I have always had a “thing” for forests and big trees. Walking in the forests of Limpopo Province, the forest at Mphelane near St Lucia and many others simply lifts my soul. People have been taking walks through woodlands and forests for centuries but, according to a recent article in the Guardian, scientific evidence now seems to be suggesting that there is more to this pleasurable activity than just relaxing and unwinding. Chemicals called phytoncides that trees and plants release to help protect themselves against harmful insects and germs have been found to boost the human immune system and new studies suggest that walking among trees may reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and improve concentration and memory.
The Japanese introduced the conscious practice of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) more than 30 years ago as a way of countering a host of ills from cancer and gastric ulcers to anxiety and stress. According Dr Qing Li, the President of the Society for Forest Medicine in Japan and world expert who has conducted numerous studies, people are designed to be connected to the natural world but are spending more and more time indoors. Increasing evidence of the benefits of shinrin-yoku has resulted in the Japanese government incorporating it into the country’s health programme.
The British are now also coming to the party. The Woodland Trust, the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity, has called for GPs to include forest bathing in the non-medical therapies they recommend to boost wellbeing. Forestry England, which manages public woodland, has also endorsed the practice. And lest the royals be left out, a garden co-designed by the Duchess of Cambridge at the recent Chelsea Flower Shower was inspired by shinrin-yoku.
Well, I’m sold! Not that I needed much convincing. Even walking through the garden and nursery in the late afternoon puts me in touch with what really matters again and restores my peace of mind.
IN THE GARDEN
When the garden goes into hibernation there isn't too much activity on the part of humans either. But just as all good things come to an end, we can rely on the circle of life to turn again and can start dreaming about the new season in a few months' time.
In the meantime though, there are still a few flowers to cheer us up through the wintry days.
Orange zinnias making a statement
IN THE NURSERY
Click here to view all the plants featured in this newsletter.
· Indigenous plants
For those looking for a splash of colour in the garden at this time of year, the lovely large scarlet flowers of Freesia grandiflora should do the trick. This hardy clump forming summer deciduous bulb likes semi shade, grows on average 50 cm high and flowers from autumn to winter.
Another possibility is Metarungia pubinervia, a rare well shaped shrub which flowers from winter to spring, producing tubular red flowers on the upper side of the branches. Indigenous to the Durban area, it is evergreen and semi hardy and grows about 120 cm high. It likes semi shade. Click here if you would like to read more about this interesting plant also known as the red sunbird bush.
Ruttya fruticosa – yellow (common name Yellow monkey face) is a scrambling shrub with glossy dark green foliage and two-lipped black centred yellow flowers that attract bees, butterflies and birds. It is evergreen and hardy, reaches a height of about 300 cm (don’t forget that it also spreads!) and likes full sun. It flowers from winter to summer. We have a magnificent specimen in our garden.
A gorgeous new climber from the Eastern Cape, Senecio deltoideus variegata has soft scalloped variegated leaves and clusters of yellow flowers in autumn to spring. Evergreen and hardy, it likes sun to semi shade.
· Exotic plants
Lophospermum erubescence is a fast growing Mexican climber with downy heart shaped green leaves and trumpet shaped pink flowers in summer that attract birds and bees. It is evergreen and hardy, grows on average 2 metres high and is happy in sun or semi shade.
Another fast grower, Pheladelphus virginal is a waterwise deciduous shrub that is lovely as a specimen plant or in a border. It has bell shaped double white flowers in summer, is very hardy and can reach a height of 1.2 metre or taller. Plant in sun or semi shade and prune immediately after flowering.
Hailing from the Canary Islands, Lotus berthelotti is a gorgeous trailer that does well in dry sandy soil and a sunny position. With needle like grey green leaves and interesting black centred orange red flowers from spring to summer, it is evergreen and semi-hardy and grows about 10 cm high.
The very hardy evergreem Lychnis flos cuculi (or Ragged robin) is lovely in a woodland garden. This mat forming perennial with rosette forming lanceolate leaves and narrow petaled pale pink flowers from spring to summer reaches a height of about 50 cm.
We are busy with an early spring clean and have four flat bottomed wheelbarrows (Robert calls them garden wheelbarrows) and a Makita chainsaw for sale. There are also a variety of broken stepladders that will make handy "trellises" for climbing plants and can go for a nominal R50 each.
While we all hunker down for winter. make a note of our next open wekend which will take place on the 6th and 7th of September.
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