Newsletter Oct 2020

I seemed to get an unusual number of queries about waterlilies and their availability over the lockdown period. Some of our newsletters in recent months have tended to the philosophical, so I thought I would spare you a “treatise” on the possible reasons for this and just give some interesting information and tips about these rather special plants whose long flowering season and glorious variety of colours are not easily matched.

If you want to host these aquatic plants in your garden, you obviously need water – be it a pond or even just a small waterproof terracotta or other container in the garden or on the verandah.  Even in winter when the water lilies are dormant, the sense of calm that a little expanse of water brings to the garden is just wonderful.

While your water feature doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive, it does need to be deep enough and it does need enough sunlight. Although water lilies vary in leaf size, bloom colour and size, and how high the flower stalks extend above the surface of the water (more about this below), all of them need at least 15 cm of water above the growing tip of the plant and at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.

The water lilies with flowers just above or floating on the water are the hardy varieties. The more tender tropical varieties have flower stalks that generally extend well above the water. They also have larger blooms and some are night blooming.

 Another important thing to bear in mind with water lilies is that they are gross feeders. During the flowering season, I apply about a tablespoon of organic fertilizer (remember all those other aquatic residents!) once a month.

For more about cultivating and caring for your water lilies, see our page on the website.


Sometimes I feel we say this every October, but the jacarandas really are extra beautiful this year! Between them, and the opportunity we have for planting on our adjacent neighbour’s pavement as well as our own, it is as if our garden expands way beyond our official boundaries.

We have had such a display from our deciduous shrubs. The mock orange and deutzias were picture perfect.  

The rare, hard-to-find and absolutely gorgeous Tephrosia pondoensis finally came into bloom. Now to see if our little shrub manages to set seeds…

Tephrosia pondoensis

A real highlight this month was that a cactus we have had for quite a while (possibly Selenicereus grandiflora, but I stand to be corrected) flowered for the very first time – and what a spectacular display!  Sandra and I were tripping through the garden at night trying to take decent photographs.




Click here to view all the plants in this newsletter on the website.

·        Indigenous plants

Bulbine natalensis mini is a new semi-hardy miniature aloe like perennial which makes a good container plant. Spikes of yellow flowers grow all year round from a basal rosette of thick fleshy leaves. Despite its name, it is indigenous to the Eastern Cape and likes semi-shade. Its average height is about 20cm.

The sunbird bush Metarungia longistrobus is an attractive dense shrub that also works well in a container. The spikes of yellow-orange flowers from summer to winter attract birds, butterflies and bees. Evergreen, hardy and growing about one metre high, it likes semi-shade. It tends to self-seed, but never in my garden.

After the privilege of seeing clumps of Trichodesma phsaloides (Chocolate Bells) in the veld many years ago, I am thrilled to once again have them in the nursery! This is a bushy deciduous shrublet with pendulous bell-shaped white flowers with a brown calyx in spring. It is very hardy, reaches an average height of 75cm and wants full sun.

What is a garden without at least one watsonia. Watsonia pillansii is a clump-forming deciduous corm with characteristic slightly twisted sharp-tipped basal leaves, and bracts of lovely orange/apricot flowers all season. Hardy and reaching a height of about 1.2 metres, it wants full sun.

·        Exotic plants

Amsonia tabernaemontana is a rounded multi-stemmed herbaceous perennial with upright stems and strap-like leaves. True to its common name of Woodland Blue Star, it produces gorgeous true blue star-like flowers in spring. Deciduous and very hardy, it grows about 70cm high and can take sun to semi-shade.  Our plant in the garden was spectacular this year.

Berberis thunbergii Ring of Fire is one of the few thorny plants I have in my garden, simply because of its beautiful yellow-edged maroon leaves although it also has sprays of yellow flowers in summer. Hailing from Japan and Eastern Asia, this well-shaped deciduous shrub is very hardy, reaches an average height of one metre, and is happy in sun or semi-shade.

The common name of Elixir of the Sun hints at why Heimia salicifolia is one of my favourite plants in the garden. This is a bushy woody-stemmed evergreen shrub with frilly yellow flowers tucked between the narrow dark green leaves in summer. Evergreen and hardy, it grows about 90cm high and can take sun or semi-shade. It supposedly makes an intoxicating drink with hallucenogenic and medicinal properties!! I need to do some research...

Lonicera periclymenum is a fast growing, approximately three metre high evergreen climber with scented, red flushed cream flowers in summer. It likes semi-shade and needs to be pruned back well after flowering.


Although there are still a few weeks of open gardens in the Cape, sadly, all the Gauteng open gardens have been cancelled. We will just have to resort to enjoying this wonderful time in our own gardens and dream of better times to come.


Happy gardening!


082 482 0257