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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 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.

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.

Aloe verecunda

(Modest Aloe)

An evergreen groundcover that grow to 25cm high. It bears orange flowers in summer. Plant them in full sun, in well drained soil between rocks. They can withstand fairly severe frost in winter when they are dormant. They will tolerate a fair amount of water during summer, but be sure not to give them too much water during the winter months. Aloe verecunda can be cultivated as a container plant provided it is given adequate drainage. Once established in the garden, these plants should not be transplanted unnecessarily as this causes damage to the fleshy root system which takes a long time to re-establish once injured. It attracts birds.

Aloe zebrina

(No common name)

This Aloe spreads rapidly to form dense stands. It occurs in the full sun in the northern part of South Africa. The flowers are pink/dull red and occur in summer. It is a stem less aloe which has spotted leaves that tend to merge and form stripes. It does have medicinal uses as the dried , powdered leaves and stems are used as a cleansing drink after childbirth, and the roots are used as a yellow dye to colour baskets.

Arctotheca calendula

(Cape Dandylion)

A sprawling perennial which grows to 25cm tall. The daisy-type flowers are about 6cm across and are a striking yellow. They are mostly pollinated by butterflies. It flowers all year long and is one of the hardy groundcovers that can be used as a substitute for lawn and it also prevents soil erosion. It is able to grow in any garden soil, although it is advisable to add plenty of compost. The Cape Dandelion grows best in full sun and requires a moderate amount of water. It is hardy to moderate frost. The name comes from the Latin kalendae=calendar and ula = little referring to the fact that it flowers all year.

Aristea ecklonii

(Blue Stars)

This evergreen groundcover, is frost resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It has blue flowers in summer that attract birds and butterflies. It is ideal for wetlands and moist places in the garden. Show them off by mass planting for a dramatic effect. It is also medicinal as the leaves are used as an enema for fever, coughing and internal sores. It is also magical being used as a protective charm. Ideal for small gardens or for pots on a patio. The name is derived from the Latin 'arista'=a point as the leaves are sharply pointed.

Aristea major

(Tall Aristea)

This evergreen ground cover grows to about 1.5m x 1m in wetland situations, so it is perfect for a pond or dam. It would also be lovely next to a water feature where it will get extra water. The stunning blue flowers open in Summer and make a spectacular display especially if mass planted. There are very few blue flowers compared to other colours in our South African flora. They attract birds and butterflies. It is a handsome, structural plant which is well worth planting. The name is derived from the Latin 'arista'=a point as the leaves are sharply pointed.

Asparagus densiflorus mazeppa

(Foxtail Fern)

An evergreen small, semi-woody plant with fern-like shoots, native to coastal dunes, rocky outcrops or woodlands from the south eastern Cape to southern Mozambique. The cultivar Mazeppa forms broad, arching shoots with fine, needle-like foliage and a conifer-like appearance. The tiny, white flowers are followed by attractive, bright red berries. It adapts well to a wide variety of situations in warm, temperate or tropical climates. It makes a perfect, low maintenance and drought tolerant ground cover for full sun or shade. It also makes an excellent house plant. It’s an ideal plant for container or hanging baskets. It attracts birds. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

Asystasia gangetica

(Creeping Foxglove)

This reliable, evergreen groundcover is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. It has white flowers in summer which attract birds and butterflies. It is the larval host plant for the Clouded Mother-of-Pearl butterflies as well the Blue Pansy, Brown Pansy, Yellow Pansy and the Common Diadem. The Mother of Pearl is a beautiful green to mauve colour and is spectacular in flight but when settled on a plant it disappears as it looks like a leaf. It is suitable for containers, hanging baskets and small gardens. It spreads rapidly and is good for mass planting. The leaves are used for spinach and I’ve used the flowers in a vase as they are long lasting .

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.

Carissa Green carpet

(Small Num-Num)

Carissa green carpet Small Num-Num is an evergreen ground cover suitable for semi-shade and only grows to 30cm tall. It has fragrant white flowers all year and it attracts birds. It would be useful for a thorny barrier and would also be good for containers. It is a favourite of landscapers as it is used for mass planting.

Carpobrotus edulis

(Sour Fig)

This evergreen groundcover is fast growing and occurs on the sand dunes at the sea. This is fortunate as the leaves are used medicinally to treat Blue Bottle Stings and sunburn. It is water wise, frost resistant and is sun loving. The pink flowers open in summer and these attract insect eating birds. Fruits are eaten raw or processed into jam or used in oriental cooking. As early as 1815 it was made into jam and is still considered to be the finest of indigenous preserves. To make the jam take 500 g of very ripe fruit and peel them before leaving them on a cake rack overnight. Put them into a pot and boil until they are soft. Remove from the heat and drain. Make a syrup using 500 g sugar and 500 ml of water, 12 ml of lemon juice and salt along with the fruit. Boil till thick and the fruit are dark red colour. Bottle and enjoy. It is often planted to retain soil on steep banks as it roots as it creeps along the ground.There are numerous medicinal uses. It is used as an enema for children, those with allergies or diabetes. The leaf juice is astringent and antiseptic and is used as a gargle for sore throats as well as diphtheria, thrush, digestion, dysentery, bruises, scrapes, cuts, sunburn and ringworm. Fruit infusions are used during pregnancy to ease child birth. The leaf sap is put on a newborn's head to make the child nimble and strong. It was used as a remedy for TB mixing equal quantities of honey, sour fig leaf sap and olive oil. This was diluted in water and taken 3 times a day. The honey made from Carpobrotus pollen has a unique flavour. In 1700, plants were taken to the UK and Europe and they are now growing on the south coast of England and the Mediteranean. It is waterwise. The name comes from the Greek Karphos=fruit and brotos=edible.

Diascia integerrima

(Twinspur)

This evergreen ground cover grows to 30 cm and is fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The pink and white flowers are seen all year. It’s great for a bird garden as it attracts insect eaters as well as attracts butterflies. It is great for containers as it’s a showy ground cover. Be sure that the containers don't dry out as this plant likes water, good soil and drainage. It’s a good idea to interplant with Watsonias. It is also useful as it is used as a pot herb. The name is derived from the Greek 'di'=two and 'askion'=bladder or belly referring to two lateral corolla pouches. Integerimma refers to the entire leaf margin which is not serrated.

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