• Lifestyle College

Why We love Spring!

Winter is the cold. Summer is the hot. Spring – which we hope, is just around the corner - is that great inbetweener. It's never too hot or too cold. It always is just right. And when it is too hot, there is always a little breeze.

It’s about to be a busy time in the garden, and because, to date, we have not had any rain, it’s still rather dry and dusty out there. But the pink jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) and some Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’s (Brunfelsia pauciflora) are coming out in full fragrance, your hidden treasures, all the spring flowering bulbs you’d hidden in the garden at the beginning of winter, should be showing their true colours, and a couple of trees look like they’ve grown little green afros. You can almost feel the sap rising – the promise of warmth, and fun, and sun, and … well, just hope, I think.

Sure, it’s time to get shot of all the dead ornamental grass stalks and spent perennial stems, to get the pruning of trees and shrubs done (which should have already been done during the colder weather as there’s less chance of infection hitting the newly pruned branches) and dividing of clumping plants like agapanthus, clivias, tulbaghia and lemon grass to attend to. Along with making sure your tools are in tip-top shape and that you’ve cleared away any garden debris and either put it on the compost heap, or in the tip.

It isn’t quite time right now to pack away the winter woollies – our weather can be a tad recalcitrant, like snowing in the second week of September, but that’s no reason for us not to get the garden ready. While we’re waiting to strip down, it’s a great time to add an extra blanket to your backyard, in the form of fresh new compost and a great layer of mulch, just to ensure the soil is ready for the seedlings you’ll be happily popping into bed.

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.” ― Pablo Neruda

But there’s the promise of colourful abundance, if you take some time to plan what you’d like your spring garden to look like. Although, this is one time when we should forget about colour schemes and simply enjoy our bright and beautiful gardens, gardens where floral pictures are painted in glorious splashes of colour.

After the grey, cold, dreary dustiness of winter, planting a bright garden is the way to shake those winter blues! Frankly, when it comes to colour – and already walking around the garden centres, there is a jaw-dropping variety available – to my mind, every spring garden should have some easy-to-grow perennial daisies. While there are dozens of varieties, those that have really caught my eye with their blocks of cheerful colour on a blustery, dry day is one that has become really popular - the indigenous African Daisy (Osteospermum). These outstanding beauties, which first made a big splash in display gardens in the 1990s, have the familiar centre disk of the daisy family, but theirs are dark metallic. The brightly coloured petals come in various shades of white, pink, yellow, blue and purple, so you should find one that will fit right in with your preferred colour scheme.

And they are perfect for beginning gardeners and those whose thumbs aren’t too green!

They are among the easiest plants to grow. They like rich, well drained soil and full sunshine, will readily tolerate poorer soils and partial shade and need little attention during the year. This shrubby, semi-succulent herbaceous flowering plant can grow between 15 and 30 cm tall and spread about a metre in width and are topped with showy daisy flowers from late winter through spring.

Because they can stop blooming during hot spells, they are best planted in combinations, although the funky colours can be hard to combine with other flowers. Pairing them with complementary foliage is a great way to incorporate them into a planting and guaranteeing there will be colour, even when the plants are not in bloom.

Daisies are seldom bothered by insects and disease. Gray mould can develop in damp or humid conditions, so ensure they have good air circulation. And they’re also susceptible to root rot, in wet soil, so only plant in well-draining soil. Whitefly and aphids can become a problem, but can be controlled if caught early.

When it comes to insects, spare a though for our little goggas out there, especially the beneficial kind, at this time of year. This is a good time to see if you can find out where things like slugs, snails, flies, lily borers and other nasties have been hanging out, but you don’t want to strip away everything useful in the garden before the goodies wake up. In early spring, many insects are still in a physiological state akin to hibernation, including lacewings, parasitic wasps, tiny native bees and the like, which have hunkered down to wait out winter in hollow plant stems, so cutting those down too early will disturb them before they get a chance to wake up, have a stretch and get out and about doing their thing, like munching on pests. If, however, you’re impatient and just want to get rid of the dead wood, toss the cut stems either onto a compost pile very loosely, so that the insects taking shelter inside will be able to emerge when the time is right. Or bundle the stems up and pop them up against a fence or tree to create your very own really easy bug hotel. Clean up and help the environment all at the same time.

Make it easy on yourself, and take it easy on your garden. Don’t miss out on all the joy that’s on offer because you’re just too busy to take a step back and appreciate it all....

(By the way, if you haven’t done so already, now would be a great time to consider investing in a rainwater harvesting tank up here on the Highveld. Get ready for the summer rains!)

Did You Know? Daisies can be found growing on every continent in the world, except Antarctica.

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