When I opened the gate for a client a few weeks ago, little did I know that I was about to meet one of the most interesting people ever to visit Petal Faire. Expecting someone asking their way to the nursery, I was confronted instead by a smiling gentleman with a camera, a book under his arm – and a request to photograph some of the plants in the garden and nursery.
Bruce Stead, it turns out, has been a remarkably low key luminary in the garden design world for decades, starting in the 1960s when he studied horticulture and landscape design at the Pretoria Technical College while working for the Johannesburg Parks Department. Fast forward fifty odd years, and he is working on his third book following decades as a teacher and lecturer, founder of a garden design school, consultant on projects for game lodges and Chief Horticulturist at UKZN responsible for redesigning the gardens on the Durban and Pietermaritzburg campuses.
Bruce’s first publication, a South African garden design handbook entitled “Plan It”, came out in 1977. In 2012 he self-published “Creative Indigenous Garden Design” – the book he brought to show me. What a mouth-watering collection of photographs and ecological garden design plans accompanied by lists of (largely endemic) plant suggestions! In the foreword, Richard Gibb says “The time has come to break with the traditional model of creating a garden and to offer ... a completely new approach on how to capture the essence of a beautiful landscape setting and then recreate it so that the spirit of the place is embodied in the design.”
It’s hard to describe how unique this garden design book is. Fortunately I don’t have to because Bruce has agreed to make it available through Petal Faire. We will have copies available for the month of September, starting with our open weekend. It will be helpful if interested parties could order beforehand. Please let me know if you are interested. At R 350 I can assure you it is worth every cent!
IN THE GARDEN
The garden is looking rather bare, with the plants pruned and fed and waiting for spring. New growth was brought up short by the cold snap in the past couple of weeks but the promise of a warm spell for a little while keeps all our hopes alive.
Cobaea alba enjoying the frosty morn
Streptosolen jamesonii - the marmelade bush
IN THE NURSERY
I have chosen plants for this month’s newsletter that are looking good and should come into bloom or full show in the next month or so.
Click here to view all the plants featured in this newsletter.
- Indigenous plants
The Transvaal horsetail, Equisetum ramosissimum, is a creeping deciduous aquatic fern that likes full sun but moist conditions. Its cylindrical jointed stems with brown cones give it an interesting bristly appearance. It is semi hardy and has maroon flowers in summer. Be warned – it is invasive. Although “the book” says that it grows to one metre, mine is much shorter, probably because it is in a smaller pot.
Hypoxis angustifolia is a tough low growing clump forming perennial indigenous to our grasslands and rocky areas. It is evergreen and very hardy and has leaves keeled with prominent ribs and bright yellow star like flowers all year. Plant in full sun.
Another grassland perennial is Silene bellidioides. It has sticky stems with furry lance shaped leaves and scented white star shaped flowers that open at night and attract moths. (Although the specimens that we have in the nursery see to be day and night blooming.) Evergreen and very hardy, it likes semi shade and grows about 25 cm high.
Stachys aethiopica, or wild sage as it is commonly known, is a lovely 30 cm high spreading perennial with pale green quilted leaves and spikes of small white flowers from spring to autumn which attract birds, bees and butterflies. It can take sun or semi shade.
- Exotic plants
Alstonia venenata (with the rather ominous common name of poison devil tree) is a rare medicinal shrub from India that has lance shaped leaves with wavy margins and clusters of star shaped white flowers in summer. It is evergreen and hardy, can take sun to semi shade and grows about 120 cm high. Very nice!
The spring flowering Cantua Buxifolia has small lance shaped lobed leaves and pendant tubular cerise pink flowers. It is a semi scandent lax shrub which needs support and should be pruned after flowering. It likes sun or semi shade, is evergreen and hardy and grows about 150 cm high.
Lysimachia ciliata is an evergreen hardy spreading perennial with an average height of 50 cm. It has lance shaped dark maroon leaves and sprays of open yellow flowers in summer. Plant in semi shade.
Tough and waterwise, the tufted clump forming deciduous perennial Sisyrinchium fasicultum E.K. Balls (common name blue eyed grass) has star shaped purple flowers in summer. It wants full sun and grows on average 20 cm high.
I just returned from a “shopping trip” to KwaZulu-Natal - nothing like a bit of retail therapy to get the creative juices flowing again at the end of winter!
White erythrina - breathtakingly beautiful!
Packed to the hilt
I can’t wait for new season when we can introduce all the fabulous plants that we have lined up. With that mind, remember our open weekend on Saturday and Sunday 7 and 8 September.
Something else to look forward to is the Flora Africa Impala Lily Winter Fest on 17 and 18 August. See their website or contact Christiane Peckover on 072 655 1858 for more details.
082 482 0257