Arum lilies and frogs

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A pair of arum lily frogs (Hyperolius horstockii) nestle comfortably together in an arum lily flower  – taken in Betty’s Bay, in the swampy area of Jill Attwell’s indigenous garden.

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Above, sheltering on (of all plants) an aloe is another type of frog – thought to be a painted reed frog – which was found in a Constantia garden.

Wondering whether it’s wise, or legal,  to buy arum lilies from street corner vendors?

Read on…

A recent joint press release issued by the City of Cape Town, CapeNature and SANBI (August 2010)

“There has been inaccurate information circulating about the sale of arum lilies, and the protection of two of the Cape’s amphibians, the arum lily frog and micro frog. A campaign urging residents not to purchase arum lilies from vendors at the side of the road seems to be gaining momentum whilst spreading inaccurate information about arum lilies and frogs. This misleading information has also gone viral, and is being spread via e-mail and social networking tools. It is important that the public understand the facts about these frogs, before making a decision on whether or not to purchase the flowers.

Correct information about arum lily frog

“The Environmental Management (ERM) Department, in conjunction with CapeNature and the South African National Biodiversity Institute would therefore like to highlight the facts.

“The information being circulated refers to the ‘arum lily micro frog’ which does not exist. There are, however, two different species of frog, namely the micro frog (Microbatrachella capensis) and the arum lily frog (Hyperolius horstockii). The micro frog is smaller than a fingernail, while the arum lily frog is somewhat larger, growing to about 40 mm in length. It has been reported that the ‘arum lily micro frog’ is in danger because of the sale of arum lilies, but this is not at all correct for either of the frog species.

“The supposed threat to these frogs’ habitat has been cited as one of the main reasons why the public should not buy arum lilies. However, no frog species breeds in the flowers of arum lilies. While the arum lily frog occasionally uses the flowers for shelter, it is not dependant on them. Arum lily frogs breed in wetlands and not in the flowers of the arums. The micro frog is ground-dwelling, breeding in temporary pools, and it does not climb into any flowers.

“Arum lily frogs are very pale and they hide their bright orange feet and legs under their bodies during the day. In this way, the frog is able to use a white background as camouflage against predators and this background is sometimes the white arum flower. They do not use the pollen of the flowers to camouflage themselves, as has been suggested.

“While arum lily frogs are only found in the Western Cape (and a small area of the Eastern Cape), they are not classified as threatened in the 2004 Red Data book. However, it is true that the species is becoming increasingly rare as their habitat is lost to urban development.

Only buy from traders in demarcated areas – not roving hawkers

“While the illegal harvesting of arum lilies will not lead to the extinction of arum lily frogs, the sale of illegally harvested flora at traffic lights is cause for concern. If left unchecked, other illegally harvested plants such as proteas, ericas, and various bulb species may be seen at traffic lights in the future.

“The City does not wish to deter the public from purchasing flowers from hawkers – as long as they are legal retailers. All roving vendors and intersection traders selling flowers are illegal. However, traders selling flowers in demarcated trading bays are legal, and regulated by the City. The City encourages the public to report illegal trading on 021 596 1400/1424.

“The ERM Department is always grateful when residents spread its messages because the need for awareness is so great. Unfortunately, this message has become lost in translation, and we hope that the correct information, as it appears above, will spread in the same manner,” said the City’s Biodiversity Co-ordinator, Clifford Dorse.

“The ERM Department is currently updating its pamphlets on frogs and lilies, and will distribute them widely in an attempt to ensure that the public receives the correct information.”

Photos: 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

Walking iris at the OGC Plant Sale

Let the walking iris – Neomarica gracilis – take a stroll into your garden. This unusual iris is named for the way in which new plantlets develop from the stem where flowers once emerged. As its long stems hang down and touch the ground, they take root.

A bulbous, rhizomatous plant, rather like our indigenous Dietes, it grows in well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade.

Do not deadhead! New plants are formed after the flower is spent

Photo: Marianne Alexander. Text : Lyn McCallum

Gardener Q&A – Carol

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Picture having an afternoon tea under this tree…

Here is the fourth in our series of five interviews with the owners of each of the five gardens that will be open to the public for Open Gardens Constantia on November 14th and 15th.

Advance tickets are R50: that works out to just R10 per garden. Hard to beat. Throw in the lovely tea that will be served in Carol’s garden on her sweeping lawns and flower-covered patios…book the dates!

Buying in advance also helps us with the very-important matter of knowing how many teas and coffees will be needed and…HOW MUCH CAKE (and how many sandwiches, but frankly, isn’t the cake more important?). For advance tickets please visit the link to our Ticket Page for a list of vendors, and our email address (members of the three garden clubs will have tickets available for purchase directly from them, too).

Tickets can also be bought on the day at a garden gate, for R60 (address to follow, please stay tuned to this blog and Facebook, for updates).

Here’s Carol:

Why do you garden?

I garden for pleasure, and for the results that I see. I enjoy vegetable gardening as it is so worthwhile eating what one has produced, and knowing that it is organic.

Where is your garden?


What size is your garden?

One acre.

When did you start to garden?

About 35 years ago.

Who or what inspired you to garden?

My parents and parents-in-law.

Has a plant ever disappointed you?

I love fuchsias, but am not very good at looking after them properly, and so they often die on me. My fault entirely!

What plant has made you happiest?

At the moment it has to be my Tree Fuchsia.

What do you love about your garden right now?

I love that it is looking better than it ever has before!

What do you feed your garden?

Mostly organic fertilizers like Talborne [one of OGC’s sponsors] and seaweed based solutions.

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How often do you garden?

At the moment, everyday!

What is the garden chore you look forward to?

I don’t look forward to any chore!

What is your least favourite garden chore?


Where would you like to garden, if you could garden anywhere?

In my new home, not yet found, which has a much smaller garden!

What would you like to grow, that you can’t?

More fuchsias.

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Food, flowers, native or ornamental?

All love them all. I find food gardening the most satisfying and relevant

Your favourite garden writer, or personality?

I don’t have one.

What plants do you dislike?

None, really. My least favourite plants are cacti [Julie doesn’t like them, either].

Would you like more sun or more shade?

I’m happy with what I have.

If you could visit just one garden, where would it be? 

I have just seen Monet’s garden in Giverny, which was one I’d always wanted to see, and it didn’t disappoint.

What would you like people to know about gardening?

I think that anyone who reads this blog will know MUCH more about gardening than I ever will!

Photos: Saskia Taylor

Hermannia scabra – indigenous groundcover

Some of our gardeners have grown these ravishing little indigenous flowers specially for the OGC Plant Sale, from tiny plugs started by the Veld and Fynbos propagation nursery in the Swartland.

Hermannia scabra, doll’s roses (or poprosie, in Afrikaans) – a gorgeous little indigenous ground cover, which is at home on sandy slopes and flats in the southwestern Cape. It loves well-drained soil and full sun. Great on a sloping bank or in hanging baskets.

The young plants will appreciate small doses of organic fertilizer to set them up and pinching out the long “arms” will give you a tidier plant – if that’s what pushes your buttons.

(Insider Tip: Come early to make sure you snag one!)

Text: Marianne Alexander, Maureen Viljoen. Photo: Marianne Alexander.

The Women’s Story – Abalimi

Open Gardens Constantia raises money for Abalimi Bezekhaya and for Soil for Life.

This simple and moving 21 minute film tells the story, in the poignant and matter-of-fact words of women microfarmers, of what the support of Abalimi Bezekhaya means in their daily edible gardening lives on the Cape Flats.

“We would plant, but nothing would come up…” says one of the farmers. Enter Abalimi, with training, compost and manure, and the supplies to set farmers up to be self sustaining.

“We eat from the garden, we sell from the garden, we help from the garden,” sums up an Abalimi gardener.

On the open garden days on November 14th and 15th you’ll have a chance to enjoy fresh Abalimi produce, which will be on sale in Nicholas’s garden, and chat to a staff member to find out more about what they do, and how.

Help us support Abalimi by visiting our open gardens on November 14th and 15th. Your entry ticket will be money well spent.

2014 Open Garden preview

open gardens constantiaPretty enough for you? This garden belongs to Nicholas Walker, and is one of the open gardens for 2014. Note the permeable paving, which helps prevent run off from hard surfaces after rain.

Open Gardens Constantia will be held on November 14th and 15th this year. Tickets are on sale from early October, from the gardeners themselves, and from selected merchants. An advance ticket costs R50, otherwise tickets will be available at the garden gates for R60. Tea and cake included!

(Addresses will be provided much closer to the time, but they are with easy driving distance of one another.)