Advances in horticulture

The horticulture industry is vast, varied and always improving. Its history can be traced back thousands of years, to the period when humans began transitioning from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to more settled communities. Let’s take a closer look at advances in horticulture!

Once conscious cultivation of plants began, efforts to improve the process came with it, leading to the impressive advances we all benefit from today.

In the last 20 years, advances in horticulture have come by leaps and bounds in various fields. For gardeners, this means a dizzying range of new ornamental beauties to choose from. Whether you want bigger blooms or new colour, growers have dedicated years to making those dreams come true. These few examples of standout plants demonstrate just how far the industry has come, and the potential it has to grow in the future.

More Blooms: Supertunias

Petunias are one of the most beloved annuals around the world, known for their stunning colour and impressive range. Whether planted in pots as features, hung from patios in baskets or used to brighten up garden beds, petunias always perform. Supertunias are hybrids that deliver more of the best parts of these plants – their flowers. They bloom so prolifically (especially when grown in perfect conditions) that it is almost difficult to see the leaves through the carpets of colour.

Interesting Foliage: Pelargonium x hortorum

Many garden plants are favoured first and foremost for their flowers. Foliage usually comes second, but not when it comes to these pelargonium hybrids. A cross between Pelargonium zonale and Pelargonium inquinans, Pelargonium x hortorum is sometimes known as the fancy leaf geranium, perfectly describing the benefits of this wonderful plant. The foliage features splashes of patterns and colour that add interest even when the plant is not in flower.

Bigger Blooms: Plectranthus ‘Magic Mona’

Appreciated for their low-maintenance nature and ability to thrive in the shade, Plectranthus species are popular ornamental plants around the world but particularly in South Africa where 44 species are native. One new Plectranthus certainly stands out from the rest – ‘Magic Mona’. Released by De Wet Plant Breeders, this plant has gorgeous purple blooms that tower above the foliage. As stunning as their colour is, what sets these flowers apart is their size, growing much larger than similar Plectranthus species. The plant remains compact overall – a perfect addition to any shade garden.

READ MORE: Interested in the history of gardening? Click here!

Better Colour: Salvia ‘Black and Bloom

Blue is a colour rarely found in nature. Even in the world of flowers – a stunning kaleidoscope of colour – there are few with a clearly blue hue. That’s where Salvia ‘Black and Bloom’ comes in. This beloved perennial has flowers with a piercing cobalt blue that instantly stand out in any garden bed. The stems of these blooms are a contrasting deep black, intensifying the blue and creating a dramatic look bound to turn heads.

Longer Blooms: Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’

Anyone interested in hydrangeas will undoubtedly have heard of the ‘Endless Summer’ range. One of the outstanding values is that these bigleaf hydrangeas bloom on both new and old wood. True to their name, they are known for blooming in South Africa from October to April with the right care. This first reblooming hydrangea was released in 2004 and quickly came
to dominate the market. The flowers are impressively large and come in a range of popular colours to suit any garden design.

Compact Growth: Dwarf Alstroemeria

Native to South America, Alstroemerias are also known as Inca lilies, with unique blooms that are instantly recognisable in the garden or in a vase. As large plants with rambling stems that look quite untidy, they are mostly used by growers as cut flowers rather than sold as garden plants. But, that’s where the dwarf hybrids come in. Dwarf alstroemerias are much more compact and neat, but still produce the stunning flowers they are known for. They are ideal candidates for cut flower gardens or any perennial beds.

Deeper Colour: Lagerstroemia ‘Black Diamond’

‘Black and Bloom’ isn’t the only new beauty bringing the drama. Commonly known as pride of India, this hybrid features deep black foliage that looks completely different to the standard Lagerstroemia found in home gardens. This intense black colour also makes the flowers pop throughout summer. These blooms are typically purple, but for even more contrast, look for pure white. ‘Black Diamond’ is low-maintenance and tolerant of cold temperatures, a great addition to any backyard.

Great For Containers: Aloe ‘Hedgehog’

Aloes are a South African garden staple, bringing colour and life when the temperatures drop in winter. Unfortunately, not every garden has the space for the larger aloe species we all know and love. That’s where ‘Hedgehog’ comes in. This adorable dwarf aloe was developed in South Africa and retains the sought-after blooms of bigger aloes with a more compact size. This makes them ideal for growing in containers or planting outdoors in small gardens. With ease of care and manageable size, this aloe hybrid is versatile and an absolute must-have.

Local Made Famous: Calla lilies

Species in the Zantedeschia genus are native to southern Africa, famous worldwide for their wonderful flowers. These arums were adopted by growers around the world and hybridised to produce the many cultivars on the market today. You can find a calla lily in almost any colour, also sporting slightly different sizes and shapes. When you pick up one of these popular hybrids, be sure to remember their humble origins as one of our local plants made famous.

READ MORE: Want to know more about Calla lilies? Click here

The Gardener