Newsletter Mar 2022

Over the years, we gardeners have embraced (or been talked into) manicuring our gardens to within an inch of their lives, hard landscaping as an absolute must, planting nothing but indigenous or waterwise… the list goes on. The one thing that all these approaches have in common is control - whether just through limiting what we allow into our gardens or through merciless hedging and shaping. Now along comes ecological gardening which, while certainly entailing some consideration and thought, is about precisely the opposite - letting go a little!

I stumbled across this via the Joe Gardener podcast devoted to one Matt Rees-Warren. While Matt’s approach includes familiar elements like organic gardening and permaculture, his main point is about looking at our gardens from the perspective of nature rather than our own. We are urged to gauge the ‘success’ of a garden by the extent to which it supports pollinators and provides food and habitat for native birds and insects. Matt also kindly relieves us of our burdensome self-expectations by saying that “no one is doing everything perfectly!”

We small scale gardeners can help counter the rapid disappearance of the earth’s wilderness by being gentler with our soil (a major resource for sequestering carbon), and simply leaving parts of our gardens alone. Before you cringe at the thought of your lovingly cultivated garden going rogue, Matt is very clear that an ecological garden is simply about incorporating more wild elements into the design, and that “an interaction between the human hand and nature” can be exceptionally beautiful.

There is a very good chance that Matt’s book, The Ecological Gardener, will soon have a place on my bookshelf! There is just too much to say here, but do yourself a favour and look up more on the internet. In the meantime, this month’s newsletter features some of the plants we have in the nursery that attract butterflies, bees, insects and birds.


Walking through the garden, one would think that we decided to go monochrome. Yellow is the colour of the month. The metarungia longistrobus; the cassia fistula (that has for some reason decided to flower in March rather than December); the beautiful indigenous climber, Sphedamnocarpus pruriens, that grows and self-seeds wildly in the veld but is most difficult to propagate. Fortunately, we have a good selection of salvias to provide some contrast!

Galphimia glauca

Sphedamnocarpus pruriens

Pink Japanese anemones

Garden acraea caterpillars in the peach tree!

With a bit of time on our hands and the balmy autumn weather, Lebo is weeding and clearing the flowerbeds to make way for some new plants which will be at their best by spring. We also have a willing weeding assistant in the form of Sandra’s little girl Courtney who is by now very much part of the household.

Our budding gardener who is an excellent weeder


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

·        Indigenous plants

Freylinah lanceolata is an upright shrub with arching branches and lanceolate leaves, and clusters of honey-scented pale yellow flowers that attract butterflies, insects and birds from summer to autumn. Evergreen and very hardy, it wants full sun but moist soil. It grows about 3m high.

If you’re looking for a good container plant that will draw birds, butterflies and bees to your garden, consider the attractive evergreen sunbird bush, Metarungia longistrobus. Indigenous to Mpumalanga and Limpopo, this is a dense 2m high shrub with spikes of yellow-orange flowers from summer to winter. A hardy plant that wants semi-shade.

The robust Rhoicissus digitata is an interesting forest climber with woody stems, shiny tripartite leaves, and inconspicuous greenish yellow flowers from summer to autumn, followed by grapelike fruits. Evergreen and hardy, it can reach a height of anywhere from 150 to 900cm. It is waterwise, and another favourite haunt of birds and bees.

Veltheimia bracteata is a lovely summer-deciduous bulb indigenous to the Eastern Cape. It has glossy, fleshy leaves and dense racemes of tubular pink flowers from winter to spring, and is much loved by certain birds. Plant in shade to semi-shade.

·        Exotic plants

The 4m high, fast growing Dahlia imperialis is an absolute wow when it comes into bloom in late summer. This is a hardy deciduous perennial with gloriously large pink flowers that are much loved by bees and butterflies. It likes a sunny position.

Ipomoea horsfalliae is a fast-growing climber with twining wooden stems, shiny star-shaped leaves and clusters of the most gorgeous carmine flowers from autumn to spring. This is a very rare plant that is well worth having in the garden; the one scaling the wall at the entrance to our house (on a very sturdy support!) is one of my great gardening joys. Google tells me it is hardy to -10 Co.

Salvia blepharophyllia is a spreading, approximately 40cm high perennial with small ovate toothed eyelash-type leaves and racemes of vivid scarlet flowers from summer to autumn. It is evergreen and very hardy, and is happy in sun to semi-shade.

The Chinese rainbell, Strobilanthes hamiltoniana, is a fast growing perennial with waxy serrated veined leaves and sprays of tubular mauve flowers from winter to spring. Evergreen and semi-hardy, it grows about 150cm high and, conveniently, can take sun or shade. The plants in the nursery are now in bud.


If you are in the Stellenbosch area, there are number of open gardens coming up, including the Tokara Wine Estate’s annual Rare Plant Fair and Open Gardens on Saturday 23 April. The estate’s extensive private garden is an absolute joy, with tranquil walkways featuring sculptures by local artists and magnificent vistas over the dam.


Happy gardening!


082 482 0257