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Gardening in South Africa

Gram for gram, watercress contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than bananas.


WatercressWatercressWatercress (Nasturtium officinale), a close cousin of mustard greens, cabbage and arugula, is considered to be one of the oldest leaf vegetables consumed by humans, with its health giving properties being known since ancient times. Today we know that watercress is brimming with more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals, and if you are a salad lover, you are more than likely familiar with its peppery flavour. "Nasturtium" comes from the Latin words “nasus tortus” which means "twisted nose." If you've ever eaten a particularly spicy bunch of watercress, you know exactly why it acquired this name! Watercress can also be used in salads, soups, sandwiches and many more dishes, to add a bit of zing!

A grouping of Felicia will always catch the eye in the garden.

alt Felicia amelloides. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaFelicia amelloides. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaBlue is a sought after colour amongst gardeners because it is quite rare, especially a true blue shade. Kingfisher Daisies, with their masses of striking sky-blue and sunny yellow flower heads fit the bill, catching the eye wherever they are planted. There are approximately 84 species of Felicia, and South Africa is blessed with about 79. This little plant did not go un-noticed and was one of the earliest species used in horticulture, first being introduced to Europe in the middle of the eighteenth century; it also features on one of our stamps. Sky-blue, pale blue, violet-blue, pink and white flowered forms are available, as well as a variegated variety and a beautiful annual which is entirely blue.

If you love celery you will be delighted to discover that it is one of the world’s healthiest foods.

Celery "Utah Tall" Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaCelery "Utah Tall" Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaWhether you consider celery to be a vegetable or herb, bland and boring, or delightfully unique in flavour, celery remains one of the world’s healthiest foods and a required addition to many classic dishes. In many countries it is served as a vegetable and in others the seeds, stems and leaves are used for flavouring as well as medicinally.

The celery we know today is a direct descendant of the wild celery (Apium graveolens) commonly called “smallage”. A member of the parsley or carrot family, this wild celery can be found growing on boggy riversides and marshy ground, giving a clue to its growth requirements. It has been cultivated since antiquity, and although it is thought to be from the Mediterranean region where it has been cultivated since at least 3,000 years ago, the "wild" relatives of celery can be traced from the British Isles to Sweden, Algeria, Egypt, China, and India. Celery was cultivated in Egypt about 3,000 years ago and the seeds were buried with the pharaohs for strength in the afterlife; and the ancient Chinese ate it to slow down the ageing process.

The spectacular flowers of the paintbrush lily will have your friends and family reaching for their cameras!

Scadoxus puniceus. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaScadoxus puniceus. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaThe spectacular paintbrush lily is a member of the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae) and one of South Africa's most striking bulbous plants with its large, glossy green tropical leaves, brilliant bright-red paintbrushes and fat red fruits.  The name Scadoxus is derived from "doxus" meaning glory or splendour, and ‘’punicues’’ meaning crimson, scarlet or purple. The 9 species are found in tropical Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, where they can be found growing wild in tropical woodlands. Three species: S. puniceus, S. multiflorus and S. membranaceus occur in South Africa. Scadoxus was formerly classified as Haemanthus to which it is closely related, but was separated in order to distinguish those plants with elongated stems (Scadoxus) from those with broad, stemless leaves (Haemanthus).

Plant a "carbon sponge" in your garden or home with the beautiful Spekboom

Portulacaria afra. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaPortulacaria afra. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaThe spekboom belongs to a large and widespread family (Portulacaceae) which includes the popular summer flowering annual Portulaca, although this annual is not a South African species. Portulacaria afra has a growing reputation for saving the planet and recent research has dubbed the spekboom "an excellent carbon sponge" because of its ability to absorb more free carbon from the atmosphere than most other plants. Studies have shown that this amazing succulent can store more than four tons of carbon per hectare, creating what is called a "carbon sink" when planted in large plantations, and making it one of the best plants to grow in order to combat warming of the earth's atmosphere. In fact, this beautiful yet unassuming succulent has become so famous it even has its own Facebook page!

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Books

Gardening in the Shade

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Growing Vegetables in South Africa

Growing Bedding Plants in South Africa

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