Heat-busters in daz­zling colours

TOPS: PORTULACA NANO, NEW VINCAS, CALIBRACHO­A

The Citizen (KZN) - - City - Alice Spenser-Higgs

Drought and heat tol­er­ant, these plants flower through times of low rain­fall.

There are three heat-bust­ing plants that come into their own from De­cem­ber to Fe­bru­ary, SA’s hottest months of the year. For pre­dom­i­nantly suc­cu­lent gardens short on flow­ers, a great ad­di­tion is Portulaca Nano, a low-grow­ing, mounded ground­cover that’s al­ways cov­ered in flow­ers.

The colour range of Fuch­sia, Hot Pink, Orange and Yel­low, will add a splash, par­tic­u­larly when planted in front of sil­very-leaved suc­cu­lents like Blue Chalk Sticks, the spiky Mother-in-law’s-tongue or as a ground­cover around the strik­ing Agave va­ri­eties.

Other uses for it would be as a hardy pave­ment plant, in hang­ing bas­kets and in mixed con­tain­ers. It is ex­tremely drought and heat tol­er­ant and keeps flow­er­ing through times of low rain­fall.

Plants do best in full sun and grow in ordinary gar­den soil. The flow­ers open early in the morn­ing, cre­at­ing a ball of colour well into the evening.

It is an easy-to-care-for sum­mer an­nual that will per­form as a peren­nial in frost free ar­eas.

Few plants can ri­val Vinca for its abil­ity to thrive in hot and dry weather. The new Vinca Tat­too se­ries are a great im­prove­ment on the ser­vice­able yet not hugely in­spir­ing hy­brid Vinca.

The new Vinca has slightly frilly petals, dark eyes that make the flow­ers stand out and a shad­ing on the petals.

The colours are also quite dif­fer­ent from the runof-the-mill Vinca colours.

Black Cherry has a dark eye that swirls onto the petals giv­ing it that ex­otic tat­too ap­pear­ance, Rasp­berry has vi­brant deep rose-pink petals with a dark eye, Pa­paya has pink­ish-orange flow­ers with a pur­ple eye that blends over the petals and Tan­ger­ine is a smoky orange with a dark eye. The hot­ter it gets, the bet­ter the black eye and colour swirls show up. Plants are bushy and well­branched, re­sult­ing in more flow­ers, and grow to a gar­den height of 25 to 36cm. Plant in full sun to bring out the in­ten­sity of the flower colours. Plants need well drained soil and reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing in the early grow­ing stages.

Once es­tab­lished, wa­ter­ing once a week in sum­mer is ad­e­quate. Trim when nec­es­sary for shap­ing and to re­move spent flow­ers.

For im­pact, mass plant them in a bed, or pair them with dark pur­ple flow­ers that like the same grow­ing con­di­tions, such as salvia New Di­men­sion Blue or as a bor­der for taller Salvia Black and Bloom or Mys­tic Spires.

In con­tain­ers, the com­pact, but spread­ing, growth habit makes them suit­able for use as a filler in the “thriller-spiller-filler” com­bi­na­tion. Plant around the edge of the con­tainer where it can spill over grace­fully.

As tough pa­tio con­tainer plants, Calibracho­a have proved their worth. Calibracho­a MiniFa­mous Apri­cot with Red Eye ap­peals for its vi­brant colours; apri­cot-peach trum­pet-shaped flow­ers with yel­low over­tones, yel­low throats and cherry-red centres.

Be­cause of its trail­ing habit it looks spec­tac­u­lar in a hang­ing bas­ket or in out­door con­tain­ers, es­pe­cially if planted around the edge of the con­tainer. It can re­ceive morn­ing sun and af­ter­noon shade.

The more sun it gets, the more of­ten it needs wa­ter­ing be­cause hang­ing bas­kets dry out quickly.

As a gar­den plant, its best ef­fect is tum­bling over a re­tain­ing wall. Space plants 20cm apart, and the re­sult will be a dense, flow­er­ing ground­cover that at­tracts bees.

It can be grown in full sun to semi shade. Al­though heat tol­er­ant, it needs reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing and fer­til­is­ing once a month.

For more in­for­ma­tion: www. ball­straathof.co.za.

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