The power of plants

Diane Peacock, chief gardening sub-editor, takes a look at the fascinating business of plant production

What, you might ask, makes the plants in a nursery so lush, colourful and inviting? A visit to Ball Straathof, a distributor of plants and floricultural products, reveals all. Their trial gardens in Jo’burg demonstrate how much serious work goes into seed production and vegetative (grown from cuttings) plant growing. Trials are conducted continuously to develop the best plants with the most favourable characteristics. Here are a few that caught my eye.

Dipladenia (Mandevilla) Diamantina Opale Citrine

First off I was delighted by this bright dipladenia. A beautiful climbing perennial, it’s usually only available in pink and white, but is now bred in yellow. Dipladenias grow up to 2m high and are excellent for patios and in small spaces.Impatients Row upon row of dazzling healthy plants, like these masses of New Guinea impatiens in the most divine colours, scream to the gardener, ‘buy me! buy me!” They’ve been specifically cultivated to have brilliant colours and to be tolerant of downy mildew (a parasitic disease) which devastated impatiens a number of years ago, causing a decline in their popularity.
Coleus - Kong Lime Sprite Coleus, like Kong Lime Sprite (above) with its eye-catching foliage has always been an ideal solution for full shade.
Coleus - Flip Side This new type of coleus, Flip Side, grows in full sun. In fact, the sun brings out the brilliance of the colours. It grows 50cm high. Others new coleus to look out for are ‘Henna’ and ‘Redhead’.
Tomato - Sweet 'n Neat

Tomato Sweet n Neat

With a prevalence of smaller living spaces and a desire for more sustainable, healthier living, a range of vegetables and herbs have been specially developed to grow in smaller areas (like on patios and in containers). The quest continues to produce plants with desirable attributes like home-grown flavour with earlier and longer harvests and a larger amount of fruit.
Tomato Jubilee

Tomato Jubilee

These large unusual Jubilee tomatoes can be grown in containers on supports.Simply salad

 Simply Salad Endless Summer BasilTry Basil

Seed production company PanAmerican Seed has a HandPicked Vegetable Collection that come in pellet form, called Precision Multi-seed pellets, where vegetables and herbs with complementary flavours are grown together. You’ll find these fully grown in containers at many nurseries. For example, Try Basil has three different types of basil in one pot and Simply Salad Endless Summer has a variety of lovely fresh salad greens. Both are decorative and a must for the kitchen.