Some local gardens are displaying bright areas of colour resulting from Mesembryanthemum plants. These come in a variety of colours, including orange, yellow, pink, purple, red and white.
Mesembryanthemums are commonly known as Pig Face. They grow as low ground-cover plant.
Flowers are long lasting and grow on a drought tolerant, low maintenance plant. This makes them ideal for many landscaping situations. Plants grow in full sun, in a variety of soils. Good results are obtained from plants growing in poor soils.
Pig face are members of the succulent family and this leads to their tough, reliable nature.
The botanical name means that the flowers open at midday, and this happens on sunny days.
The foliage of plants forms a thick matt, making it a good ground cover plant. Plants will trail over rocks and retaining walls, but they also make good subjects for containers and hanging baskets.
Fertiliser is generally not required, apart from an occasional application of a seaweed solution. Maintenance usually involves only tidying up the plant to meet landscape requirements.
Pig Face doesn't suffer from many pests or diseases. Excess humidity may lead to some fungal problems and mealy bugs occasionally infect plants.
Pot plants should receive some attention this month as this will encourage them to produce new, shiny growth, or, a good display of flowers.
The plant can be removed from its pot by tapping it gently, in an inverted position, easing it from the pot. If the root system has become entangled and congested, some of the roots should be removed, using a sharp knife.
The plant can then be placed into a slightly larger pot to which has been added a good quality potting mix. Water the plant well by placing it into a bucket of water until bubbles cease to come to the surface.
The application of a very weak soluble fertiliser or seaweed-based solution will assist the plant to make new roots and grow successfully. It may be preferable to place the plant initially in a shaded or sheltered position.
Asparagus spears that have been picked fresh from the home vegetable garden have a flavour that is quite unique, and not available in store-bought produce. Asparagus can be planted as crowns, which should be placed 20-40cm apart and several centimetres deep, in well manured soil. Shoots will appear in spring.
Harvesting can take place when the shoots are about 50mm in diameter. During the first season, the majority of shoots should be left to grow into tall, leafy stems. This will allow the crowns to form strong plants, giving a good harvest the next year.
In autumn, the ferns die down. Red berries that may appear on the stems should be removed as they are poisonous. The dead stalks can be cut back to soil levels. Placing a thick layer of well-rotted manure or compost about the plants will ensure they are well fed.
When harvesting asparagus, the stalks should be cut off close to, or just under the soil level. A cool, frosty season in winter will assist in ensuring a good crop.
It is often more difficult to find plants that will grow successfully in shady areas of the garden, and also produce beautiful flowers. However, clivias are bulbous plants that bring a lush, tropical look to shady areas of the garden throughout the year.
Clivias grow very well in dry shade and require very little maintenance. Mass plantings create spectacular displays. Clivias are now starting to display their bright colours in local gardens. Plants are generally tolerant of competition from the roots of neighbouring trees and shrubs.
Provided plants receive protection from extreme frosts and cold, clivias can be grown in most areas. If they are grown in areas of full sun the leaves may become sunburnt, especially if the plants are allowed to dry out.
The most common variety, Clivia miniata, produce bright orange flowers with yellow throats. Flowers are produced on thick stems that generally just reach to the top of the leaves, about 60cm in height.
Belgian hybrid forms have larger, richer reddish-orange flowers, and recent hybrids have been developed with yellow, peach and pink blooms. The flowers are upward facing. However, Clivia nobilis produces pendulous flowers.
Clivias prefer good drainage, so the addition of compost to heavier soils will be beneficial to the plants. They should be watered well after planting. A weekly soaking will be beneficial, particularly when plants are getting established. They originate from South Africa and have fleshy, bulb-like roots.
After several years of growth, plants will form larger clumps that should be lifted and divided to form newer, smaller plants. It is preferable to do this in early spring. Seed heads may also be produced on the flower stems.
New plants can be grown from the seeds, although the new plants may not be true to type. They will take 4 to 5 years before they flower.
Clivias are subject to few diseases. Pests include snails, which can destroy the flowers. However, a more serious pest is the black and yellow striped amaryllis caterpillars (also known as the lily borers), which can cause a lot of damage to the whole plant in a very short time. These usually appear in the base of the plant. Prompt attention is required, using a pyrethrum spray.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Check garden beds for the starry-white flowers of onion weed, on tall thin stems, and pull them from the stems.
- Remove any shoots that have appeared below the graft of trees and shrubs by twisting them off between the fingers.
- Fertilise couch, kikuyu and buffalo lawns with a complete plant food.