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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.'

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.

Halleria elliptica

(Wild Fuchsia)

A beautiful, fast growing, evergreen shrub with an average size of 2.5m tall and a 1.5m spread. The purple leaves in winter that contrast well with dark red, tubular flowers which appear between winter-summer. Although it is semi-drought resistant, it responds well to regular watering and it grows in any kind of soil. It does prefer sunny conditions but does well in semi-shade. It would look good in a pot as it flowers for most of the year. Keep it pruned to retain a neat shape. It attracts birds and butterflies.

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.

Helichrysum petiolare balls

(Imphepho)

A soft, vigorous shrub, which grows 0.5m - 1m x 1m. The dense, aromatic foliage smells of curry and consists of roundish leaves which are covered with silver-grey hairs. The grey leaves contrast beautifully in a garden as most other foliage is green. It also looks pretty planted next to Aristida junciformis grass. Tiny creamy-white flowers make up abundant flower heads on long stalks which add to the decorative effect of this plant in midsummer. It is magical as the leaves and stems are burnt as incense to invoke the goodwill of the ancestors. The smoke is inhaled to induce a trance. Ailments such as coughs, colds and infections are treated with this popular medicinal plant. The leaves are used by Rastafarians to make an infusion to treat asthma, chest problems, a protective cleanser and treat high blood pressure. A tea is made from the leaves to treat stress,heart problems, high blood pressure, a sedative and anxiety. The smoke of the burning leaves is inhaled as a pain reliever and used to fumigate sick rooms. The leaves are also widely used on wounds to prevent infection.The Khoikhoi used the leaves and flowers as bedding and campers still do the same today. It should be planted in full sun in a well drained soil. It should always be cut back because it grows very quickly. It an ideal plant for containers and has been used extensively abroad for decades. The dried flower are also exported. It attracts butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek (h)elios=sun : chryos =gold referring to the bright yellow flowers.

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.

Heteropyxis natalensis

(Lavender Tree)

This small, evergreen tree is water wise and is happy in the sun or semi shade. In summer the white/creamy flowers attract bees, wasps, butterflies and insects which attract the insect eating birds. It is also a useful tree for nesting. This tree is suitable for containers and bonsai as it has non aggressive roots. Plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool. It is used medicinally as an antibacterial and the bark is considered to be an aphrodisiac.The leaves and roots of this plant are used medicinally to treat worms in stock and tick infestions, for toothache, mouth and gum infections. African healers prescribe inhaling the steam from a decoction of the roots to heal a bleeding nose and clear a blocked nose. The roots are also used in the treatment of mental disorders and fresh leaves are used during weaning, to make a herbal tea and for potpourri . A tea is made from the leaves and used to treat heartburn, colic, colds and flatulence. This tea is said to be strengthening and is given to the elderly, travellers and new mothers. The leaves are also used to scent tobacco as they smell like lavender as well as being browsed by antelope. Leaves and twigs are boiled in water to make a fragrant wash. Crushed leaves are added to mutton fat which then treats cracked heels and tired feet. The leaves are put into the bath for a fragrant and invigorating bath and are used in Potpourri. The bark and the leaves are eaten by black rhino. It is a very decorative tree for small gardens. With its glossy green leaves and a whitish stem, it makes a very good focal point. Plant this tree in a prominent spot where you can enjoy its lovely autumn foliage. The small fruit ripens in autumn and winter. The name is derived from the Greek heteros = different : pyxis = a jar with a lid , referring to the fruit capsule which looks like it has a lid on it.

Hibiscus calyphyllus

(Sun Hibiscus)

This perennial shrub grows up to 1,5m and is evergreen, frost hardy and fast growing. It produces attractive, bright, sunny, yellow flowers with deep-red to blackish centres. This decorative, nicely rounded, soft, bushy shrub has large velvet or hairy leaves. The flowers close early in the afternoon and do not re-open. The flowering time is in summer and its flowers for a reasonable length of time. They lure insect pollinators which in turn attract birds. During a famine the flowers are cooked as a pot verb. The root is used to treat small children who have a bloated stomach. Hawk moths, Snow white moth, Spiny bollworm moth and the Orange cotton moth all lay their eggs on this plant. The name is derived from the Greek hibiskos the name for a 'marsh-mallow' and ibis= a stork that fed on some mallow species.

Hibiscus penduncularis

(Pink Hibiscus)

Evergreen, water wise shrub that grows about 1m x 1m. It thrives in semi-shade and produces lovely pink, bell shaped flowers in Summer. It is an ideal plant for a container on a shady patio. It will grow in the sun but will then require more water. It also attracts birds and the Foxy Charaxes, Foxt Emperor and Star Sandman butterflies. Leaf and stalk infusions are used for urinary complaints. The name is derived from the Greek hibiskos the name for a 'marsh-mallow' and ibis= a stork that fed on some mallow species.

Hypoestes aristata

(Ribbon Bush)

An evergreen shrub which is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing. It will thrive in the sun, shade, or semi-shade. The white, pink or mauve flowers occur in autumn and attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It flowers profusely when nothing else is in flower and yet it is undemanding other than an annual pruning at the end of Winter. It is lovely for small gardens, especially if you get Hypoestes Little Pink. This fast-growing evergreen shrub grows to 1.5 m high. It produces soft, hairy leaves, and has attractive pink flowers borne in spike-like inflorescence. It requires very little attention. Ribbon bush is eaten as spinach in some areas, while traditionally the crushed leaves are used as a poultice for sore eyes. Roots are chewed for flu, coughs, colds, sore throats and breast diseases. The root bark is used to treat malaria. It also makes a good cut flower because it lasts well in water and it is an ideal plant for the containers. Bees, flies and other small insects visit the flowers in search of nectar or pollen, thus becoming a food source for insectivorous birds. This is one of the best nectar plants for the Swallowtail butterflies and it is the larval host to the Forest Beauty, Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterflies and 1 moth specie. The name is derived from the Greek hypo= beneath and estia= house; referring to the way the bracts cover the calyx.

Juncus effusus

(Common Rush)

Juncus effusus is a clump forming wetland plant that is a striking vertical addition to any garden or container planting. It grows to 70cm high and 30cm wide. Upright, fanning, deep green, rounded stems make a great accent in container or water gardens. It can be planted at the edge of that is about 20 cm deep. Inconspicuous golden flowers appear on top of the stems in summer. It provides food and shelter for birds and other wildlife and it is also used to make traditional sitting mats. It thrives when planted in sun and is an ideal plant for a wet land garden or around a water feature. They attract birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin jungere=to tie together, bind; referring to the ancient practice of using rushes to bind into ropes.

Justicia capensis

(Businessmans Bush)

An evergreen shrub that grows to about 1m high and 1m wide. It is very fast growing. Plant it in the sun or semi-shade. It produces marvelous mauve flowers in Summer and they attracts butterflies. It is traditionally used to attract business, or as a wash to improve one's chances of gaining employment and as a love charm. Named for James Justice ( 1698-1763) a horticulturist and writer. He introduced many new plants to Scotland and spent vast sums importing roots, seeds and trees. His passion was collecting tulips. His buying of plants brought him financial ruin and he had to sell his house and his garden. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Justicia petiolaris

(Blue Justcia)

This is a relatively fast-growing soft shrublet, growing to between 800 mm and 1 m high. Although each stem only bears a few flowers at a time, the total number is large and it gives a very attractive overall impression from December to April. In cultivation and good conditions this can last almost throughout the year. Flowers are mostly pink-purple, but may also be more blue-mauve in colour and they are followed by small capsules bearing seeds. The leaves are soft, oval-shaped and hairy and differ greatly in size on the same shrub. The plants tolerate a wide range of rainfall and climatic temperatures, and they grow better in full sun and look so much better if protected from wind. It prefers a semi-shaded spot. It will flourish if regularly watered. It also attracts butterflies and birds. Named for James Justice ( 1698-1763) a horticulturist and writer. He introduced many new plants to Scotland and spent vast sums importing roots, seeds and trees. His passion was collecting tulips. His buying of plants brought him financial ruin and he had to sell his house and his garden. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society.

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.

Kniphofia praecox

(Red-Hot Poker)

This is a must for a stunning winter garden. It is an evergreen groundcover which is frost resistant and fast growing. Plant a clump of them in the sun, in a moist area or a wetland. The orange-yellow flowers make a stunning display in winter and attract birds and butterflies. It is suitable for small gardens and the flowers are long lasting in the vase. Named for Johannes Hieronymus Kniphof ( 1704-1763) a German physician, lecturer, professor of medicine, then dean and rector till his death.

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