My garden and the exciting world of plants

Article I wrote for the November issue of SA Garden

My garden and the exciting world of plants
By Leoné Williams

I can remember as a child sneaking into my mother’s cupboards trying to spot the gifts that would be presented to us on Christmas day, because waiting for another week was just too much to bear. 

Gardening, collecting plants and having a nursery fills me with the same wonderful excitement and enthusiasm.

Every day there is something new to learn about plants. Sourcing new plants is like a treasure hunt and then there is the satisfaction of propagating and growing plants, instilling my enthusiasm and love of plants in my clients and talking plants to like-minded friends.

This excitement starts bubbling up at the beginning of August as we prepare for spring and culminates in the wonderful floral banquet of November.  This is a lovely time in the garden as we now reap the rewards of our autumn and spring planting with a display of colour, variety and beauty.

In my garden I have what I think is a wonderful collection of unusual and hard to find plants, but no matter how many courses on landscape design I attend or how many books I read I just cant get past “planting one of a kind”.

The accepted practice is to use a few types of plants and group or clump three, five or even seven plants of the same kind together. As a plantoholic with limited space I struggle with this concept.  I usually plant one of a kind, maybe because the plant is so rare that there is only one available or because of the enormity / vastness of my plant collection, and there is usually only space for one! 

However I have finally had a rethink on my collector’s garden and am now trying to change my ways.  This season I started by planting a group of new Rhododendron vireyas in a shady area in the garden.  (This means that I can still put my single selection in-between.)  I have also managed to group the begonias, Barberton daisies, campanulas and Japanese anemones!  

The Umzimbeet (Millettia grandis) is a major attraction in our garden. This indigenous tree is about 15 years old and moved from our previous home.  It makes a spectacular show in October and November with its upright spikes of beautiful purple flowers.  This is a canopy for a collection of unusual and spectacular climbers such as the slipper vine (Thunbergia mysorensis), the Dalechampe dioscoreifolia and the orchid vine (Stigmaphyllum ciliatum).  On the indigenous side there are the various coloured Black eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata) and the magnificent Clematis brachiata. 

The other important factor in my garden is that every plant has a story.  Whether the story relates to the donor or the source, it is like a meeting of a diverse group of friends. 

I have “The Queen’s fuchsia” from a friend who went to Windsor Castle, walked around the garden and insists that he tripped and fell into the herbaceous border and when he arrived home he found a slip of this fuchsia in his pocket!  The progeny has been generously shared with all together with this story!

As I walk there is the beautiful crinum that I bought from Jim Holmes at the first Cape Rare Plant Fair I visited, the Sclerochiton odoratissimus which was one of my first purchases from Random Harvest Nursery, “Mom’s little blue flower” identified just recently as Browallia americana that still comes from my mother’s garden, and so I can continue.

As a collector of note my latest passions are passion flowers and gingers and finding some good performing indigenous climbers.  The previous year it was pelargoniums, begonias and cannas!  These passions are often triggered by interest from clients who visit the nursery in search of something new, or by books and magazines that come my way.  Who knows what we are going to be collecting next year.


Isn’t the life of a gardener exciting??