September Bells  – Super Purple for Spring!

September Bells – Super Purple for Spring!

Polygala myrtifolia –  Common names: September bells, Bloukappie or September bush

The first day of spring is the first of September. No other plant shouts out “spring is in the air” as the September bush. They are covered in mauve sweet pea-shaped flowers in abundance on the first day of spring.

This fast-growing, indigenous shrub grows naturally round, making it a good choice for any fynbos garden. The myrtle-like leaves are a pale green and oval-shaped on slender branches. Polygala is endemic to the West Coast all along the coastal region through to Kwazulu Natal. It occurs naturally in the coastal mountains, forest, streams and open grasslands. It needs watering when newly-planted but drought-hardy once established.

The flowers are attractive sweet pea-like, pink to purple in clusters on the tips of the branches throughout the year. But, most prolific in September (hence its common name September bush). Nectar-rich flowers are where you will find the birds and insects. The seeds are also rich in protein and are a good food source for birds. Polygala plants also serve as the larval host plant to the Lucerne Blue butterfly.  Polygala prefers sun, although it will grow in semi-shade but will flower less. The flowers are also long-lasting in a vase indoors.

September bells

Being fast-growing, they need a well-drained loamy soil. In springtime, a good mulch of organic compost will improve flowering the next year. A good prune after flowering in spring will encourage more leaf growth. Polygala will do well planted into containers, as a hedge, and as screening plants. They can be pruned into formal hedges and is a good (and beautiful!) plant for planting as a wind barrier.

Polygala fruticosa “Petite” is a dwarf variety that grows up to half a metre. Polygala virgata is a slender shrub with needle-like foliage.

This colourful evergreen shrub is a perfect plant for small and large gardens as its roots are non-invasive. Charming and tough, Polygala is a must-have shrub for your spring garden.

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Make the most of Succulents, Slugs and Snails

Make the most of Succulents, Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails are a common annoyance for any gardener. They are sneaky eaters, and you almost never see them before they have eaten away your precious plants. They are the slimiest pest a succulent gardener might encounter – literally and figuratively! During winter, when it is wet and cold in the Western Cape, they have a ball of a time chomping away on your plants.

Both slugs and snails thrive in cool, moist conditions and are mainly active during the nighttime. They like to lay their eggs in the darkest of corners in the soil under plants. And, they can lay up to 100 eggs each time – not only once a year but several times a year. After the eggs are laid, they develop and hatch. And, in perfect conditions, snails can live for a few years in your garden. 

Spotting slugs and snails infestations on your plants are relatively easy because they usually are the first pests active in early spring. Because they prefer the cooler months, they get active as early as the end of winter before other pests are active. Of course, the unmistakable snail trail is an immediate giveaway. Together with the scalloped edges on plants and leaves where they have recently been eating. On succulents like your Cotyledon orbiculate, they like to eat the leaves from the upper side. This leaves big holes in the fleshy leaves. And, all this happens overnight …

Spotting Slugs and Snails

But how do you get rid of this slimy pest? Being a prolific pest, you probably won’t be able to clear your garden from slugs and snails completely. But you can try a few methods to help prevent them from damaging your succulents.


This is the most environmentally-friendly way to keep slugs and snails at bay. Crushing up eggshells into small pieces and scattering them around the base of your plants or even on the plant itself, acts as a deterrent. Slugs and snails have delicate skin and the sharp and piercing edges of the eggshells are unpleasant for them, meaning they will keep clear of the succulents with eggshells around. This method is poison-free and safe to use around pets and kids. Eggshells are also entirely biodegradable, and a source of calcium for soil.

Beer traps

Beer traps are easy and straightforward to maintain. Simply take a small bowl or cup and bury it to the rim in an infested area and fill it to about halfway with fresh beer. Slugs and snails are both attracted by the smell of the yeast in the beer and will venture in, drowning when they reach the beer. Keep on topping up the beer every few days and remove dead slugs and snails.

Poison bait

If you want to wipe out the slugs and snails and a deterrent is not enough, there are several options available in several different forms – pellets, meal, and in liquid. Pellets and meal bait can be scattered around plants or placed in piles in a particular infested area, like against walls and under thick plant growth. This poisonous bait needs to be consumed by the slugs and snails to be effective.

Slugs and Snails don’t love poison, neither do kids and pets

Use with caution if you have small children or pets as this is poisonous!!!! And, is also deadly for wildlife. If you have to go this way, please avoid buying bait, meal or liquid bait with metaldehyde as an active ingredient, but go for the safer, iron phosphate bait instead.

Alternative methods

Handpicking is also an option but not for the squeamish among us. Using rubber gloves or tongs to pluck and dispose of the pests at night gets them out of your garden.

Inviting natural predators of slugs and snails to your garden, such as frogs and toads, is also an option. Frogs and toads are able to eat a significant number of slugs and snails and may help keep the numbers of other problem insects, like mosquitos, down. Having a water feature in your garden will attract frogs and toads. Slugs and snails look harmless, but to your plants, they are not, and hopefully, you’ll find one of these methods an effective way to keep slugs and snails away from your beautiful succulents.

Slugs and snails

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