Newsletter Jan 2020

It’s a new year and with that often come a range of New Year resolutions. Maybe we should all make it one of our resolutions this year to take action against any invasive aliens that might be lurking in or taking over in our gardens?

Lists of the culprits tend to depend somewhat on context. According to the South African Nursery Association, for example, the five worst invasive aliens are Pompom weed (Campuloclinium macrocephalum), Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), Famine weed (Parthenium hysterophorus), Lantana (Lantana camara) and Bugweed (Solanum mauritianum). The average suburban gardener however tends to encounter others, such as the wild morning glory, jacaranda, privet and my all time (non-)favourite, the Cats claw creeper (Dolichandra unguis-cati).

One of the reasons this pest is such a thorn in my side is that there are gardeners who seem to allow it to proliferate because of its pretty yellow flowers, despite the fact that its rampant scrambling growth can wreak havoc in their gardens and those of their neighbours! The difficulty of eradicating Cats claw was the subject of a previous newsletter (September 2018) and my ongoing efforts to find a successful method recently led me to Leon Scholtz of Bristle Cone Nursery where I witnessed a serious infestation about five years ago.

Leon tells me they have managed to clear the farm of this horrible vine by cutting the plants down to ground level and then waiting for them to resprout (which they do readily at any time of the year). After about a month, the tendrils of each new sprouting thicket was wound up into a ball and sprayed with Roundup.  Yes, I know… We all avoid the use of poisons as much as possible but sometimes there just is no other way. If anyone has managed to get this fellow under control with more natural methods, I will be happy to hear from you!



Calocasia esculenata Tea cups - it caused quite a stir when this flower popped out

Pseudogynoxis chenopoides

Passiflora iris - magically scented

Alstonia venenata


Click here to view all the plants featured in this newsletter.

·         Indigenous plants

The rare rounded shrub Barleria greenii (the wild bush petunia) is indigenous to the Estcourt area in KwaZulu-Natal and likes clay soil. Evergreen and very hardy, it has thick smooth shiny dark green leaves and scented open pink flowers from summer to autumn. Plant in sun to semi shade. It grows on average 150cm high.

If you have a spot for bog plants, you might want to consider Marsilea schelpeana, the cut leaf water clover. This is a deciduous mat forming fresh water fern with a creeping stem and floating irregularly grooved leaves. It grows about 10 cm high and likes semi shade.  The stalks can grow over a metre long forming a blanket in the pond, always ideal for insects and fishes to hide under.

Agapanthus inapertus sky blue is a very hardy clump forming deciduous grassland bulb with upright strap like leaves and umbels of sky blue flowers in summer. Indigenous to KZN and Mpumalanga, it likes full sun and moist soil. It grows around 75 cm high.

Bowkeria verticillata is a beautiful multi-stemmed 2 metre high shrub with lovely quilted leaves and shell like white flowers in summer. Evergreen and very hardy, it likes sun to semi shade and moist soil.

·         Exotic plants

Another plant that wants moist soil is the evergreen and very hardy Farfugium tusselaginea. This is a clump forming perennial with magnificent large round leaves on long stalks and clusters of yellow daisy like flowers in autumn. Plant in shade to deep shade. 

Its lovely bright orange red spotted flowers and interesting seed pods make the leopard lily, Belamcanda chinensis, a worthwhile addition to the garden. A tufted upright perennial bulb with fans of sword shaped leaves, it is evergreen and very hardy and grows on average 60 cm high. It flowers in summer.

Justicea fulvicoma is a soft rounded approximately 50 cm high perennial with arching shoots, downy leaves and stunning red flowers in an elongated bract in autumn to winter. It is evergreen and semi hardy and wants semi shade.

No summer garden should be without the gorgeous scent of the Polyanthus tuberose. This deciduous clump forming bulb with pale green leaves and tubular white flowers on tall flower stalks hails from Mexico and wants full sun. It has an average height of 60 cm.


Over the festive season Robert and I were invited to a braai on a farm we had visited before and where I knew flies and mosquitos would also be on the menu. I popped a box of mosquito coils into my bag, lit just four of them when we arrived and hung them in the trees.  We were able to enjoy a lovely evening with none of the usual pests!

We will be having our first open weekend for 2020 on 7 and 8 March. There are sure to be some new plants to consider for the autumn garden.

Another year, another decade, another new beginning.  We wish you all a wonderful 2020.  May your garden and plants bring you great pleasure and joy.


Happy gardening!


082 482 0257