Spring has arrived and this is the perfect time of year to breathe new life into your coastal garden. Elsa Pooley – one of the country’s leading botanists, instrumental in creating the indigenous gardens at Renishaw Hills on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast – has outlined the best practice to get your garden in shape this season.
“After the long dry winter, everything is looking a bit thin and lanky,” explained Elsa. “Some plants will have died or are past their best so will you need to a careful look at your garden and identify the spaces which need attention. Before you start planning on bringing in new plants, make sure that all the maintenance matters are under control.”
- Fertiliser – you can use an all-purpose commercial fertiliser which will need to be watered into the soil, or spread when the first rains arrive; or you can use an organic fertiliser.
- Mulch – this keeps your soil healthy and moist, and your plants healthy too. Mulch breaks down during the year and is absorbed into the soil. I apply a new layer of mulch at least once a year, although sometimes I use my home-made compost for this purpose.
- Prune – trim old growth from flowering shrubs and perennials to prepare for the summer. Prune summer flowering trees and shrubs in winter, and winter or spring flowering ones should be pruned in summer.
- Dead-head – cut off old flowers on flowering plants to encourage more flowers to grow. You should do this throughout the year.
Once your garden is prepared, you can start deciding which new plants you would look to introduce. Elsa suggests adding some bulbs into the garden as a great investment. While they generally only flower once a year, they put on a great show.
Spring and early summer plants
- Bush Lily (Clivia miniate) – This needs shade, but has great evergreen foliage so it has real impact in the garden.
- River Lily (Crinum macowanii) – This flowers in spring and again around February. A good, mature bulb will throw up two or three flowering heads with beautiful fragrant white and pink flowers. Plant a few to make a real spectacle.
- Forest Lily (Crinum moorei) – This is not a spring flowering bulb, but a wonderful addition to the garden. The leaves are attractive, and it will produce beautiful pink or white flowers more than once a year.
- White Paint Brush Lily (Haemanthus albiflos) – This versatile bulb needs to be planted in a clump. It mostly flowers in winter, producing lovely big red fruits in early summer. It is evergreen, happy in deep shade and with some sun.
- Paintbrush Lily (Scadoxus puniceus) – This deciduous bulb is a sure sign of spring, coming into bud in late July and flowering into September. The flowers are beautiful, the fruits attract birds and the leaves are also attractive.
- Glossy Forest Lily (Veltheimia bracteate) – This bulb produces beautiful pink heads of flowers in late winter or spring, and inflated fruits almost as beautiful as the flowers. It is happy in deep shade but can take some sun as well.
Spring flowering trees
- September Bells (Rothmannia globose) – This is a shrub or small tree. You need to buy a mature plant which has already flowered, because it is a slow-growing species. The whole plant is covered in creamy white, beautifully-scented flowers in spring.
- Wild Dog Rose (Xylotheca kraussiana) – This is a small tree which bursts into bloom with large white flowers in spring, and then flowers on and off throughout the summer. The orange fruits split to show the shiny red seeds which are quickly found by the birds.
Phil Barker, Managing Director of Renishaw Property Developments, developers of Renishaw Hills, said the work done by Elsa Pooley and her team was vivaciously evident at the moment: “One of the value-added benefits of the properties at Renishaw Hills is that every unit has a beautifully landscaped indigenous garden. These are perennially stunning, but will certainly be something to behold once the first spring rains have fallen.”
The ethos behind the development of this mature lifestyle village was to enhance the natural environment wherever possible through construction and design: “We are continuing this biodiverse ethos at Renishaw Hills this September by planting hundreds of indigenous trees and shrubs along the main road through our Pledge-a-Tree campaign in celebration of Arbor Week. Residents will be able to pledge a tree and be actively involved in the growth at Renishaw Hills.”