Newsletter Jan 2022

With the astonishing rainfall we have had this summer, I thought that commiserations were in order when my friend Hester Walters who has a farm near Steytlerville told me they had 30mm of soft rain in December. Not so. After an eight year long drought which broke in October, they were only too grateful not to be inundated as there is no grass to speak of to hold the soil intact. Our rain gauge has worked overtime this season, recording 350mm in December – more than double what we normally get in in that month!

While we might not have to deal with soil washing away in our urban gardens, too much rain in the summer months can have other consequences requiring some intervention. That said, if you have a garden in a low-lying area, it would be advisable to use a barrier or trench to divert excess water so that your beds don’t turn into a swamp.

Here are a few other pointers:

·        To start with, nutrient leaching due to heavy rain can lead to deficiencies in the soil so we need to feed our plants.

·        Persistent leaf wetness and excess moisture around the roots encourage bacterial and fungal growth.  During excessively wet periods it’s advisable to keep mulch to no more than three to five cm in order to avoid root rot. The timely application of a preventive fungicide is also important to check its spread. 

·        Staking delicate or lanky plants helps them withstand buffeting by rain and wind, and allows for the free air movement that discourages the development of disease. Trimming the lower leaves off branches or stems also helps.

No matter what challenges the rain may have brought, we only be grateful for this overabundance in our very dry country. I have however also appreciated the more recent sunny days so that we can get to use the water in our overflowing rain water storage tanks – and, of course, hang up some washing!


Needless to say, the garden is completely overgrown and the weeds are keeping us very busy.

I have also noticed that some of the sun-loving plants are softer than they should be after the rains and many overcast days, making our usual post-Christmas prune absolutely mandatory!  But we do not despair; garden plants have a wonderful ability to recover from any setback.

Persicaria senegalensis putting on a show in the garden

Scadoxus multiflorus subsp. katharinae

Penta lanceolata

Bees enjoying the Rudbeckia


Click here to view all the plants in this newsletter on the website.

·        Indigenous plants

The multi-stemmed shrub Oxyanthus pyriformis has horizontal branches with glossy dark green leaves and heads of spindly scented white flowers which attract moths and birds in summer. Evergreen, semi-hardy and reaching an average height of 3m, this is one of those unusual plants that are happy in even deep shade. We have them in 10 litre bags.

Pavetta gardeniifolia is a beautiful compact deciduous shrub with glossy green foliage and sprays of white flowers in summer which, like most scented blooms, attract birds, bees and other insects. It reaches an average height of 3m and can take sun to semi-shade.

The silver snake root Persicaria senegalensis does equally well in a pond or in moist soil in the garden. A thick-stemmed spreading stolenous perennial that grows on average 1.5m high, it has very attractive large silver leaves and drooping sprays of golden grass-like flowers from late summer to autumn. Deciduous and very hardy, it likes full sun.

The Crocosmia - Lucifer has spikes of scarlet flowers from summer to autumn. A very hardy deciduous clump-forming bulb with erect lance-shaped ribbed leaves, it is happy in sun to semi-shade.

·        Exotic plants

Cantua buxifolia, the sacred flower of the Incas, is a lax semi-scandent shrub with small lance-shaped leaves and pendant tubes of cerise pink flowers in spring, and is happy in sun to semi-shade. Growing on average 1.5m high, it needs support and should be pruned after flowering.

A lovely old favourite in South African gardens which seems to have gone out of fashion, the Chinese plumbago Cerastostigma willmottianum is a very hardy deciduous rounded shrublet with slender bristly leaves and clusters of striking dark blue flowers from summer to autumn. It grows about 1m high and wants full sun.

Hymenocallis littoralis, is a clump-forming evergreen bulb with a basal rosette of dark green straplike leaves and frilly-edged white flowers which give it its common name of spider lily. It flowers from summer to autumn and likes full sun.  Particularly impressive when planted en masse.

If you garden in hanging pots or containers, consider Kohleria digitalifolia, a spreading rhizomatous perennial with hairy lance-shaped leaves and lovely bright pink flowers with spotted lobes from summer to autumn. Semi-hardy and deciduous, it grows on average 60cm high and likes semi-shade.


Thank you to everyone for the faithful support through the year that’s been, and our very best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.


Happy gardening!


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