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Elegia tectorum (Chondropetalum tectorum)

(Cape Thatching Reed)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It gets a bit “leggie” if there is not enough sun. The dark brown flowers occur in summer. It is useful for wetlands and attractive if planted in a container. It is used for making brooms and for thatching roofs. It is ideal for small gardens but do make sure that you plant it with as little root disturbance as possible. I’ve seen it planted in front of a garden wall and the shadows it casts are quite enchanting.

Cyperus papyrus

(Papyrus)

This very fast growing evergreen shrub grows about 2m high and 1m wide. It forms clumps of tall bare stems, each topped with a mop-like head or crown of thread-like flower spikes. This is the plant that the ancient Egyptians used to make paper. The dried, split stems are woven to make traditional doors and mats. They are also used medicinally as they are bound over wounds. Plant it near water or in the water in full sun. It’s an ideal plant for containers. The leaves are an interesting addition to a flower arrangement. Cut it back if damaged by frost. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Gomphostigma virgatum

(Otterbush)

Gomphostigma virgatum Otterbush This evergreen shrub grows to 1 x 1m and is both frost resistant and fast growing. It is happiest in the sun and its grey foliage makes a pleasant contrast in the garden. The delicate, fragrant white flowers occur all year and they attract butterflies. As it grows along our rivers it is useful for wetlands or near a water feaature. It is medicinally used to perk up tired people! The name is derived from the Greek gomphos=club, which refers to the club shaped stigma.

Juncus krausii

(Matting Rush)

This perennial herb grows to a height of 1.5 m and grows in large colonies where it occurs naturally. Its leaves are tough, round and spine-tipped, and the sheath is shiny black. The purplish brown flowers appear between October and February and are topped by spine-tipped bracts. It can grow in many soil types ranging from sandy soils to clay provided there is enough water. It is also used to make traditional mats. The name is derived from the Latin jungere=to tie together, bind; referring to the ancient practice of using rushes to bind into ropes.

Phragmites australis

(Common Reed)

This evergreen reed grows to about 3 meters tall and is found in wetlands and dams. It is frost resistant and has a multitude of uses. Flowers are produced from December to June. It plays very important role in protecting the soil from erosion, filters water and offers shelter to many bird species and other animals. It is even used to make paper, baskets and is used in the chemical industry. They are tied together and used to make walls for houses. The rhizomes are edible and the hollow stems are used for pipes and musical instruments. The seeds are used to make ointment for burns. Weavers use these to build their nests on. The Bushmen of the Kalahari make their arrow shafts from this plant. The name is derived from the Greek phragmites =growing in hedges, from phragma = a fence, hedge, from phrassein = to enclose.

Phygelius aequalis

(River Bells)

A fast growing water-loving plant with oval soft textured leaves. This herbaceous shrub grows to 2m. It will thrive when planted in rich,loamy soil with plenty of compost and it requires lot of watering in summer. If there is frost damage the plant it will recover well in spring. It also makes lovely yellow drooping tubular flowers. It is traditionally used as a charm to ward off hail damage to crops.Its looks beautiful planted next to the pond and it attract butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek phugo = to shun; elios= the sun. These plants prefer shade , not sunlight.

Phygelius capensis

(Cape Fuchsia)

A semi-evergreen shrub growing to 120 x 150 cm wide. The oval leaves are up to 9 cm .Throughout summer it produces tubular flowers which are orange-pink colour along the outside of the petals, with a yellow center. The flowers often point back towards the stem. They also surround the stem, unlike P. aequalis where the flowers appear all on one side of the stem. The plant has an exceptionally long blooming season of roughly six months, from May to November. The plant grows well in most fertile soils but may require some winter protection in colder areas. It requires full sunlight and thus is generally only an outdoor plant. It is medically used to inebriate boys during initiation ceremonies and is therefore considered to have ritual qualities. form borders. Phygelius capensis makes the ideal border plant because of its long blooming season. It attracts sun birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek phugo = to shun; elios= the sun. These plants prefer shade , not sunlight.

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