This is arbor month and a perfect time to plant a tree or trees.

Johannesburg is one of the most ‘tree-ed’ cites in the world and there is no doubt that green spaces have a wonderful way of making us happy.

The tree of the year is SYZIIGUM CORDATA (Waterberry). Actually a very lovely tree as it has large greyish leaves with bunches of fruit that the birds love. It can be a bit sensitive to our colder winters so it would need a warm spot in the early years. In perfect conditions (with moist feet) it can grow to a large 8 to 10 meters high so not a good idea for a small garden but it has a longish shape which is good for screening.

The trees that I use for various reasons because I find them to successful in this area as well as suitable to most gardens.

These choices are all indigenous:

• Small gardens

+Brachylaena
+Bauhinea Tomentosa
+Buddleja
+Heteropyxis
+Indigofera
+Diospyros Whyteana

• Larger gardens

+Scotia Brachypetala
+Pappea
+Bolusanthus Speciosa
+Dombeya Rotundifolia
+Combretum Kirkii

In many of the older gardens in Johannesburg you will find the various Oak species and they grow to huge proportions so it is always a good idea to do a bit of research before you choose a tree for your garden.

What reason do you need to have the tree?

+Screening
+Shade
+Beauty
+Shadows
+Climbing
+Birds
+Fruit

Then do not forget that many trees have invasive roots so consider where you plant your tree as you would not like the buildings foundations or pool area to be destroyed.

Maintenance of trees is so important. As they grow, look into them and watch the shapes. We are able to prune and shape a tree but this takes some expertise and so is best left to the specialists.

There are a few specialist that I use because they really know how to prune and re-shape a tree to suit the area and allow light in without disturbing the canopy.

In our impatient world we want quick results so sometimes large instant trees are planted. Many times these trees basically sulk for a few years whereas if you buy a smaller try of the same type you will get rapid growth and even though it takes longer, can prove to be a better specimen in the long run. Again get some advice from a specialist.

In Johannesburg I use:

URBAN FOREST - Neil – 082 467 5735
TREE WORKS - Julian – 073 330 8733
ARBOR AFRICA - Anton - 083 600 9786

With the arrival of spring how quickly the leaves are showing on trees. Their beautiful fresh green which sparkles in the early sunlight. All we need now is our first spring rain to clear the air and brighten everything up.

Such a busy time in the garden right now. Besides the wonderful show of spring flowers, things begin to grow at an alarming rate so that we almost don’t know which garden ‘chore’ to do first.

Some of the things to do right now:

• Those that have fruit trees should keep their ‘fruit fly’ bait traps going in the trees. Try to put at least two (2) per tree. Make a mixture of water, marmite and sugar and put into the bottom of a empty plastic coke bottle. Puncture tiny holes from the middle to the top just big enough for the fruit fly but not big enough for bees. You can use a hot needle. Tie a piece of string around the neck of the bottle and hang in the tree. Change the mixture every week or two until you do not see anymore fruit flies. They lay their eggs in newly formed fruit. Why not hang a variety of pretty bright ribbons in the trees which will blow about in the wind and also keep birds away.

• Increase watering. If you have an automatic irrigation system change the times to the evening. (after 5 p.m.). This allows water to go down deeply and not evaporate too quickly. Save water!!

• Get stakes ready for Clematis as they are growing rapidly and will be a beautiful show very shortly.

• Don’t cut off the Clivia heads because they will produce lots of seed by the same time next year and you can grow your own as they are so easy to grow. Grow your own Clivia by collecting last year’s seed, take the fleshy covering off and push down into some soil.

• This is the time to go to Nurseries and choose the early flowering plants like Wisteria, Crab Apples, Flowering Peach or Cherries, Magnolias, Camellias.

• There are so many varieties and shades of flowers that it is a good time to make your choice so that next year you too will have this wonderful show. At the moment all these wonderful shrubs, climbers, perennials and annuals are doing their best to outshine each other.

• Watch out for all sorts of pests that will start arriving now. Try to use only ‘natural’ products and avoid the toxin alternative.

• If you have not fertilised the lawn this is a good time to do so. Use a slow release fertiliser before the rains come and then once the rains come you can use a high nitrogen.

• Visit Nurseries and just see all the new plants arriving.

• Hopefully the frosts are gone so you can cut back plants now that have been taken by the frost.

• Roses will be growing strongly and you can apply a granular fertiliser of 5:1:5 and Epsom Salts. Keep watering well and await the wonderful show of roses in early October.

• Feed Hydrangeas with Epsom Salts and a solution of Iron chelate. Give them a good layer of Acid Compost and mulch.

• Clean out water features.

VEGETABLE GARDEN

• Plant directly in situ – beans, spinach, turnips, radishes, sweetcorn, baby marrows, gem squash, carrots, beetroot.

• Sow in trays – tomatoes, bringals, peppers and lettuce

• Dig roots of peas into the soil which will enhance the nitrogen in the bed.

• Get seed potatoes from the Nursery and plant these.

• Get fresh herbs in like, basil, rocket, chervil and parsley.

Remember to diarise the 15th September for the annual rare plant sale that the Johannesburg Garden Club will be having. Don’t miss this as you will find the most amazing plants that you usually cannot find in nurseries.