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Indigenous Gardening - Prepare Your Bulbs For Spring Print E-mail
Marlaen Straathof   
Thursday, 20 March 2008

Indigenous Gardening - Prepare Your Bulbs For SpringSpring is the most beautiful time of the year and if you want to have a garden that comes alive from August now is the time to plan and plant it. Instead of opting for the traditional daffodils and primulas consider using indigenous bulbs and their companion spring flowers.
 
There is a host of indigenous bulbs to choose from and these include a new range of original species bulbs of Watsonia, and Ornithogalum (Chinckerinchee) in white, yellow and orange. They come in a dazzling array of colours and will give the garden the sort of lift it needs after a long winter. They can be planted together with indigenous spring flowers like Namaqualand daisies, Diascia, Nemesia, or Felicia.
 
These are the wild bulbs that have been grown and bred in the Cape and can be described as heritage bulbs. Because they are not hybrids, the size of the bulbs will vary and the flowers may also be smaller but they are the same as those that naturally occur in the rolling Cape countryside and alongside mountain streams.
 

The bulbs can be planted until the end of May and flowers can be expected through to early October.

 
Planting Bulbs
The most important thing to remember when planting indigenous bulbs is to plant them with the point upwards.
 
Each bulb packet is supplied with planting instructions, including planting depth, and it is important to read the instructions before planting.
 
Watering is also very important and as all the indigenous bulbs come from the winter rainfall area of the Western Cape, their roots should be kept continuously moist, but not sodden.
 
If they are to be mixed with spring annuals, first plant the annuals and fill in with the bulbs, in this way the bulbs will not be damaged or dug up by mistake when loosening the ground for the annuals.
 
Once the bulbs finish flowering at the end of spring they can be pulled up and thrown away. Many gardeners want to keep the bulbs going year after year and that is why people think bulbs are hard work, but they should be treated like annuals and cleared out once they are finished. Throwing things away does not make a person a bad gardener. We all do it and it makes gardening much easier and less stressful, as well as opening up space for something different.

 
Indigenous Spring Flowers
The brightest of all spring flowers is the African daisy, also known as the Namaqualand daisy. A bumper seed pack goes a long way and contains yellow, orange and white daisies that germinate very easily. They grow in any kind of soil, in a sunny position, and once they have germinated and are growing well they don’t need much water.

There is also a Namaqualand flower mix called Scatterings of Africa which, in addition to Namaqualand daisies, contains other indigenous spring flowers in a range of different colours.

Another colourful alternative that grows well from seed are Mesembryanthemums, otherwise known as Vygies or Mesembs. Mesembs are very low growing and cover the ground like a carpet, with many colourful daisy like flowers. They like lots of sun but not too much water, except while germinating when the soil should be kept moist. They are very tough garden flowers that don’t mind the heat or the drought.
 
Another ‘daisy like’ winter and spring flower is the Osteospermum Serenity that develops into a compact, upright bush, between 30cm and 40 cm high, with glossy dark green leaves. Compared to its predecessors, this new variety is a hardy, tough, no fuss garden plant with a great selection of colours.

 
Soft Touch
There are also indigenous flowers in softer colours that tone down the bright colours of the bulbs.
 
Nemesia ‘Aromatica’ has delicate fragrant blooms, and is suitable for the garden and containers, hanging baskets, or as a filler for window boxes. The new hybrids are more compact and better branched than previous varieties.

Aromatica Deep Blue is a very dark blue, while other shades are Rose Pink and Light Pink. They thrive in sun or semi-shade, grow 35cm high and produce profusion of snapdragon-like flowers, but in miniature.
     
Diascia ‘Whisper’ (Spur flower) is ideal for landscapes and large containers. It has exceptional vigour and heat tolerance, and is more upright, yet compact growing than older varieties. Colour shades are red, lavender, and apricot. The Diascia ‘Wink’ Series includes colours like lavender, pink and apricot.
 
Bacopa ‘Breeze’ (also known as Sutera or indigenous phlox) has both trailing and upright growing varieties. It is an ankle high groundcover with graceful flowers and light, airy foliage. In particular, look out for Bacopa Breeze Indigo which has a darker blue flower and a larger flower size compared to other blue or lavender varieties, there’s also a pink and upright growing white. all are fast growing groundcovers with a mounded growth, providing cushions of colour.

The bulbs and seeds mentioned are available from Kirchhoffs racks at garden centres, hardware stores and selected supermarkets. Look out for quality selected plants at a nursery or garden centre near you.

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