April in your garden

We in South Africa are lucky to have two ‘spring’ seasons every year – the traditional spring in September when plants from the Northern hemisphere flower, and another one in April when many of our own flowers abound. Now is the time to spend long hours in our gardens, planting and sowing with abandon!

On the menu for sunbirds

Keeping the theme for Earth Day on 22 April 2019 in mind, which is to “protect our species”, we give you an annual menu to encourage sunbirds to your garden all year long. The plants suggested are naturally indigenous and April is a perfect time to plant them:

For summer: Plant a dwarf coral tree (Erythrina humeana) which covers itself with scarlet red “pokers” drenched in nectar. Also go for summer flowering aloes like the very pretty Aloe cooperi, with apricot flowers with green tips.

For autumn: Wild dagga (Leonotus leonurus) – the velvety bright orange flowers resemble huge rain spiders sitting at the ends of each stem. Their rich nectar is irresistible to butterflies, bees and sunbirds. This large shrub will supply colour throughout autumn. There is also a form with creamy white flowers, which is well worth planting.

For winter: Any winter-flowering aloe specie or hybrid will do to attract many other bird species as well, but the centerpieces should be the other coral trees. The coastal coral tree (Erythrina caffra) is a large tree, producing magnificent flowers smothered in nectar. The smaller, common coral tree (E. lysistemon) is equally generous with spectacular flowers, but more suitable to smaller gardens.

The broad-leaved coral tree (E. latissima) will produce its pretty blooms from late winter to spring. Every frost-free garden should at least have one of these species. For colder gardens there is the local mountain bottle brush (Greyia  sutherlandii) and woolly bottlebrush (Greyia radlkoferi) – perfect and showy for small gardens with well-drained soil.

Note that planting these species will not only attract sunbirds all year long, but also other nectar-loving birds and critters like bees, butterflies and even bats.

In flower now

April is the best month to enjoy the flower bounty of many well-known and easy to grow African plants.

  • Bush violet (Barleria obtusa) – this spreading little shrub which thrives in the light shade and climbs gently over other plants, remain unobtrusive in other months of the year, but bursts out in colour in March and April, with masses of mauve, pink or white flowers. Always worth waiting for, even if the flowering phase is a bit short.
  • Egyptian star cluster (Pentas lanceolata) – a handy little perennial to fill open spaces in full sun or in the light shade of other shrubs and trees. It has minty green leaves and flat inflorescences made up of masses of small star-shaped flowers in spring and these appear again in autumn. Ideal for mass planting.
  • Fynbos like ericas, acmadenias and buchus (Agathosma) are easy to grow and lots of species flower in April. As their root systems are very fine, they should never be allowed to dry out completely if growing in containers or newly planted in the garden, until well established.
  • Fill up garden beds with lots of lasting and tough golden daisies (Euryops pectinatus).
  • Ribbon bushes (Hypoestes aristata) will start flowering now. Plant masses of them around shade trees and expect a cloud of mauve flowers.

Source:  Life is a Garden

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