By Nicola Kawana
Spring is in full swing in my backyard. The giant pear tree which was stark naked not so long ago, is now fully resplendent in its new shiny leaved get up. A fat tui has taken up residence within its canopy, flirting outrageously with all who care to listen. The grape I planted last year as an edible disguise for my garden shed, has finally settled in and has tiny clusters of fruit waiting for the summer heat to plump them out. I will again try to out craft my feathered friends who treat my ever increasing fruity garden like a buffet.
It’s not like I don’t mind sharing, as an organic gardener this is part of the deal, creating an inclusive environment for all, a holistic garden, so to speak, where all are welcome in order to create perfect balance. Most of the time this works, summer admittedly is more of a challenge, particularly with the large part of my garden which is edible but as I am into a balanced and diverse backyard, over the years I have expanded the garden to include many ornamentals that I can’t eat.
From my writing desk I have a full view of the garden and right now two beauties are vying for my attention to be the first star plant off the block, mmmm, it really is a heads or tails situation and with a quick flick of the coin the classic clivia wins out.
These evergreen perennials hail from southern Africa and were named after Lady Clive, Duchess of Northumberland. She was a patron of gardening and clivia nobilis first flowered in her green houses in the UK. The most common variety is clivia miniata or fire lily which shows off mostly orange to scarlet trumpet shaped flowers, borne in dense umbels and right now these African beauties are putting on quite a show not only in my backyard but all over town. There is also a beautiful pale yellow variety. The flowers are sometimes followed by a deep red berry like fruit which also makes for a beautiful display. They’re fairly fuss free and easy to propagate by division after flowering. One of their main requirements however is a decent amount of shade which makes them perfect for underplanting. The dark green foliage is a stunning feature all year round.
Spring is a great time to give them a feed. I use a combination of sheep poo, blood and bone and sometimes a bit of Magnesium Sulphate, though today, everyone in the garden had a wee drink of liquid fish and seaweed. Smelly but super nutritious. A slow release fertiliser will do nicely too. I am also a fan of mulch. It not only protects the roots and retains moisture; it creates quite a party in the soil of macro and micro-organisms which are an essential part of a happy and healthy garden.
In fact spring is the perfect time to feed and mulch the entire garden, it makes me feel like a good plant mamma, tucking them all in under a blanket of mulch with a packed lunch.