“… my favourite is the water lily.
How stainless it rises from its slimy bed.
How modestly it reposes on the clear pool,
An emblem of purity and truth.”
(Chou Tun-I of the 11th Century T’ang Dynasty)
When I was much younger, along with having lots of children and a dishwasher, I dreamed of having a pond with water lilies. Perhaps this came from Claude Monet’s paintings because I certainly knew no one with such a romantic garden feature when I was growing up. Little more than bulrushes and reeds grew in the ponds and dams I knew. I was sure this was a pipe dream that would never be realised. However, now I am privileged to have not just one, but three ponds filled with the floating leaves and beautiful flowers of water lilies.
Water lilies grow from rhizomes or stoloniferous tubers. The rounded leaves, cleft into two lobes, provide shelter for little water creatures and fish and help to inhibit algae growth, while the long stalks bear multi-petalled flowers in exquisite hues of white, pink, yellow, red, blue or purple.
These plants are gross feeders. We feed our water lilies once a month by making a slit in the pot with a knife and popping in about a tablespoonful of organic fertilizer before closing up the hole again. We sell our lilies in 18 cm pots but while preparing this story I learnt that it is recommended that they be transferred to a larger pot as soon as possible.
These lovely plants have become such a passion that I couldn’t resist dedicating a page on the Petal Faire website to them. Note that because they are winter dormant, we will only be selling water lilies from the end of September.
IN THE GARDEN
We have been busily pruning and chopping to have the garden looking its best in the coming season and for our open weekend in September.
It is such an exciting time in the gardening year with everything perking up and pushing out shots and buds. Deciduous plants are my favourite feature of the spring garden because what look like dry sticks or branches spring into life apparently overnight and the tiniest signs of growth burst into leaf.
We have had Strobilanthes kunthiana (Kurinji or Neelakuringji) in the garden for years and it is finally flowering; the most beautiful clusters of pale blue flowers on a hip high shrub with rough dark green leaves.
This is quite an event considering that the plant only flowers about every twelve years! It apparently staggers its blooming so that not all the seeds succumb to predators, an interesting process called predator satiation. I am very grateful to Phil Harper from Planet Plant ID for identifying this gorgeous plant for me.
IN THE NURSERY
It is rather difficult to decide what to focus on at this time of year, but here a few special plants that we currently have in stock. To see the full range join us for our open weekend in September (see Snippets below for details).
Click here to view all the plants featured in this newsletter.
· Indigenous plants
Gnidia squarrosa is a gorgeous evergreen shrub with a fynbos feel that is almost see through with its needle like leaves mostly at the tips of the branches. Hardy and reaching an average height of 1 m, it has clusters of pale yellow flowers in spring and throughout the rest of the year. Plant in full sun.
The scented waxy white flowers of Jasminum multipartitum from spring to summer are just as attractive to insects and birds as they are to humans. This is a scrambling evergreen hardy climber with glossy linear dark green leaves that grows about 1.5 m high and likes semi shade.
Another plant loved by butterflies is Justicia capensis, a compact evergreen perennial with attractive fleshy green leaves and scented mauve flowers all year. It grows about 90 cm high in our garden and is happy in both sun and shade. It self-seeds.
Polygala myrtifolia “Riviersonderend is a delicate looking 1 m high shrub with fine linear leaves and beautiful pea like purple/pink flowers in spring. It is hardy and evergreen and likes sun to semi shade. We have plants in 20 cm pots.
Stipa dregeana is a gorgeous self-seeding tufted grass with lax clumps of lime green leaves and panicles of gold spikelets in summer. It grows about 50 cm tall and while the books say it likes sun it does extremely well in even deep shade. In a garden I designed years ago, we combined this grass with a mass planting of Leucojum aestivum (see below). The effect is absolutely stunning in spring.
· Exotic plants
What is a spring garden without the scented white flowers of the old fashioned winter snowflake! Deciduous and very hardy, Leucojum aestivum makes a splendid display when planted en masse. It likes part shade and grows about 30 cm tall.
Bletilla striata is a hardy deciduous clump forming terrestrial orchid with sprays of pink/lilac flowers in spring. Plant in part shade and keep dry during its dormant winter months, dividing in early spring. It reaches an average height of 30 cm.
Ceanothus concha is a very special waterwise shrub with arching stems and toothed green leaves. Spikes of gorgeous blue flowers from spring to summer attract butterflies and birds. The plant is evergreen and very hardy, reaches about 1.5 m in height and likes full sun.
Stigmaphyllon ciliatum is a delicate looking 5 m high twining climber with lobed pale green leaves and moth like bright yellow flowers from summer to autumn. It is evergreen and semi hardy and does well in sun or semi shade.
I took a lovely trip to KwaZulu-Natal recently which included a visit to “The Indigenous Nursery” at Pietermaritzburg’s gorgeous botanical gardens and Tanglewood Nursery in Hilton where I stocked up on fuschias. Then I also got rather carried away at Ben Botha’s succulent nursery in Assagay – under the guise of looking for plants for the nursery!
Last but not least, we look forward to seeing you at our spring open weekend on 8 and 9 September. We will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 09h00 to 15h00, and tea and scones will be served on the verandah as always.
082 482 0257