In The Garden

Written By: The Lowdown - Nov• 30•12

How often do you buy a plant and when you get home wonder ”Where on earth do I put it?” I do it all the time. I have a little row of plants waiting sorrowfully in their black plastic bags for me to decide where they should be planted. There is only one answer – a total re-make of some of your beds. You might decide that there is room for a completely new bed, maybe linking two adjacent trees. Imagine it full of glorious plants that love shade screening off a part of your garden so that a visitor can explore the hidden corners. Check that the tree roots are not shallow, occupying the space the new plants need. If there are too many shallow roots leave the trees as they are and find a new spot for the bed. If you extend the bed beyond the shade of the trees you can include sun-loving plants too.

Where do you begin? With the hosepipe! Take the hosepipe and lay it along the ground round the edge of the bed you want to create. To see an actual solid line on the ground makes it far easier to work out how big the bed should be and precisely what shape. Taller plants will go in the centre and shorter ones near the edge. Always check how much shade a plant will tolerate as this is the most important factor in choosing its position. Or you can make a bed in full sun where you can plant some shrubs or a bottle brush tree in the centre for height and surround them with colourful perennials. Remember to provide contrast with some plants like lavender, Dusty Miller (centauria cineraria) or the red fountain grass (pennisetum). Next remove the grass – or weeds! – and dig over the whole new bed. You can use the grass elsewhere if you cut sods about 10 cm deep and transplant them before they start to dry out. Now you will appreciate the compost pit in the corner of your garden … the source of the compost you are going to use to enrich the soil. Add other fertilisers if possible, like some dry kraal or stable manure, and river sand if the drainage is poor. Soil preparation is essential and the number one factor in a successful garden.

I paid a quick visit to Plantworld on Los Angeles Blvd just before the FedEx roundabout and bought 12 plants I really wanted for under K50,000. They specialise in herbs and basic useful plants. They are also selling large white pebbles although these come at a price. For once I did know where these were to be planted and they were in the ground the same day.

A word of warning now the rains are almost here: check big old trees! A friend had one come crashing down in the night scaring the pants off the guard, damaging the gate and narrowly missing the parked cars. Be prudent though as I still miss the large branches that used to overhang my drive. I decided they had to be lopped and now my drive is like an oven in the afternoons. I planted another tree.


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