Lizette JonkerThe trouble with spring

We all enjoy spring, especially after the long winter. In the northern parts of South Africa the winter is always ugly, with a lot of fires destroying the beautiful blonde winter grass. Because of the cold nights and frost a lot of people don’t even bother gardening in winter. So your general colour palette is either frosted, dead gardens or burnt fields – not nice at all. That is why spring is our favourite season – my, the vibrant colours, intoxicating fragrances and sound of chattering birds and humming bees overwhelm the senses!

Double flowering cherry

Double flowering cherry

Japanese crabapple

Japanese crabapple

In Gauteng the garden centres suddenly and miraculously overflow with enticing flowering plants (where have they hidden all this glory?), and because you have spring fever, you don’t even feel guilty filling your car with those expensive beauties! Of course, if you have done a little bit of work in your own garden, planting up the beds with bulbs, seeds or seedlings a month or three, four earlier, you could have had a lot of your own colour going already!

 

Paperwhite daffodils

Paperwhite daffodils

 

Preparing for spring takes a lot of discipline and dedication. It means you actually have to garden in winter! This may seem strange to gardeners in countries where the garden has a thick blanket of snow in winter and you are forced to hibernate inside your house. However, in South Africa we have more than one region where the winter is quite mild – even warm – and dry, and where you could easily garden right through the winter. In fact, this is the ideal season to move around roses and shrubs, and to plant up new herb gardens and borders. This way you are ready for spring and everything will start blooming in September.

 

Wisteria and Weigela

Wisteria and Weigela

 

I plant a lot of bulbs in my garden – different daffodil varieties, ranunculus, ixia, babiana, tulips, iris, muscari, Asiatic lilies, St Joseph lilies, chasmanthe, sparaxis, chinks and tritonia, for a late winter and early spring show. All of those stay in the soil, and I only replace the tulips and ranunculus every year. The rest of them just grow and flower again! I also have bearded and Louisana irises flowering in spring, and of course wisteria, petrea, mayflower, flowering cherry, Japanese crabapple, poppies (Iceland, Flanders, Shirley and Californian), two kinds of snowball bush, mock orange and azaleas.

Sweetpeas and common snowball bush

Sweetpeas & common snowball bush

 

 

In October the spicy sweetpeas, pretty roses, and perfumed star jasmine join the riot of colour, and in late spring the cute pink puffs of the pompon trees and papery silver blue Hibiscus syriacus rub shoulders in my front garden. It may sound as if I have a huge garden, but I actually have a medium-sized garden. I do not plant masses of one kind of flower, but rather aim to promote biodiversity by planting small groups of many kinds of plants.

Wild ginger

Wild ginger

 

 

I just have one problem with spring – it is over way too soon! October started off with no rain and very high temperatures, causing all the flowers to mature quickly. I tried to talk to my plants, asking them nicely to take things slowly, but no! they just popped open one flower after the other. Within two weeks my 30 cm high hollyhocks grew to over two metres – can you believe it?

White daisy bushes

White daisy bushes

 

Trees that offered some dappled shade in winter literally grew thick canopies almost overnight, and suddenly all the summer plants are shooting up and pushing the soft spring flowers out of the way. And even though summer in South Africa is glorious and brings a completely different buzz with it, I can’t help wondering if there will be anything for me to admire in my garden. I will keep you posted the moment I can get rid of the post-spring blues!

Please visit me for a daily chat on my Facebook page, Garden Diva – where I also announce talks in my garden.

Freylinia

Freylinia

 

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Lizette Jonker

About Lizette Jonker

Lizette Jonker, the South African Garden Diva, is first and foremost a gardener, albeit a very restless and impatient one! She has worked as photojournalist and stylist for several South African magazines the past 20 years, inspiring readers with creative gardening, décor and craft ideas. Her last full-time job, as editor of the very popular SA Garden magazine, ended last October when the publisher decided to close the magazine. She now freelances for Finesse and Garden & Home magazines, and gives regular garden talks at garden centres and garden clubs. She comes from a family of plant lovers who understand the need to share and explore everything that grows. She travels South Africa and the world in search of beautiful gardens to capture, usually accompanied by a small tour group organised by Thompsons Holidays. Her other big passion is singing - she is a trained dramatic soprano and vocal coach, and is part of the operatic group XQST. She shares a home in Pretoria, South Africa, with her handyman husband Chris, her son Duard, who is a first year opera student, and her mom Jean, who also loves gardening and has a rose named after her.

One thought on “The trouble with spring

  1. Your spring photos are so beautiful Lizette. That first blossom one is just gorgeous. In Australia we often find that the harsh sunlight destroys the look of pretty pastels in the garden – is that ever a problem in SA?

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