Newsletter Feb 2021

A delighted Tiliana du Preez told me recently that the management of the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria has given the Cycad Society permission to establish a cycad botanical garden around the monument.

The approximately 67 hectare grounds of the iconic structure built in 1937-38 are already known for being home to many indigenous plant species, birds and even some free-roaming wildlife. In addition to the historic value of the monument itself and the many artefacts and exhibits it houses, people have for years flocked to attend the regular antiques fairs, markets and concerts that are held there.

This has always been a place where walkers, cyclists, bird watchers or anyone just longing for a little nature and open vistas can wander safely and at their leisure. The long term vision is for the monument to become a destination of choice for plant enthusiasts. The more immediate hope is that a new cycad forest will lure people back in the wake of pandemic-related restrictions.

A Cycad Trust has been established to manage the project and coordinate the donations that are needed to make the dream a reality. The members are not only asking for cycads but also for complementary plants, historical farm implements, and benches and tables to rest those weary legs or enjoy a picnic. The services of people who can help with the occasional tree pruning, weed eradication and minor construction jobs or repairs will also be very welcome.

If you are interested in participating in what I think could be a very rewarding initiative, contact Tiliana on 079 480 4416 or


We recently had a torrid few months with poor old Molly who had blood in her urine. After many visits to the vet and much head-scratching, our doc could only think it might be cancer of the bladder. Being a passionate homeopathy disciple, he prescribed cannabis oil capsules. The problem cleared up almost immediately! As anyone who is making use of this now legal addition to the medicine cabinet will know, it is NOT cheap. We are now raising cannabis plants for the garden which will be used to make a concoction following a recipe kindly provided by Jason Sampson.

The weather continues to give us the run-around as we go from heat waves to torrential rains, but the autumn flowers are the same blessing as always. As the leaves start to fall, don’t forget to “feed” (or start) your compost heap.

Autumn-flowering croscosmias

Hydrangea Annabelle

Love grass seeds

Pseudogynoxis chenopioides


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

·        Indigenous plants

Hailing from Mpumalanga, the rare Eucomis vandermerwii makes a good container plant. This underrated deciduous bulb has purple-flecked leaves and star-shaped green-spotted purple flowers on a cylindrical spike with a crown-shaped tuft of bracts. It is very hardy and wants full sun.

Hibiscus calyphallus is a low growing cascading evergreen shrub with large lobed toothed leaves and gorgeous big deep yellow flowers with a red centre. Growing to an average height of 1m, it likes sun to semi-shade and flowers all year.

The robust threatened indigenous climber Mondea whitei grows in the forests and riverine woodlands of KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, so it wants moist conditions in the garden. Evergreen and semi-hardy, it has thick-veined leaves and clusters of maroon and white flowers in summer. It reaches a height of about 500cm.

Not to be confused with Rotheca myracoides Ugandense, our Rotheca myracoides is indigenous to Limpopo. An upright deciduous shrub that grows on average 180cm high, it has smelly bright green leaves and two-toned soft blue flowers in summer which attract butterflies. It likes sun to semi-shade.

·        Exotic plants

Abutilon Souvenir de Bonn is a multi-purpose evergreen shrub with white edged green leaves and salmon coloured pendant flowers that attract birds and bees all year round. Fast growing to a height of around 2.5m, it is a good choice to grow against an unsightly wall. It likes sun to semi shade, and acid soil.

Callisia fragrans – Melnikoff is creeping herbaceous medicinal plant with elliptic pointed fleshy variegated leaves crowded into rosette-like clusters and white flowers in summer. Hardy and evergreen, it spreads laterally via long runners, so needs regular pinching to prevent scraggly growth. Plant in part shade.

If you are struggling with dry, sandy soil, consider the pretty rock rose Cistus – Pink pearl. The cup-shaped single pale pink flowers of this compact, mound-forming shrub attract bees, butterflies and birds in the summer. It is evergreen and hardy, likes sunny conditions, and grows about 75cm high.

For something quite different and special, we have the Cobaea scandans – Alba. This seemingly delicate but vigorous green-leafed climber with branched tendrils has fragrant greenish-cream flowers from summer to autumn (although mine seem to flower through the winter months as well). It is evergreen and hardy and grows on average 3m high. Plant in sun or semi-shade.



The weather continues to give us the run-around as we go from heat waves to torrential rains, but the autumn flowers are the same blessing as always. As the leaves start to fall, don’t forget to “feed” (or start) your compost heap.

Happy gardening!



082 482 0257