Newsletter Aug 2017

Now that an early spring seems to be upon us and I’m sure people’s minds are starting to turn to stocking up the garden, I thought I would remind those of you who don’t live in the vicinity of Pretoria of our online mail order service. It is actually a thriving “division” of the nursery and has had faithful followers for years, but I suspect that some people are hesitant about putting plants through the stress of being packed up in a box and thrown around for a few days! Let me put your minds at ease.

Lebo, Agrippa and Sandra have become experts at preparing our plants for shipping. Bulbs and rhizomes are of course pretty easy; other plants are cut back and packed snugly to avoid unnecessary damage. All are wrapped in damp newspaper and arrive accompanied by a little packet of “shock treatment” with instructions on how to use it to help the plants recover from their ordeal.

My internet searches have revealed that the plant packaging approaches in the northern hemisphere are quite different, with American growers preferring to cut back less and use larger containers and many UK growers selling what I call “rooted cuttings”. If anyone knows of other techniques to maximise the chances of successful shipping, we are of course open to suggestions.

While there may be the odd victim, there really is no guarantee that even plants bought in a nursery will go on to thrive either. I know I have had my own disappointments. That said, if you live within driving distance of Petal Faire Nursery, rather make the effort to collect an order placed through the website. That includes our Johannesburg gardeners!

A little anecdote to illustrate how seriously we take our mail order responsibilities:

A few years ago after a rather serious operation my husband Robert came hurrying in to see me in high care.  His first words were “Lovey! Some woman phoned to say her plants have not arrived!”  Well, that definitely set off all the monitors, tubes, graphs, flashing lights and beeps and got the nursing staff sitting up!  I suggested that next time he be more circumspect when passing on what I consider to be very bad news.


Somehow we managed to get around to pruning in mid-July. The garden is looking rather bare but this is just the prelim to the mass of growth and colour we will experience in the next month or so. I did notice however that Lebo is reluctant to prune the salvias that are still in full bloom and the akebia quintata or chocolate vine is a mass of blooms! The Passiflora iris also seems to flower all season.

Akebia quintata

The first flowers on our home grown Clematis armandii!

Passiflora iris

Allium triquetrum looking a picture


·         Indigenous plants

Freylinah visserii is a hardy lax 3m high shrub with bell shaped pinkish purple flowers in spring. It likes full sun and sandy, alkaline soil. Serious collectors will be interested to know that this plant is on SANBI’s Red List of threatened South African species. We have large plants in 10 litre bags.

Veltheimia bracteata is a lovely hardy summer deciduous indigenous bulb with glossy fleshy leaves and a dense raceme of tubular pink flowers from winter to spring. It grows about 60cm and likes shade to semi shade. The flowers attract birds.

The flowering time of Selago glomerata is also winter to spring so they are already a sight to see. This is a semi hardy evergreen upright perennial with finely textured leaves and clusters of purple flowers. It reaches a height of about 50cm and likes a sunny position.

If you are looking for some colour all year round, try the low growing evergreen shrub Petalidum oblongifolium. No higher than 60cm, it has veined oblong greyish green leaves and pale blue flowers.  In the past I have recommended this plant for harsh, dry and very sunny places but I have one growing very happily in morning sun and afternoon shade. You never know with plants!

·         Exotic plants

Arthropodium cirratum is a rather gorgeous tufted perennial with lance shaped grey green leaves and panicles of star shaped white flowers in summer. It is evergreen and very hardy and grows about 75cm high. It likes dry conditions and can tolerate sun or semi shade.

Popularly known as the rain lily because its cup shaped pink flowers open when rain is on the way, the clump forming bulb Zephyranthus grandiflora is a delightful addition to the garden. Evergreen and hardy, it grows about 25cm high and likes semi shade. The flowering season is from summer to autumn.

Sedum spectabile is a deciduous very hardy clump forming perennial that reaches a height of about 45cm. It has green stems with scalloped grey green leaves and star shaped pink flowers in summer. Plant in a sunny spot.

Impatiens tinctoria is a rare tuberous African perennial with ovate lined serrated leaves and very striking fragrant white flowers with a dark pink centre from summer to autumn. It is evergreen and hardy, reaches 2m in height and is a good choice for those difficult deep shade areas.


I was one of the almost 100 plant enthusiasts and amateur botanists who enjoyed Prof Braam van Wyk’s fascinating talk earlier this month on how plants communicate. He is such a knowledgeable man and knows exactly how to present scientific information in a “user-friendly” way that has one hanging on his every word.

Prof van Wyk will be giving another lecture on “Understanding flowers and their language” on 30 September and a “Wild Flower Walk and Talk” on 14 October which includes a stroll through the SANBI grassland area. The lectures are from 09:00 to 12:00 in the National Herbarium Lecture Hall of the Pretoria National Botanical Garden and cost R200 per person. Book by emailing Linette Ferreira at These really are events not to be missed!

The Petal Faire Spring Open Weekend on 9 and 10 September from 09:00 to 15:00 will be a good opportunity to stock up on some special plants for the new season. I will send out a letter with more details just before the weekend. 

And last but not last, we have bags of lovely chicken manure and Seboko in stock.


Happy gardening,


082 482 0257