A nursery, like any other retail business, calls for regular restocking. Perhaps this is a chore for other business owners, but I must confess that my regular expeditions to stock up on plants are one of my favourite parts of the job.
To start with, there is the pleasure of getting out of town and driving through the lovely countryside where most of my sources are located. The fun of sharing trade secrets and gardening gossip with plant suppliers is followed by the supreme satisfaction that only retail therapy can bring. Then there is the leisurely drive home with jolly flower heads bobbing in my rearview mirror and perhaps a gorgeous perfume filling the car. And if a friend comes along for the ride, the three or four hours of uninterrupted conversation are the cherry on the top. The irritated, world weary faces of the drivers around me as I head back into town just add to how blessed I feel to be doing what I do!
IN THE GARDEN
In spite of the heat which it seems we must accept as the new normal, the garden is positively overgrown and in need of our regular light mid-summer prune.
We have had some rain which is always welcome but I have actually realised that apart from the hydrangeas, most of our plants seem to need far less water than one would think. We water mainly to cool down the beds – and the house! This is surprising if you consider that with our garden serving as an experimental space we don’t necessarily focus on introducing water wise plants.
For those of you who are looking for ways to drought proof your gardens however, Tanya Visser shared some interesting tips in a recent episode of “The Gardener” on DSTV’s Home Channel on how to identify plants that are drought and heat resistant. Apart from the obvious plants with fleshy leaves, you should also look out for hairy leaves, grey or silver leaves and, believe it or not, square stems! More erudite readers will know what the scientific reasons are for this but I can say that Tanya’s advice definitely confirms my experience with plants like salvias, helichrysum and even some plectranthus.
IN THE NURSERY
You can now view all the plants listed in this newsletter on one page on the website.
· Indigenous plants
Barleria greenii is a rare rounded 1 m high shrub with shiny dark green leaves and night scented open pink flowers from summer to autumn. Evergreen and very hardy, it grows in sun or semi shade and likes clay soil.
The small form of the interesting deciduous bulb Eucomis zambesiaca reaches a height of about 25 cm and has attractive broad strap like leaves and small green flower spikes with bracts of white flowers in summer. It is hardy and likes full sun. A good cut flower.
The gorgeous wavy edged red and yellow flowers of the aptly named Gloriosa superba are also good for the vase. A hardy deciduous scrambling bulb with huge tubers and shiny tapered bright green leaves, it likes semi shade and grows about 2 m high.
Lessertia frutescens is a short lived but self-seeding shrub known for its miracle medicinal properties. Evergreen and very hardy, it has pinnate silver leaves and bright orange flowers from spring to summer followed by bladder like seedpods. It likes full sun and dry sandy soil.
· Exotic plants
Aster nova belgii “Jenny is a low growing (30 cm high) mound forming perennial with pretty yellow centred lilac flowers from summer to autumn. Evergreen and very hardy, it likes full sun.
A tough evergreen twining African climber, Dolichos purpureus reaches a height of about 2.5 m. It has large purple backed leaves and lilac flowers from spring to summer. The more adventurous might like to try the edible beans. Eat them when they are still green; they are not very palatable once they have turned purple!
Ruellia macrantha is a 75 cm high soft stemmed perennial with bright green lance shaped leaves and showy rose pink flowers from autumn to winter. It is semi hardy and evergreen and likes semi shade. It can possibly be grown indoors but I have yet to investigate this.
You might know the interesting deciduous climber Vigna Caracalla as the snail vine, a name which comes from its clusters of scented snail like flowers which start off yellow and fade to lavender. This is a hardy plant which grows to a height of 5 m and flowers from summer to autumn. It can take sun or semi shade but don’t plant it near foundations – it has a huge root ball.
If you have never visited SANBI's PlantZAfrica website do yourself a favour. It is a veritable treasure trove of information for anyone with a special interest in the plants of southern Africa.
Only a few more weeks of extreme heat and then we can look forward to the wonderful mild days of autumn. In the meantime, stay hydrated and...