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Top 5 indigenous bulbs for alkaline soil

These 5 bulbous plants will happily grow and flower in an alkaline soil.

Agapanthus praecox

(Common Agapanthus)

A well-loved, well used, dependable groundcover which is endemic to South Africa. It is frost hardy, drought resistant and looks spectacular when mass planted. It was first described in 1679 in Europe and first planted there in 1692 where it is now a popular hothouse plant. There the common name is "African Hyacinth". Linnaeus called it an "African Lily". The name is derived from the Greek Agape so this is the love flower. Praecox means 'early' which refers to it's early flowering. Pregnant women wear pieces of the root made into necklace to ensure a healthy baby and ensure fertility. They also take a decoction of the root to ensure an easy birth and the newborn is wahed in the same brew . The medicinal uses are as a result of the anti-inflammatory properties of the leaves that are uses are bandages. The Zulu use it ti treat heart diseases, paralysis and flu. They also wrap the leaves around their tired feet. It is also magical as it is used as a sprinkling charm against lightening. It’s a most useful plant which is undemanding and will grow in sun or shade and is water wise. It is also useful to stabilize a bank. The flowers are long lasting in a vase and they dry well for pot-pourri as they retain their colour.

Crocosmia aurea

(Falling Stars)

This deciduous bulb’s flowers grow to 1m so they are frost resistant. It is fast growing doing well in shade, semi-shade or sun. The orange flowers in summer attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It is great for wetlands as well as containers that are well watered. The corms are used medicinally for dysentery, diarrhoea and infertility. The flowers are long lasting in the vase and very beautiful in the garden. It is ideal for small gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'krokos'= saffron and 'osme'=smell.This refers to the scent when dried flowers are placed in water.

Dietes grandiflora

(Large Wild Iris)

This evergreen groundcover is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in sun, shade or semi-shade. The white flowers open in summer, and they attract birds - insect eaters and butterflies. It is suitable for wetlands and can even be planted in the water. It is clump-forming and is ideal for small gardens. It is believed that when in flower, rain will follow. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'etes'=an associate referring to the flower spike that lasts 2 years. An associate as the flowers are similar to Morea and Iris families.

Tulbaghia violacea

(Wild Garlic)

This is a popular evergreen groundcover which is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun. This is a perfect choice for small gardens. The mauve flowers open in summer and attract birds and butterflies. It is traditionally used as a snake repellent and there are many traditional medicinal uses. It is antibacterial, antifungal and is used to treat TB and intestinal worms. An infusion of the tuber is used as a love charm and the leaves are rubbed onto the forehead to treat a sinus headache. It is also magical as it is planted after the birth of a child to protect from evil. The leaves are delicious chopped into a salad or omelet and the flowers are also edible and look lovely in a salad. The rhizome can be added to stews and soup. The early colonists like Jan van Riebeeck ate both the leaves and the rhizomes, in fact he called it a leek. It is grown abroad and is known as "Society Garlic".There is a recipe for Wild Garlic Mashed Potato which is delicious with fish. Fry onions and chopped wild garlic leaves and add this to mashed potato. This family was named by Linnaeus after Ryk Tulbach who was Governor in the Cape from 1751-1771. He was born in Holland and worked for the Dutch East India Company. He moved to the Cape when he was 16 and started work. He collected bulbs, birds and plants. The town of Tulbagh is named after him.

Zantedeschia aethiopica

(White Arum Lily, Pig's Lily)

Commonly called 'Pig's Lily' as the tubers were boiled and fed to the pigs. Porcupines also enjoy the tubers. The leaves are also cooked as a pot herb, then braised with onions and chilli. A much loved evergreen groundcover which is fast growing in the shade or semi-shade. The large white flowers occur in spring and they attract birds and butterflies. There’s a multitude of uses for this much loved flower, either in wetlands, near water features or in containers. It has medicinal uses as the warmed leaves are used on sores, boils, insect bites, for gout and rheumatism. Leaf, root and stem extracts show antibiotic properties.The leaves produce a yellow dye. The flowers are long lasting in a vase. Named for Giovanni Zantedeschia (1773-1846) an Italian physician, pharmacist and botanist. He was particularly interested in the flora of Northern Italy where he discovered and described many new species.

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