Summer Gardening Tips - Hydrangeas

    The most popular of the Hydrangeas (commonly known as Christmas flowers in South Africa) are the big leafed French Hydrangeas and this month they are the pride of the garden as they come into full bloom. There are many varieties to choose from including the new "Endless Summer" variety that is the world's first repeat flowering hydrangea flowering throughout the late summer.

Caring for Hydrangeas is easy: they prefer morning sun or dappled shade all day as long as they get protection from the heat of the day, in a moist but well drained soil. As the colour of the flowers are influenced by the pH of the soil - blue if acid and pink if alkaline - use eggshells in the soil or add acidic compost for more blue flowers or for more pink flowers add agricultural lime.

All Hydrangeas appreciate a little extra effort when they are first brought home. Although most will tolerate some neglect, they do best in a well-prepared garden bed. Dig the hole at least 2 times the size of the original pot. Mix 1 part compost or acid compost to the excavated soil with a handful of organic pellets, insert the plant, mound the soil slightly and soak well.

Although hardy and relatively disease free there are a few things that can hamper the performance of your Hydrangeas. The most frequent issue is yellowing leaves. There are two types of yellowing leaves: general yellowing on old leaves is indicative of an iron deficiency, while yellowing on new leaves where the green veins are visible on the yellowing leaves is indicative of iron chlorosis.

Iron chlorosis can be corrected by the addition to iron to the soil. and can be applied annually or whenever symptoms reappear.

Summer Gardening Tips

Christmas styling with local flowers

While you may be thinking more along the lines of traditional decorations, such as lights and trees, what better way to add a little Christmas cheer than with flowers. Using carefully selected local flowers boasting beautiful Christmas colours, a floral arrangement is the perfect addition for this seasons festivities.

When creating a locally inspired Christmas floral arrangement the sky is the limit. For example: choose a grouping of protea flowers for their vibrant pinks and mix them with white flowers and silver green foliage for a table centre piece full of Christmas spirit.

For additional table decor, add a sprig of thyme, rosemary or lavender to the place settings to tickle the senses before eating.

Or create a locally inspired Christmas wreath using anything that you think will make good wreath - like leaves, twigs, berries, tree branches, pinecones, cinnamon sticks and oranges (scored and dried out for a few days).

Twigs or seed pods can be used effectively with pin cushion flowers for a festive wreath or include a festive shiny bauble or two, ribbons, wool pompoms, pinecones and even a wooden word to make your christmas wreath unique. A protea wreath will slowly dry into beautiful muted tones over the next few months and can be used as a beautiful dried wreath for years to come.

How to make a wreath

  • Lay the foam base wreath form (available in a variety of shapes, including squares, hearts, rings, ovals and stars) on a flat work surface and insert the wreath hanger at the top back of the shape.
  • Separate the primary wreath materials into manageable chunks and cut the stems with scissors or wire cutters.
  • If you're using moss, simply separate it by pulling it apart with your hands.
  • Attach floral picks to the stems of the gathered bunches that need extra support to insert into the foam wreath.
  • Insert picks, stems or leaf clusters close together on the wreath form until it is completely full.
  • Fill in holes with smaller 'picked' clusters (floral picks attached to the stems) or use metal 'U' shaped floral pins to attach individual small botanical fillers to the wreath.

Get some inspiration from Jane-Anne Hobbs PinInterest board, Wreath Inspirations and read this how to make a wreath guide.

Jane-Anne Hobbs

New carnivorous sea sponge found

Three thousand three hundred metres below the ocean's surface, the seafloor is a dark, desolate and dangerous place where even the most benign-looking creatures can be deadly predators. Recently, a team of scientists discovered off the coast of California, an unlikely new carnivorous species - the harp sponge (Chondrocladia lyra) .

C. lyra is called the harp sponge because its basic structure, called a vane, is shaped like a harp or lyre. Each vane consists of a horizontal branch supporting several parallel, vertical branches. But its whimsical appearance and innocent sounding name masks its real nature, it's actually a deep sea predator.

Clinging with root-like 'rhizoids' to the soft, muddy sediment, the harp sponge captures tiny animals that are swept into its branches by deep sea currents. Typically, sponges feed by straining bacteria and bits of organic material from the seawater they filter through their bodies. However, carnivorous harp sponges snare their prey (tiny crustaceans) with barbed hooks that cover the sponge's branching limbs. Once the harp sponge has its prey in its clutches, it envelops the animal in a thin membrane and then slowly begins to digest it.

The upright branches of harp sponges are covered with velcro-like hooks for ensnaring their prey. These extremities also typically end in a swollen ball, where packets of sperm are produced and released.

Using Monterey Bay Aquarium Reserach Institutes (MBARI) remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) Tiburon and Doc Ricketts, researchers collected two sponges and made video observations of ten more. The first harp sponges that the scientists found had only two vanes. However, additional ROV dives revealed sponges with up to six vanes radiating out from the organism's center. Scientists believe the harp sponge has evolved this elaborate candelabra-like structure in order to increase the surface area it exposes to currents, much like sea fan corals.

The harp sponge's unusual shape and exposure to currents may also help it to reproduce more effectively. The swollen balls at the tip of the sponge's upright branches produce packets of sperm. These sperm packets are released into passing currents and are captured on the branches of other nearby sponges. The sperm then works its way from the packets into the host sponge to fertilize its eggs. As the fertilized eggs mature, these contact sites swell up forming bulges part way up the host sponge's branches.

It has been less than twenty years since scientists first discovered that sponges could be carnivores. Since then, marine biologists have discovered dozens of new carnivorous species. In fact, all the members of the harp sponge's family Cladorhizidae (including the ping pong tree sponge) are carnivores.

The deep seafloor can be a very inhospitable place. It is cold, dark and resources are often scarce. The harp sponge is an extraordinary example of the kind of adaptations that animals must make in order to survive in such a hostile environment.

For more reading view Reef Builders and Daily Mail

Harp Sponge

The world we live in is amazingly beautiful

In our youth, the National Geographic magazines and tv programs were always a source of wonder, inspiring us all to be Indiana Jones in the Amazon searching for forgotten temples, or an archeologist digging up mummies and ancient artifacts under the pyramids in Egypt.

Nowadays, with the quality of cameras having improved dramatically over the past few decades and the opportunities for travel more abound, visiting beautiful places on earth, capturing them on camera and making these pictures more readily available has made appreciating the world we live in much easier.

Green Renaissance are local professionals in sourcing and sharing creative content that promotes green and conservation initiatives. But there are other groups of people like Amazing Earth, Beautiful World and Trust me I'm a Traveler that promote and share beautiful photo's of our world through their websites and Facebook pages.

For awesome pictures visit Green Renaissance, Amazing Earth, Trust me, I'm a traveler and Beautiful World.

Amazing Earth

Country styled pampering

Far from the madding crowd, some 1.5 hours from Cape Town in the sleepy Overberg, you'll find Greyton, a peaceful and picturesque village at the foot of the majestic Sonderend mountain range. Mighty oak trees, original thatched cottages, leafy lanes and breath-taking mountain views form the backdrop to this country gem that will enchant and delight you.

Greyton is best explored on foot or bicycle - preferably with a basket up front! The scenery is fabulous, the coffee shops tempting and the villagers friendly. No matter how appealing it is to limit oneself to a bit of gentle meandering, it would be a shame not to take the time to explore some of Greyton's outdoor activities whilst here.

A hiker and mountain-biker's paradise, there are well-marked trails for every level of fitness and expertise. Greyton is the starting point for the famous one- or two-day Boesmanskloof trail (more commonly known as the Greyton-McGregor trail) and other activities include tennis, horse-riding, yoga and bowls. Golfers can enjoy a round at Caledon or Kleinmond, the two municipal courses within an easy drive of Greyton, or the magnificent privately-owned Arabella Golf Course, which is ranked by Compleat Golfer magazine as the number one golf course in the Western Cape.

Accommodation in this beautiful area is easy to find, as the owners of B&B's have really ecompassed the country life in their abodes. A newly built luxury destination situated in the Heuningkloof Wine Estates, with just a 10 minute drive from Greyton, is Wheatlands. Nestled in its own valley, enjoyed by unparallel 360 degree panoramic views of the Riviersonderend Mountains and undulating farmlands of the Overberg.

Wheatlands have 3 beautifully appointed luxury bedrooms within the farm house, all with private entrances and stunning views. Enjoy being spoilt with Cecil's famous breakfasts on the stoep, next to the pool or in inclement weather, in the grand dining room in front of a roaring fire and pampered with country hospitality and warmth.

Being part of the beautiful Heuningkloof boutique Wine Estate, Wheatlands shares wonderful fishing, picnic and swimming facilities on the private owned banks of the Sonderend River, so if travelling for activities is not on the itinerary, then this spot is the perfect place to unwind.

For more information visit the Wheatlands website.


Hot News

Happy Holidays!

This year has been a good year for Living Matter as we end the year off with some awesome landscape designs and the resulting ecstatic and satisfied clients.

We would like to extend a big Thank You to all of our loyal clients and suppliers, for without their support and enthusiasm for transforming landscapes, we would not continue challenging ourselves in our industry :-)

We wish you all safe journeys and happy holidays with your loved ones wherever you might be or go.

Closing and Opening dates

Please note :
Living Matter will be closing on Thursday 13th December and will be reopening again on Wednesday 23rd January.

Featured Plant

	Gardenia Thunbergia

Gardenia Thunbergia
(White gardenia)

Family :


Description :

Indigenous shrub to 5 m with fragrant white flowers.

Flowering time :


Conditions :

  • Sun / semi shade
  • Average water
  • Evergreen
  • Sheltered warm position
  • Some frost resistance
  • Acid soil

View more detailed information on this plant in our plant directory.

Wine of the month

Wine of the month

De Bos Sur Lie Chenin Blanc 2012

Winery : Bosman Family Vineyards
Winemaker : Corlea Fourie

Description :

100% Chenin Blanc from different sites in the Bovlei Valley, Wellington.

Aroma : Fresh citrus aromas combined with pineapple and white peach notes that follow through to the palate.

Palate : A vibrant wine, medium to full bodied in style with a long, clean, crisp aftertaste. Best enjoyed 1 to 3 years after vintage.

Winemaking : The winemaker is seeking a more substantial style of Chenin Blanc thus keeping the wine on the lees ad stirring to produce an intense luscious palate with complex yet integrated notes.

Food Pairing : Fantastic as an aperitif but also a multifaceted food wine which complements a range of salads, pastas, as well as grilled dishes with seafood or poultry.

If you want to purchase or require more information on this wine, or if you are interested in a private or corporate tasting, please email Karen or visit her website.

Planting Guide

Herb or Veggie

Seeds can be sown or plants can be planted for the following herbs and veggies this month:


  • Beans
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce
  • Mielies
  • Pumpkin
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Sweetcorn
  • Swisschard
  • Turnips
  • Herbs

  • Basil
  • Coriander
  • Chives
  • Chamomile
  • Dill
  • Mustard
  • Oreganum
  • Parsley
  • Rocket
  • Thyme
  • Watercress
  • View our full planting plan in our resources section of our website.

    Brain Teaser

    We all love a chance to test our own brain capacity with brain teasers. Try see if you can figure out this one...

    Brain Teaser

    November's Teaser Answer :
    "Walking tall"


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    Contact Cheral:

    Cell: 082 82 509 82