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Mesembryanthemum

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This flowering plant is native to southern Africa.

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      30.03.2009 18:01
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      A beautiful plant which is one of my favourites.

      When I was a small girl my father used to grow Mesembryanthemums and over the years many people have forgotten about them as they seem to have become as out of vogue as the giant African Marigold, which I also love, with its large round orange and yellow pompom blooms making real statements in the garden.

      Dooyoo have provided a brilliant view of Mesembryanthemums in full flower, and certainly to me they are something really special and well worth searching for.

      Mesembryanthemums have little daisy like flowers, are very low to the ground, and sit like little coloured appliqué adornments on a carpet of green foliage. Originating from Africa; these are sun loving plants, in fact their name means midday, so you will only see the elusive flowers when the sun comes out. This is why I love them. My dad always used to love his and he would return from the garden centre with boxes of these which he would carefully extract from his car boot like his little treasures. He would then choose a sunny south facing spot, and would gently tease out the plants from their little beds to give them a new more spacious home.

      I used to have my own little trowel and it was always the start of summer when the bedding plants went in.

      Mesembryanthemums also known more commonly as Livingstone Daisies and are brightly coloured . The cheerful scene they create is beautiful and as long as you water them first thing in the morning you will be rewarded by their cheerful little faces which almost smile at you. They are really suitable for places where other plants might struggle. Dad used to plant his on rockeries, and they used to thrive there, despite the soil being quite thin, but of course this is really replicating the conditions these plants love in their natural habitat.

      I have seen relatives of these growing in Southern Europe too where they are often used to plant on walls bordering properties. Here they cascade down shining and sparkling in the heat of the day illuminating sunbaked earth at ground level like little stars.

      The leaves are really pretty too and have the appearance of being coated with sugar. They attract butterflies into the garden which is great if like me you enjoy a wildlife area in your own back yard. Furthermore they are quite drought resistant which is good as I tend to sometimes be a bit forgetful on watering duties.

      To buy these you can either look in garden centres, but be aware you might have to search a bit for them, and they are nearly all gone by the mid to end May, which is when they are safe to plant out in the south. This will be later if you are in the north as frost will harm them, and to be honest if you are a long way north these might be too sun loving to be a viable plant for you. They may survive but they may not open their flowers enough. Growing them from seed is another option as they are half hardy; you would need to sow them in February-April under glass in gentle heat. Then you would harden off in a cold frame and plant outside in late May early June.
      This is probably the cheapest way and you can buy the seeds at :

      www.suttons.co.uk
      www.dobies.co.uk

      However you acquire them I can honestly say that they really do put a smile on my face in the summertime. Put them somewhere you can enjoy them from the house as they are small and low lying so need proximity to impress. They only have one disadvantage and that is the most I have ever got them to stay in flower is 6 weeks from June to mid July, so they are certainly not long lasting, but short is sweet and these really do herald the arrival of summer to me like nothing else.

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