Newsletter Jul 2020

We do make an effort to run an eco-friendly, sustainable home and business at Petal Faire. One component of this is using bath and shower water to irrigate the garden. For me, this has always been about using municipal water sparingly in our drought-ridden country, but it appears there may be more advantages to grey water than meet the eye.

My friend Jennifer started directing water with eco-friendly laundry detergent from her washing machine to her garden a few months ago. One of the regular recipients is a moonflower and she recently noticed that, unlike the three other moonflowers in the garden, the branches of this one were covered in new shoots. These have of course since sadly succumbed to another bout of frost, but my interest was piqued. Was this because the tree was getting more water than the others, or did the other “ingredients” have something to do with the growth spurt?

A Builders Warehouse article on the subject of grey water notes that olives, rosemary, bougainvillea, lavender, Cape honeysuckle, Italian cypress, bearded iris and petunias love grey water. Why not also moonflowers (and others)? Interestingly, while the same article advises one to use only environmentally-friendly soaps and cleaning products, landscaper Martine de la Harpe tells me that in her Grade 7 son’s science project using sugar snap peas, the plants responded very well to kitchen and bathroom water with normal soap or detergent – with the dishwater producing the best results!

I have since heard from Shirley Wallington that she learned on a permaculture course many years ago that the sodium sterate in soap has fertilising properties, which explains a lot.

I have a feeling that reading up on this could have me spending quite a few more evenings going down the rabbit hole of internet links...


Things in the garden are starting to hot up along with the milder daytime temperatures. It all looks very bare and sparse at the moment, but there are still some highlights.

Still blessed with Freesia grandiflora blooms

Our first Magnolia stellata bloom

The winter-flowering Salvia Karwinskii

We are very busy pruning and applying our well composted chicken manure in preparation for the joys of spring.

The temporary bareness of a well-pruned garden!


This month, I have chosen plants that are looking good in the nursery and are bound to give a super display in spring or early summer.  We also have chicken manure for sale at R75 for a large bag.  Please order upfront.

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

·         Indigenous plants

If you are looking for something special (for both you and your resident bees), consider the rare and threatened Asparagus macowanii or Ming fern. The tall canes of this hardy evergreen shrub have fluffy tufts of wiry green leaves and sprays of fragrant white flowers from spring to summer. Ours has looked stunning in the mid-winter garden. It reaches a height of about 1.6 m and is happy in either sun or shade.

The clump forming edible bulb Cyrtanthus breviflorus has strap like leaves and bright yellow scented tubular flowers, mainly in spring. It needs moist soil in a sunny to semi shaded position. It multiples rapidly.

Metarungia pubinervia is a quite recent addition to the company of garden plants in South Africa; it was only discovered in the Kranzkloof Nature Reserve in KZN in 2000! A rare well shaped shrub with quilted dark green leaves, it produces tubular red flowers on the upper side of the branches from winter to spring. It is evergreen and hardy, grows about 1.5 m high, and attracts sunbirds and insects.  An excellent container plant.

I am known for being rather partial to indigenous grasses and the 50 cm high Stipa dregeana has to be one of my favourites. Evergreen and hardy, it has lax clumps of lime green leaves and panicles of golden spikelets in summer. It self seeds and is a host plant for butterflies.

·         Exotic plants

Kalanchoe variegata tricolor is a gorgeous rare succulent with large fleshy pink and white variegated leaves, and panicles of apricot flowers from summer to autumn. It grows about 30 cm high, and likes sun to semi shade and dry sandy soil. It is also very hardy; those in my garden coped well with the cold fronts this winter.

Libertia Formosa (the satin flower) is a clump forming perennial that hails from Chile. Evergreen and very hardy, it has a basal fan of sword like leaves and spikes of lovely white bowl shaped flowers in summer. It grows on average 90 cm high and wants full sun.

The medicinal properties of the fast growing Moringa oleifera have become big news lately. This smooth barked deciduous tree grows about 7 m high and has feathery leaves and sprays of small cream coloured flowers in summer. It is semi hardy and wants a sunny position.

What would a newsletter be without including at least one salvia! Salvia Burning embers has tall spikes of fragrant orange-coral coloured flowers all season which attract bees, butterflies and moths. Salvias are evergreen and hardy and like the sun.


I have been checking the weather forecast regularly for the past month and it seems that we may be in for a late or longer than usual spring. Our winter has been a particularly cold one so I’m not too thrilled about the “late” part, but given that our spring usually feels like no more than a few days before temperatures soar, the prospect of at least a month of mild weather is a lovely one.

I will be keeping an eye on the temperatures but for now have decided to go ahead with our Spring Open Weekend on 12 and 13 September. We will apply our minds to social distancing measures so that we don’t have to forego the traditional tea and scones on the stoep.

Annie Mashishi, one of the veteran Petal Faire stars, used to say, “25 Julie is planttyd” (25 July is planting time). “Planttyd” has arrived, so let’s get cracking!


Happy gardening!


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