Newsletter Nov 2020

When I started serious gardening sometime around 1990, I was told by the people who know that to plant a tree or shrub, one had to dig a hole of around one cubic metre and fill it with compost before planting.  Double digging is another age-old recommendation but one I chose to ignore - too much hard work!  And time has proved me right.  A core garden practice that I was slave to for many years was cutting plants back by a third when transplanting them.

Someone once said that any gardening practices pre-1983 are obsolete. Determined to adopt an open mind, I recently took on a book called “The Informed Gardener.” The author, Linda Chalker-Scott, is an urban horticulturalist and associate professor at the Pullayup Research & Extension Centre at Washington State University, and someone who goes where others fear to tread - turning to science to debunk some of the myths and misconceptions that professional and amateur gardeners alike subscribe to. Chapter headings such as “The Myth of Fragile Roots,” The Myth of Hot-Weather Watering” and “The Myth of Beneficial Bonemeal” are an indication that a little courage is needed to keep reading!

It was “The Myth of Top-pruning Transplanted Material” that really caught my eye as we are always looking for better ways to package our plants for online orders. Obviously, there are other practicalities involved, but like many, I have always been convinced that cutting a transplanted plant back helps it focus on root development in its new environment. Citing four scientific studies, Ms Chalker-Scott informed me in no uncertain terms that the immediate response of a plant to being cut back is to leaf out below the cuts, which of course takes energy that would otherwise be used for root growth. The fact you are removing part of the plant’s photosynthetic system in this way also means that it has to prioritise new shoot development. Her conclusion is that pruning should be limited to removing broken, dead or diseased branches, and all a transplanted plant needs is good irrigation.

There is so much more that I have learnt from this very experienced horticulturist, and we have implemented some changes in the nursery.  Will she be able to convince all gardeners to shift to better or more modern practices?  I doubt it.


We were told it was going to be a dry year but we have had almost our entire annual rainfall in the month of November! The garden is looking so lovely and it seems we are going to have a bumper crop of grapes and peaches. 

Grape harvest

Thunbergia Arizona sunset

Dendrobium moschatum

Buds on the Mellittia grandus 

Vitex agnus castus

About two years ago, one of our neighbours brought over a small brown house snake which we released into the garden. Sandra insisted on putting out water for the snake but we never saw it again. About a month ago, our gate motor needed attention and when the technician presented me with a small dead snake, I was devastated.  Then last Tuesday, Sandra arrived on the front veranda with the sweetest little snake slithering out of one of the designated online order boxes (we recycle you know!). None of the other staff members joined in our excitement, but at least a few of us are happy to know that a few of these harmless creatures are making themselves at home on the property.   

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

·        Indigenous plants

The rare and hard to find Ochna pulchra is a small rounded deciduous tree with distinctive peeling bark and gorgeous foliage and racemes of yellow flowers in spring that attract birds and bees. It grows about 5 metres high and wants full sun. Not for the feint-hearted and unsuitable for online orders.

Our very own Begonia sutherlandii is easily propagated from the small bulblets that form on the soft stems later in the reason. With its small orange red flowers all season, it is lovely in containers in moist shady areas. Deciduous and hardy, it reaches a height of about 40 cm and wants acid soil.

Eucomis pallidiflora ssp pole-evansii is the largest of the pineapple lilies, measuring 2 METRES when in flower. Indigenous to the damp grassy vleis of Mpumalanga, this magnificent plant has large leaves with a deep midrib and spotted undersides, and large spikes of yellowish green flowers in summer. Deciduous and very hardy, it is happy in moist soil and sun to semi shade. 

The summer flowering Sclerochiton odoratissimus is a shrub with small glossy leaves and scented white flowers with purple streaks. Evergreen and hardy, it reaches an average height of 1.2m. Plant in sun or semi shade.

·        Exotic plants

Angelica hispanica is an interesting very hardy evergreen perennial with shiny waxy dark green leaves and umbrels of greenish white flowers in summer. Hailing from the woodlands of northern Europe, it likes full sun and moist soil. One of the most striking plants in my garden!

For those who like to grow flowers for the vase, Echinops ritro (the small globe thistle) is a good choice. This is a tough evergreen perennial with spiney woolly dark green leaves and globe shaped blue flowers in summer. Plant in dry sandy soil and sun to semi shade. It grows about 60 cm high.

Echinodorus palaefolius is a sun loving deciduous Brazilian bog plant with large bright green pointed oval leaves and three petalled white flowers on floral stems. It grows about 1.2m high and can have up to 25 cm of water above the crown of the plant. It flowers in spring.

The spreading rhizomatous perennial Kohleria digitalifolia is lovely in a hanging container. It has hairy lance shaped leaves and bright pink flowers with spotted lobes from summer to autumn. Deciduous and semi hardy, it likes semi shade.


What a difficult year it has been, but we have made it more or less in one piece. I really have to thank the many clients whose passion for gardening never wavered and whose support saw us through times that delivered some sleepless nights!

I hope that everyone can now start winding down for the summer holidays and some therapeutic garden time. We will be open.

Happy gardening!



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