pur­ple, pink-honey, peach and rose. There is also the dou­ble va­ri­ety, Os­teosper­mum “Flower Power”, which doesn’t fold up at night.

Gaza­nias also get off to a good start in spring. They are drought tol­er­ant, fuss-free plants that work as ground­cov­ers or as a bor­der. The well known Day­break se­ries has been re­placed by the Gaza­nia New Day, which has larger flow­ers. It comes in three colourful mixes: Straw­berry Short­cake (rose, yel­low, cream), Sunny Side Up and Bright Mix (rose orange, yel­low and gold).

Other in­dige­nous fillers are Scabiosa But­ter­fly Blue, di­as­cia (also avail­able in many more colours), neme­sia and ba­copa, also known as Sutera.

Of the ex­otics, this is the sea­son for petu­nias. They love the hot, dry days and the cool nights. With wa­ter­ing once a week, petu­nias look af­ter them­selves.

As ground­cov­ers, the pe­tu­nia Waves cover a large area quickly. For con­tain­ers or hang­ing bas­kets there is the new Easy Wave that is spread­ing, but more com­pact.

Gran­di­flora petu­nias are best for bed­ding, hav­ing the big­gest flow­ers. The So­phis­tica range in­cludes An­tique Shades (dusky pink with yel­low throat), Blue Morn and the Lime Bi­colour (lime and pink).

Prim­u­las are start­ing to go off and they can be re­placed with mimu­lus or tore­nia. Tore­nia is an al­ter­na­tive to im­pa­tiens and also flow­ers pro­fusely. A new in­tro­duc­tion is Tore­nia Kauai, with pure white throat and deep blue rim.

Con­tain­ers with win­ter flow­ers may start look­ing strag­gly. Spring op­tions in­clude the new com­pact al­stroe­me­ria In­ti­can­cha, phlox, and pelargo­nium (gera­ni­ums).

Un­like the older va­ri­eties that tend to sprawl, al­stroe­me­ria In­ti­can­cha is a dense, multi­branched com­pact plant that grows to a height of 30cm. The colour range in­cludes white, rose, red, pur­ple as well as white and red and yel­low.

In the veg­gie gar­den, beet­root, car­rots, radishes, onions, let­tuce, spinach, Swiss chard and gar­den peas can be sown in cooler soil.

Mar­laen Straathof of Kirch­hoffs Seed says it is best to wait un­til night tem­per­a­tures are 10ºC, prefer­ably 12ºC, be­fore one starts to sow seeds.

If seed doesn’t ger­mi­nate, says Straathof, wait for a week and sow again. If ger­mi­na­tion is bet­ter the sec­ond time around, make a note of the date for sow­ing the fol­low­ing year.

“Most gar­dens have their own mi­cro cli­mates and can dif­fer from gar­den to gar­den in one neigh­bour­hood. Use the gen­eral sow­ing guide­lines that are avail­able, but tai­lor it to your own gar­den.”

Gar­den peas are al­ways a de­li­cious spring crop, es­pe­cially su­gar snap peas that are eaten for their crisp, sweet pods.

Make shal­low drills and sow seeds about 3cm-4cm deep and about 5cm apart. Keep the soil moist un­til the seed ger­mi­nates, which takes two to three weeks. Do not over wa­ter the seeds as cold, wet soil en­cour­ages damp­ing off and foot rot.

Once the plants have be­come bushy, sup­port the stem by draw­ing up the soil around the stem Light mulch around the plants keeps the soil cool and moist. Feed weekly with a liq­uid fer­tiliser when the plants start flow­er­ing.

The Joburg Clivia Club show is from 8.30am to 4pm on Satur­day Septem­ber 15 and Sun­day Septem­ber 16 at Gar­den World Gar­den Cen­tre, Bey­ers Naudé Drive, Mul­der­s­drift. En­trance is R10, chil­dren younger than 12 get in free. For more in­for­ma­tion contact Glynn on 082 650 1463.

Os­teosper­mum ‘Flower Power’ does not fold up at night.

Clivia mini­ata are our lovli­est in­dige­nous spring flower, above. Tore­nia Kauai 'Blue and White' is a good al­ter­na­tive for im­pa­tiens, be­low left. Gaza­nia ‘New Day’ is a larger flow­ered va­ri­ety, be­low right.

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