Saturday, August 15, 2009

GEM Keep It Cool

GEM Keep It Cool

Affiliate Classroom v2

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Check out what it promises:
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* Helps restore your body’s natural balance.

Gazania - A Gem of a Bedding Plant from Africa
How to Grow This Colourful Member of the Daisy Family

Some of us go for coleus, others plant celosia. Then there are mimulus, brugmansia and calceolaria. These are a small example of the plants that inject a little spice to the borders at the height of summer.

Sure, the marigolds and petunias are in full flight at the same time but much of the bedding we see every year the length and breadth of the country is so ubiquitous you could be forgiven for thinking they were native plants. There’s nothing wrong with that but sometimes it’s nice to have a break from the norm. Hence the need for a little va-va-voom.
Buy as Plug Plants or Seeds

You can pick up most of the aforementioned plants in garden centres these days, but around a decade ago they were virtually absent from the plug plant aisles. Which just goes to show how keen us gardeners are when it comes to trying something new. But while it’s mightily convenient to pop down to your nearest shop and buy half a dozen, get them home and plonk them in the border, you and I know that at least half the fun of growing plants is raising them from seed.

Gazania Growing Requirements

Gazanias come from Africa, where they grow in a variety of habitats, which gives us a clue about their versatility. Frosts don’t occur in their natural environment so they grow as perennials, where they spread by self-seeding.

Incidentally, they are able to tolerate temperatures close to freezing so if you live in an area close to the sea where Jack Frost rarely visits they'll probably survive from one year to the next.

It’s the rain that might have put the mochas on things, though. Gazanias are easy to raise from seed and grow on but for the best results they need a freely draining soil and a position in full sun. A sandy soil is perfect – it doesn’t even need to be that rich – but clay is definitely not. In this case containers will be the only solution, so it’s just as well they’re the perfect size for tubs, troughs and windowboxes.
Gazania Varieties to Try

‘Sunshine Mixed’ will reach 10in. (25cm) high and produces large single daisy-like flowers in shades of cream, peach, orange, pink and red with yellow centres and most with banding either at the base of the petals or up the centre of each petal. The deep green, heavily serrated leaves provide an excellent foil.

One tiny caveat, though: gazanias are a little like ostespermums in that the flowers tend to close on dull, cool days. Once things warm up again and the clouds disperse they open up quickly – just think of it as nature’s way of making the flowers last longer.

‘Sunshine Mixed’ is a great introduction to a wonderful genus but there are a few more out there to try once you catch the bug. ‘Starbright Mix’ from Unwins Seeds has similar flower colours but adds silvery leaves to the equation. It also grows to 10in. (25cm) but ‘Kontiki Mixed’ (with pastel-shaded flowers) and ‘Talent Mixed’ (lots of silver leaves and bright flowers), both from Mr Fothergill’s, get to only 8in. (20cm), so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a spot for them at the front of the border.
Gazanias and Cool Summers

If my comment about the flowers closing in cool weather bothered you, allow ‘Kiss Series’ from Thompson and Morgan to dispel your fears. You can choose from rose, bronze, white or gold flowers and all are said to stay open for longer in dull conditions. This is also a short variety at 8in. (20cm).

Incredibly, ‘Tiger Stripes Mixed’, also from T&M, is even smaller at 6in. (15cm) and bears bright yellow, pink and cream blooms, all with a strong red stripe in the middle of each petal.
Raising Gazanias From Seeds

1. Seeds should be sown indoors from February until April. Sow 1/4in. (0.5cm) deep in trays of seed compost. Water well and place somewhere dark for best results, such as an airing cupboard.
2. Maintain a temperature of 21°C (70°F) and keep moist. Seedlings usually appear within 21 days, when you should move them into the light to prevent them becoming drawn.
3. Transplant seedlings 2in. (5cm) apart to other trays when large enough to handle and grow on in cooler conditions. Gradually accustom young plants to outside conditions (avoid frosts), before planting out 10in. (25cm) apart from May to June.
4. Flowers appear from June to October. Deadhead regularly to promote more blooms and feed once a fortnight with a tomato fertiliser.