Planning your Winter Garden

Winter is upon us.  For many it could be a drab, cold time of the year but others welcome the crisp mornings with warm sunrays peeping and sliding into their home. Each house has a favourite spot in the early morning winter sun for the cat and dog, little children being urged to dress for school, or even the odd lizard drawing energy from the first few rays.
As you peer out your windows you see the brown lawn and sparse leaves on the trees, and wish that you had heeded the call to plant bulbs and winter flowers timeously. What you need is a bolt of bright colours to cheer you on and it is always heartening to see splashes of colour in your garden. “Vivid colours could influence a buyer searching for a new home, or for you as the homeowner simply to experience the pure enjoyment of bright and bold colours to soften the harshness of winter's cold and short days”, says Wendy Williams, one of the directors of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.
Ideally one should start preparing for your winter garden early in Autumn, and so certainly by April/May you should have examined your garden to determine which areas you will benefit from the most with a palette of colours, or which corners can be enhanced with a bush displaying a magnificent rich hue of colours.
In order to use colours effectively in your garden, proper planning is very important. For instance, May is the ideal time to plant bulbs and seedlings.  Ideally you should prepare your garden with organic material and compost about one week before planting seedlings. This gives the soil time to settle down the nutrients to soak into the soil and therefore primed for the seedlings.
It is worth planning ahead to decide which types of trees, plants or shrubs and which sizes you can depend on to enjoy a show of colour.  Remember some bushes or trees grow much faster than others and may hide the lovely bulbs that you planted too deep behind these faster growing plants. Make a detailed list of your needs, and any good nursery will be able to provide you with input as to the validation of your choices depending on your soil, how many shaded or semi-shaded areas or full sun, etc. The nursery staff will advise you properly and ensure you make a wise purchase. 
Even the services of a local landscaper are a good investment alternative if you are unsure of what is  required and perhaps not getting the results you expected.  Ask your nursery, friends and neighbours for suggestions of whom they can recommend.
Your local nursery will be familiar with the conditions of your soil and weather, as they are geared to provide a service to the local community. “Many times we are tempted when we see a gorgeous plant or flower while on holiday far from home, to then purchase this plant only to be disappointed when it does not grow at home. Don't be tempted to plant plants not suitable to your environment, it is a waste of time and money”, Wendy continues. Gardening is not an easy task and requires elbow grease and dedicated hard work.  But you will reap the results if you spend time planning your garden.
With the high cost of plants, you may decide to plant more perennials than annuals. This is at least a choice that you have. 
Reputable nurseries will not even stock or sell exotic plants, and will proudly display their indigenous section of plants endemic to your area. This is important to attract birds, bees, butterflies etc and make the plant much more resistant to drought and attacks from air-borne fungus or insects.
It is worth watching the new series of The Gardener every Tuesday at 21:00 on the Home Channel #176 on DSTV. The editor, Tanya Visser presents this exciting new series. She has been around the country visiting growers of special plants. You can see how they do it and then how to incorporate these into your own gardens practically. The new series also includes tips and hints for gardening now, Autumn is the best time to garden. It is also worth visiting
Avoid using pesticides or insecticides in your garden, but rather aim for natural remedies.  Once again your local nursery or a good hardware store will be able to provide you with alternatives.
“Just think of the pleasure of being able to pick flowers from your garden, and proudly displaying them in that wonderful cut glass vase – for friends to admire but more importantly, to brighten up your home. We hope that our insights will help you to enjoy the fruits of your hard work”, Wendy concluded.
Happy Gardening!

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