Hydrangeas : The basics

The rains are finally here!

This is the perfect time to give your favourite ‘water loving’ plants a try. One plant that should be on your radar this season is the Hydrangea.

First discovered in Japan, the name Hydrangea derives its name from the Greek word “hydor” meaning water and “angos” meaning jar or vessel. This refers to Hydrangea’s need for plenty water.

Hydrangeas have a wide range of colours

Unrivaled in the shrub world for beautiful flowers, these elegant plants are easy to cultivate, tolerate almost any soil and produce abundant blooms.

Blooming in shades of clear blue, purple,vibrant pink with some selections in frosty white,green or red, they are hard to resist

Planting Hydrangeas

As with most plants in your garden, learning the basics of how to plant Hydrangeas can save you a lot of time and money.

  1. Best time to plant Hydrangeas

It is best to plant Hydrangeas during the rainy season. The idea is to give the shrub plenty of time to establish a healthy root system before blooming and given that they require moist soil, the rains are a plus.

However, if you decide to plant during the hot season, it would be wise to time your planting for early morning or late afternoon .This will offer protection from heat stress.

Note that during the hotter months of the year, your Hydrangea will need to be kept well watered so ensure you have enough water during this period.

Pink blooms of Hydrangea macrophylla

2. Where to plant Hydrangeas

They do well in partial shade so pick a spot in your garden where they’ll receive morning sun and less heat in the afternoon.

Its also important to note that you should avoid planting them directly under trees because the trees roots will compete for the rich moist soil around you hydrangea. We don’t want that. ๐Ÿ™‚

3. Type of soil

Hydrangeas thrive in rich, well drained, moist soils. It’s a good idea to work in some well rotted manure or compost prior to planting Hydrangeas.

They always appreciate a layer of mulch during the hot dry season to help conserve moisture and feed them up for the coming growing season.

4. Pruning

This is the act of cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems.

There are two main reasons to prune hydrangeas : to remove dead or damaged stems and to control their plant height and girth if they outgrow the space they’re occupying. The latter is especially important when you’re dealing with potted Hydrangeas.

To prune or not to prune?

Source: Instagram @bobbiesblooms

Pruning hydrangeas is mostly a matter of choice and it depends on the type of Hydrangea you have.

The first step of pruning is identifying what type of hydrangea you have. For instance, Hydrangea Macrophylla (Lacecap and Mophead), which is the most common Variety, is often pruned after blooming.

Pruning has an effect on the number of blooms in the next season. If its done at the right time and done correctly, you’ll enjoy more blooms the next blooming season.

Getting it right is important!

Colour changing.

This is by far the most unique aspect of Hydrangeas:)

An interesting quirk of Hydrangeas is their ability to change the colour of their flowers in certain soils. However, this process takes weeks, months even.

Bigleaf hydrangeas(H.macrophylla) – especially Mophead and Lacecap types are the predominant cultivars that are known to change colour based on the pH of your soil.

Acidic soils with a pH of less than 5.5 produce blue flowers: Alkaline soils (pH greater that 5.5) produce pink flowers.

After having your soil tested for pH, its fairly simple to increase acidity(for blue) or alkalinity(for pink).

  • To go blue

Apply a solution of Aluminium Sulphate (you can get this at your local agrovet ) * mixed with water three times per year.

*I am not too sure about the ratio so enquire from your local nursery.

A blue Hydrangea macrophylla
  • To go pink

Spread ground Limestone over the plant and water it well because excessive alkalinity causes chlorosis, or yellow leaves.

Landscaping with Hydrangeas

They can be used as hedges, screens and even container plants – depending on the variety. They are large showstoppers even when a single hydrangea is planted, which is excellent news for gardeners with small spaces.

The effect they have when they are planted in a group is simply astounding. They grow big, so if you do choose to plant them in a group, space them 2m apart to give them some wiggle room.

Container planting. Pruning is necessary when you plant Hydrangeas in containers.

With immense flower heads and large green leaves,these beauties flaunt a charm that is hard to resist. Get one from your local nursery and give it a try!

That’s your gardening tip of the week.

I’ll see you next time.

Verity.

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Why you need Indoor plants

The use of plants in interior spaces has become a growing trend and a much welcome one at that. Indoor plants however, should transcend trends because the benefits they offer should make us consider them a necessity rather than an object of dรฉcor, because good health should never be out of style. ๐Ÿ™‚

Source: Instagram

1.Increase oxygen levels

From basic biology we know that during the day plants take in Carbon (IV) oxide and give out Oxygen hence cleansing the air all around us and providing the best kind of atmosphere. At night however, they release Carbon (IV) oxide and take in Oxygen. Its therefore advisable to do some research before introducing any plant into your sleeping area.

Source: Instagram

They also maintain the humidity levels and on a hot and dry day,plants are a God-send. Itโ€™s definitely better than investing in humidifiers.

Plants also keep the temperature down, making sure that you donโ€™t have to depend on the artificial room coolants.

2. Air purifying

People tend to introduce toxins in their living spaces whether knowingly or unknowingly. Toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and carbon monoxide are emitted into the air by everyday electrical appliances, paint, carpets and cleansing agents .Moderate exposure over a prolonged period is harmful to humans and has been linked to increased heart disease.

So what’s one way of getting rid of these toxins?

Plants. ๐Ÿ™‚

Scientists in NASA conducted a study on air quality and they came to the conclusion that plants are adept to removing toxins in the air through their leaves, roots and even by the micro-organisms in potting soil.

Spathiphylum walisii (peace lily) is an excellent air purifier

3. Stress buster

Ever noticed how a stroll around a park just calms you down? Your troubles seem to fade away and you feel like all is right with the world?

That is the effect that plants have on our psyche. The sight of greenery and natural beautiful colours has been linked with the feeling of calmness as the green colour is a symbol of life and freshness.

Source :Instagram

According to a study done by Nursery and Garden Industry Australia,when plants were introduced in a working environment there is a reduction of the following:

  • Tension and anxiety reduces by 37%
  • Depression reduces by 58%
  • Anger and hostility reduces by 44%
  • Fatigue reduces by 38%

4.Increase productivity

A number of studies done with students and workers reveals that working in the presence of plants has a dramatic effect on the quality of work done. Being around plants improves concentration, memory retention, creativity and productivity.

Source : Instagram

Further, a study done by the University of Michigan showed that memory retention is increased by 20%.

5. Improves mental health

Have you been battling loneliness and/or depression? Horticultural therapy might help with that.

Taking care of plants has been proven to increase our levels of positivity, make us feel more secure and relaxed.

Its even been observed that patients who have plants or flowers in their room or who look out onto a garden from their rooms often recover rapidly than those who have no plants around them.

Source :Instagram

There’s no denying that plants have a massive impact on both our psychological and physiological well being and in the vast urban jungle that most of us live in, greenery is a rare thing to come by. So why not create your own little jungle in your home and office?

That’s your gardening tip of the week.

I’ll see you next time.

Verity.

DIY : Terrariums

A terrarium is a decorative garden grown in a glass container. In many ways, it’s like an aquarium but instead of fish, they’re used to house and grow plants.

Terrariums are great because they take up little space, they’re easy to make and for those with brown hands they are low maintenance and extremely easy to take care of. So yaaaay!

There are two types of terrariums based on the type of glass container you choose. There’s open terrariums which as the name suggests, have an opening that provides ample air circulation and low levels of humidity. Its perfect for succulents and cacti. Think of it as a miniature desert.

Closed terrariums on the other hand have a removable lid or cover. This provides high levels of humidity and creates its own ecosystem. Plants used in this type of terrarium should require minimal pruning and should be tolerant of high humidity like ferns or orchids.

An open terrarium

A closed terrarium

On this post, I’ll show you how to make an open terrarium.

You’ll need the following:

  • Glass container
  • Succulents
  • Potting soil
  • Activated charcoal
  • Rocks
  • Pebbles
  • Ornaments, trinkets (optional)
  • A spoon

Step 1 Choose a container

Pick a clean,clear, glass container with a wide neck to ease workmanship when assembling your terrarium and when pruning and watering it.

Step 2 Add small rocks at the bottom of the container

The rocks assist with drainage. Carefully spread a layer of small rocks at the bottom of the container, it is a glass container after all.

Step 3 Add a layer of activated charcoal

Activated charcoal gets rid of bacteria, bad odour and fungus: because we don’t want fungus among us ๐Ÿ˜‰ so I can’t stress how important it is. You don’t need much,just enough to cover the rocks.

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Step 4 Add in Sphagnum moss

Moss is meant to separate the soil from your drainage layer. Soak it in water for a few seconds and squeeze out any excess liquid.

Place it onto the rocks and pat it down ensuring that it covers the entire surface area.

Step 5 Add potting soil

There’s a certain kind of soil mix that’s made specifically for terrariums but its a bit expensive so I opted to get my potting mix from my local plant nursery. It’ll work the same.

Step 5 Add the succulents

Make holes in the soil to add in the succulents. Be creative with how you lay them out. You also don’t want to crowd them because with time they will grow in size. Remember not to choose succulents that are too big for your container.

Step 6 Add decorative ornaments

I chose to add a layer of small pebbles to cover the soil. You could also add ornamental trinkets to make it prettier but don’t go overboard with them.

Remember:Less is more.

How to care for your terrarium

  1. Naturally, succulents do not require a lot of water so ensure you don’t water them frequently. Once every two weeks will do. Use an applicator bottle to water your succulents directly.
  2. Place the terrarium in indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight through the glass will trap heat which will scorch the plants.
  3. If the leaves die or wilt, remove them immediately to maintain the health of your little ecosystem. If a plant dies,take it out and replace it.

Sources of materials

  1. Succulents- You can get them at plant nurseries at Ksh 50 depending on their size.
  2. Activated charcoal- I really had a hard time getting this. In the end I chose to use medicinal activated charcoal which you can find in pharmacies at Ksh 5 per capsule.

That’s your gardening tip of the week.

I’ll see you next time.

Verity.

Live Fences

Fences. They mark our boundaries, create a sense of privacy, ensure security and can be a work of art.

Though there are many types of fences:stone walls, picket fences,barbed wire e.t.c , some people prefer a more natural option. That’s where live fences come in.

A live fence is made of living trees and shrubs. It is one of the oldest and cheapest type of fencing.

On this post we’re going to explore the different plants that would do well as fences.

1. Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabbra)

Native to South America, Bougainvillea has a rapid growth rate and it takes a short time to bloom if exposed to the right amounts of light and water. It comes in different varieties with some of them growing up to 40 feet.

It produces small but very colourful flowers. There are almost 10 different colours of this flower from deep purple, white, orange, red among a host of other colours.

It flowers more
An untrimmed Bougainvillea fence.

Something worth noting about Bougainvillea,if you trim the fence it loses its flowers, if you allow it to grow freely it loses its form. Its therefore up to you to decide what appeals more to you.

A well trimmed Bougainvillea fence

2. Lantana (Lantana camara)

In most parts of the world Lantana is considered to be a weed. However, it makes for a good fence. It produces a beautiful blend of yellow,red,white,pink and purple flowers that attract butterflies and birds.

Lantana produces small colourful flowers

It has the ability to thrive in most soil types and it is tolerant to prolonged exposure to excessive sunlight making it a wonderful fence in most areas.

3. Kei apple (Dovyalis caffra)

This plant grows thick reaching up to a height of 6 m in dry areas and 9m in wet regions.

Its most notable feature is that it has thorns that render the fence impenetrable. The thorns ward off criminals and unwanted animals.

A well manicured, thick Kei apple fence

Kei apple is also known to withstand famines and does well in sandy soils and in saline soils and thus makes a wonderful fence in coastal areas.

Thorns of the Kei apple that ward off criminals and unwanted animals

4. Duranta (Duranta erecta)

Duranta is most commonly used as a hedge, however, it can grow up to a height of 6 m making it a good,solid fence.

A variegated Duranta

There are about 17 species but the most common ones locally are golden yellow, green and variegated varieties. The variegated type is least preferred because it lacks the green colouring matter leading to the plant eventually withering and dying.

Golden yellow Duranta
A combination of 2 different varieties

A live fence does a lot for the aesthetic quality of your compound and also offers a variety of benefits to surrounding nature as well as a struggling environment.

That’s the gardening tip of the week.

See you next time.

Verity Wanjiru Wanja

HOW TO LANDSCAPE for Beginners

We’d all love to have a beautiful compound with trees, lawn and flowers and while some people have the luxury of hiring trained landscapers, some of us have to figure out how to do it ourselves.

Landscape design is an entire field that requires some formal training and since we all can’t study Landscape design, i’ll give you a few tips that will have you transforming your compound like a pro!!

TIP NUMBER 1 : Pick a Theme

A theme is vital in landscaping because it guides you when picking out the plants you want to use and how you’ll lay them out. For instance, if you’re going for a xeroscape , you have to choose plants that thrive in a dry area I.e Succulents and the layout of the landscape should mimick that of xeroscape.

TIP NUMBER 2 : Do your research

A common mistake that most people make is assuming that just because a plant is doing well in someone else’s compound that it’ll do just as well in yours. Different aspects such as light,temperature, soil type humidity and so on have an impact on how well plants do and they vary from one place to another.

A huge tip would be for you to do a bit of research on the type of plants that would do well in your area, all their requirements in terms of water, amount of light and the type of soil their suited for.

TIP NUMBER 3 : Create views and focal points

Any good garden has a focal point or a series of focal points, and luckily its an easy principle to apply for beginners. It may be a sculpture, or a stunning plant, a tree or a series of shrubs. The point of a focal point is to draw one’s eye and move it through the landscape

The container is the center of attraction in the garden

TIP NUMBER 4 : Extend your living space

Consider extending your living space into your landscape through structures like decks, pergolas and gazebos whether its for outdoor entertainment or peaceful solitude. You shouldn’t just view your landscape from a far, its important to spend some time in it and enjoy it.

The gazebo allows one to sit and enjoy the scenery

These are four basic steps that I think will form a base for all your landscaping activities. There’ll definitely be a ton of things you’ll learn along the way, you’ll make mistakes( as we all do) but with time you’ll get the gist of it all.

Garden design 101 is geared towards being a useful source of information for your gardening practices. We’ll be giving you all the ins and outs so do stick around, we have a lot more in store.

Written by

Verity Wanjiru Wanja