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GARDENING: Buy on the wild side

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Plant Fair at Kirstenbosch this weekend. Time to fill those gaps in your garden

The Kirstenbosch branch of the Botanical Society of South Africa hosts its annual Plant Fair this weekend. This indigenous plant sale not only raises funds for Kirstenbosch, but is also a wonderful place to source local flora to fill gaps in both newly planted and mature gardens.

For the collector there are rare, endangered, threatened and vulnerable plants available, such as the Malmesbury conebush (Leucadendron thymifolium) which could be extinct by 2025, and the rare golden spiderhead (Serruria villosa).

Also available is the Albertinia pincushion (Leucospermum muirii), which is an endangered species due to loss of habitat. Colourful common fillers include the yellow daisies of euryops species, blue Felicia (Felicia amelloides) with sky-blue flowers, and the September bush (Polygala myrtifolia), a pioneer shrub with mauve flowers.

Look out for the white-flowered dune bride’s bush (Pavetta revoluta) or Mickey Mouse bushes (Ochna natalitia and O. serrulata). Both have yellow flowers for bees and ripe fruit for birds.

Mickey Mouse bush (‘Ochna natalitia’) attracts bees and is suitable for smaller gardens. Picture: Lukas Otto

Fragrant Fillers

The theme at this year’s Plant Fair is “Amazing Aromatics”. The focus is on indigenous fynbos plants that smell as good as they look. 

  • Buchus are small-leafed shrubs which provide useful fillers in a mixed fynbos garden. Spicy Pelargonium betulinum has a sweet spicy scent and A. ciliaris smells of aniseed. 
  • Confetti bushes (Coleonema spp.) belong to the same family as buchus and have aromatic, needle-like leaves and tiny white or pink flowers. C. ‘Sunset Gold’ has needle-like gold foliage and pink flowers.
  • Scented pelargoniums are fabulous fillers for a hot spot. Try peppermint-scented P. tomentosum, the nutmeg geranium (P. fragrans), and lemon-scented P. crispum.

Fynbos Fillers

Proteas vary in flower size from the vulnerable thistle protea (Protea scolymocephala) with dainty chartreuse green bracts to our magnificent national flower, the king protea (P. cynaroides). The oleander-leaf protea (P. neriifolia) has large creamy-green/pink to deep carmine flowers, while the sugarbush protea (P. repens) will attract sun birds to your garden.

Pincushions will colour your garden from late winter into spring. L. oleifolium flowers open pale yellow to orange to crimson with age, and L. ‘High Gold’ (L. cordifolium x L. patersonii) bears bright yellow flowers. Cone bushes range from the rare and endangered silver tree (Leucadendron argenteum) to low maintenance shrubs.

The Overberg pincushion (‘Leucospermum oleifolium’) thrives in sunny positions, with good air circulation and well-draining soil. Picture: Lukas Otto

Male flowers of endangered Cape Flats cone bush (L. levisanus) are bright yellow, L. “Blush” is purple-red, “Safari Sunset” has burgundy-red bracts, and “Inca Gold” has yellow tulip-shaped bracts with red tips. Ericas are small shrubs with tubular flowers that attract birds and make good cut flowers.

The endangered bridal heath, Erica baurii, is a tall species with white/pink bell flowers, E. brachialis has bright green flowers, and E. parilis has beautiful droopy yellow flowers. Cape reeds (restios) with their sculptural form and colourful papery bracts are tough filler plants.

Fillers for shade

Plectranthus vary in growth habit from ground covers to sub-shrubs and large shrubs. Pink, purple and white tall spurflower (P. ecklonii) flowers in autumn in dappled shade. P. “Mona Lavender”, a hybrid developed at Kirstenbosch, has dark green leaves with purple undersides and lavender/purple flowers.

The tall spurflower (‘Plectranthus ecklonii’) is fast-growing, reaching heights of 3m. It flowers in autumn in dappled shade. Picture: Newplant Nursery

Ground cover species include P. ciliates, P. neochilus and P. verticillatus. Consider two great fillers: forest bells (Mackaya bella) is a beautiful big shrub with dark green leaves and mauve/ white flowers; and Barleria, the bush violet, is smaller and can be planted as a herbaceous ground cover.

Perfect for dappled shade is the orange-flowering bush lily (Clivia miniata). Look out for bush lily cultivars such as “Citrina” with cream or yellow umbels. Other shade lovers include the decorative garden ferns.

The leatherleaf fern (‘Rumohra adiantiformis’) enjoys a shady, moist position. Picture: Kay Montgomery

Water-wise fillers

There are plenty of aloes from which to choose from, including the stemless short-leaved aloe (Aloe brevifolia) and the rare spiral Aloe polyphylla. Succulents include crassulas, kalanchoes, and euphorbias.

Plant Fair More than 10000 indigenous plants on sale, along with plant and garden products, food stalls and children’s activities at theStone Cottages, opposite the entrance to Kirstenbosch. May 4: 9am to 4pm. May 5: 9am to 2pm. Cost: R10. Under 12s free. For more details see www.botsoc- kirstenbosch.

Chelsea design disclosed

South Africa’s Kirstenbosch team for the Chelsea Flower Show. Back row from left: Tristan Woudberg, Leon Kluge, Ntuthuko Mabuya. Front row from left: Lihle Dlamini, Beryl Ferguson, Chris Randlehoff, Dr Moshibudi Rampedi, Siphu Ngqasa and Benjamin Festus. Picture: Ivan Hendricks

The South African National Biodiversity Institute has unveiled a painting of the design for the Kirstenbosch-South Africa exhibit at the 2019 Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show in London from May 21 to 25.

The theme for South Africa’s 44th year at the event is “Mountains of Abundance”. Designer Leon Kluge said this year’s design will be bold and abstract, a distinct representation of South African landscapes.

A contemporary handmade slate mountain with one side depicting a silhouette of Table Mountain and another the Magaliesberg mountains, will form the backdrop of the exhibit. Kluge and his team are looking to bring home another gold award for the country.


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