Picture: Cosmos Flowers, Unsplash
Written by Chris Dalzell.
Durban - Several milestones have taken place since the February gardening: I turned 60, planted 60 trees to celebrate each year on Earth, and had epic walks in the Drakensberg and in the Baviaanskloof in the Eastern Cape.
On these walks, we experienced the beauty of our country and the diversity of the countryside and its plants, birds, and animals. I spent a week in Hazyview and the Kruger National Park at Sabi River. Watering holes festooned with fever trees filled with goliath herons, cattle egrets and several different kingfishers who use the trees as platforms to observe and look for their afternoon meal.
On the drive up, we experienced cosmos in all its glory for miles and miles. Cosmos is native to Mexico and has become naturalised in South Africa after being introduced in contaminated horse feed during the Anglo Boer War. After this summer’s good rains, the plants have flowered better than ever.
We are in probably the most colourful time of the year in Durban. Tibouchinas from Brazil with their pink and purple flowers dominate, followed by the next level of red flowering African tulip trees from the tropical regions of West Africa. The most common shrub flowering in February/March is Plectranthus ecklonii which comes in blue, pink, and white. It is found mostly in moist forest margins and grows in full sun and semi shade.
We have had one of our best rainy seasons for many years, with most of the dams in KwaZulu-Natal full. This does not mean we must waste water, as it is our most precious commodity. All life exists with water.
Late summer sees two small trees flowering that are extremely popular. Both belong to the genus Dombeya or wild pear: Dombeya burgessiae and Dombeya cymosa. The more popular of the two would be Dombeya burgessiae or pink wild pear. It flowers in late summer, early autumn and produces a profusion of white to pink flowers on dense clusters. Ideally suited for small gardens, especially townhouses, the large shrub can be pruned to size to suit any garden. It is a favourite with landscapers as quick growing, not too large and produces very fragrant flowers in late summer. Once the plant has finished flowering the old flowers remain on the plant for many months and can then be used in floral arrangements. Easily grown from seed or from cuttings this plant will reach its mature size in a few years. It can be pruned once a year to keep it to the desired size, and can grow well in semi shade, thus under trees. When in flower they are very fragrant, especially at night.
Dombeya cymosa or small flowered Dombeya is a small semi-deciduous tree with very fragrant drooping white flowers. This small tree is popular because of its size, ease of growing and fragrant white flowers in late summer. Bees and butterflies are attracted to its flowers in late summer. Easily grown from seed, it can reach maturity in three years. For a small garden this is a winner.
This time of the year is always exciting as we start to plan new ideas for our garden for next year. Many of the winter flowering shrubs, in particular the aloes, will be in flower bud with many of the late summer aloes in flower. If you plan your garden correctly you could have aloe flowering every month of the year. Aloe cooperii flower in summer as does Aloe greenii which create interest in your garden and provide nectar for sunbirds. Kniphofia or red-hot pokers will have finished flowering, producing seed which you should collect and sow. Do not cut the leaves as these provide energy for the plants for the next season. I know they can look as though they have had a bad hair day but leave them alone until they go dormant. This allows the plants to recover for the next flowering season.
Bauhinia galpinii or Pride of De Kaap are all in flower. Plectranthus ecklonii are in full bloom. It is one of my all-time favourite shrubs because they can grow in sun or shade and require little attention and are guaranteed to flower every year on time. Once they have finished flowering, they need to be pruned for the following season.
Things to do this month
It is best to remove weeds physically. Do not let the plants go to seed. Mulch your garden with bark chippings or compost to prevent the weeds growing out of control.
Cut lawns weekly and feed one last time before winter with 5.1.5 granular fertiliser.
Plant a groundcover that will do well in winter and in shade. A few good examples are
Shrubs that flower in winter will be in spike and ready to flower in a few months. They can become top heavy and break if we have strong winds or lots of rain. Stake them to prevent them from breaking. Do not prune them until they have finished flowering. Examples would be
Do some late summer planting for flowering in winter. Most shrubs and groundcovers planted now will flower this winter.