Newsletter Sep 2019

In our August newsletter, I talked about the wild food gardens that have been established at the University of Pretoria’s Future Africa Campus and promised more about the delectable edibles it yields up.

On 7 August, the final year students in the university’s Department of Consumer & Food Sciences went all out to create the first ever, almost completely foraged formal meal from the Future Africa gardens designed specifically for this purpose almost five years ago. My friend Jason Sampson who has been very involved in the development of the gardens tells me it was without a doubt one of the finest meals he has ever eaten. Another dinner is planned in March next year to coincide with a Gastronomy course by a visiting professor from Chile!

Two intriguing items on the dinner menu:

Panfried amadumbe gnocchi served on African water chestnut mash, roasted balsamic beetroot and guinea fowl and beetroot extract, with biltong dust


Spekboom salad with wild African sage croutons


While plotting how I can wangle an invitation to the next dinner, I have also been thinking about recipes for someone with less adventurous ideas and skills, and marog came to mind. I'm sure I am not the only uninformed South African who always thought marog was a particular type of indigenous spinach. Not so, Jason tells me. Marog is actually a general term for leafy greens. Amaranthus is the most famous marog plant, Asystasia gangetica or creeping foxglove is another and Mondia whitei is particularly popular in Mozambique. Apparently even Blackjack is used (adter being boiled a few times because it is rather bitter). I particularly like the idea of using creeping foxglove because it grows so easily.

Back to the Consumer & Food Sciences Department I went with a request for a marog recipe to include in the newsletter. If I can find creeping foxglove or a good alternative indigenous plant, we will be trying it out in our kitchen - with Sibongile as our on-site food critic!  Apart from the cream, her recipe is very similar.


(8 servings)


400g spinach
800g marog (creeping foxglove)
110g onion, chopped
5g garlic, minced
100g butter
125ml cream
125ml milk
30ml corn starch
5ml salt
5ml white pepper


Trim spinach, removing stems, and slice into long thin strips.
Blanch the spinach and marog. Drain and set aside.
Add butter to a pan over medium heat, sauté the onions without browning and add in garlic.
Make a slurry by mixing the corn starch with the milk and add to the pan.
Add the cream and cook to thicken slightly, whisking constantly to prevent lumps forming.
Add morogo ingredients to the white sauce and cook further, stirring continuously, until cooked
through and combined.
Season to taste.


Well, as every happy gardener knows, this is prime time in the garden!  All the pruning and feeding has been done and we eagerly await the October display – and then I look over the road at my neighbour’s sidewalk where the Shasta daisies are effortlessly getting a head start and stealing the show!

What an underrated plant - easy to grow and multiply and with a lovely long flowering period.  And the gorgeous glow of the white flowers at night when I take the dogs out, quite lights up the street. I have been so taken that I splurged on a bunch of white aquilegias this week so that we can have the same lovely view on this side of the fence after dark.

Epiphyllum coming into flower

A bit of retail therapy to relieve the stresses and strains - this one belongs to me!

Convolvulus blue


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

·         Indigenous plants

Dyschoriste thunbergiiflora is a gorgeous rounded evergreen shrub with deep violet trumpet shaped flowers in summer (hence its common name of Purple Bells). It is happy in sun or semi shade, is semi-hardy and grows about 120 cm high.

Ornithagolum juncifolia is such an underrated plant! With the lovely common name Star of Bethlehem, this clump forming indigenous bulb has spikey grass like foliage and white star like flowers all summer. Evergreen and hardy, it grows about 40 cm high. It can take sun or semi shade and likes moist soil. Multiplies well.

With its large densely branched canopy and clusters of gorgeous red flowers in spring and summer, the 10 m high Huilboerboon or Schotia brachypetala is one of our most attractive indigenous trees. Evergreen and hardy, it likes full sun. The flowers are sure to attract bees and butterflies to your garden.

Strophanthus speciosus is a scrambling woody based shrub with interesting starfish shaped scented yellow flowers in spring. Evergreen and semi hardy, it likes semi shade and reaches an average height of 500 cm. It attracts birds but be warned – the leaves, seeds and latex are poisonous.

·         Exotic plants

Cistus x agularii is a rare rounded evergreen shrub with crinkled oval leaves and large yellow-stamened white flowers from spring to summer that attract butterflies. Hailing from the Mediterranean it likes full sun and dry, sandy soil. It grows about 120 cm high.

In the last newsletter I spoke about Jasminum multipartitum. Jasmine lovers should also think about adding the lovely Jasminum sambac to their collections. The Arabian jasmine is a bushy scrambling climber with the trademark strongly scented white flowers in spring. It grows about 120 cm high in sun or semi shade and is evergreen and hardy.

Tradescantia virginiana is a tough low growing perennial with fleshy strap like leaves and heads of three-petalled flowers all season. It is evergreen and hardy and takes sun or semi shade. We have the near-white, pink, blue and purple varieties in the nursery.

With its palmate toothed aromatic leaves and sprays of fragrant lilac flowers from spring to summer, I think Vitex agnus-castus is a stunning garden plant. This upright deciduous hardy shrub grows on average 150 cm high and wants full sun.


For anyone who thought they may have missed the boat, Bruce Stead still has copies of his wonderful book on indigenous garden design for sale. Please contact me if you are interested.

October is of course the time of year for open gardens all over the country.  In the Western Cape, the traditional Constantia Open Gardens event is back on 18-19 October with the focused message: ‘It is possible to make beautiful and water-usage-responsible gardens in our drought-stricken times.’ The four gardens featured this year represent different ways of being water-aware and as ecologically responsible as possible.

The not-to-be-missed Elgin Open Gardens will be taking place on 26-27 October and 2-3 November.

Closer to home, visit the Gardens of the Golden City website to find out more about upcoming open gardens in Johannesburg and environs, including Roedean School (5 October), the historic Northwards House in Parktown (26-27 October) and High Cloud (12-13 October) in Irene.


Happy gardening!


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