“In a leafy suburb” is a popular tag used by estate agents in pursuit of a sale. After all, who doesn’t find an established verdant neighbourhood attractive – even people who are not keen gardeners themselves? It conjures up images of cool and shady tracts of green that can be enjoyed in the heat of the day.
For many decades there have been studies showing the benefits that houseplants have for the air we breathe. And I’m sure the recent fascination with the carbon dioxide absorbing properties of our indigenous spekboom has not gone unnoticed by anyone. Now there is also a report on how nature can help cities address the dual problems of heat and pollution. If you are into numbers, read on.
In collaboration with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, The Nature Conservancy in America looked into the potential return on investment from tree planting in 245 global cities which are currently home to about 25% of the world’s urban population. The researchers estimate that by 2050 a quarter of a million people could die each year due to urban heat unless cities take proactive steps to adapt to global warming. Maintaining the city trees that are already cleaning and cooling the air for more than 50 million people is critical. According to the study, a global investment of $100 million per year in further tree planting and maintenance could provide as many as 77 million people with cooler cities and reduce the fine particulate matter pollution to which 68 million people are exposed. The researchers postulate that while urban trees alone can’t solve the challenges of urban heat and air pollution, they are a cheaper and more effective solution than limiting cars in city centres and installing scrubbers on smokestacks.
Those of us who are lucky enough to live in the afore-mentioned “leafy suburbs” are in the minority in South Africa. According to an IOL article in 2008, Johannesburg City Parks launched a township greening project in 2000, planting indigenous trees in areas such as Soweto, Lenasia and Alexandra. What is really interesting is that the authorities saw a marked decrease in littering and illegal dumping in areas where trees had been planted, and Soweto residents living next to Thokoza Park, which was beautified under the project, started renovating their homes and taking better care of their gardens. Does anyone know whether this wonderful initiative kept going?
As the Chinese proverb goes: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
IN THE GARDEN
The garden has been making the most of the wonderful unexpected rain storms in the past couple of weeks but there is a mellowness reminding us that winter is on its way - and that it’s time to catch seeds! The Combretum has been dropping its leaves for three months already but doesn’t seem ready to stop yet...
Our granadilla harvest
Pink Japanese anemone
Salvia el cielo
The moonflowers are enjoying the cooler weather
IN THE NURSERY
Sadly, plants and plant deliveries are not considered essential services during our lock down period, but perhaps this can be used to advantage. With the opportunities for impulse buying curtailed – and bearing in mind that it is the end of the season – you can take the time to rethink your garden, even redesign it, and do some sensible planning of your next purchases. We can of course also accept orders over the next 21 days and queue them up for invoicing and delivery as soon as channels are open again. Patience is one of the keys to this challenging time!
I will be playing catch up and listing new plants on the website in the next two weeks. Look out for clerodendrum nutans, barleria pretoriensis and a few other gems.
Click here to view all the plants featured in this newsletter.
· Indigenous plants
Aponogeton distachyos is our Western Cape waterblommetjie known for its edible flowers which a popular ingredient in winter stews. Summer dormant, this hardy aquatic perennial with its floating oblong dark green leaves likes full sun and wants to be covered by at least 30 cm of water.
The dense spiny shrub Cassinopsis ilicifolia makes a good screen about 3 metres in height. Evergreen and very hardy, it has lovely shiny green leaves and small whitish flowers in spring followed by large orange berries in autumn which are a feast for the birds. Plant it in shade to semi shade. I have also found that this does very well in deep shade.
Tephrosia grandiflora is a bushy 120 cm high shrub indigenous to the Eastern Cape and KZN. Evergreen and semi hardy, it has soft feathery compound leaves and pea like magenta flowers all year. Our previous stock tended to be rather sparse and upright but the ones we have now are bushy - a real winner. It likes semi shade.
· Exotic plants
A mass planting of flowering Japanese anemones is one of the joys of the autumn garden. We have the pink Queen Charlotte in stock. With oval palmate mid green leaves and sprays of gorgeous slightly cupped flowers that attract butterflies, this deciduous clump-forming suckering perennial likes semi shade. It makes a good cut flower.
Heimia salicifolia is one of my favourite plants in the garden. With the lovely common name of Elixir of the Sun, this bushy 90 cm high medicinal shrub has woody stems and frilly yellow flowers tucked between the narrow dark green leaves in spring time. Evergreen and hardy, it can take sun to semi shade.
Salvias are such a boon in the garden – evergreen, perennial, floriferous and undemanding. Salvia miniata is a gorgeous rare well shaped plant with glossy smooth bright green leaves and nonstop luminous reddish orange flowers in summer and autumn. It grows about 75 cm high and likes semi shade. Attracts birds and butterflies.
With its large unusual silver gold foliage, Strobilanthes gossypinus is a real show-stopper. It also has the advantage of being waterwise and enjoying dry sandy soil. Evergreen and semi hardy, it grows on average 120 cm high and can take sun or semi shade.
Thanks to everyone who supported our Open Weekend. Apart from good sales, it was as always lovely to reconnect with all our regular clients.
Let’s stay positive and do the socially responsible thing over the next few weeks. There is something to be said for being forced to forego our usual distractions and spend time valuing our personal spaces – remembering the many who don’t have the luxury of environments they can enjoy.
Stay healthy, stay at home – and happy gardening!
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