It was with great sadness that we all heard of the passing of Margaret Roberts on 4 March. A great plant lover and hands-on grower, Margaret was as passionate about sharing her wealth of knowledge through books and talks as she was about the plants themselves. She became such a household name in South Africa that even my non-gardening friends speak as though they knew her personally.
I thought now would be a good time to share with you my story of “when Margaret came to tea!” I’m only sorry that I didn’t do this while she was still with us.
One morning in late spring many years ago there was a quite a flurry at Petal Faire when Margaret arrived at the entrance. She immediately told me how excited she was about visiting the nursery and proceeded to explore the garden, commenting enthusiastically about everything she saw and regaling me with wonderful stories about some of the plants. One that I remember well is that Nicandra physalodesis is also called the Shoo-fly plant because in Peru the whole plant is pulled up and used to shoo away flies, rather like a large fly swatter!
After a round in the garden, Margaret took herself off to the nursery, where she lost no time engaging every other visitor in conversation. She shared stories and information, raved about each plant and emphasised what a privilege it was just to see, let alone purchase, such special specimens. There is no other way to say it – Margaret “worked the crowd”, inspiring everyone to fill up their trollies while making her own selections. I was cloistered in the “tin house” writing invoices and taking money! It was a very good day at the nursery thanks to this marvellous woman’s enthusiasm and passion for plants.
Another lovely anecdote about Margaret is the quirky way she dealt with new technology. For this gracious lady, electronic mail involved writing a letter, which she did the leisurely old fashioned way with pen and paper. Her one (even two) page letter was then scanned in and attached to a covering email. What a treat it was to hear from someone in this way, even if it didn’t involve a postage stamp!
She will be missed, but the legacy of Margaret Roberts will certainly live on.
IN THE GARDEN
Galphimia glauca, Ipomoea horsfalliae and Quisqualis indica are some of my favourite plants that are now in glorious full bloom in the garden. They are however notoriously difficult to propagate.
Our galphimia and quisqualis greet visitors at the gate
After many a failed attempt to build stock for the nursery, we decided that the only way to pinpoint when propagation was most likely to be successful, would be to take cuttings every single month. Big rejoicings! Twelve of the Ipomoea horsfalliae cuttings taken in January have rooted and will soon find their way down to the nursery.
IN THE NURSERY
We finally have new signage up in the nursery – just to help those who may have forgotten how to find us!
The Anastrabe integerrima plants in the nursery are looking fabulous. This is a hardy evergreen 2m high multi-stemmed shrub for sun or semi shade. It has glossy green leaves with silvery undersides and clusters of fragrant lemon yellow flowers all season.
Hypoestes aristata is a hardy evergreen upright perennial with dull green velvety leaves and spikes of lobed flowers in autumn. It likes semi shade and grows to about 1m. We have Purple Haze and White Butterfly in stock.
The velvety peach coloured flowers of Leonotis golden velvet attract birds, bees and butterflies to the garden from autumn to spring. A showy compact bushy shrub with narrow rough toothed leaves, it is evergreen and hardy, likes sun or semi shade and grows to about 70cm in height.
We have inadvertently had a mix of the red Nerine sarniensis and pink Nerine humulis bulbs in stock for some time. We seem to have isolated the Nerine humilis and I’m happy to report that Nerine sarniensis is back in the nursery again – in full bud! Both of these very hardy bulbs are summer deciduous. Nerine sarniensis has dark green strap-like leaves, grows to a height of about 30cm and likes full sun. It has umbels of beautiful red flowers in autumn. The floriferous Nerine humulis prefers shade or semi shade and has loose umbels of wavy edged pink flowers from autumn to winter. It grows about 40cm high.
The Louisiana iris web page has been updated. Please note that the list of available stock on the website is for the purchase of selected specimens. For the bulk sales special, we put together a random selection for you.
Justicia aurea is a lush branched shrub with robust stems and mid green leaves that likes shade and even does well in deep shade. Evergreen and semi-hardy, it can grow to a height of 1m. The sprays of tubular yellow flowers in summer attract bees.
A compact rounded 75cm high perennial, Justicia rizzinii also grows in deep shade. Evergreen and hardy, the plant has small leaves and very pretty yellow tipped red flowers from winter to spring.
For me, Strobilanthes hamiltoniana is one of the highlights of the slower season in the garden. A fast growing 1.5m high perennial, it has attractive waxy serrated veined leaves and gorgeous mauve tubular flowers from autumn to winter. It can take sun or shade.
For some blue colour in the garden from winter to spring, try Eranthemum pulchellum. This is an interesting 1m high semi-hardy shrub with dark green textured veined leaves and spikes of rich blue flowers. The bees and butterflies will thank you!
Being something of an insomniac, one of the things that has kept me busy at 2:00am for many years has been my irritation about the varying sizes of the images on the website. We (actually Jennifer Snyman) have finally found a solution and I am in the process of resizing all the pictures. I hope I am not the only one who appreciates the difference between the “before” and the “after”. It shouldn’t be a problem finding something else to obsess about in the wee hours, though!
We were thrilled to hear that Petal Faire Cottage has achieved an 8.9 rating on the accommodation website www.booking.com. Do bear us in mind if you have visitors or are visiting from out of town yourself. Our self-catering units are attractive and comfortable and we are very well situated in Pretoria.
Petal Faire Nursery hosts its first Open Weekend on Saturday and Sunday 8 - 9 April 9:00 am to 3:00 pm (no entrance fee). This event takes the place of our previous Rare Plant Fairs and while there won’t be guest exhibitors, Robert and Sibongile will be manning the kitchen as per usual, so you can start or end your browsing and buying with Robert’s famous scones in the tea garden under the mild autumn sun.