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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.

Aloe now Aristaloe aristata

(Serelei, Long-awned Aloe)

The common name which means ‘the slippery one’ whereas aristata means ’awned’ which refers to the awn- like leaf tips. It is very frost hardy as it occurs in the coldest parts of the country, the mountains of Lesotho and the Karoo where there is often snow. The leaves have numerous white spots and it is often confused with Haworthia. It’s a little, low growing Aloe which would look great with succulents in a rockery. It's height is only 15 cm whereas the flower spike is 50cm tall. In full fun they are a deep red whereas in the shade they are a pale pink. The orange red flowers open in November, December. The wild populations are being depleted as it is a muthi plant. They are either planted on the roof of the homestead or the leaf is crushed in water which is sprinkled around the house for security and preventing strange men from visiting the house when the husband is away. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Aloe dyeri

(Shade or Dyers Aloe)

This large evergreen groundcover is one of the largest spotted aloes. It is frost resistant, fast growing in the shade or semi-shade. It has red flowers in late summer or autumn which are very striking, especially if mass planted. They attract birds and will be successful if planted in containers. It occurs in Mpumalanga but copes very well with the cold on the Highveld. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Bauhinia natalensis

(Natal Bauhinia)

This lovely ornamental, rounded evergreen shrub is relatively fast growing and within a few years reaches its mature size of 2.5 x 3m. It occurs in the north-eastern Cape and the Transkei. It has butterfly-shaped leaves and produces delicate, pretty white flowers that have maroon-stripes in summer. Plant it in full sun or semi-shade and it will thrive. It is undemanding and will grow in poor soil. The flowers also attract birds, bees and butterflies. Named after Casper Bauhin 1560-1624 and Johan Bauhin 1541-1613 who were Swiss-French botanists and herbalists.

Bauhinia tomentosa

(Yellow Tree Bauhinia)

This small deciduous tree is evergreen if planted in a mild climate. It grows moderately fast and has non-aggressive roots. They grow naturally in the Transvaal and Natal. It is both frost and drought resistant. It grows happily in semi-shade or full sun. The marvellous yellow flowers have a brown throat and they open in summer. They are rich in pollen and nectar and are enjoyed by grey louries. They attract various insects such as butterflies and bees. The stems are used for baskets and hut rafters. It responds well to pruning and makes a successful hedge. I've seen them hedged at about 1 meter and 2-3 meters. The leaves are browsed by black rhino, grey duiker and kudu. It has non aggressive roots and is great in a small townhouse garden, in a pot on a patio or next to a swimming pool. It is used medicinally as the bark is used as a vermifuge, the stems are used as an astringent gargle and the flowers are used for dysentery and diarrhea. A light annual pruning encourages flowering. It is the larval host plant for the Orange-barred Playboy butterfly.

Crassula arborescens

This is a medium sized shrub or small tree that glows silvery as a result of their bluish-grey foliage. It is an impressive looking single-stemmed, or many branched shrub or small tree, easily reaching a height of up to 3 m. The trunk is thick and fleshy and has a smooth, green-grey bark. The leaves show very little variation and are thick and fleshy, with a blue-grey colour, with a reddish rim, and the petiole is very short or absent. The star - like flowers are very showy and carried in dense branches above the leaves. They are white to pink in colour and open from Spring to Summer. After pollination, the flowers turn to a papery brown seed, which in itself is quite decorative. It attracts birds. This is the larval host plant for the Common Hairtail butterfly. Named from the Latin 'crassus'= and 'ula'= diminutive referring to the fleshy succulent leaves. It is used medicinally to treat epilepsy.

Eucomis autumnalis

(Pineapple Flower)

An apt name for this deciduous groundcover, as the flower looks just like a pineapple, which are yellow/green in colour and open in summer. They attract birds and butterflies. It is a good cut flower for the vase as it’s long lasting and most unusual. It is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. Hangovers are cured by making a brew from the bulb. It is also used for kidney and bladder ailments. The leaves are used as a poultice for boils and skin problems and they are also used to treat a fever. Cattle are treated for gall sickness. A brew is used as an enema for a protective charm or the bulb is mixed with animal fat and this is rubbed into the body to protect one from illness and evil. The name is derived from the Greek eukomes=beautifully haired, eu=well and kome=hair of the head referring to the crown of leaves at the top of the flower.

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.

Felicia amelloides alba

(White Felicia)

This care free, dependable, evergreen, small shrub is well worth planting, especially in a townhouse garden. It has sturdy stems and bright green leaves with a rough surface and pure white daisy flowers with yellow centre. It grows to approximately 0.5 x 0.5 and spreads quickly. Flowering starts in spring and continues on and off all year. It is drought and wind tolerant. An excellent groundcover for small garden and it an ideal plant for hanging basket or containers. It attracts bees and butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin felix=happy which probably refers to the cheerful flowers.

Felicia amelloides variegata

(Variegated Felicia)

Evergreen groundcover that grows to 0.5 x 0.5. It has small ovate green leaves with cream margins and in summer it produces light blue flowers with yellow centres. This care free, dependable, evergreen, small shrub is well worth planting, especially in a townhouse garden. It grows to approximately 0.5 x 0.5 and spreads quickly. Flowering starts in spring and continues on and off all year. It is drought, frost and wind tolerant. An excellent groundcover for small gardens and it an ideal plant for hanging basket or containers. It attracts bees and butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin felix=happy which probably refers to the cheerful flowers.

Halleria lucida

(Tree Fuchsia)

This small, evergreen tree, is frost resistant, drought resistant, fast growing in sun or semi-shade. The word lucida means bright and it refers to the shiny, bright leaves. In summer the orange flowers attract bees and birds - insect, fruit and nectar eaters and it is used for nesting sites so it’s a great choice for a bird garden. The berries attract pigeons, louries, parrots, thrush, bulbuls, robins and white-eyes. The flowers are full of nectar and this gives rise to the Xhosa name that means 'free food'. or 'birds beer'. This attracts sunbirds, white eyes and even weavers. It also attracts butterflies. It is useful for formal pruned hedging or informal hedging/screening. It has a lovely drooping habit. It is medicinal as the leaves are soaked in water which is then dripped into the ears for earache. It is also magical and is used as a charm against evil, lightening and bad weather. This is done by burning the trees and using the ash mixed with fat to rub onto sticks cut from Rhamnus prinoides. These are driven into the soil. Twigs are burnt when offering sacrifices to the ancestors. On a river walk in the Cape I struggled to identify the Halleria and it was only when I saw the black fruit did I realize what it was. I have never seen them that tall in Gauteng. It is useful on a game farm as the leaves are browsed by eland, kudu, nyala, bushbuck and grey duiker. The wood is hard and is used for spear shafts and to start a fire.The roots are non aggressive so you can plant it 2 meters from a building or a pool.

Kalanchoe sexangularis

This is a robust, erect succulent with attractive, broad green leaves that turn ruby- red in winter. The leaves are thick and heavy with irregularly lobed margins.Grown in a slightly shaded position, the leaves will be green with red edging. In full sun or cold weather the leaves turn an unusual dark wine red. Plant it in full sun and in well drained soil. It is suitable for a border in a coastal garden. It also attracts bees, butterflies and other insects which will attract the insect eating birds.

Pavetta gardeniifolia

(Common Brides Bush)

Pavetta gardeniifolia Common Bride's Bush SA Tree No. 716 is a small, deciduous tree, which is drought resistant and has fragrant white flowers in summer. It grows well in the sun and attracts birds and mammals. It is useful for containers as the masses of white flowers in December make it a stunning sight! They have edible fruit, which is eaten by the fruit eating birds and monkeys and the flowers lure a variety of insects, which become food for insect-eating birds like the Southern Boubou. The nectar is also popular with birds. The fleshy fruits entice Crested and Blackcollared Barbets, Blackeyed Bulbuls and Mousebirds. People also eat the fruits.Useful in an informal mixed border and is ideal for a small garden.

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