Get ready for the fes­tive sea­son

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

THERE are two sce­nar­ios that face the gar­dener at this time of year. For those stay­ing at home it means get­ting the gar­den into shape so that it is a gor­geous back­drop for the fes­tiv­i­ties. For those go­ing away it is about putting the ba­sics in place so that the gar­den sur­vives with min­i­mal care.

For those stay­ing at home there is still time to plant con­tain­ers, fill hang­ing bas­kets and gen­er­ally give the out­door liv­ing ar­eas a touch of glam­our.

Red is not only the colour of Christ­mas, it is a lively, en­er­gis­ing colour that gets the party go­ing. If red clashes with the gar­den’s colour scheme a con­tainer or hang­ing bas­ket is the an­swer be­cause it can be re­done later.

There is quite a range of quick­grow­ing, showy an­nu­als to choose from; salvia, im­pa­tiens, celosia, zin­nias and tuber­ous be­go­nias.

Fire-en­gine-red salvia splen­dens is the dwarf an­nual bedding salvia that al­ways makes a state­ment. It grows equally well in the gar­den or in a con­tainer. Vista is a tried and tested va­ri­ety and there is also a new range — reddy — that grows 20cm to 25cm high and re­mains com­pact. Do not over­wa­ter once es­tab­lished.

A nice com­bi­na­tion for Christ­mas is a mix of red and white New Guinea im­pa­tiens. Im­pa­tiens di­vine is a New Guinea im­pa­tiens that acts like a bedding plant, pro­duc­ing masses of low-grow­ing colour. It grows 25cm to 35cm high and there is both cherry red and scar­let red in the range, as well as white and a scar­let red- and-white mix. It can take some sun but must be well wa­tered and not al­lowed to dry out.

A par­tic­u­larly fes­tive plant is the plume celosia. The plumes look like tiny, flam­ing can­dles and the best ef­fect comes from plant­ing a mix of colours massed to­gether. Ki­mono is the su­per-dwarf va­ri­ety, only reach­ing a gar­den height of 15cm. The plumes are plump, and the colours bright and non-fad­ing. It is avail­able in a mix of nine fiery colours. The slightly taller glow is par­tic­u­larly heat tol­er­ant and per­forms best in very hot con­di­tions.

It comes in in­di­vid­ual shades of carmine, pink or red.

Scar­let, fire (orange-red), yel­low and cherry are the fes­tive colours of the new zin­nia za­hara range. This dwarf va­ri­ety is noth­ing like the old-fash­ioned zin­nias. The blooms are sin­gle or dou­ble, they are low, grow­ing, com­pact plants and are more rust re­sis­tant. They don’t need huge amounts of wa­ter, and their leath­ery leaves and sturdy flower heads with­stand the blaz­ing sun when so many other flow­ers are in­clined to wilt.

Fi­nally, don’t for­get be­go­nia tuberosa, which is quite dif­fer­ent from the bedding va­ri­ety and has very showy, dou­ble flow­ers. Be­go­nia non­stop has masses of deep red dou­ble blooms and low, com­pact growth good for bor­ders, con­tain­ers or win­dow boxes. Plant it in rich, well-drained soil. Once es­tab­lished, don’t over­wa­ter.

If you are go­ing away from home here are some tips to help your gar­den to sur­vive:

If you don’t have an au­to­matic wa­ter­ing sys­tem put a thick layer of mulch (10cm) around the plants (flow­ers and veg­eta­bles). It keeps the soil cool and moist longer.

Ar­range for the gar­den to be wa­tered at least twice a week, un­less it rains heav­ily. De­lay fer­til­is­ing un­til you re­turn.

Don’t put in any new plants be­cause in De­cem­ber’s heat they will need reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing to get es­tab­lished. Rather let the gar­den rest un­til you re­turn.

Plants in pots and hang­ing bas­kets should be moved out of the di­rect sun if pos­si­ble. Ex­tend or set up an au­to­matic ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem for them. If you can’t do that, place the pots in saucers filled with gravel so that wa­ter doesn’t drain away. In­cor­po­rat­ing wa­ter-re­tain­ing prod­ucts like Swell Gel into the pot­ting soil will help, but they still need to be wa­tered reg­u­larly while you are away.

Roses should be sprayed with Chronos just be­fore you go on hol­i­day. It will pro­tect them against black spot for up to a month. Cut off all buds that are likely to flower while you are away, along with two or three leaves, and you can ex­pect a su­per show in Jan­uary.

Check the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem for blocked noz­zles and en­sure au­to­matic sys­tems are set cor­rectly.

Celosia.

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