GROWING CRASSULAS

GROWING CRASSULAS

If you are looking for water-wise, low maintenance plants, indigenous Crassula is just the plants you need. In South Africa, there are more than 150 species of Crassulas growing, and their shape, leaf colour, size and flowers set them apart from all the other members of the stonecrop family.

The best reason for growing Crassulas is their diversity. They are hardy, evergreen, easy-to-propagate and grow.  They attract bees, butterflies and other insects to your garden.  Crassulas are the right plants for any garden.

Crassulas are invaluable groundcovers –

Particularly in dry gardens. Crassula capitella ‘Campfire’, Crassula capitella ‘Red Pagoda’ and Crassula fragilis are great for covering up dry open spaces. For those dry shady spots, Crassula multicava is the one, and even Crassula fragilis can grow under dappled shady areas.

The foliage colour –

The Crassula capitella ‘Campfire’ foliage colour turns from lime green to rich orange and even red when exposed to the sun and water – a real eye-catcher. Crassula capitella ‘Red Pagoda’ and the Crassula ovata’s red edges, Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’ or ‘Shrek’s Ears’ different texture and the Crassula ovata ‘Sunsets’ yellow edges are a good contrast against other green-leaved plants. Crassula ovata is a great flowering shrub for wintertime. It’s known by its common name, Jade Plant or Pink Joy because of its stunning display in winter.  This is when it’s covered in masses of pale pink, star-shaped flowers. Bees and butterflies love them.

Crassulas are ideal plants for containers, vertical gardens, hanging baskets and retaining walls

Crassulas planted in containers can provide you with year-round interest and reduce the amount of time and money you spend. Container planting is ideal for those with little or no space for gardening. Crassula muscosa, with the common name ‘Rastafari’ – named for its dreadlock-like stems – is a good container plant, as well as Crassula ovata. Crassula pellucida and Crassula spathulata are great vertical gardens, hanging baskets or retaining wall plants.

Crassula tetragona and Crassula ovata make great bonsai specimens

Crassula tetragona can also be used as a living Christmas tree for years.

Crassula species can also be used as indoor plants – 

Provided they have a warm sunny position close to a window.

Crassula species lives up to many expectations. They are wind resistant, tolerant of coastal conditions, grow easily in any well-drained soil with plenty of compost added.  Note that they need to be watered sparingly in summer. The only thing Crassulas don’t like is frost.

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GET YOUR HEAD IN THE STARS WITH THE STAR JASMINE

GET YOUR HEAD IN THE STARS WITH THE STAR JASMINE

Trachelospermum jasminoides

Common name: Star Jasmine

Trachelospermum jasminoides is an exceptional evergreen climber from China and is not only grown for its fragrant little white flowers, but also for its delicate foliage.

A truly lovely climber with a dense habit and glossy dark green leaves, with new growth in the spring showing as lime green. Noted for its diverse uses, either a climbing twining plant or as a low spreading groundcover plant. They twine themselves round anything and is famed for its reliability to cover anything.  Particularly effective at providing screening for fences or for growing over trellises and pergolas. Trachelospermum jasminoides is also a good container plant with or without a framework. The fragrant, white, star-shaped flowers from October to January and are produced in abundant clusters, with a divine scent, especially at night.

Star Jasmine thrives in full sun to part shade and prefers fertile, well-drained soil, however, they need a fairly sheltered position from cold winds and frost.  They are, also, drought tolerant when they are fully established. Fertilise them with compost after flowering and give them good mulch to keep the soil cool. They are fairly fast-growing once established.

Being low maintenance, prune groundcover plants after flowering and also trim climbing Star Jasmine to keep it neat. Be careful when pruning because the stem contains a white milky fluid that can irritate your skin.

Being fairly pest-free, fragrant, low maintenance and water-wise, the Star Jasmine deserves a place in every garden.

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GORGEOUS GRASSES FOR EVERY GARDEN

GORGEOUS GRASSES FOR EVERY GARDEN

Planting grasses in your garden is low maintenance and mostly water-wise.  They are becoming more and more popular as a landscaping plant too. Planting in mass, it makes a brilliant display and can be used in both large and small gardens in full sun. Grasses are useful for preventing soil erosion and prefer well-drained soil. Water well till established, give a good mulch after planting and keep soil healthy by applying compost once a year. Removal of dead leave matter in winter is necessary to keep grasses neat.

Melinis nerviglumis

Their common names are Red Top Grass or Bristle-leaved Red Top.  These grasses are pretty, tufted grass with a slightly blue, green leaf and a shiny pink inflorescence. They are an easy grower and attractive grass to any border or garden.  It is native to Southern Africa and the flower heads appear from spring to summer.

Aristida junciformis

The common name is nGongoni grass (Zulu).  It is a handsome, very hardy, thick grass with mauve plumes that sway beautifully in the wind during summer and autumn. It will grow in wet, clay soil as well as under normal garden conditions. nGongoni is considered to be the best grass to make brooms from.

Eragrostis curvula

The common name is weeping love grass. It is a robust, densely tufted grass that produces many long hanging leaves and cream plumes in early spring. It is fast-growing grass and valuable as a forage for livestock.

Eragrostis capensis

The common name is heart seeded love grass. It is a hardy, densely perennial grass with blue-green leaves of which the bases are usually purplish and the flower spikes are plump, heart-shaped spikelets in yellow. Heartseed love grass is a very hardy, fast-growing grass.

Themeda triandra

The common name is red grass which grows in dense tufts with red-brown spikelets on branched stems in summer. The foliage comes in many shades of green and turns reddish when older. This very hardy grass is also known to be fire resistant and a fast grower.

Ornamental grasses are highly valued as low maintenance plants and many grow well in poor soil. They provide interest for most of the year, are hardy and resistant to pest and diseases and are fast-growing. There is an ornamental grass for nearly every garden situation.

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CHINCHERINCHEE – WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT YOU?

CHINCHERINCHEE – WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT YOU?

No other plant shouts ‘spring has sprung’ like South African Ornithogalum thyrsoides.  Common names are chincherinchee, Star of Bethlehem or wonder flower.

Where you can view Chincherinchee

Take a drive along the N1 between Paarl to Cape Town and especially on the R304 from Joostenbergvlakte towards Philadelphia.  The fields, on both sides, are covered in the white shiny flowers from September to December.

chincherinchee

A Bulbous Plant

Ornithogalum thyrsoides is a bulbous plant that is endemic to the Cape Province, growing wild from Caledon to the West Coast. In nature, it prefers sandy plains and lower parts of mountain slopes. Growing in your garden, they prefer a sunny position with healthy soil and they do particularly well in a sloping garden with good drainage. Ideally, plant the bulbs in autumn.

Pretty Flower

chincherinchee

For winter growing, Ornithogalum thyrsoides are a rewarding plant for pots, window boxes and gardens. The leafless flowers stalks rise above the basal foliage of strap-shaped bright green leaves which usually die back when the plant is in flower. The flower heads consist of dense, conical spikes of 20 to 30 cup-shaped white flowers adorned with centres tinged green-brown that fade with age. This pretty flower provides a pretty burst of white among the green leaves in spring of home gardens. The flowers last a long time in a vase, making it a popular plant with florists and flower markets. It is also exported worldwide as a cut flower. Interestingly, if the stems are put into water containing a large portion of food dye, the flowers take on the colour of the dye. Hence the common name wonder flower.

Propagate by dividing the bulbs after blooming is over and all the leaves have died back or are sowing fresh seed. 

The yellow Ornithogalum dubium is a less known variety with smaller and shorter flowers.  

TAKE NOTE: Ornithogalum species are toxic to livestock.

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THE LILY OF THE BUSH

THE LILY OF THE BUSH

Clivia miniata

Common names: Bush Lily, Boslelie, Fire Lily

If you ever have to choose one spring-flowering indigenous plant for your garden, it surely has to be a Clivia miniata. The bright orange flowers add a warm flair to any garden, are long-lasting, and signal the end of winter. Being endemic to Southern Africa, it means that they do not occur naturally anywhere else in the world. The rest of the world also has a love affair with Clivia plants making it a collector’s item for many Clivia-lovers.

Growing Clivia miniata is easy

… and very rewarding. Plant in dappled shade under trees in well-composted soil – the compost will also help with water retention during dry periods.  In summer (the growing season of Clivias) the plants should be watered regularly, especially newly planted plants. Older plants can tolerate fairly long dry periods. Clivias are spectacular container plants and should be grown in a well-drained potting medium which is enriched with compost. Give Clivias a good compost feed once a year and always have a layer of mulch spread on top of the soil. It will help cut down on watering and it also mimics their natural growing conditions.

lily

Clivia is a fairly slow-growing plant and forms a neat clump of strap-shape dark green leaves, while the roots are thick and fleshy.  The bright orange flowers appear around September in an umbel of funnel-shaped flowers with yellow flushed throats. The flowers make good cut flowers and last up to 2 weeks in a vase. The flowers are followed by a round red fruit with yellowish seeds embedded in a similar coloured pulp, and the seed takes up to 10 months to ripen. Always keep your eye on your Clivia flowers because snails can destroy them overnight, leaving you with ugly flowerless stalks.

How to grow the Lily of the Bush

Clivias can be propagated by sowing the seed or dividing the clumps. Note that plants grown from seeds normally takes 3 to 4 years before flowering! Clivias are a crowded grower but will benefit from being split every 4 to 5 years.  Dig up the plant after flowering in spring. Lift the plants from the ground and pull the plant apart, separating individual stems with a healthy portion of roots. Replant the division but make sure not to plant the plants deeper than they were previously grown in. Water thoroughly after planted. 

This lily of the bush attracts a host of insects to the garden and are suitable for forest, formal, tropical or woodland garden themes. They are specifically spectacular in mass planting under large trees.

There are different subspecies of Clivias (Clivia caulescens, Clivia Gardenia, Clivia mirabilis and also the yellow Clivia miniata var. Citrinus) with different flowering times. 

If Protea cynaroides is the king of South African plants, then surely Clivia miniata must be the queen.

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THE SOCIETY GARLIC

THE SOCIETY GARLIC

Tulbaghia violacea

Common names: Wild Garlic or Society Garlic

Tulbaghia violacea is an indigenous bulbous plant that is very hardy and easy to grow. It can withstand drought, heat and even bitter cold weather, making it a wonderful plant for a low-maintenance garden. 

The strap-like grey-green leaves are strongly garlic-scented when brushed, and throughout summer, rounded heads of lilac-pink flowers are borne on long stalks, about 30-40cm tall. These lilac-pink flowers are a pretty display from early spring to early autumn – making it a striking show throughout summer. Flowers are sweetly scented at night. 

It is a wonderful landscaping plant that can be used in formal, informal as well as rockery gardens. It can be used as an edging plant, a formal border or along a pathway and is a stunning, mass planted groundcover, especially for difficult, dry, sunny areas. 

Growing Tulbaghia

Plant Tulbaghia in fertile, well-drained soil. Replenish with compost annually for more flowers, and mulch well.  It is good to know that it grows better when the clumps remain undisturbed for many years. When the clumps become messy you can split them, but be careful not to split them into too small clumps.  Further, Tulbaghia prefers full sun. 

Uses of Tulbaghia

Ecological benefits are that it attracts bees and other pollinating insects. It discourages snakes and aphids as they dislike the smell, and can, therefore, be beneficial for planting around a rose or vegetable garden. 

Eating Tulbaghia

Tulbaghia definitely has edible sections, namely the flowers and the leaves which can be eaten raw.  The leaves are quite peppery and can be used in salads and other dishes much like you would garlic.  The flowers are also peppery but are slightly sweeter with an onion taste.  The bulbs are more medicinal and are often used by the Zulus.

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