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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.

Albuca nelsonii

(Nelson’s Slime Lily)

Albuca nelsonii is an evergreen, bulbous perennial, which grows in clumps and is 60 to 120cm high when in flower. The leaves are strap shaped and rather sappy. Its flowers are white with green stripes. They are produced from September to November. The leaves are attractive all year. This bulb needs very little water so are useful for a waterwise, drought resistant garden. They thrive equally well in sun or full shade. The flowers are ideal for the vase. The name is derived from the Latin 'albus' and refers to the white flowers.

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.

Anisodontea classic cerise

(Pink Mallow)

This shrub flowered splendidly during one of our black frosts. It did not flinch, so I consider it top of my list of hardy plants. It is evergreen, very fast growing and fills a big space of at least 1m x 1m x 1m. Such an economical plant! It flowers all year and copes well in a drought. Plant it in the sun or semi shade and watch as it attracts butterflies and birds. The name originates from the Latin 'aniso'=unequal and 'odontos'=toothed which refers to the irregularly toothed leaves.

Apodytes dimidiata

(White Pear||Birds-Eye)

An evergreen small tree which has non-invasive roots and glossy, bright green leaves. This small, bushy tree is an excellent choice for a shade tree as it provides deep shade all year long. It would be good for screening. The small, white flowers are fragrant and they open in summer. They are pollinated by bees. The flowers are followed by attractive fruits which are favoured by Rameron pigeons, redwinged starlings, pied barbets and black-eyed bulbuls. The fallen fruit is eaten by thrush and guineafowl. It is frost sensitive initially so protect while it is still young. This tree is valued by the Zulu as it is said to ward off evil. It is medicinal as an infusion from the root bark is used as an enema for intestinal parasites and the leaves are used in the treatment of ear inflammation. It attracts butterflies. The leaves and bark are browsed by Black Rhino and the fruit is eaten by monkeys and game. The bark is often covered in orange or multicoloured lichen. It responds well to pruning and makes a lovely hedge.It is wind resistant and will do well in pots. The wood is used for furniture, flooring and rifle stocks. The leaves are boiled and used as a pot herb and eaten with porridge. More than enough reasons to plant this tree!

Aponogeton distachyos

(Waterblommetjie)

An evergreen, very fast growing water plant that grows to 30cm tall. The flower is interesting in that it is really a forked inflorescence bearing tiny, white, flowers with brown anthers and it flowers in summer. The flowers are edible and are the main ingredient in the traditional South African Tomato bredie stew or they can be added to a soup. They can also be chopped raw into a salad of celery and cucumber. It is traditionally made with 1 kg of lamb to 1 kg of flowers. The following is then added: half a kg of potatoes, 2 onions, 1 cup of dry white wine, salt, sugar and pepper. They can also be used in soup or cooked as a vegetable in lemon butter and it tastes rather like asparagus. The fruit is high in vitamins and minerals. Bees are attracted to the flowers and may be one of the main pollinators. It grows in shade, semi-shade and even full sun. An ideal plant for water gardens. Medicinal as the stems are used on burns, scrapes and sunburn. The stems are also fed to pigs and goats. The name comes from the Celtic 'apon'=water.

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.

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 bella was Mackaya bella

(Forest Bell Bush)

This small evergreen tree is water wise, fast growing in shade or semi-shade. The delicate mauve or white flowers occur in summer and they attract birds, carpenter bees and butterflies. The glossy dark green leaves help to create an informal screen. The wood is used to make fire by friction and it is an ideal tree for small gardens. It makes a stunning display if planted in a pot and can also serve for screening in a semi-shade area. Can be planted along a stream bank. The River Bell is a desirable garden plant as the roots are not aggressive and it is the larval host plant for the Blue Pansy butterfly. Named for James Townsend Mackay (1775-1862) Scottish horticulturist and curator of the Durban University's botanical garden fro 1804 until his death. He was a professor, active field botanist and author.Dublin university honoured him with a LLD and a PhD in 1850 for his service to botany.

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 .

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.

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