Gardeners’ Circle 19 November 2018

Visit to the Harold Porter Gardens Nursery 

Another wonderful gathering with hosts Karin Wall and Ebraime Hull and 39 gardeners!

A firm relationship between the HP Gardens and our group has now been established.  Karin and Ebraime shared the complexities and the pleasures that go into maintaining the Gardens.  Ebriame would like us to assist in communicating the good work of the Garden nursery and the Gardens in general. We in turn would like to understand the complexities of what occurs behind the scenes before the Garden’s plants are in the ground and before the community purchases from the plant sale section.

Behind the scenes at the Harold Porter Garden Nursery 

The plant sales seen by the public are only the tip of the iceberg. Fynbos has very specific microclimate needs – protection from wind and sea spray; south or north facing slopes; proximity to other plants – all play a critical role. Contrary to popular belief, we were shown that fynbos can successfully be propagated from cuttings.

To keep the gardens stocked, cuttings and seeds are collected from the veld and private farms, but not before permission and necessary permits are granted.  Wherever possible, plants are also rescued before they are bulldozed for ‘development’.

Slips are dipped in hormone mixtures, placed in trays in a glass house and regularly watered.  Once the slips have rooted, they are planted out individually and allowed to grow under shade cloth.  As they mature, the plants are gradually exposed to more sunlight until they are mature enough to be left outside.

A potting mixture of natural sand, pine bark, coir and specialised fertiliser is combined in different proportions for the different species. Sterilisation is very important, especially for germinating seeds, which are also gathered during harvesting trips.  Some seeds need to undergo specialised smoke treatment before they germinate.

The whole process is time-consuming and very labour intensive and it can take from a couple of months to a couple of years before a slip is ready to be planted out successfully.  Costs are high.  As an example, the nursery needs an extra glasshouse, estimated to cost R300 000.

Useful pointers for fynbos gardeners

Ebraime and Karin gave us too many pointers to remember them all!  Below are some.  (There were a number of people taking notes, so if anyone can add to this list, please email Barbara Jenman ( and she will include information in the next Gardeners Group communication.  Alternatively, post them, and your pictures, on our Facebook page HERE)

*Fertilisers – soils in the area are generally acidic, which fynbos prefers.  Judicious use of fertilisers, like 3:1:5 and Seagrow, are generally good for most fynbos, at initial planting.  But add fertiliser in a circle around the plant and not too close to the main root. This encourages the secondary roots to seek out the fertiliser, which will help anchor the plant more firmly in the ground during our extreme winds.

* Cuttings – as a general rule, cuttings should have 3 nodes below the soil and 3 nodes above.  Strip leaves off the nodes that will be in the soil and cut off any big leaves that are above, leaving the small growing tips. Make a slanted cut for placing into the soil. This allows more area for roots to grow (and will help you identify which side is up!).

*Rooting hormone – for woody plants like Proteas, put in rooting hormone immediately after cutting because proteas form a callus very quickly which prevents the hormone being absorbed.

Pelargoniums and other wet plants should be allowed to dry for about 5 minutes after cutting, because the moisture repels the rooting hormone.

* Rescuing plants – if you see any plots being cleared, tell us as soon as possible via our Facebook page. When transplanting, take as much soil around the plant as possible. This allows fot minimal disturbance to the roots and will increase the chances of survival.

*Indigenous dodder – this unfortunately has no short cuts and needs pulling out by hand.  Be very careful when collecting it for disposal, as any small piece can easily regrow.

Karin and Ebraime – thank you so much, we were all enthralled.  And now when we, the gardeners, are buying plants from the Gardens, we will appreciate that these little creatures went through a long journey to get to us!

 Compiled from the rough notes of Barbara J, with good editing by Galia! Thank you, Galia.