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



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

Mickey Mouse bushes at sale

Ochna serrulata – Mickey Mouse bush.

Mickey Mouse bushes will be available at our popular plant sale on our Open Gardens Constantia days: November 14th and 15th.

The names carnival bush or Mickey Mouse plant couldn’t be more apt: these are the most cheerful and almost frivolous of shrubs.  They are also an essential addition to ‘bird’ gardens.

Each season has something new to offer. Early spring sees the arrival of a profusion of delicately scented five-petalled flowers with bright yellow crinkled petals, often on bark branches. The new foliage, which starts emerging while the flowers are still on the plant, are an attractive bronze. Then the fruits begin to develop and turn from green to black while the calyx turns a vivid scarlet.

Although the fruits may be consumed by birds the colourful calyxes remain on the plants from late spring and persist well into summer. In cold winters these shrubs also have some appeal – when their attractive tan stems are bare of leaves their twiggy growth habit is revealed.

Photo credit: Marianne Alexander