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Gardening in South Africa

Balloon Flowers are real tough cookies!

Balloon flowers are hardy long-lived perennials which are reliable bloomers in cold climates, and can take short periods of drought while still delivering a long season of beautiful blooms with minimal effort. For these reasons, gardeners around the world have always valued the balloon flower, and new gardeners are also re-discovering their charms, not only for their whimsical flower buds, but also because balloon flowers are really tough cookies!

Balloon flowers are part of the easy growing Bell Flower/Campanula family, like the well-known Canterbury Bell (Campanula medium,) and you will notice the resemblance right away. Platycodon grandifloras is native to East Asia, occurring in China, Korea, Japan, and Siberia, where they grow on slopes, and in meadows. The botanical name means ‘broad bell,’ but the open flower is really more of a star shape. However, it's the puffy buds which intrigue gardeners, because as the flower buds grow they inflate like an origami balloon, before unfurling into gorgeous five-star bellflowers, 5 to 7cm across. This enthrals everyone and makes the balloon flower almost irresistible; and taking into account their flower colours which come in sought-after shades of blue, violet-blue, as well as pink and white, make them totally irresistible!

Blanket Flowers are eco-chic, water-wise toughies, with enough flower-power to bloom all summer

 

Gaillardia 'Mesa Bright Bicolour' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaGaillardia 'Mesa Bright Bicolour' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaBlanket flowers are stalwarts of the summer garden and appreciated by seasoned gardeners around the world for their resilience, extremely long blooming season, and richly coloured, daisy-like flowers in shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown, atop spreading mounds of narrow, fuzzy, grey-green leaves. Wild blanket flowers are found all across North America and southern Canada, as well as Mexico; and there are about 12 species, some with very limited ranges. Apparently its common name “blanket flower” comes not only from the plants ability to blanket the North American prairies with its gay colours, but also from a Native American legend about a man who used to make exceptional blankets; and when he died the spirits rewarded him with an ever-blooming blanket of flowers on his grave. Appropriately, the reds, oranges and yellows of these flowers are the colours on the blankets traditionally worn by Native Americans.

Chill, and stay as cool as a cucumber this summer

Cucumber 'Spa Water'Cucumber 'Spa Water'While cucumbers are widely available all year round, summer's our favourite time to use them. These low-calorie veggies are actually fruits with many nutritional benefits; and because they are 95 percent water, cucumbers are a great way to stay hydrated, so include them in your diet to stay healthy and as ‘cool as a cucumber’ this summer! There is a world of recipes out there for you to try, from a simple "Spa Water" or a refreshing "Agua Fresca," meaning “fresh water” or “cool water” in Spanish, to a cold "Green Gazpacho Soup," or a cool “Tzatziki” dip.

Be inspired by cucumbers, after all they are one of our most ancient vegetables and have been grown for centuries. Cucumber belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, and other important members of this family include watermelon, pumpkin and squash. Cucumbers are indigenous to Southeast Asia, with the earliest records coming from the Himalayan foothills of India over 4000 years ago, and where closely related wild species have been found. Early Indian civilization managed to domesticate cucumber and started infusing it into their rich cuisine, and with time, and as their cultivation techniques evolved, they started trading cucumbers with Middle Eastern civilizations and Europe.

Like our rainbow nation, African Daisies now come in an array of beautiful colours.

Osteospermum Flowerpower 'Spider Pink' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum Flowerpower 'Spider Pink' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaAfrican daisies continue to rise in popularity, and today they are available in garden centres countrywide, in a wide selection of varieties and new cultivars, thanks to plant breeders who continue to expand their funky colour palette, and unique petal shapes, which vary by variety, and can be lance-like, broadly ovate and smooth, toothed or lobed. The flowers of these garden hybrids are so striking that you may even wonder if they’ve been dyed or painted, and their central disks look as if they have been coloured with metallic paint. Hybrids are also selected for their long blooming time, and can flower through spring, summer and autumn. So, by selecting a variety of these daisies you can extend their blooming time, and who wouldn’t want to do that - these gorgeous indigenous beauties are not only tough and water-wise, their startlingly beautiful flowers are renowned and sought after, the world over.

The versatility and reliability of Viburnum tinus is legendary.

 

Picture courtesy www.kazimingi.co.zaPicture courtesy www.kazimingi.co.zaThis ‘golden oldie’ remains popular with gardeners today for its reliability and abundance of good qualities. Viburnum tinus belongs to the beautiful honeysuckle family, and varies in height from 2 to 3m tall, with an almost equal spread. It is evergreen and fast growing, with a dense rounded crown of shiny, dark green leaves; and in late winter and spring, large flattish heads of pink flower buds appear, opening into tiny star-shaped, pure white flowers. The flowers are followed by clusters of small metallic-blue berries which mature in autumn.

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Books

Gardening in the Shade

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Growing Vegetables in South Africa

Growing Bedding Plants in South Africa

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