Spreading cheer


A jolly garden … masses of vivid leaves, gorgeous Christmas roses (which make great gifts) and a herb that packs in flavour.

Indoor plant of the month

Don’t be surprised to see hydrangeas standing in as indoor plants for the festive season. Also known as Christmas roses, pot hydrangeas are perfect for decoration, as a thank-you gift or for under the tree. Once it has paid its dues indoors, a pot hydrangea can be planted out into a patio pot or in the garden to continue growing and flowering. The variety being used as an indoor starter is Hydrangea ‘Magical Revolution’ that blooms for up to six months, from summer through to autumn. It is compact with a mature height of 80cm and large flower heads that change colour as they age. Cut off the old flowers directly under the flower head. As an indoor plant it needs bright, indirect light, a cool room and consistently moist soil. Feed with a liquid fertiliser once a month. When planting out, choose a position with semi-shade and plant in composted soil that drains well. Details: lvgplant.co.za

Herb of the month
Thai Basil Siam Queen is spicier than normal sweet basil, with a strong clove scent. Use it to flavour Thai cuisine, curries and stir fries. It is also a beautiful bushy plant, growing 40 to 50cm tall, with large green leaves, purple flowers and stems. Like other basils, however, it grows easily from seed and likes the same conditions – fertile soil that drains easily and up to six hours of sun, preferably morning sun and afternoon shade. Seed can be sown directly into the soil where the basil is to grow or germinated in a seed tray which is easier to manage. Mist the seed trays until the seeds sprout then feed the newly germinated seedlings with Margaret Roberts Organic Supercharger which contains macro and micronutrients. Transplant when the plants are large enough to handle and space 20cm apart. You can start harvesting when the plants have six to eight true leaves. Details: kirchhoffs.co.za

We’re planting … Coleus TrailBlazer, which is a first of its kind trailing coleus for cascading out of containers and hanging baskets or as a spreading filler for garden beds in semi-shade. Glory Road has vivid red and burgundy leaves in the shape of a maple leaf with a bright green edge. Road Trip has rounded velvety leaves in deep burgundy with a glowing pink centre and scalloped green edging. It flowers very late in the season, or not at all, which allows the plant to put all its energy into producing masses of colourful leaves that can spread up to 60cm. These easy to grow, low maintenance plant adapts to different light levels from full sun to semi-shade and needs only regular watering. Plants in containers or baskets do best with morning sun and afternoon shade. Details: ballstraathof.co.za


Garden tasks for the festive season

  • If you are going away, move plants in pots and hanging baskets out of the direct sun if possible. Place the pots in saucers filled with gravel so that water doesn’t drain away.
  • Fertilise flowering plants to give them oomph to keep on flowering during the midsummer heat.
  • During hot, dry spells water deeply and regularly. Renew mulch to keep beds cool.
  • There is still time to sow marigolds, alyssum, bedding dahlias, California poppies portulaca and nasturtiums.
  • Don’t fertilise the lawn if you are going away. When returning from holiday, reduce the height of the lawn gradually.
  • Continue with succession planting of tomatoes, beans, carrots, beetroot, lettuce, and spinach or Swiss chard.
  • December is peak time for pests. Use organic or biological sprays to control aphids, white fly and red spider.