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Top 5 Indigenous Groundcovers for Coastal Gardens

Agapanthus praecox

(Common Agapanthus)

A well-loved, well used, dependable groundcover which is endemic to the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal in 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 washed in the same brew . The medicinal uses are as a result of the anti-inflammatory properties of the leaves that are used are bandages. The Zulu use it to 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. Large clumps can be divided after flowering. When replanted the leaves should be cut back.

Bulbine frutescens

(Stalked Bulbine)

These occur naturally in the Cape, the Free State and KwaZulu Natal. This hardy, evergreen groundcover is dependable as it is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun. There are both orange or yellow flowering forms and they flower all year. Plant with white Osteospermum for a lovely show. The flowers attract birds and butterflies. It is a medicinal plant as the leaf gel has excellent healing, antiseptic properties and is used for relieving stings, burns, rashes, liver spots, blisters, itchy spots, fever blisters, cracked lips, cold sores, cracked finger nails, mouth ulcers, and cold sores. An infusion of a few leaves in a cup of boiling water , is left to stand and then strained and drunk for coughs, colds and arthritis. It is used magically as an emetic if the patient is going mad after being bewitched. The leaves are eaten as a relish. It will be ideal for small gardens and the flowers are long lasting in a vase. The name comes from the Latin for an onion or a bulb which is ironical as they are not bulbs. Frutescens means 'growing in a shrubby fashion'. Propagate from seed or division.

Clivia miniata

(Bush Lily)

An evergreen groundcover which is water wise and grows in shade or semi-shade. The orange or yellow flowers occur in spring and are a favourite garden subject. The flowers attract birds and are long lasting in the vase. They do well in containers and are suitable for a shady corner in a townhouse garden. The roots are used medicinally for snake bite, fevers, childbirth, pregnancy and as a charm against evil. It is considered a good indicator of wealth, health and rains if one is growing near the homestead. They are an international collector’s item as they are hybridized to produce variegated leaves and a host of colours. The seed takes almost a year to ripen on the plant. A yellow Clivia seed is yellow when ripe, whereas the orange turn almost red. Clean the fleshy covering from the seed and this is said to strengthen ones fingernails. Rub the seeds with bleach to prevent disease and rot. Place the seed on the surface of a seed tray and cover with leaf litter. Don't over water as they they may rot otherwise they are easy to germinate. It was named for Lady Charlotte Florentina Clive in 1828. William Burchell first discovered them in the Eastern Cape in 1820. Miniata means the colour of red lead.

Felicia amelloides

(Blue Felicia)

A lovely shade of blue. There are very few blue indigenous flowers compared to the other colours. There is also a white form. They are fast growing, frost and drought hardy and will do well in full sun or semi shade. They attract the insect and nectar feeding birds as well as butterflies. It’s a great ground cover for a small garden, in pots or hanging baskets. Mass planted it’s stunning. The name is derived from the Latin felix=happy which probably refers to the cheerful flowers.

Gazania rigens

(Trailing Gazania)

One of those very adaptable, drought resistant plants which is probably why it is a popular garden plant in Europe. I’ve seen it growing on the sand dunes in the salt spray from the sea to manicured, fertilized, irrigated gardens. It is fast growing and flowers all year. It is the larval host plant for the Painted Lady butterflies. Impressive if mass planted or in a container with other succulents. Great for small gardens and the roots are used as a love charm. You never know when you might need to try that tip! The name is derived from the Greek gaze, gaza=riches, royal treasure; possibly named after Theodorus Gaza. He became professor in 1447 and he translarted Greek and latin for Pope Nicholas 1450-1455. He translated many works and is regarded as one of the greatest classical scholars and humanists of the Renaissance.

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