Neomaricis gracilis

Neomaricis gracilis – Walking Iris
Photo: D. McCallum

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A somewhat unusual bulb, although now becoming better known after Flourish Garden Club had quite a few of them for sale at our last Plant Sale in 2014.
Neomaricis gracilis is a versatile bulb, with handsome strap shaped leaves, typical of the Iris family, and very decorative blue and white flowers, from late spring to early summer. It needs little attention, although it flowers much better if it gets enough water together with some some compost and fertiliser. I have found it does well in morning sun or dappled shade and also grows well in pots.
This bulb has an interesting way of propagating itself. After the flowers have faded, their stems will slowly start lowering themselves towards the ground and will eventually root and form another plant from the faded flower. I help mine by gently pulling the spent flower stem down, once a shoot appears, and anchor it into the soil, either adjacent to the mother plant, or in a pot. Once the offset shows signs of starting to grow, the flower stem can be cut and you have another plant!
Limited stocks of this plant will be available at our sale. This bulb is not often (if ever) found at Garden Centres, so if you want one – come early to the sale – Saturday and Sunday 12 and 13 November.

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Striking sage

Salvia canariensis is a strong-growing, tall plant with the grey, soft, felt-covered, arrow-shaped leaves. Come summer it excels itself, producing spikes of deep magenta-pink flowers. Apart from appealing to sunbirds and pollinators, they make excellent cut flowers, too.  They are ideal for a sunny spot at the back of a border.

We will have a few of these stunners at our Open Gardens Constantia plant sale tomorrow and Saturday.

Photo and text: Marianne Alexander

Feverfew at the plant sale

There will be quite a few of these plants available at the Open Gardens Constantia plant sale (tomorrow and Saturday) in the herb section.

Tanacetum parthenium is a quick-growing perennial, native to the Caucusus region. The pretty herb sows itself freely in the garden and can also be propagated by taking cuttings. Feverfew needs a sunny position in the garden, as it is liable to get mildew when grown in the shade.

Apart from being a most attractive addition to the garden and indoors as a cut flower, feverfew can be used as a deterrent for moths and is planted in the garden to keep away aphids, especially in the vegetable and rose garden. The leaves and flowers are dried and used in pot pourri.

(Follow this link for open gardens ticket information.)

Photo: Marianne Alexander. Text: Lyn McCallum

Comfrey – the wonderplant

Looking for comfrey plants? We will have some of this hard-to-find, all-purpose herb at our plant sale on Friday and Saturday.

Garden accent, healer, compost activator, green mulch and liquid fertilizer, all in one plant.

Apart from its reputation as a healing herb (one of its common names is knitbone), comfrey – Symphytum officinale and cultivars –  is also a good compost activator (add a layer of leaves to your dry, brown matter). Its leaves’ high nitrogen and potassium levels make it an excellent green mulch, too. Steeped for six weeks, a comfrey tea is a good liquid fertilizer (and about as smelly, in its own way, as seaweed).

5 comfreyComfrey’s attractive, bold leaves make it a useful accent or contrast plant in the garden. The more common specimens have purple flowers, but some produce remarkable blue blooms.5 C5 omfrey herb JENNY F 5 DSC_0051 (58)

Got tickets to Open Gardens Constantia? Follow the link for more info.

Photos: Marianne Alexander. Text: Marianne Alexander, Marie Viljoen.

OUT foxing the foxgloves!

“You will never get foxgloves to flower in just a few months, unless they are this type or that!”  So say many seasoned gardeners.

Well, in just two months the little seedlings we bought have grown and grown and grown.

foxgloves

Some are now flowering just in time for open gardens. We have admittedly spoilt them rotten: they have been grown in pots, so the snails couldn’t get to them; re-potted three times; force-fed with one of our sponsors’ fertilisers (Talborne Organic‘s Seedling Food 6:2:5 and then Vita Fruit and Flower  3:1:5); foliar-fed and soil-drenched with Multi Booster (high potash food to stimulate flower development) and Kelpak.

Come and see these pampered plants for yourselves in Julie’s garden (home of Toe Toe the lettuce-eating tortoise) on Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th. We may even have a few extras for sale at our plant sale!

(Follow the link for Open Gardens Constantia ticket information.)

Photos: Marianne Alexander, Marie Viljoen. Text: Marianne Alexander

Indigenous honey for the honey makers

Are you looking for a showy, easily grown indigenous small shrub that is tough and can take full sun and only needs moderate watering? Then southern African native Euryops virgineus or the honey Euryops is the plant for you.

Called the honey Euryops because it attracts our busy little honey bees which pollinate the many sweetly-scented bright yellow flowers that open on the plant in late winter and spring, it is an easy-to-grow, tough shrub that brightens up that dry sunny space in your garden in no time at all.

Prune back quite vigorously after flowering to keep the plant tidy and you will have the pleasure of this sturdy plant for several years.

There will be a limited number of these plants at the Open Gardens Constantia plant sale on the 14th and 15 of November, so if you want one, be sure to arrive early to avoid disappointment.

(Follow this link for ticket information and open garden times)

Photo: Marianne Alexander. Text Lyn McCallum

Kruidjie-roer-my-nie

The botanical name of  indigenous Melianthus major is a real mouthful but not nearly as bad as its Afrikaans common name: kruidjie-roer-my-nie. If you can’t get your tongue around either, just call it the giant honey flower.

The striking grey leaves with their giant serrations (below, paired with Perilla ‘Magilla’) provide an interesting contrast in the garden – but do have a rather unpleasant smell when crushed – hence the name!

perilla magilla

But what most gardeners grow it for are the long bronze-maroon flower-spikes which develop in spring  and act as magnets to any bird with a sweet beak: sunbirds, bulbuls, weavers, and white eyes all flock to them. The seed pods are also attractive, providing additional interest in an off-season garden border.

Left on the plant to dry, the seeds result in lots of baby plants. We saved some from our garden for the Open Gardens Constantia plant sale.

(The plant has toxic properties, so keep leaf-chewing pets and voracious toddlers away.)

Photos: Marianne Alexander, Marie Viljoen. Text: Marianne Alexander