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Gardening in South Africa

The last roses of summer

Christof Lindequ. Picture courtesy www.ludwigsroses.co.zaChristof Lindequ. Picture courtesy www.ludwigsroses.co.zaThe last roses of summer are often the most perfect ones; and as the daytime temperatures drop, your roses will take on a new intensity of colour and unfading beauty seldom seen in hot weather. Their petals unfurl perfectly and they last much longer too. If the temperatures play along, you can have roses well into April and May.

Shorter days are a signal to roses to prepare for winter dormancy and the plants start converting sugar to starches and storing it in their stems for their spring growth, so it is important to feed them regularly; especially in the summer rainfall regions. In very cold regions, you should stop feeding by mid-March as this will harden them off against the cold. Lower daytime temperatures and reduced evaporation also mean that you can reduce the amount you water, while still ensuring good moisture in the soil.

Handy List of Winter & Spring Flowering Plants

Bellis perennis Picture courtesy www.lifeisagarden.co.zaBellis perennis Picture courtesy www.lifeisagarden.co.zaIn cold winter regions which experience early frosts, gardeners generally start planting out trays of winter seedlings, or sowing seeds directly into garden beds, once the soil temperatures have cooled down significantly in autumn. In subtropical and humid regions, late summer, autumn and winter are the best times to plant a flower garden; and many winter annuals, as well as summer flowering annuals are sown during these cooler months. Sowing and planting times vary from region to region, and not all so-called “winter annuals” are fully hardy to frost, so it is always best to check with your local garden centre to ensure that you plant the correct varieties at the right time.

Remember to water the beds and the trays of seedlings thoroughly the day before planting out, and always plant in the cool of the morning or late afternoon. To avoid damaging the seedlings, gently coax them out of their trays by pushing them out from below. A common mistake gardeners make is to plant their seedlings too deep - never bury the stems or cover their crowns with soil, as this can cause them to rot. Water well after transplanting and keep the soil moist but not soggy until they are established. If you are planting a mixture of seedlings, remember to group plants which have the same watering requirements together.

It's time to purchase winter and spring flowering bulbs

Babiana. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaBabiana. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaWinter and spring flowering bulbs are usually available from March and you don’t want to miss out on your favourites, so buy them early! March can still be extremely hot and the soil temperatures are still far too high to plant out bulbs; so store them in a cool, dark and dry place until the temperatures drop significantly in April, or even May. Also, prepare the beds for planting without delay. Bulbs require very well drained soil, so dig them over about 30cm deep; working in lots of compost. Sprinkle with an organic general purpose fertiliser like 2:3:2 (one handful per square metre) and a generous dressing of bone meal or hoof and horn meal. If you have clay or badly drained soil, add generous amounts of washed river sand to the soil, or consider planting in pots or raised beds. Water the beds lightly and allow them to lie fallow until planting time.

Want glorious roses in autumn?

Barley GoldBarley GoldGive your roses a little tender loving care in February and you will be rewarded with a breath-taking flush of blooms in autumn. As the weather cools down your rose bushes will produce long lasting blooms of the most intense colours. If you have not done so yet, replenish the mulch around the roots and water deeply and regularly every two to three days. Do not fertilise in February, but towards the end of the month feed with fertiliser that is high in both nitrogen and potassium like 5:1:5 or 3:1:5.

How to use the colour wheel effectively when designing your flower garden

Viola 'Sorbet Series' Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyViola 'Sorbet Series' Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyWhen designing your dream flower garden, bear in mind that the colours you select will create a mood, and you can even change the perspective your garden by using certain colours; so think about how you want to use colour, not only for the way you think it will look, but also for the mood you want to create in your garden.

Colour is what most gardeners are drawn to in a garden and should be artfully incorporated into your garden design. Good garden design involves knowing how to combine colours so that the final product will be one we like. Only practice and experimentation will develop your eye for colour and allow you to see the differences between hues, but a good way to start is by studying the colour wheel used in art.

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