It’s hard to believe that only a month ago I spoke about our waiting with bated breath for the summer rains. They have arrived in spades and it is so gratifying to hear how widespread they have been, even if some parts of the country are still suffering. Some of the storms have been devastating, others just rather scary, but nonetheless there few things that make a gardener happier than a full rain gauge!

On the subject of happiness, I recently came across one of the (many!) lists on the internet of things that happy people do. Who knows what research it is based on but it does rather make sense. Apparently, happy people consistently:

  • Maintain an optimistic outlook
  • Don’t compare themselves to others
  • Exercise gratitude
  • Engage the world with kindness
  • Maintain active friendships
  • Learn to cope
  • Are able to forgive
  • Actively pursue goals
  • Have an active lifestyle
  • Cultivate their inner self

How about adding “garden” to that list? Or, on second thoughts, maybe gardening encapsulates all of the above!


After a rocky – or shall we say HOT – start to the season, it has taken me a while to get excited about the garden this year.  However, there’s nothing like a few weeks of rain to get the spirits of a gardener up again.

What a joy, what a privilege to experience this wonderful time in the garden.  The climbers are growing and the perennials “bars uit hulle nate,” as we say in Afrikaans; so much so that we have had to do a spring prune!  The Quisqualis is flowering beautifully and the scent permeates the garden all day. The Cassia fistula is a sight for sore eyes, and there are lovely pops of colour all over from the Thunbergia battiscombeii, salvias, pentas and the gorgeous vitex agnus castus.

  • Canna Liberty pink
  • Nicotiana sylvestris
  • Vitex agnus castus
  • Cassia fistula
  • Our newest arrival – Cape robins


Indigenous plants

Little brother of Galtonia candicans and family of the Ornithogalums, Galtonia princeps is a gorgeous very hardy deciduous bulb with fleshy upright leaves and short stemmed waxy soft greenish drooping flowers in summer. Indigenous to the Drakensberg, it likes sunny conditions. It grows about 60 cm high.

Laportia grossa featured in a newsletter not too long ago but is worth mentioning again for how beautifully its foliage lightens up dark shady spots in the garden. An unusual self-seeding evergreen perennial, this one has stinging hairs on the top and bottom of the leaves and needs to be handled with care.  It grows about 75 cm high.

Linum africanum is on SANBI’s list of threatened species in South Africa. This is a compact 40 cm high perennial with upright stems, small leaves and lovely yellow flowers in summer. It likes dry sandy soil in a sunny or semi shaded position and is evergreen and hardy.

Pentas are supposedly not strictly indigenous but are sold by many indigenous nurseries and are a real joy to have in the garden.  Penta lanceolata is a multi-stemmed shrub with dark green lance shaped furry leaves and clusters of star shaped flowers that attract butterflies to the garden throughout the season. It is evergreen and hardy, wants semi shade and grows on average 90 cm high. We have pink, white and red plants in stock.

Exotic plants

It’s day lily time! Many will remember that I used to be quite an avid collector but space restrains (and perhaps a rambling mind) finally decided me to get rid of my plants. Thank goodness Evening Enchantment seems to be one I thought I should keep. I love its gorgeous large white edged red flowers. Day lilies flower all summer in sunny conditions.

We haven’t had Phlomis fruticosa in the nursery for some time after the growers in Gauteng apparently ditched their stock because of a mildew infestation. We now have beautiful healthy plants back in the nursery. At 120 cm, this upright shrub is much taller than the Phlomis lanata featured in the October newsletter and its lovely furry grey leaves are larger. It has clusters of tufted yellow flowers in summer and, as its common name Jerusalem sage suggests, like full sun and dry sandy soil.

I have been trying to grow Quisqualis indica for years and then came upon a treasure trove at a friend’s nursery.  This is rare strong growing deciduous climber with oblong leaves and clusters of beautifully scented flowers in summer that fade from white to red. Its new name is Combretum indica but can we replace Quisqualis with Combretum? I think not!

About two weeks ago, the first bloom of our Zephyranthes grandiflora came out and I knew that after the terrible heat waves, the rain was finally on its way.  No garden should be without this almost nondescript bulb just for the role it plays in heralding such good news! It is evergreen and hardy, grows about 25 cm high and likes semi shade. It does well in pots.


In a newsletter some months ago I bemoaned our struggle with onion weed in the garden. We eventually completely clear one of the beds, digging up all the onion weed, soil and all. So far there have been no new sprouts but we are resisting the temptation to plant up again until we are absolutely sure we have eradicated it.

Peter Hawke has since emailed that he avoids digging up the bulbs because – as we know – no matter how careful you are, baby bulbs usually manage to detach and you can end up with more plants than you had to begin with. He advises a method of applying poison to the leaves using gloves which he says seems to be a bit of an improvement on the sponge method. He uses the kind of cheap knitted cotton gloves used to absorb sweat under heavy duty gloves over thin rubber or nitrile gloves like the ones doctors and dentists use.

Dip your gloved fingers into a strong solution of Roundup or equivalent poured into a wide-mouthed container such as an ice cream tub and, lightly gripping the leaves of the onion weed near the base, draw your fingers up along both sides and over the full length of the leaves. This not only allows you to get a good coating of the solution on both sides of the leaves, but you are can also be far more selective in your application and avoid contact with or drips on other plants. Both gloves can be used for the same purpose again as long as there are no holes.

We might have to try this if some babies did get manage to get left behind and are encouraged to make their presence felt by all the lovely rain we have had!

Happy gardening!


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