Assistant Director: International Standards, Directorate Plant Health in the Department of Agriculture.
IN THE GARDEN
At the end of January social media and the newspapers where full of stories about the millions of butterflies invading our Gauteng gardens. I couldn’t work out what all the fuss was about as this was just the annual migration of the Brown-Veined White Butterfly, but it seems that our garden might just have missed out. Other people apparently couldn’t get over the volumes this year.
The migration starts in the dry areas of the Kalahari and the Karoo and the number of migrating butterflies depends on climatic conditions like drought and rain. The butterflies fly across the Northern Cape and parts of the Free State and move over the North West Province into Gauteng. They have also been seen in parts of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Their destination is unknown but Mozambique seems to be where they settle and fall into the sea. They stop to lay eggs along the way which is why they don’t need to fly back. Their eggs will hatch and thus continue the species.
What we missed in butterflies, we made up for in caterpillars! We have had a veritable infestation in the garden and nursery over the past three months. Any ideas about the reason for this? Large, small, hairy, green, grey, brown - you name it; we have them all.
Caterpillars on our strophanus
It's that time of year - another cache of seeds
IN THE NURSERY
Click here to view all the plants featured in this newsletter.
· Indigenous plants
The sprays of white scented flowers of our indigenous Buddleja Dysophylla attract butterflies to the garden from autumn to winter. It also has lovely grey green leaves. This scandent shrub/climber is evergreen and very hardy, grows about 3 metres high and does well in sun or semi shade.
The deciduous very hardy Eleochalis dulcis (the Chinese water chestnut) is actually indigenous to both Africa and Asia. This is a robust grass like sedge with round edible corms that have medicinal properties. The plants must be submerged in 10 cm of water but want full sun.
Hibuscus praeteritus is a water wise slender upright shrub with ovate coarsely serrated leaves and five petaled red flowers in summer. It reaches an average height of one metre, is evergreen and hardy, and likes full sun.
Persicaria senegalensis does equally well in a pond or in the garden if the soil is kept moist. A spreading thick stemmed stolenous perennial (its common name of silver snake root is very apt!), it has beautiful large silver leaves and sprays of golden grass like flowers. It is deciduous and very hardy and likes a sunny position. Grows about 1.5 metre high.
· Exotic plants
It is hard to say what is most beautiful about Alocasia esculenta-Fortanesii – its foliage or the spectacular flower. A deciduous tuberous bog perennial, the black stemmed elephant ear has heart shaped blue green leaves with red veins and scented pale yellow arum like flowers in summer. It is semi hardy, grows about 1.5 metre high and wants moist conditions in sun or semi shade. My plant was brought to the nursery in a “Checkers” by a kind lady (please remind me who you are?) and is in a beautiful pink pot in the front garden. Such a joy.
Calycanthus floridus is a rare upright deciduous shrub from the south eastern USA. It has large aromatic elliptical bright green leaves and very fragrant dark red flowers from spring to summer. It grows on average 1.8 metres high, is very hardy and likes sun to semi shade. Prune immediately after flowering.
There just doesn’t seem to be an end to the variety of jasmines one can collect. Jasminum bignonianceum (the Indian jasmine) is an upright bushy shrub with narrow bright green leaves and small scented tubular yellow flowers all year. Evergreen and hardy, it likes semi shade.
Kohleria digitalifolia is a spreading rhizomatous deciduous perennial that is lovely in a hanging bowl or container. It grows on average 60cm high and has hairy lance shaped leaves and bright pink flowers with spotted lobes from summer to autumn. Plant in semi shade.
Robert and I were thrilled to be invited to join in the “Botany Weekend” at Verlorenkloof Estate near Lydenburg/Mashishing at the beginning of February. This is when various amateur botanists congregate to walk the veld and kloofs looking for plants, particularly orchids. I am not that enthused about orchids but found the amazing variety of other flora absolutely fascinating. We were ably guided by Frans Krige who also takes groups on guided tours at Verloren Vallei Nature Reserve near Dullstroom. A big thank you to our hosts Robin and Sheryl Berry for this fabulous weekend. It is something that every amateur or budding botanist or plant person should have on their bucket list!
Remember our autumn open weekend on 7 and 8 March. As usual we will be open from 09h00 to 15h00 on Saturday and 09h00 to 14h00 on Sunday, and will have a wonderful selection of exotic and indigenous plants for sale.
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