Autumn gave a party, the leaves by hundreds came.
The Chestnuts, Oaks and Maples, their costumes all aflame.
Miss Weather lead the dancing, Professor Wind the band.
The guests were all aflutter and danced off hand in hand.
Pilea peperomioides found its way into my home a number of years ago when my friend Mike pinched a steggie at a home office. We propagated it and had plants in the nursery for a while but nobody seemed very interested despite the attractive bright green disk shaped leaves and the added advantages that the plant is very easy to grow and makes a good indoor plant. At some stage the stock was sent to the compost bin with a few “mother plants” left in the garden.
Then I suddenly started getting more and more enquiries and when someone told me that according to Chinese folklore the plant brings prosperity, my interest was piqued. I decided to do a little research into its origins and came across a fascinating article that originally appeared in a Royal Horticultural Society publication (click here if you would like to read the whole story). The plant did in fact come to Europe from China via Norwegian missionaries returning home in the 1940’s, but the really extraordinary thing is how it ended up in thousands of homes in Europe and then England (originally via a Norwegian au pair!) entirely “under the scientific radar” so to speak and without being stocked by nurseries. Now all we need to find out is how it came to South Africa!
At Petal Faire Nursery what was once a non-starter has become one of our best sellers, with orders coming in from across the country and clients driving all the way from Johannesburg to buy “the Chinese money plant”. (By the way, while researching this story I came across a post which mentioned that one must pop a coin into the pot to enhance the plant’s money making properties.) I don’t know if a feng shui expert has started promoting Pilea peperomioides but the sudden interest is certainly having a good effect on our finances - we will only have plants available again in September!
IN THE GARDEN
I love the beautiful sunny weather and cool nights of autumn and this year we have had the unexpected luscious rains of the past few months. Is it the muted light that gives the flowers more intense colour, the leaves more glossiness and the bark a whole new dimension? The plants seem to think they are in garden heaven and it shows.
This is the month for stocking up on mulch and frost cover (even if climate change has us wondering how much longer we will need these for the winter months). Overgrown bushes are being cut back or removed and we are busily planting for the next season. With winter not yet entirely upon us, there are still many things to enjoy in the garden.
Brugmansia double white - heavenly scent
... and the utterly gorgeous red Holmskioldia (also available in the nursery)
IN THE NURSERY
Click here to view all the plants featured in this newsletter.
· Indigenous plants
Clematis brachiata is a 6 m high creeper that bears masses of delicate fragrant creamy white flowers in autumn. Deciduous and very hardy, it likes semi shade. Take care where you plant it – it is a vigorous grower that spreads rapidly!
If you need something for those very hot sunny spots in the garden, Dyschoriste fischeri is the shrub for you. This is an upright woody shrublet about 60 cm in height with small greyish green leaves and lovely mauve blue flowers all season. It is evergreen and hardy.
The spotted leaves of the unusual perennial Laportia grossa make it a good plant for lightening up shady areas in the garden. It is evergreen and semi hardy, grows about 75 cm high and doesn’t mind deep shade. Watch out for the stinging stems and leaves.
Tephrosia grandiflora is a sparse upright shrub with soft feathery compound leaves and pea like magenta flowers all year. It is evergreen, semi hardy and reaches a height of 1.5 m. Plant in semi shade.
· Exotic plants
The waxy vibrant yellow flowers of the marginal bog plant Caltha palustris are a must around a pond. Evergreen, very hardy and growing to a height of 50 cm, it has rhizomes that produce kidney shaped toothed leaves. It flowers from spring to summer in full sun. Although it is supposed to prefer shallow water, ours are right in the pond and doing very well.
The deciduous autumn flowering Hedychium greenii is a clump forming rhizomatous ginger with reddish purple stems and leaf undersides. The bright red orange butterfly like flowers produce small plantlets on the flowerheads which are easily propagated. It is semi hardy, grows to a height of 1.2 m and likes semi shade.
Holmskioldia sanguinea is an evergreen scrambling lax shrub that reaches a height of about 2.5 m. The orange saucer shaped flowers from summer to autumn attract butterflies and give the plant its common name of the Chinese Hat Plant. It is semi-hardy and likes sun or semi shade. We also have the spectacular red Holmskioldia in stock.
Malvastrum lateritium is a gorgeous new groundcover with lobed mid green leaves and yellow centred peach flowers in summer. Growing about 10 cm high, it is evergreen and very hardy and likes sun to semi shade.
As a nursery specialising in “rare and hard-to-find” plants we have a list of “almost-impossible-to-find” plants that I am always looking for. The pink Tibouchina tree has been at the top of this list for the past ten years because the gardeners who want it NEVER stop asking for it! Imagine my surprise when I popped into a nursery two weeks ago and found neat rows of Tibouchina gladulosa “Rosea” packed in the retail area. Thanks to a generous colleague there Petal Faire now also has these superb specimens in stock - but I don’t have a picture to put on the website. Maybe one of our readers can help?
After our last newsletter went out, Gretchen Grenville of Grow Wild Nursery kindly sent me the comprehensive lists she has been compiling of plants and trees to have in the garden if you want to attract birds, bees, butterflies and even bats. Email me if you would like a copy. The lists are a work in progress and your experiences and additions will be very welcome.
We will be open over the long weekend - possibly not with our usual complement of staff, but you are welcome to pop in for a browse.