Today, I planted about 23 new gazanias in our garden adding to our ever expanding gazania collection. My main gardening passion is food and I love all types of food plants but over the past few years I have been paying more attention to ornamental plants because I have realised how growing ornamentals (particularly flowering types) can greatly benefit my vegetable garden and indeed orchard.
Flowering annual or perennial plants are eye catching and some smell absolutely wonderful in the home garden giving us a real treat both visually and aromatically, however, many people don’t quite realise humans aren’t the only living things favouring flowers.
Gazania "Big Kiss" flower (image above)
Most (if not all) plants don’t just produce flowers for humans to look at or smell; actually, it has nothing to do with us at all and everything to do with attracting animals like bees to help the plants reproduce.
And it’s when these insects visit these vibrant and nectar filled flowers that they often stop by our vegetable allotment and visit those plants too. Beneficial insects such as bees, certain wasps, ladybugs, assassin bugs, and other predator insects are a very important part of a healthy food garden.
The main problem I have with flowering ornamentals is making the time to care for them when so much of my energy goes into growing food crops. This is why I tend to grow flowering ornamentals, which don’t take much to look after and gazanias are one such plant.
Gazanias are such a low fuss ornamental flowering plant that I hardly tend to them at all once established. They require little water (drought tolerant), are not heavy feeders, virtually nil maintenance/pruning, and are a long term permanent plant. My first encounter with gazanias was at my local tennis centre where our grounds man (Fred) explained how easy they were to grow and insisted I take some cuttings from the masses of plants around the courts to try myself at home. He was right! Even I could grow a gazania!
Gazanias in flower over winter in subtropical Australia (image above)
The other thing I like about gazanias is in the subtropics they seem to rarely be without flowers and even flower through our winter, which is a Godsend at a time when other flowers are scarce. There are many different flower colour varieties of gazania and they look amazing when mass planted in a garden bed due to the ground covering nature, they also make a top boarder plant along rock pathways etc.
So if you want to improve your overall vegetable garden health, increase food crop production and have less bad insects then go grab a gazania or dozen and see how adding more flowers to the garden doesn’t just look terrific but also attracts beneficial animals to make your whole garden healthy.
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Mark Valencia – Editor SSM
Look, and see the earth through her eyes…