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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 cooperi

(Coopers Aloe)

This evergreen groundcover is frost resistant and grows happily in the sun. The orange flowers occur in summer and they attract birds. It is useful for containers. This is a grassland specie which copes well in moist places and is beautiful in the garden. The leaf sap is used medicinally as a laxative. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

Bauhinia galpinii

(Pride of De Kaap)

A small, evergreen tree which is water wise, has non-invasive roots and grows in the sun. The brick red/orange flowers are eye catching and occur in summer lasting for six months. They attract insect and nectar eating birds as well as butterflies as it is the larval host plant for Emperor and Playboy butterflies. It is also host to several moth species. It is a fodder plant for mammals like black rhino, kudu, bushbuck and grey duiker. The louries eat the flower buds and some butterfly species breed in the pods and others feed on the leaves. It is useful for formal pruned hedging or informal hedging or screening. The flexible stems are woven into baskets and used for roofing. It is both frost and drought resistant.A decoction of the seed is taken to stimulate menstruation. Named after Casper Bauhin 1560-1624 and Johan Bauhin 1541-1613 who were Swiss-French botanists and herbalists.

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.

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.

Erythrina humeana

(Dwarf Coral Tree)

They occur in the Transvaal and Swaziland. This small, deciduous tree has few branches and the striking flowers occur in mid-summer. They only grow to about 2 or 3 meters tall. They are custom-built to attract birds being red and tubular and as the flowers mature over an extended period of time there are always some in prime condition for the birds, sunbirds, black-eyed bulbuls, Cape White-eye, louries and brown-headed parrots. It is suitable for a small garden and on the Highveld it needs to be against a sunny north-facing wall to prevent frost damage. It grows to its maximum size within two years and prefers a warm summer with moderate rainfall. The bark and the roots are used medicinally. An excellent choice for a bird garden. It has non aggressive roots so can be planted in a pot. It is the larval host plant for the Giant Emperor and the Protea Emperor butterflies and 11 moth species. The name is derived from Greek erythros=red, referring to the red flowers. The seed pods are black and burst open to disperse the red seeds. The seeds are considered to be toxic but no deaths are recorded. The leaves are sometimes covered in bumps which are caused by psyllids which are insects that that live under the bumps. They cause no damage to the tree. They lose their leaves in winter and the new leaves in spring are enjoyed by many worms and caterpillars. Woodpeckers search the bark for wood boring insects.

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.

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