June in the Garden
The days are shorter and the nights long and cold, but there is always something to plant and do in the garden. So, dress up warmly and dig right in!
Plant up an aloe and succulent bed or rockery
Aloes provide the best winter colour and you will be amazed at how much wildlife they attract. They are extremely water wise and require little or no maintenance. Most succulents, like Crassulas, are much more colour-rich in winter and lots of them flower too.
Amongst the diverse group of Crassulas are groundcovers which can grow and flower heartily in the poor soil around tree trunks in dry, or even wet (well-drained) semi-shade, as well as in difficult to plant retaining walls. Others can be used as bright colour accents in gravel or rock gardens, specimen plants in large containers or as tough shrubs. They can even be planted up as succulent hedges in dry or windy coastal gardens, or in hanging baskets, in window boxes, or as houseplants.
Try these two Crassulas for starters…
- ‘Campfire’ is a magnificent rockery plant or colourful accent plant for a gravel garden. It will set your winter garden alight with its propellor-like leaves which mature from bright lime-green with red tips, to a fiery orange-red the colder it gets. This groundcover will tolerate frost, but not hard freeze. It reaches a height of between 15 – 40cm and spreads about 1m far. It roots easily from stem nodes. Masses of tiny white flowers are borne on tall, stout stems in summer. This Crassula can also be a very pretty container or hanging basket plant. Good for full sun or semi-shade.
- Crassula multicava – a swath of happy and lush multicavas in full flower from May to September is a heart-warming sight to see. This fast-growing, mat-forming succulent produces an outstanding uniform effect in the semi-shade under trees and has rightly become a very popular garden plant in the landscaping trade. It can also be used to stabilise banks and in the planting holes of cement retaining walls. The leaves are oval, glossy and light to dark green, depending on position in the garden. The flowers can either be pinkish white to quite a happy shade of pink. Another form known as Crassula multicava ‘Purple’, has a dark shade of purple on the flipside of the leaves which makes it an attractive ground hugger even if not in flower.
There are five reasons why houseplants have become so popular lately:
- Some, like peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) and Ficus species, are good air purifiers. They are also proven to provide a calmness to a living or work space.
- Flowering houseplants last much longer than cutflowers, thus making them better value for money – winter favourites are Cyclamens and Azaleas.
- Large and dramatic tropical leaves like those of Monsteras and Philodendrons are still totally on-trend!
- Sculptural plants and large palms make for delightful natural decor items.
- Potted herbs which can be kept on a sunny kitchen windowsill for easy access are also in! Try chives, coriander, mint and Vietnamese coriander for spicy curries this winter.
The best reason to invest in lots of houseplants is that one can garden and play around with nature in winter, for those days it’s just too cold to be outside in the garden.
Cool houseplants to try out
- Staghorn fern (Platycerium) – an epiphytic tropical plant with two types of leaves. It has tough bright green antler-like foliage as well as flat basal-like leaves, which can turn brown and papery. This plant is normally sold already mounted on a piece of wood. Hang it in bright, diffused sunlight and mist regularly with water.
- Zebra plant (Calathea) – this tropical plant with its lovely mottled leaves enjoys a humid atmosphere and bright diffused light. Frequent misting will prevent brown leaf edges, and regular feeding with a water soluble fertiliser at half-strength will keep it lush.
- African milk tree (Euphorbia trigona) – this is a tall, slender and erect succulent from Namibia. The dark-green branches are three-cornered and ridged, with white mottling along their entire length and short brown thorns on each ridge. Vertical ranks of spoon-shaped leaves are held on the tips and along the sides of each branch.