marina da gama garden club

A group of greenfingers gathering for the passion of their gardens


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A Tale of Two Insects

No one could truthfully claim that we do not have interesting insects here; some delightful, and others not quite so charming.

Fool’s Gold Beetle

Last December, I came across this beautiful gold beetle on my sweet potato plants. It looked like a dainty little Christmas decoration. A bit of research revealed that the beetle belonged to the family Chrysomelidae, the leaf beetles. This type of leaf beetle is sometimes also called a tortoise beetle, because the shape is a bit tortoise-like. This particular species is the Fool’s Gold Beetle (Aspidimorpha quadriremis). Its favourite food is the morning glory vine, but it also eats the leaves of sweet potato, which is in the same family of plants (Convolvulaceae). Strangely, although they are not related to sweet potato at all closely, plants in the true potato family (Solanaceae) are also on its menu.

Then, a few weeks ago, I came upon this strange creature on my sweet potato plants.

It turned out to be the larva of the fool’s gold beetle. This rather ugly child of the beautiful beetle holds a shield of poop mixed with bits of cast off exoskeleton over its back. Presumably, when predators see this piece of unwholesome and uncouth behavior, they back off, and search for a more cultured type of beetle larva to eat!

The level of damage that a few of the beetle inflict on the sweet potatoes is unlikely to distress the plants much, so I have left the larvae to carry on.

A few chewed sweet potato leaves

If population levels increase to the point where the sweet potatoes are unhappy, I will try moving the larvae to a huge and hooliganish potato creeper (Solanum africanum).

Now, to the tale of another insect:

For many years, I have struggled to grow squashes of various sorts; particularly courgettes and butternuts. Success has been very limited. In fact, I once harvested two butternuts, and that’s it; the sum total. The plants become infected with powdery mildew at a very young age. Although they valiantly try to out-grow the fungus, and cast forth new runners, the fruit never gets a chance to develop before the fungus catches up. Margaret Roberts’ organic fungicide does not help. So, this year, I was delighted when the gem squash seedlings I tried for a change were fungus free, several weeks after germination. They were flowering well, and all was looking potentially good when…

…pumpkin fly came into the picture.

Here is one of these nasty (though beautiful in its own way) little blighters. The squares marked in blue are 1 cm square, so you can see that the fly is quite small. It is a typical fruit fly*. Note the pointy ovipositor at the back, for putting an egg into an unsuspecting baby gem.

*We call the tiny little flies that try to drown themselves in our wine or beer at a braai “fruit flies”, but those very tiny flies are actually vinegar flies. They are a pest at outdoor parties, but they do not attack live fruit. They feast on already fallen fruit, which is often very fermented. I salute the alcohol tolerance of the vinegar fly. I have seen them fly into a glass of whisky. On being rescued with a teaspoon, they may at first appear dead, but after a moment or two they start to wander about in a drunken and dazed fashion. After a little while longer, they take off and fly away, (probably into the next glass of alcoholic beverage!)

Pumpkin flies attack while the fruits are very small. The small blemish on this one is the site where a pumpkin fly has inserted her eggs. The other side of the gem looks unmarked, but inside, it is being turned into mush by fruit fly maggots.

Here is a close-up of one.

To control this infestation, young Sean**, at Tokai SuperPlant, suggested an insecticidal neem spray. However, neem can kill bees, and as the flies target very young fruits, the flowers that the bees are pollinating are very close by. So, I decided to try a fruit fly bait. You spray it on to the under sides of the leaves, where the fruit flies like to sit and rest. It is less dangerous to bees, because it is formulated to attract fruit flies, and so is of no interest to the bees. So far, it does not seem to be saving my gem squashes. Any suggestions about what would work better will be gratefully received!

**He’s the lad with flowers round his hat. He is quite keen on organic and natural solutions to garden problems.


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The Hunt for Exciting Vegetables

It seems to be something of a waste of time and resources to grow exactly the same vegetables as one can buy at the supermarket, particularly when the shop-bought ones are much cheaper than can be produced at home. This is especially true where gardens are small.

Rainbow carrots from the internet. Mine never look this good

Ordinary orange carrots are a case in point. I don’t find that I can grow these for the same amount of money as I can buy them, even from somewhere relatively expensive, such as an organic vegetable shop. I also do not have the space to grow all the carrots we eat in a season. So, if I grow carrots, I grow rainbow carrots, which come in shades from white to purple, with various yellows, oranges and pinks. Although these are sometimes available in the shops, they are usually quite expensive.

Growing unusual vegetables can be quite a challenge, though. Plant nurseries usually stock seed of the same few cultivars of each vegetable. If you want to grow peas from seed, your choice of cultivar is “Greenfeast”, “Greenfeast”, or “Greenfeast”, whichever of the main seed companies you are buying from.

“Greenfeast” pea seeds from three different companies

Because broad beans are seldom available in grocery stores, they are a good choice of plant to grow for yourself, but the seed available is “Aquadulce”, whether you go for Mayford, Kirchoff or Starke Ayers.

Broad bean flowers and pods
Some of the Franchi range

Some nurseries also stock seeds from other companies, for example, the very expensive but good Franchi range, or the Raw range.

Raw kale

A word of caution though; I bought some kale seed from Raw, because the picture on the packet clearly showed “Cavolo Nero” or dinosaur kale. When the seed grew, it turned out not to be that type of kale at all. It was the ordinary curly kale that you can buy as seedlings at any nursery, and which I find utterly flavourless.

For those who are happy to buy that way, there are on-line companies, such as Seeds for Africa and Glen Seeds, which sell heirloom vegetables and unusual cultivars.

Sometimes, there are unexpected sources of seed. The Organic Zone is selling a range of vegetable seed called “Sandveld Organics” and I found some salsify there. I have never grown this before, but it is a vegetable in the daisy family that produces a long pale root like a skinny parsnip. Apparently, the flavor is reminiscent of artichoke. If you leave it to grow past the harvest time, it produces a pretty purplish daisy flower in its second year.

Salsify root and flower, from the internet
Red kale. Yes it is flavourless curly kale, but at least it’s an interesting colour!

I am also trying red kale and kohlrabi this year. Now, I need to find scorzonera, similar to salsify, but with a black root and a yellow daisy flower in the second year.

“Cavolo Nero” kale in my garden

Sometimes, the more adventurous nurseries, such as Ferndale, sell seedlings that are slightly out of the ordinary. I have found “Cavolo Nero” kale, Jerusalem artichoke, radicchio and salad burnet there from time to time.

Jerusalem artichoke, which is nothing to do with Jerusalem, but is derived from “girasole” (sunflower in Italian), is North American. It grows up to 2m and produces masses of cheerful flowers that look like small sunflowers. It is the rather lumpy roots that are eaten. They have a flavor that some compare to that of true artichokes, but have the unfortunate side effect of causing flatulence!

Jerusalem artichoke plants in my garden, flowers and edible tubers

Radicchio is a form of chicory and can either be developed into chicons or can be added into salads.

chicon from the internet
Chicory

Salad burnet is a dainty plant. The leaves taste of cucumber and look elegant in salads.

Salad burnet

My experiments with odd vegetables show an obsession with the colour purple. One year, with the help of Gigi and her daughter Susie, I grew some beautiful purple podded peas. Unfortunately, it was a very bad year for woolly bears, so I did not get much of a crop off them, alas.

Purple-podded pea
Purple bean

Another time, I found some climbing “blue” beans for sale at Soil for Life. They made lovely purple bean pods, which were much easier to see, and therefore harvest, than green ones. They lost the lovely colour in cooking, though, and reverted to green.

Here is a red cabbage and a purple cauliflower from other years.

I tried ‘Purple Calabash” tomato from seed I bought at the Tokara rare plant show. They were lovely tomatoes, but I do not have a photo of the ones I grew, so here’s one from the internet.

Purple Calabash tomato

I saw these purple flowered broad beans at Babylonstoren and hanker after them, but have never seen any for sale.

Of non-purple veggies, I’ve tried scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineous), Globe artichoke, New Zealand spinach, and dune spinach.

scarlet runner bean
Globe artichoke

It would be interesting to hear from any garden club members who have grown other unusual vegetables, preferably with a mention of where they got them.


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Ladybirds (Coccinellidae)

Ladybirds are one of the best loved families of garden beetle. Americans call them ladybugs, but they are beetles, not bugs, and the name derives from the red colour of many species, said to resemble Mary’s red cloak. Not all of them are red, though. Here are some of our indigenous species in reds, oranges, yellows, and black; with spots, or not.

Common spotted ladybird

The pictures are all from the internet, mostly from ISpot.

Lunate ladybird
Chilocorus

Single stripe ladybird
Exochomus

Here’s a pink one that I’ve Christened Barbie’s ladybird:

Barbie’s ladybird

And here is a really odd looking blue-eyed ant munching ladybird:

Blue-eyed ant-munching ladybird

My personal favourite is the humbug ladybird:

Humbug ladybird

For such wonderfully decorative adults, they have rather ugly children. Here are four types of ladybird larva:

Sinister though they look, ladybird larvae can be very useful. Many of them (and most of the adults) consume aphids, scale insects and whitefly. They often have voracious appetites and hoover up vast numbers of these pests. Hence they are a gardener’s friend.

However, this is not true of all ladybirds. Here’s the brown spotted fungus eating ladybird:

Brown-spotted fungus-eating ladybird

I get a lot of this one on my courgettes, eating the powdery mildew spores; unfortunately not to the extent that it slows down the disease.

Potato ladybird

Here’s the potato ladybird. It eats potato leaves. Usually it just makes a bunch of small chewed holes in the leaves and if the infestation is not massive, doesn’t do all that much harm.

But here is a very dubious blighter that out-competes indigenous species and eats their larvae. This is the invasive Asian harlequin ladybird:

Harlequin ladybird

And so is this:

Harlequin ladybird

It is an extremely variable species that can be red, orange, yellow or black, and may have many or few, large or small spots. Here are a bunch of them, looking quite variable:

lots of harlequins

This makes them quite difficult to identify and to distinguish from our native ladybirds. The one feature that all harlequins have is an “M” or, looked at from the other direction, “W” shape on the part of the carapace just behind the head:

Other ladybirds may have markings, but they are not “M/W”. Here’s a lunate ladybird with a crown-shaped marking:

Or here, the sad emoji ladybird:

So, I hope you all have plenty of the useful ladybirds in your gardens, but none of the bad ones!


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Say “Hello!” to Aloes

Say “Hello!” to aloes; or at least to some of them. Quite a number of what we formerly thought of as being Aloe species were split off into other genera, in 2014:

Phyll’s splendid Aloe ferrox

Aloidendron is where most of the large, tree-like aloes, such as tree aloe, quiver tree and bastard quiver tree have been placed.

Quiver tree (Aloidendron dichotomum)

Tree aloe (Aloidendron barberae)

Kumara plicatilis

Kumara is where Aloe plicatilis and one other aloe with a fan-like arrangement of leaves have moved to.

Aloiampelos contains the climbing or scrambling aloes.

Climbing aloe (Aloiampelos ciliaris)

Aristaloe is a genus with one species; the small speckly leaved lace aloe, A.ariatata, that always looked more like Haworthia fasciata than an aloe, anyway.

Aristaloe aristata

Gonialoe contains the three species of compact speckled or striped partridge aloes.

Gonialoe variegata

Aloe is where most of typical “aloe-shaped” aloes, whether large or small, including grass aloes, have stayed!

Dune aloe (Aloe thraskii)

I suspect that gardeners will continue to refer to them all as aloes, whatever botanists may say.

A while ago, Phyll suggested that we compile a list of aloe species and note their flowering times. It is quite possible that one might then be able to devise an aloe garden in which something was flowering at almost any time of year. Most aloe species are winter flowering and produce their flowers most profusely in June and July, but some start earlier or end later than others, extending the possibilities from autumn through to spring. Grass aloes are an exception to this, and produce their flowers in summer, and many of the climbing aloes just flower whenever they feel like it.

Here is a table with some species and their flowering times as stated in the literature:

Aloe arboresensKranz aloeMay to July
Aloe feroxBitter aloeMay to September
Aloe marlothiiMountain aloeMay to September
Aloidendron dichotomumQuiver treeJune to July
Aloe greatheadiiSpotted aloeJune to July
Aloe framesiiBlue bitter aloeJune to July
Aloe thraskiiDune aloeJune to July
Aloidendron barberaeTree aloeJune to August
Aloe vanbaleniiVan Balen’s aloeJune to August
Aloe maculataSoap aloeJune to September, but sometimes January
Gonialoe variegataPartridge aloeJuly to September
Aloe striataCoral aloeJuly to October
Aloe vercundaGrass aloeNovember to Febuary
Aloe cooperiiCooper’s grass aloeDecember to Febuary
Aloiampelos tenuiorSlender aloeAny time, peaking in October to December
Aloiampelos ciliarisClimbing aloeAnytime
Aloe succotrina, from the dead leaves of which a purple dye can be made!
Aloe cooperi, a grass aloe

These are only a few of the more than 150 aloe species that occur in South Africa, and even with this small selection one could have flowers at most times of the year. Then one needs to consider the hybrids. Many hybrids have been bred for longer flowering times (as well as greater disease resistance and garden suitability). There are hundreds of hybrids available and more being developed all the time. The table that follows lists a very small selection:

Aloe “Maggie’s Magic”February to August
Aloe “Candle Wax”February to September
Aloe “Peri-Peri”April to July
Aloe “Hedgehog”May to July
Aloe “Orange Delight”June to August
Aloe “Charles”July to August
Aloe “First Gold”December to June
Aloe “Totem”December to September
Aloe “Lemon Drops”Most of the year
Aloe “Ivory Dawn”Any time

So March still seems to be the Cinderella month, with few aloes flowering at that time, but most of the rest of the year is covered.


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Bromeliads

Eve’s lovely Bromeliad

Eve sent me this picture of her lovely bromeliad flower. Actually, it’s not a flower; it’s a whole group of flowers. The pink, slightly spiky structures are bracts, and the actual flower buds are the dainty lilac tipped items peeking out from amongst the bracts. The flower head persists for months as the individual flowers develop from the base to the tip.

It got me thinking about the bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae) and the way that we usually just lump them together. “It’s a bromeliad,” we say, without ever seeking further identification. But the bromeliads are a huge family (about 3600 species) and range from types that thrive in the hot wet Amazon jungle, such as many Vriesia species, through to extremely drought adapted dessert species such as Puya berteroniana.

Vriesia heliconoides (from internet)
Puya berteroniana (from internet)

Most of the forms that are useful in our gardens are those that have a mechanism for coping with periods of dryness, as in our summers. Some have developed trichomes  fine, dense hairs or scales covering the leaves. These are used by cloud forest bromeliads to collect water from humid air, and in desert species the silvery colour of the trichomes reflects sunlight. Other species, often referred to as ‘tank’ bromeliads, have a tightly encircling rosette of leaves holding a central tank or reservoir of water. Bromeliads also use crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) to cope with hot dry conditions. This is a metabolic pathway that enables them to use stored carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, instead of having to open their stomata (leaf pores) to take in CO2 from the atmosphere and so also loose water through these pores.

Some Bromeliads that do well in dry shade include the genera:

Aechmea

Eve’s lovely bromeliad is an urn plant (Aechmia faciata). Aechmeas are tank plants. The flower head is produced in spring or autumn and persists for many months, but after flowering, the plant dies. It leaves pups (suckers) that grow into the next generation of plants. Another popular species is matchstick plant (A. gamosepala). This plant has a rosette of strappy green leaves, and produces flower heads that look like columns of rather surreal pink and blue matches.

Aechmea gamosepala from my garden

Ananas

Edible pinapple (A. comosus) belongs to this genus, and red pineapple (A. bracteatus) has a rosette of toothed leaves (often variegated) that bear a red inflorescence that gives rise to a small red pineapple- shaped fruit. The plant can be grown from full sun to full shade, but must have very good drainage, or will suffer from root rot. It prefers acid soils so is best grown in pots in Strandveld.

Billbergia

Billbergias are tank plants with a rosette of (usually) narrow strappy leaves that are often brightly coloured. Their flowers are often produced on long arching or drooping stems. One of the most popular garden species is B. nutans (Queen’s Tears). The plant is an epiphyte in the wild, but can grow in the ground provided the site is free-draining. It has somewhat grass-like silvery-green leaves, and dainty flowers produced on drooping stems, in spring. It grows best in partial shade. Another popular species is B. pyramidalis, with a flower head that is shaped more like an Aechmea.

Bilbergia nutans (from the internet – I have a picture but can’t find it)

Bilbergia pyramidalis from Gigi’s garden a couple of years ago

Neoregelia

Neoregelias are also tank plants. They often have broadly strappy brightly coloured leaf rosettes, The central leaves are frequently pink, purple or red. The flowers are produced in a flower head that just peeps out of the central reservoir or tank. The flowers are often violet. Neoregelia ‘Scarlet Charlotte’.is a popular hybrid, that grows in dry shade on well-drained soil.

Neoregelia “Scarlet Charlotte” from my garden
Flower head just peeping out of central well
(from internet)

Tillandsia

Tillandsias are mostly air plants that hang in trees, collecting all the moisture and nutrients they need from the air. To help in this, they have silvery-grey leaves covered in trichomes. Their flowers are usually pink and blue or red. Two of the commonest species in gardens are T. aeranthos and T. bergeri. Although they collect moisture and food from the air, they can benefit from occasional soaking in a bucket of water with a little dilute plant food in it. Mist spraying in dry weather also keeps them healthy. They prefer semi-shade, but can grow in full sun, especially if they are misted more frequently. Another popular species is Spanish moss (T. usenoides). This has very fine silvery foliage that hangs down from branches, looking more like some sort of lichen than like moss. The tiny green flowers are inconspicuous, but have a pleasant smell.

Martyn’s Tilandsia bergeri
“Spanish moss” (T. usinoides) from my garden


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Argument with an Editor

Dear Garden Club Members,

The following story of my argument with the editor of the Marina magazine is very trivial in comparison with all the dread and disease that is currently taking place globally. However, you may like to read something that is not about corona virus, just for a change!

An appeal was sent out for articles to be published in the Marina magazine so I thought it would be quite a good idea to write a short piece about our garden club, and also mention the WhatsApp garden club that Valerie Benson started.

Here is what I wrote:

Marina da Gama Garden Club

Here in the Marina, we have a garden club. (In fact we have two! More on the second one, shortly.) Marina da Gama Garden Club meets on the first Wednesday of each month, except January, at the San Marina Recreation Clubhouse, at 9:30 am. We usually start with tea/coffee and snacks, followed at 10:00 by a brief meeting to discuss garden club business, and by about 10:15, we are ready for a speaker. The subject matter is generally related to nature in some way, but can vary from waterwise gardening techniques, or how to grow orchids, to how to manage biodiversity in Cape Town, or the similarities and differences between South African and Australian plants.  In April, and also in either September or October, we have an outing, instead of a meeting. Our outings have been diverse in focus, ranging from Babylonstoren and Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden, to Harmony Flats Nature Reserve and the newly restored Arderne Garden. We are hoping to include a visit to see some botanical art this year.

Membership is R70 per person, or R120 for a couple, and there is a door fee of R20 for members and R30 for visitors. Outings may sometimes require a payment, because some places charge an entry fee, but it is seldom more than R30.

We are a nice and friendly bunch of people, so to gain botanical knowledge in a sociable environment, why not join us? If you would like to join, either turn up at a meeting, or call Jenny on 066 127 5766.

Now, to the more recently formed Marina WhatsApp garden club: This is a group of keen gardening enthusiasts who use the WhatsApp group set up by Valerie Benson to discuss all manner of garden topics. They share interesting ideas they have seen or have found on line, discuss garden problems and how to solve them, and ask or give advice about many gardening matters. They are a lively bunch, full of ideas! To join the WhatsApp group, contact Valerie on 0824756187.

I also wrote one for the Marina Craft & Food Market, and sent both off to the editor.

This is what came back!

Garden Club goes digital

Jenny Wilkinson, who lives in NEIGHBOURHOOD, updates us on news from the Marina da Gama Garden Club. Originally established when fax machines reigned, the Marina da Gama Garden Club has recently joined the digital age with the launch of its own WhatsApp group. Comprising keen gardening enthusiasts from across the Marina, the group was set up by Uitsig resident, Valerie Benson. Members share interesting ideas they have found online, discuss gardening problems, post

questions and offer solutions. If you’d like to join this fun, lively and supportive forum, please contact Valerie on 082 475 6187.

Meanwhile, club members continue to meet face to face at 9.30am on the first Wednesday of each month (except January) at the San Marina Recreation Clubhouse. Says Jenny: “We usually start with tea or coffee and snacks, followed at 10.00 by a brief meeting to discuss garden club business. By about 10.15, we are ready for a speaker.”

The subject matter is generally related to nature in some way, advises Jenny, but can vary from waterwise gardening techniques, how to grow orchids, managing biodiversity in Cape Town, or the similarities and differences between South African and Australian plants.

In April and either September or October, the club swaps it monthly meeting for an outing to a venue ranging from Babylonstoren or Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden, to Harmony Flats Nature Reserve or the newly restored Arderne Garden, Claremont. This year, there are plans to include a visit to enjoy some botanical art.

Annual [PM1] membership is R70 per person or R120 for a couple, and there is a door fee of R20 for members and R30 for visitors. Outings may require a payment to cover entry fees, but it rarely exceeds R30.

If you’d like to cultivate your botanical knowledge in a sociable environment, why not join? Either turn up at a monthly meeting, or call Jenny on 066 127 5766.


 

I was not terribly impressed with this version. In fact, I was aghast. Quite aside from the egregious error of assuming that the Wednesday morning group and Valerie’s WhatsApp group were one and the same thing, there was the issue of the mocking portrayal of us as a bunch of luddite old fools who would not recognize the internet if it leapt up and bit us. Also, if this purported to be an article written by me, where was the “Says Jenny” coming from? Would I refer to myself in the third person? Would I refer to myself at all in an article not about me, but about the garden club?

So I emailed back to the editor, pointing out that he had introduced errors into the article, and requesting that my version be the one used. He responded that he would correct the errors of fact, but that as editor, his was the final word on style. With some degree of trepidation, I awaited his final version. Alas, although he no longer confused our group and the WhatsApp group, he was still offensively condescending and still included third person references to me. Here’s his document, with my comments marked in pink boxes:

I requested that he withdraw both my articles as I found his versions of them unacceptable. He has still not confirmed that they have been withdrawn, even though I have asked for confirmation four times. I suspect that his ghastly version is going to appear in the magazine, and I must assure you all that I never would have depicted you as old school people who have had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the century of the fruit bat. I like you all and would never wish to insult you.

Love,

Jenny


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Sweet Potato

Othonna capensis

At our last garden club meeting, Anita brought some well rooted cuttings of ornamental sweet potato, and also some Othonna (a pretty trailing succulent that develops a purplish colouration in sun, and has little yellow daisy flowers).

I did not think ornamental sweet potato made edible tubers, but decided I had better check. In actual fact it does! It is the same species as edible sweet potato (Ipomea batatus), and although it has been bred for decorative foliage, it also makes little tubers. Popular decorative leaf types are often deeply lobed and are burgundy (like Anita’s) or dark purple or lime green, or even variegated. There are ornamental forms with heart shaped leaves like the food cultivars, and these are also available in these colours.

Both books and websites suggest that this plant should have full sun, but I find they wilt, as do edible cultivars, in too much hot sun, so try to grow in partial shade. The plants are relatively trouble free and easy to grow, but are susceptible to red spider mite.

THERE’S EVEN A VARIEGATED ONE!

Edible sweet potato can be grown as a garden vegetable. I prefer to grow mine in pots, because it is easier to keep the soil moist in a pot, but yields are probably higher when they are grown in the ground. The first step is to get some planting material. You can put a sweet potato from the shops half-way into a water container, held in place with tooth picks, in a manner reminiscent of the technique for sprouting avocado seeds. It will produce roots at the bottom and shoots at the top. You can either plant the whole thing, or pull off the shoots and use them as slips. If you already have some sweet potato plants, you can cut off shoots and place them in water. Here, I’ve put mine in a vase with some zinnia flowers, but you can be more scientific about it if you prefer. In a matter of days, roots will begin to form at the leaf nodes, and pretty soon will develop into a good root system. Your slips can then be planted. If autumn is approaching, it is best to plant them into pots, and seek out a warm area to place them for the winter. Sweet potato is really a tropical plant and survives our winters with a slight degree of grumpiness. After your sweet potato plants have hung on grimly through the winter, they will begin to look happier when warmth returns. They will grow lots of heart-shaped leaves on long vines. Young leaves are edible, and add a nutty flavor when put in salads. They are blushed with burgundy and so look nice in salads, too.

Tubers in water
sweet potato flower

It takes about four months, or sometimes even longer, for a good crop of tubers to form. Knowing when to harvest is one of the difficulties with these plants. Some books say that they are ready when the plant has flowered, but mine have never flowered. An Aussie guy who does You-Tube presentations about vegetables says that in the long number of years that he’s been growing them, his have only flowered about three times. Sometimes, you can see good sized tubers peeking out of the soil round the plant, and sometimes you can feel some tubers if you gently poke around in the soil, but sometimes it’s a lucky dip!

When you have harvested your sweet potatoes, it is recommended that you leave them sitting in the sun for a day or two. This hardens the skin and seals any wounds made while pulling them out of the ground, and also makes them sweeter.

In other parts of the word there are up to five main types of sweet potato and many cultivars of each. Here, we have the tan skinned ones with pale flesh, the burgundy skinned ones with pale flesh, and red/orange skinned ones with orange flesh. I find these latter the sweetest and grow them for preference, but I’d love to try the purple ones, just for the colour!


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Our November Meeting

Dear Garden Club Members,

Our next meeting is on Wednesday
6th November, and we have a lovely topic.

Kyran Wright, Manager of the Zandvlei Reserve, will be talking to us about Wildlife on Our Doorstep.

Please will anyone who intends to come to the Christmas party, but who has not yet paid, have their R50 ready to give to Jennifer Kruyt, because this your last opportunity!

I hope to see as many of you as possible.

Jenny

 


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Reminders and Interesting Events

Dear Garden Club Members,

There are several disparate things that I want to write about in this post:

Reminder about Christmas Party

If you are coming to the Christmas party and have not yet had an opportunity to pay your R50 to Jennifer, then our meeting on the 6th of November is your last chance to do so!

Something Beautiful

Pam found this link to a set of absolutely exquisite biological drawings. They are well worth a look;

https://archive.org/details/KunstformenDerNaturErnstHaeckel/page/n37?iax=newsletter%7C92619

Constantia Open Gardens

Don’t forget that the Constantia open gardens are on this weekend.

Kalk Bay Events

Marjana reminded me that Garden Day is on the 20th, and there are several events to mark that in Kalk Bay. I’m not sure if you can read this. If not I’ll send an email with details.


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Fish Hoek Garden Club Flower Show

On Saturday, the Fish Hoek Garden Club held their annual flower show. As usual, it was housed in the civic hall just next to the library.

Along one side, and also in the court yards and entrance atrium, there were various items for sale ranging from plants, to honey, to the minature garden on a piece of wood, above.

There were displays of many types of flowers and plants including fairly common ones such as Pelargoniums, and the more exotic such as orchids.

 

The ones I found most attractive of all were this very unusually coloured narsturtium and this purple oxalis.

At the stage end of the hall, there was a magnificent display of Clivias.

Succulents were strongly featured, both as single plants and as groups. Alison James had a number of entries, including our old friend in a tea-pot!

There were only a few entries in the vegetable section, but I felt deep envy at the size and quality of the broad beans when compared with mine, and those large items looking like leeks are actually enormous Spring onions.

There were also flower arrangements of various types and categories. Here are two of my favourites:

There was a lot of interesting plant life on display, and this flower show is an annual event, so those of you who did not manage to get there this year, might contemplate having a look next year.