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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.