Newsletter May 2019

The annual Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show takes place over five days in May in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in Chelsea, London. Launched in 1912, it is the most famous flower and landscape garden show in the United Kingdom and perhaps the world, drawing plant collectors, nurserymen and gardeners from across the globe.   

SANBI’s exhibition of our glorious indigenous flora once again won it a very sought after Gold at this year’s show. Perhaps because the proteas and fynbos of the Western Cape are so famous around the world, it seemed that the only flower on the stand that wasn’t from that region was the yellow arum lily from the Dullstroom area. How nice it would be to one day see examples of the amazing plants from the rest of the country also take pride of place.  Other than that, a wonderful display with wonderful flora!

Something else for South Africa to boast about this year was that De Wet Plant Breeders won third prize in the category Best New Plant Introduction for 2019 for their new hybrid agapanthus Fireworks.



Fireworks is the world’s first semi pendulous reblooming evergreen bicoloured agapanthus. Andy de Wet added agapanthus to his breeding projects in 1995 and when Quinton Bean joined him in 2005, they had the common goal of bringing the professional breeding of South African plants – which at that stage was mostly taking place overseas – back home.

What a wonderful accomplishment for this pair of plant enthusiasts, and a first for Africa. The lovely new hybrid will be released in South Africa during the Aloe Farm Agapanthus Festival in October 2019.  Now how about a few new thunbergia or freesia hybrids…

Well done and congratulations to our South African teams!


It’s time to prepare the garden for winter, which of course involves leaves – and lots of them. After being alerted by Agrippa that he had spied the first bags of leaves out on the pavements, we set off on our first annual leaf scrounging trip. We nabbed about 15 bags of this fabulous (and free) mulch at the time of writing. I cannot say it often enough – at this time of the year every gardener should be dedicating a few hours a week to this rewarding activity! We have a large vaderlandswilg (Combretum erythrophyllum) in the front garden that starts shedding in February and by April has deposited a lovely carpet of yellowing leaves. Our housekeeper Sibongile doesn’t share our enthusiasm about this however and assiduously sweeps them up. To keep her busy we will keep replacing them with our “imports”.

There are still "pops" of colour but what stands out are the beautiful tree dahlias. A tall mass of pink flowers, seemingly appearing out of nowhere, greets me as I turn into our road. And the best is that there is more than one.

Dahlia imperialis towering above the garden

Abutilon sophia

Epidendrum orange

Brugmansia Summertime


Click here to view all the plants featured in this newsletter.

·         Indigenous plants

For winter blooms in the pond when the water lilies have died back, consider our very own waterblommetjie, Aponogeton distachyos. Indigenous to the Western Cape, this summer dormant hardy aquatic perennial has floating oblong dark green leaves and edible white flowers that form part of South Africa’s well known traditional winter stew. It wants full sun and at least 30 cm of water above the plant.

The attractive tough scalloped grey-blue leaves of Buddleja glomerata are lovely for some contrast in sunny parts of the garden. Evergreen and very hardy, this neat upright shrub grows 200 cm high on average and has pyramids of yellow flowers in summer. Its common name of Karoo sage is a hint that it wants dry sandy soil.

Dietes iridioides variegata is a rare clump forming perennial that works well in shady parts of the garden. Evergreen and hardy, it has variegated strap like leaves and pretty white flowers with lavender and yellow markings all year. It grows about 40 cm high.  Years ago when I first spied this perennial it was named Dietes “Daniels delight”, the story being that someone by the name of Daniel discovered the plant in a forest near Eshowe. Can anyone confirm this story?

X Barstasia (I need a better name for this plant!) is a gorgeous spreading perennial with trumpet shaped mauve flowers from summer to autumn. Growing about 40 cm high, It is hardy and likes semi shade.  Nurseryman Martin Kunhardt discovered this cross between Asystasia gangetica and Barleria obtusa in his nursery in Cefane in the Eastern Cape. What a find!

·         Exotic plants

Allium triquetrum is a hardy deciduous Mediterranean bulb with triangular stems, strap like leaves and interesting green striped white flowers in spring that attract bees. All parts of the plant are edible. It grows about 40 cm high and likes semi shade.

Ground covers also offer effective protection against frost and the hardy Callisia fragrans Melnikoff is one to consider. This is a creeping herbaceous perennial which spreads laterally via long runners. It has white flowers in summer and fleshy variegated leaves crowded into rosette-like clusters. It reaches a height of 30 cm and should be cut back to prevent long, scraggly growth. Plant in part shade.

Finding plants that are happy in deep shade is always a challenge but Justicia carnea can help you out here. An evergreen semi hardy upright shrub with robust stems and large leaves, it has plumes of tubular dark pink flowers from summer to autumn. Keep the soil moist and prune back hard in spring. This grew beautifully in my mother’s garden in Mbombela but it took me years to try it out in Pretoria.  Such wasted years - it grows beautifully here.

What would spring be without the scent of jasmine on the air! For something a little different, try the Arabian jasmine, Jasminum sambac. A bushy scrambling climber that grows about 180 cm high, it is evergreen and hardy and will reward you with the fragrance of its lovely white flowers when winter is over. It is happy in sun or semi shade.


After a week of fly-by trial runs, both human and animal residents of Pretoria are grateful for the return to normal noise levels. We congratulate our new President and wish our country health, wealth and happiness as we go into this new dawn.

Happy gardening!


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