Every garden needs a selection of Aloes, not only for their sculptural quality but more importantly for the splash of colour they bring in Winter when everything else looks dull and drab. Aloes are indigenous and waterwise and they really need very little attention (unless they get diseases... see far below). There is a wide variety of species available in different sizes as well as different growth forms - from larger clump forming Aloe arborescens and free-standing Aloe marlothii to smaller Aloe cryptopoda, Aloe striata (no thorns) and even the Tree Aloe Barberae.
These species get used in landscaping repeatedly so it is always exciting to find new species in the forms of Hybrids to use; these add interest and variety to a design. Leo Thamm from Sunbird Aloe Nursery specialises in growing hybrid Aloes that he has bred to produce the best flowering plants, something he has been doing for over forty years.
"Wherever different Aloe species flower together in the wild one is likely to find natural hybrids. Hybridisation happens when a bird or an insect accidentally deposits pollen from one species on the flower(s) of another. The seeds that form as a result of this so-called cross-pollination hold the genetic key to plants that are different from both the parent plants. The resulting seedling(s) grow up to be hybrids showing a combination of characteristics of the parent plants. Normally the pollen ‘donor’ is called the father, and the seed bearing parent the mother plant.
In theory any 2 aloes can be “crossed” to create a new hybrid. Some do not make good parents – their offspring can be very disappointing. Still others may be incompatible, and it takes many years to discover the best and most viable combinations. Consequently the pedigree of most of our cultivars is a closely guarded secret." (http://www.sunbirdaloes.co.za/)
On Saturday 17 June 2017 Sunbird Aloes held an Open Day where the public could buy directly from them (it is not normally possible to buy directly from a wholesale nursery, especially when only purchasing a few plants). It was wonderful to the see the plants growing so happily in the greenhouses and to see the beautiful flowering cultivars on display. I purchased Aloe 'Green Gold', Aloe 'Snowkiss', Aloe 'Campari' and Aloe 'Andrea's Orange' and am excited to plant them in my garden. But first I need to deal with a small problem...
With great dismay I admit that the existing Aloes in my garden are diseased and although I have been in denial about it for a while, hoping that nature would take it's course and that the plants would fight their own battles, I have realised that some intervention from my part is required. I was grateful for the information about Aloe Care posted on the Sunbird Aloe Website and specifically the guidance given when your Aloes have Gall Mite (Aloe Cancer) or Aphids and Mealie Bugs. Since my Aloes have both (see images below) I am implementing the advice given (using Blue Death Powder and Systemic Insecticide) and hope that this will help to save my existing plants as well as prevent the new Aloes I bought at the Open Day from also getting the diseases!