Take a trip through the year with us where we give you top tips on how to create your own natural exquisite masterpiece
Extend your flowering time
January is one of the most vibrant months of the year; summer has settled in and your flower bed should be brimming with blooming bulbs. The question often asked at this time of year is “How do I get my garden to carry on flowering so well”?
While all of Hadeco’s bulbs come packed with all the “power” they need to grow and flower for you, with a bit of extra care you can get some of them (especially Dahlias) to keep up the spectacular display month after month.
Start by deadheading the flowers as they begin to fade. For repeat bloomers like Dahlias this will trick the plant into thinking that it hasn’t produced any seed and so will spur it on to push out even more of its gorgeous buds. Don’t forget that most bulbs make excellent cut flowers so pick some for the vase while you are busy.
Deadheading also prevents the bulb from expending any effort on producing unnecessary seed. Rather it will concentrate its energies on fattening up its bulb for the next summer’s flowering.
Most bulbs only benefit from feeding once their flowering period is over and they begin to store nutrients up for winter dormancy and the next season’s blooms. Others, like Dahlias and Tuberous Begonias will generously reward you with a grand show if you give them a fortnightly dose of specialised bulb food.
Hadeco’s bulb food has been scientifically formulated by the Dutch experts to give your bulbs (and other flowering plants like annuals) the optimal amount of nutrients in the correct balance.
With that done, lie back and revel in the glory that is summer.
Cut Flower Care
Not that you needed reminding, but it’s Valentine’s Day on the 14th, and as with every year the price of cut flowers, especially those lovely long stemmed roses, soar. It’s only logical that you are going to want to enjoy them for as long as possible.
With just a little extra care you can keep your flowers fragrant and looking their best for up to 2 weeks. Start by thoroughly cleaning your vase. Next add a cut flower food, like Chrysal, into the water. It not only inhibits bacteria, but it supplies your flowers with valuable nutrients. You will find Chrysal (in liquid or granular form) at any good florist.
There are many theories on getting the most out of an arrangement, unfortunately many are ineffectual, while others actually do more damage than good. Chrysal has been thoroughly tested and works the best.
Before placing your flowers into Chrysal Solution, re-cut the stems with a sharp knife. Make the incision at a 45° angle and as clean as possible. If you just cut the stem flat, the ends will rest at the bottom of the vase making water uptake more difficult.
- Remove the bottom leaves up to the vase brim
- Leave thorns as this will reduce the number of wounds where bacteria can attack
- Cut stems with a sharp knife, not scissors – scissors crush the stem while they cut
- Once cut, place in water immediately
- Use lukewarm water
- If using Chrysal, don’t change the water, just top up with more solution.
In a country blessed with many horticultural treasures, Lachenalias or Cape Hyacinth hold a place of their own. Because of their excellent garden potential, breeders have been hard at work and have produced some stunning hybrids.
They may be short in stature, their flowers grows on spikes about 25cm high, but they more than make up for this with their vividly coloured blooms, making them ideal subjects for pots, borders or pathways. An added bonus is that the blooms are long lasting – often up to five weeks.
The soil where they are planted should be well-drained, preferably on the sandy side, with plenty of compost added. Place the bulbs just a few centimeters under ground level, quite close together.
Water is the single most important aspect of having success with Lachenalias. They should be watered every 4 days, with a sprinkler for 40 minutes.
Lachenalias also make excellent pot plants. Here, their unusual, but striking foliage can be appreciated to the full. They should be planted close together and look their best in shallow containers. The soil should be light, airy and friable. Keep the bulbs in a semi-shaded position until they come into flower.
They can be moved inside or to any focal point where their gorgeous beauty can be fully appreciated. Once again water is crucial. Soil in pots dries out quickly so water them every 2 days and every day in hot weather.
- The bulbs become available from end February and need to be planted before the end of April.
- The plants are tolerant of light shade, but prefer to grow in full sun – especially in coastal areas.
Growing Bulbs on Water
The two things I love most about bulbs (apart from their gorgeous blooms of course) is the ease with which they grow and their versatility. You can even grow some bulb species indoors on water!
Not all bulbs can be grown on water; best results are obtained from hyacinths and “Paper White” Narcissus.
The easiest way to grow your hyacinths on water is in a specially designed glass vase, shaped something like an hourglass. Alternatively, grow them in a cylinder container that comes with the bulbs, the pebbles and Chrysal cut flower food to keep the water clean.
It’s important to follow the growing instructions on the box. In particular, it’s essential that the bulb itself is kept clear of the water. The bulbs’ roots will find their way down into the liquid. If the bulb has prolonged contact with water, there is a chance it will rot.
Grow “Paper White” narcissus on pebbles in the same way. “Paper Whites” produce masses of scented white blooms very early in the season – usually in late June.
For the next couple of months, you and your family can watch enthralled as the bulbs grow – then push out their spikes of glorious blooms.
May is tulip planting time. Considered by many to be the Queen of Flowers, tulips have captured the imagination of poets and artists for centuries.
Contrary to popular belief, tulips originate from the Turkish Himalayas and not from Holland, although it is thanks to Dutch breeders that we have so many wonderful varieties.
To ensure maximum impact plant them in groups of 10 or 20. Some consider tulips difficult to grow, but this need not be the case if you consider their requirements. Most importantly they need cool, moist conditions from planting time onwards, to flower well.
This can be achieved by planting them away from heat-reflecting surfaces like walls and adding a thick layer of mulch over the soil’s surface. Then water, with a sprinkler, every four days for forty minutes.
- If you ordered treated tulips, Hadeco will send them to you in the last week of May. Because of the temperature treatment, they have undergone, they need to be planted as soon as possible.
Alluring Asiatic Lilliums
June may be a cold and quiet time in the garden, but it’s the perfect time to add a little glitz and glamour by planting some Asiatic liliums. There’s a large selection to choose from and they’re all wonderfully easy to grow.
Asiatics are an attractive and effective way to fill any gaps in the summer garden with vivid colour without disturbing the more permanent plants.
Asiatic liliums are as tough as old boots, provide a bounty of blooms for vases, are adaptable and wonderfully tolerant of South Africa’s hot summers.
They come in a wide range of brilliant colours from startling red to soft and pretty pink which means they can be used to create eye-popping pockets of colour or gentle waves of soft, pretty cottage colours. Another great advantage they have is that they’re great in pots
- Lilies don’t like to be out the ground for long so plant them ASAP.
- Check the back of the bulb pack for specific planting instructions.
- Good drainage is an essential key to healthy plants.
- Best results are achieved by planting where the bulb itself is shaded, but the stem and flowers grow into the sunlight, for example growing through a ground cover or low growing annuals.
- Liliums prefer a slightly acidic soil and this can be achieved via slow release through acid mulch.
- Emerging sprouts are susceptible to frost damage. Protect the sprouts by placing an upturned pot or box over them when frost is expected.
Sensually Scented Liliums
If your garden is in need of a touch of bold colour laced with a heady perfume, then Oriental liliums are for you. Planted on either side of a pathway, or in pots on the balcony, they will perfume the surrounds.
Alternatively, they can be used to create small “islands” of shimmering colour between foliage shrubs and ground covers.
These are derived from crossing L. auratum
from Japan and L. speciosum
from China and Japan and must rate as one of the most breathtaking of all flowers. They produce huge, open-faced blooms on stems up to 2,5m tall.
If their striking flowers don’t catch your attention, they are strong, wildly exotic scent surely will. This midsummer bloomer is a must for sunny courtyards where the walls can trap their scent. Alternatively, plant them near windows or entrances.
Lilium bulbs are available from late May through to mid-August. Lilies never retreat into total dormancy and so should be planted as soon as possible after purchase.
- When planting, remember that most Liliums grow between 1 and 2m tall, so plant them from the middle to the back of your beds.
- Taller varieties may need staking, especially in windy areas. When planting, place a small stake just next to the bulbs that protrude a few centimetres above the ground. This can then be replaced with a taller stake when the plant needs it without any fear of damaging the bulb.
- Lilies are best left undisturbed for about 5 years. If they are well fed through summer with Hadeco bulb food they will keep on flowering year after year. When the clump becomes overcrowded, wait for the foliage to yellow in autumn and gently lift the bulbs. Divide and replant the bulbs immediately.
Arum lilies are prized the world over for their striking yet elegant blooms and lush green foliage. The genus Zantedeschia
is made up of 8 species, all of which are endemic to southern Africa. Only 3 species and their hybrids are generally available.
Fortunately being such a beautiful and generally easy plant to grow, hybridisers have been hard at work on the genus.
The most flamboyant specimens are the coloured species and their hybrids. A jaunt to your local nursery from late August to October will reveal a host of awesome beauties.Unlike the white arum which has an evergreen rhizome, these arums are deciduous and grow from a tuber.
Gardeners have been asking for them and Hadeco has responded by offering no fewer than 21 hybrids. The colours range from delicate pinks and apricots through bold reds to deep purple and maroon.
Of the species, Z. pentlandii
or yellow arum was originally found in the Roossenekal area of Mpumalanga. The striking yellow blooms are shown off against lush, arrow-shaped leaves with contrasting white flecks. The pink Arum (Z. rehmannii
) is the smallest of the coloured species but is also the most floriferous.
Plant your tubers in spring, in light, friable soil. Add lots of well-rotted compost and once planted, water to root level at least twice a week. Add three centimetres of mulch to the surface of the soil. This will keep the tubers cool, and help retain ground moisture.
- The coloured varieties need to prefer morning sun and afternoon shade.
- Arums do very well when grown in pots. Plant in well-drained soil and keep well watered.
- Leave the tubers undisturbed to multiply into large clumps.
- Feed with a fortnightly dose of bulb food from flowering time.
Living Christmas Decorations
Christmas may still a way away, but if you would like to do something a bit different, now is the time to start planning. Imagine the sight of Amaryllis in full and glorious bloom as part of your display.
It’s relatively easy to get your amaryllis to flower when you want them to. Just pick up a few Hadeco bulbs, slip them into a brown paper packet and pop into a fridge. The temperature should be around 5ºC – never below freezing.
This will fool the bulbs into believing it is still winter, keeping them dormant. The bulbs will flower in about 6 weeks once planted so pot them up around 10 November.
Pot into any size container (you can even plant it in a pot just bigger than the bulb), provided it has a drainage hole. Choose a good potting soil which drains well. The soil should be light, yet nutritious and contain no tree bark.
Hold the bulb so that its roots hang into the pot and then fill in the soil. Firm down so that no air pockets remain around the roots. The nose of the bulb should remain above the pot’s rim, with its shoulder protruding above the soil surface.
Once planted, water – any excess water should drain away quickly. If you have a tray under a pot, empty it out after an hour or so to make sure the bulbs don’t sit in water.
Place your potted amaryllis in a light, warm position. Water it every couple of days, and feed with Hadeco bulb food. In late autumn, stop watering and let your bulb have a well-deserved rest. Repot every two seasons.
- For a red and white theme “Sundance”, a vibrant red and “Intokazi” a pure white are winners.
- Potted Amaryllis make beautiful gifts.
Along with hemlines, plants also seen to follow fashion trends. Dahlias were first grown in Aztec temples and when they first arrived in Europe two hundred years ago they became an instant hit. Once again dahlias are all the rage.
This is hardly surprising considering the endless variety that Dahlias offer and the ease with which they are grown.
Few will deny that Dahlias are useful and rewarding plants to grow. Planted after the danger of frost is over, they will flower from mid-summer right until the first winter frosts. Their flowers, which come in every flower colour except clear blue, range from miniatures less than 2cm across to giants the size of dinner plates.
Dahlias may be grown in any garden soil but will do best in one that is rich in organic matter, phosphate and potash. The soil should never be allowed to dry out and the more organic matter the soil contains and the better you have mulched, the less water will be needed.
Hadeco offers a large selection of Dahlia’s. Lower growing, bushy kinds make easygoing bedding plants while the taller varieties are indispensable in herbaceous borders. They also look stunning when planted on mass. Here their varying colours and heights may be used to the greatest effect.
- Dahlias should only be bought and planted from late September.
- Dahlias like bright sunshine. The more sun they get, the sturdier the plants will be.
- Dead head spent blooms to encourage more flowers.
Lifting and Storing Winter bulbs
Spring’s starting to wind down now leaving many gardeners with the question of “What next, can I keep bulbs for next year and if so do I need to lift them”.
It’s well worth the little extra effort it takes to prepare your bulbs for the next season. From when the bulb finishes flowering until it goes dormant it stores up as many nutrients as possible. It needs as much sustenance as possible to take it through the dormant period.
For this reason it is important to wait until all the bulbs’ foliage has died down naturally before lifting them. If you feed your bulbs a fortnightly dose of Hadeco bulb food, from when their flowers fade, you will help ensure fatter, healthier bulbs with top quality blooms in the next season.
The next part of the answer depends on how well drained you soil is. If water is allowed to collect and lie around the bulbs they may rot away. If your bulbs are planted in a soil with poor drainage then it is better to lift them.
You should lift your bulbs every few years, once they become overcrowded. When the bulbs have to vie for space, nutrients and moisture their performance may start to take a knock. After all their foliage has died down, lift your bulbs; brush off any loose soil, rinse under a tap and lay them in a shady corner to dry.
Once dry they can be divided and placed in old stockings, orange bags, sawdust filled crates – basically in anything that allows air to circulate. Store in a cool, well-ventilated shed or cupboard, until next autumn.
- It is a good idea to label the various bags, just in case you forget which is which by the time the next planting season comes around.
- Some bulbs like tulips and hyacinths rarely give good results in their second season. Our spring temperatures are just not cool enough.
Usually, by this time of year, your garden will be in full and glorious bloom. Here are some tips to help keep your garden looking at its best.
With the heat that generally accompanies December; the most important task is to ensure your garden is getting enough moisture. As a general rule, your plants will need about 25mm of rain a week to keep in shape. If Mother Nature is not supplying you with enough water, you’re going to have to do it yourself.
Water your bulbs and other plants in the garden with a sprinkler, for 40 minutes, every 4 days. Do not water every day. The roots want to be in moist soil, but the bulbs above them want to dry slightly between watering. As soil in pots dries out quicker, water bulbs in pots every two days.
Pots should never be in full sun. When it comes to protecting your garden from the ravages of our extreme South African climate, mulch is the gardener’s first line of defence. Mulch keeps the soil cool, combats evaporation and protects tender new roots, promoting healthier plants.
If you are using darkly coloured mulch like bark chips, it reduces reflected light which reduces ambient temperature, which reduces the moisture lost through transpiration, which reduces watering etc, etc. Mulch also helps to control weeds because it cuts out light to the soil’s surface, inhibiting seed germination.
We all know the benefits that earthworms have on the condition of the soil. Mulch, especially those organic in nature, encourages their activity. It helps control erosion and lessens the soil compaction that occurs when water hits the ground.
Give your lawn a boost of nitrogen with LAN fertiliser. This will ensure your grass will be lush green for Christmas. Apply agricultural lime to your lawn to discourage weed growth both now and again in winter. Deadhead any spent flowers.
On some plants this will encourage more blooms to emerge, while on others it will stop them wasting energy on producing seed.