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Agapanthus inapertus

(Drooping Agapanthus)

This is a deciduous groundcover, (1m -1.2m), which is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The blue or purple flowers open in summer and they attract birds and butterflies. It occurs naturally in very cold grasslands and makes a good garden subject. One must just interplant it with evergreen groundcovers so that there is not a gap in your garden bed during the winter. The name is derived from the Greek Agape so this is the love flower. Inapertus means 'not open' and refers to the flowers.

Agapanthus nana

(Miniature Blue||White Agapanthus)

An evergreen groundcover that grows to 25cm high and 35cm wide with grass-like leaves and sky blue or white flowers. It flowers in profusion in summer. It is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing. It thrives in the sun, shade and semi-shade. It is also an ideal plant for container. It attracts birds and butterflies. If it is mass planted it is impressive sight. It is also suitable for townhouse gardens. Use them in mixed borders, within flowerbeds or along pathways. The word 'nana' means dwarf or small.

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.

Merwillia plumbea (was Scilla natalensis)

(Blue Squill)

This very fast growing, graceful bulb grows to 50cm x 20cm. It is deciduous, growing during summer and dormant in the winter and should be kept dry during that period. This is an easy plant in cultivation and is ideally suited to the rockery but will do equally well in a container. It can also be used to good effect planted in clumps or drifts in the mixed border. It is lovely used in an indigenous meadow, planted amongst indigenous grasses. Each individual flower is not long-lasting, but there are so many of them opening in succession that the inflorescence will last for up to a month in the garden, and it is a useful cut flower. It requires a sunny or semi-shaded position. The lovely rocket shaped spikes of misty-blue flowers open in summer and are displayed on long stalks. It is traditionally used to heal internal tumours, boils and sores. The bulbs are hung and take 5 months to dry. The powered bulb is used to treat fractures and sprains. The cooked bulb is eaten as a laxative. It is analgesic and anti microbial. It is also used as an emetic to rejuvenate the body and promote fertility in women.It attracts butterflies. Named for Frederick Ziervogel van der Merwe ( 1894-1968), a South African botanist and medical doctor. His medical degrees were achieved at Trinity College in Dublin, Liverpool University and Wits. As a medical inspector he travelled widely and he had an interest in botany, particularly the Aloe and Scilla families. His other interest was collecting sheet music of Africana value. He also wrote the first Afrikaans dictionary of medical terms. The name is derived from the Greek skilla=squill or sea leek and the Greek skyllo=injure which refers to the poisonous bulb. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

Plumbago auriculata

(Cape Leadwort)

An old faithful favourite amongst gardeners and landscapers. It is dependable, evergreen, drought hardy and fast growing. Plant it in the sun or semi shade and look out for the blue flowers in summer. These will attract butterflies and birds, which also use the bush as nesting sites. The flowers are edible and look pretty in a fruit salad or floating in a cooldrink. It responds well to pruning and if left to its own devices, it will scamper up to the tree tops. The roots and the leaves are used medicinally for headaches and the root bark is used as a bathing lotion to heal matrimonial discord. It is also magical and is said to heal fractures, and confuse enemies. Bundles of twigs are tied up into the roof rafters to ward off evil and prevent lightning. Root infusions dispel bad dreams and malaria and powdered root is put on warts and used as a snuff for headaches and fractures. A fire is made from the plant and the cattle and sheep are led through the smoke as this keeps them together and protects and defends them. This is the larval host plant to the Common Blue and the Short-toothed Blue butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin plumbum=lead; ago=resemblance, connection. The roots contain a fatty, lead coloured dye.

Strelitzia juncea

A very striking plant that makes a great feature plant. It has long cylindrical leaves that end in a sharp point and they grow to about 1 to 2 meters tall. Their flowers are the same as the Strelitzia reginea and they open in spring and summer. They are very slow growing and take about 10 years to flower. Plant in the sun to get better flowering. Their growth rate can be increased with fertilizing in spring and winter. They occur naturally in the Eastern Cape so they are drought resistant and will cope with light frost. The sunbirds and sugarbirds are attracted to the nectar and the seeds are eaten by birds, mice and squirrels. Their status is listed as vulnerable because of unscrupulous collectors, alien invader encroachment and quarries. They are long lasting in a vase. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor. Juncea means 'like a reed or a rush'.

Strelitzia nicolai

(Natal Wild Banana)

This evergreen tree is medium sized and gives Kwazulu Natal it’s tropical feel as it grows profusely in the dune forests. It is a rapid grower and is happy in sun or semi-shade. The stunning purple/blue and cream flowers open in Spring/Summer and attract birds, the insect and nectar eaters, like the sunbirds. The flowers are eaten by monkeys. Tree frogs hibernate in the leaves and Banana bats roost in the leaves.It also attracts butterflies. It can be planted as a specimen plant or used for informal hedging/screening. It has very aggressive roots so don’t plant it near swimming pools or walls. We have one planted in a pot in the nursery to show the damage that the roots cause. It is used to make rope and the seeds are ground into flour and made into patties which are roasted. The seeds are also eaten by monkeys, Red-eyed doves, Redbilled Woodhoopoes, bulbuls, barbets and starlings. It is the larval host plant for the Banana-tree Nightfighter butterfly. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor

Strelitzia reginae

(Crane Flower)

This evergreen shrub is water wise and is Kwazulu Natal's floral emblem. It will thrive in the sun or semi-shade. The striking orange and blue flowers open on and off all year. They attract birds - insect and nectar eaters as well as butterflies. It is a statement plant suitable for containers. It is ideal for small gardens and is long lasting in a vase. This plant is one of South Africa's most successful exports! It was sent to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in 1733 and was named by Sir Joseph Banks. It was named in honour of Queen Charlotte, the wife of George 111. George decided to send a gift to Catherine the Great of Russia. He sent 300 Strelitzia which weighed 3 tons by cargo ship, escorted by a frigate, to St Petersberg. They were then loaded into 15 coaches to be driven to their new home at Pavlovsk. When I lived in San Francisco I noticed that it was planted everywhere in parks, pavements and gardens. One would have thought that it was their national flower. This plant, like so many of our South African plants is used medicinally as decoctions from the flower is used as an enema for inflamed glands fro VD. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor.

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