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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.

Geranium incanum

(Lace Leaf Geranium)

An evergreen groundcover that grows about 0.3 x 0.3 .The carpet geranium is an ideal garden plant. It spreads and forms a dense carpet approximately 300mm thick and flowers almost all year round with a peak during the summer months. It has finely divided leaves which give it a soft texture in the garden. The leaves are used to make a tea which is non addictive as it contains no caffeine or tannin. It is used to relieve certain complaints such as bladder infections, colic, dysentery, venereal diseases, back pain, low blood pressure,colic. diarrhea and conditions relating to menstruation. A stronger brew using a quarter of a cup of leaves in 1 cup of boiling water which is then left to steep for a half an hour, can be drunk twice a day for two weeks to expel intestinal worms. The same brew can be used to treat pets for worms by adding it to their food or drinking water. It is an ideal plant for containers. It attracts birds and as it is the larval host plant it attracts the Dickson's Geranium bronze, Common Geranium bronze, Water bronze, Eyed Pansy and the Striped Policeman butterflies. Margaret Roberts crystallized the flowers to place on cakes in the same way as one would do with violets! The edible flowers look pretty in a salad. The name is derived from the Greek geranos=a crane. The seed pod resembles a crane. Incanum means 'with silvery-grey flush on the leaves.'

Gladiolus dalenii

(Gladiolus)

These beautiful bulbs bear yellow and orange flowers in late summer. It is pollinated by sunbirds that are attracted to the nectar. They are undemanding bulbs which do benefit from liberal amounts of good compost. The leaves are used to make ropes and the bushpigs enjoy eating the corms. The ground corm is ground into a fine meel, and this is used medicinally to treat chest ailments caused by sorcery, colds and dysentry. The Sotho and Zulu make a tea from the corm to treat coughs and colds. The corms and leaves are burnt and the inhaled smoke is said to clear a blocked nose. It is also used as a good luck charm, a love charm. and a fertility charm for sterility in women. The flowers can be eaten fresh or they can be added to cooked vegetables, stews or soups.These bulbs were taken to England in the 1700's where is was cultivated in Greenhouses and many hybids have been developed. The name is derived fro the Latin gladiolus = a small sword which refers to the shape of the leaves. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

Hesperantha coccinea (was Schizostylis coccinea)

(Scarlet River Lily)

This deciduous groundcover of 50cm x 20cm loves moist conditions and it looks stunning next to a water features or pond.The beautiful, attractive star shaped scarlet flowers of bright red, pink or white open in summer and attract buterflies. It is frost hardy and it also require lots of water as it likes to be in a wetland area. It is also good for containers. I once saw these in full flower in the marshy area on the bank of a river in Wakkerstroom, which proves how frost hardy they are.

Imperata cylindrica

(Cottonwool Grass)

A water loving creeping grass that spreads with long rhizomes and can form dense stands. Cottonwool grass grows in a poorly drained damp soil such as vleis and riverbanks. White flowers open from August to June. It is hardy to frost, fast growing and should be planted in the sun or semi-shade. This is an ideal grass for wetlands. It also protects the soil from soil erosion. It is also a useful grass as it is used for thatching, making paper and fuel. The seed also attracts birds. Named after Ferrante Imperato ( 1550-1625) an Italian scholar of many subjects. He also formed a museum and studies how fossils were formed.

Mentha longifolia

(Wild Spearmint)

An evergreen, fast-growing, perennial herb that creeps along the ground and spreads rapidly. It can reach up to 1.5 m high in favourable conditions, but is usually between 0.5-1 m high and even shorter in dry conditions. The small flowers of Mentha longifolia are crowded into spikes at the tip of the stems. This wild mint flowers throughout the summer and the flowers are white and mauve. They are heavy feeders and water lovers. Mint grows in semi-shade and full sun. They do well in pots where they are contained. It is mostly the leaves that are used, usually to make a tea that is drunk for coughs, cystitis, colds, stomach cramps, asthma, flatulence, indigestion and headaches. Wild mint leaves have been used topically to treat wounds and swollen glands. Some farmers make a bath of mint "tea" to wash their dogs to rid them of fleas. It can be used in the kitchen as a substitute for the exotic mints. I make a glass jug of cold mint tea which is refreshing on hot summer days. It is the larval host plant of the Bush Bronze and the Tsomo Blue butterflies.Mentha is the Latin name for mint from the nymph Minthie, mistress of Pluto, daughter of Cocytus, who was turned into mint by the jealous Proserpine.

Othonna carnosa

(Othonna)

A fast spreading, evergreen succulent with cylindrical grey green leaves ,an evergreen groundcover that grows about 10cm. Lovely for a large sunny rockery or for holding soil on banks or gentle slopes. The daisy shaped flowers opens all year long and it attract lots of bees and other insects. It is the larval host plant for the Painted Lady butterfly. It is a drought resistant plant that is easily grown and requires little attention but be careful not to over water. The name is derived from the Greek othonne = linen, cloth; referring to the soft texture of the leaves.

Setaria megaphylla

(Broad-Leaved Bristle Grass)

This evergreen groundcover grows about 1m tall in the wetlands, sun or semi shade. It is frost resistant, fast growing, and bears white flowers in summer. It makes a very attractive back drop to a wetland garden as the leaves are a pretty green and interestingly 'pleated.' Birds strip the leaves for nest building and the seed eaters enjoy the fruits. The leaves are palatable and are browsed by game. It is the larval host plant to the Long-horned Skipper, Lesser-horned Skipper, Twilight Brown and Gold-spotted Skipper butterflies. Strangely, it is also eaten by dogs. It is used traditionally to treat bruises. The name is derived from the Latin seta=a bristle and aria = pertaining to: referring to the bristly awns in the involucrum. A leaf-like structure occuring just below the flower.

Tulbaghia simmleri (Tulbaghia fragrans)

(Fragrant Wild Garlic)

This very pretty, fragrant mauve or white flower is on a 25 cm spike and opens in winter. It is cheerful to have one in your garden during the brown, dry Highveld winter. The leaves are wider than the Tulbaghia violacea and not as pungent. They are also edible and the flowers are successfully used in a vase. It grows best in the semi shade and is used medicinally for fevers, cold, asthma and TB. This family was named by Linnaeus after Ryk Tulbach who was Governor in the Cape from 1751-1771. He was born in Holland and worked for the Dutch East India Company. He moved to the Cape when he was 16 and started work. He collected bulbs, birds and plants. The town of Tulbagh is named after him. This particular Tulbaghia is named after Paul Simmler who was a successful Chief Gardener in Geneva.

Tulbaghia violacea

(Wild Garlic)

This is a popular evergreen groundcover which is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun. This is a perfect choice for small gardens. The mauve flowers open in summer and attract birds and butterflies. It is traditionally used as a snake repellent and there are many traditional medicinal uses. It is antibacterial, antifungal and is used to treat TB and intestinal worms. An infusion of the tuber is used as a love charm and the leaves are rubbed onto the forehead to treat a sinus headache. It is also magical as it is planted after the birth of a child to protect from evil. The leaves are delicious chopped into a salad or omelet and the flowers are also edible and look lovely in a salad. The rhizome can be added to stews and soup. The early colonists like Jan van Riebeeck ate both the leaves and the rhizomes, in fact he called it a leek. It is grown abroad and is known as "Society Garlic".There is a recipe for Wild Garlic Mashed Potato which is delicious with fish. Fry onions and chopped wild garlic leaves and add this to mashed potato. This family was named by Linnaeus after Ryk Tulbach who was Governor in the Cape from 1751-1771. He was born in Holland and worked for the Dutch East India Company. He moved to the Cape when he was 16 and started work. He collected bulbs, birds and plants. The town of Tulbagh is named after him.

Typha capensis

(Bulrush)

These plants are deciduous and grow to about 2 m tall. They are often seen on the verge of a dam, wetland or river where the roots filter the water. It is frost resistant, fast growing and has brownish flowers in summer. Birds use these as nesting sites and humans utilize it for many things eg the rhizomes are used for meal and the leaves are useful for brooms, weaving, mat and basket making and thatching. It is also medicinal as a root decoction is used in childbirth, for urinary tract problems and for the treatment of VD. The brown woolly flower is used to staunch bleeding and this is also done by the Chinese and the American Red Indians. Tea from the root is also used for diarrhoea, dysentry, and enteritis.The hollow stem is made into a flute. They are used in the kitchen as the new shoots are edible as are the thicker older roots which are ground and boiled and made into flat cakes. The Tswana pick the young flower stalks and fry them in fat. Some farmers feed their pigs and cattle the roots and stems in times of drought. The brown flower stalks are also used in flower arrangements. The name is derived from the Greek typhos=marsh; referring to the plants natural habitat.

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