Garden tasks for January


Keep your garden colourful in January: add layers of mulch to retain moisture in the soil, feed your plants to promote healthy growth and remove spent flowers.

Shade gardening

Instead of seeing shade as a problem, think of it as a welcome escape from the hot summer sun and an opportunity to grow shade-loving plants.

Clivias brighten shady spots in the garden, not only in spring when C. miniata flowers, but also in autumn with the greentipped pendant flowers of C. gardenii.

Plectranthus grow in dappled or light shade, with many flowering in autumn. Some grow as shrubs with white, pink or purple spur-like flowers (P. fruticosis, P. ecklonii); others are useful groundcovers for moist soil (P. ciliatus, P. oertendahlii).

Plants that make excellent groundcovers in shade are waterwise fairy crassula (Crassula multicava) with its succulent leaves and tiny whitepink starry flowers; variegated or green-leafed hen-and-chickens (Chlorophytum comosum); and lirope with tufts of grass-like, sometimes striped, foliage and mauve or white flowers.

Plants for subtropical shade gardens include anthurium and spathiphyllum, ferns, tree ferns, coleus and bromeliads.

Short and sweet

The prettiest plants are not always the biggest, but their small stature only adds to their charm. Edge a path or bed with thyme, alyssum, Echeveria secunda with its greygreen rosettes and Geranium incanum with its finely cut leaves and cupped magenta flowers.

Miniature roses such as ‘Antique Gold’, ‘Chasin’ Rainbows’ and ‘Green Ice’ are compact-growing roses with clusters of tiny buds that open to perfect blooms. Be aware that not all miniature roses have a compact growth habit.

Cool blues

Blue flowers in the summer garden introduce a cool atmosphere and have a calming and restful effect on a hot day.

Agapanthus in shades of blue are favourites for summer gardens, as are hydrangeas.

Plant clusters of violet-blue Lavandula pinnata ‘Sidonie’ and Salvia nemorosa ‘May Night’, ‘Victoria Blue’ or ‘Black and Blue’ as focal points in a border. Other flowers in various shades of blue include borage, campanula, felicia, hebe, lobelia and nigella.

New Year's resolutions

? Help your garden cope with drought conditions by adding an organic mulch of coarse compost, bark chips, shredded bark, cocoa husks, peanut shells or pine needles to the soil – this will retain moisture and it will break down in time, returning nutrients to the soil.

? Make use of waterwise plants that grow naturally in your region or have adapted to local conditions.

? Encourage birds to visit your garden by providing food, water, shelter from predators and a safe place to rear their young.

? Be creative when planting up containers by combining flowers, herbs and a variety of vegetables.

? Use trellises and screening plants to create outdoor ‘rooms’ in the garden for dining and relaxing.

Gardening tips for January

• To discourage lettuce from bolting, grow under temporary shade netting. Plant a few seedlings at a time, and harvest when leaves are about 6cm long. Keep soil moist.

• Some autumn flowering shrubs, including sasanqua camellias, are already forming buds. Water regularly and mulch to prevent any new buds from aborting.

• Give roses a light summer pruning to encourage a good autumn show, but leave sufficient leaves to feed roots and prevent sunburn of stems.

• A rose garden can look uninteresting between flushes. Underplant with aromatic herbs such as sage, oregano, lavender and dianthus.

• Herbs can put on a lot of growth in summer. Cut back to encourage a more compact shape.

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April 2023

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