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Aloe arborescens

(Krantz Aloe)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant and fast growing. It grows happily in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The lovely orange flowers open in winter and they attract birds and butterflies. This aloe makes a good thorny barrier and will thrive in a container. It is a wonderful medicinal plant and I’ve used the leaf sap successfully for an allergic reaction to Ornithogallum leaf sap. I cut the leaves in half, lengthwise and made them into bandages and they certainly did the trick. They are also used to treat Xray burns, burns and sunburn. Leaf decoctions are used during childbirth. It is also used by the Zulu as a sprinkling charm to protect against storms. The leaf sap is used to promote wound healing as it is anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and hypoglycaemic. The are numerous cancer cures using this leaf sap. Decoctions of the leaves are used in childbirth and to treat sick calves. In the Transkei it is used for stomach ache and given to prevent chickens from getting sick. One of our staff puts slices of the leaves in the birdbaths that our chickens drink from and her granny taught her that when she was little. This is the Aloe that was used in the Orient to treat irradiation burn victims of Hiroshima. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Artemesia afra

(Wildeals or Wormwood)

This is an evergreen shrub that grows to 1m high to 1m wide. It is named after the Greek Goddess of hunting, Artemis. A tough and easy-to-grow species which adds texture and colour with its finely divided, silver-grey, aromatic foliage. White flowers occur in spring. The growth habit can be somewhat untidy, but it responds well to pruning. The lower branches become woody with age and the plant may need to be replaced after 3 to 4 years. It is frost and drought hardy and requires full sun. A must for the herb garden and useful in shrub borders. It is medicinal as the roots are used to treat colds, pneumonia and intestinal worms.An infusion of 5 grams of leaves are steeped in a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes and this is used for various respiratory ailments, gastro intestinal complaints, gout, measles, malaria, constipation, blood purifiers, acne, boils,bites and stings, diabetes, croup, whooping cough, loss of appetite, earache and toothache.Childbirth pain and menstrual cramps are treated by steaming the genitals. A bath lotion can be made to treat haemorrhoids, fever and measles. Take 40 grams of fresh leaves and bring to the boil in 2 litres of water. Leave to steep and cool. Strain and bottle ready to put into the bath. Wildeals Brandy was a popular standby to treat many ailments. As it is narcotic and analgesic, the leaves are packed into sore teeth or blocked nose and even into the ear to treat ear ache. A decoction is held in the mouth to treat gum infections. It is made by taking a bottle of brandy and adding 1 cup of Artemesia leaves, 1/4 cup Thyme, 1/2 cup mint, 1 cup of sugar, piece of ginger and 1/4 cup of Rosemary. This must steep for a month. The dose is 1 Tablespoon in water. One can also use this plant to make a moth repellent or an insecticide spray. The leaves are burnt on a braai to keep the mosquitoes away and it gives a pleasant aroma while improving the flavour of the meat. If planted on the border of the bed, it will keep dogs out of the garden. It is also useful if used as a companion plant in a veggie garden and it repels pests like worms and insects like flies and mosquitoes. It also aids soil health and is used in pot pourris and flower arrangements. Plant one in your garden as it is the larval host plant of the larvae of the Painted Lady butterfly.

Coleonema album

(White Confetti Bush)

The name is derived from the Greek 'koleus' = a sheath and 'nema'= thread referring to the filaments of the stamens.This decorative, evergreen shrub with dainty, sweetly scented, white flowers in spring make this buchu an ideal garden plant and suitable for floral arrangements. It grows to 1m high and 0.75m wide. This species requires full sun and soil that is acid, well drained and composted. Add a layer of mulch to keep the soil and roots cool in summer, retain moisture and reduce weeds. They require good watering in winter and moderate watering in summer. Do not allow plants to dry out. It is an ideal container plant for a sunny position on a patio and can also be hedged. It attracts birds. The aromatic leaves contain essential oils and are used by fishermen to remove the fishy smell from their hands. They can also be used as an insect repellent by rubbing the leaves onto the skin or boiled in water and spayed on plants or even clothes. For an invigorating bath, add leaves to the bathwater. It is used medicinally for colds, abdominal pains and flu. The leaves can be chewed for a sore throat and a tea can be made by steeping some leaves in a cup of boiling water. The leaves are used to make cosmetics, deodorant and perfume. A wealth of uses just from the leaves.

Coleonema pulchellum

(Dark Pink Confetti Bush)

The name is derived from the Greek 'koleus' = a sheath and 'nema'= thread referring to the filaments of the stamens.This is an evergreen, upright, reasonably dense shrub which grows to 1,5m high and 1,5m wide which produces pink flowers in winter and spring. The foliage is fine with needle-shaped leaves which have an aromatic fragrance when crushed. Fishermen use this plant to get rid of the fishy smell on their hands as well a their nets. Make a 'tea' out of the leaves and then put into a bath and it will make your skin tingle and leave you refreshed. They are also insect repellent and if the 'tea' is rubbed into ones skin it will repel mosquitoes. Campers also rub the leaves on their pillows and bedding.They fit in well with members of the Protea family and other fynbos. If you have sufficient space, plant in groups of 3 or 5.The confetti bush will get woody after a few years and should then be replaced. Do not allow young plants to dry out but once established they will survive periods of drought. They respond to good watering in winter and moderate watering in summer. It looks amazing when is used as a hedge or for screening .It is suitable for coastal gardens. They are also used medicinally as a tea is made from the leaves, and Artemesia afra can also be added to cure coughs and cold. It is said to help a sore throat if the leaves are chewed. The fragrant leaves are also added to Pot Pourri.

Cotyledon orbiculata

(Pigs Ears)

Pig’s Ear. Named from the Greek 'kotyledon'=seed sheath and 'kotyl'= cup referring to the bowl or spoon shaped seed leaves. This fast growing succulent has thick leaves that are greyish green. The tall flower spikes produce bunches of pink tubular flowers in winter. These attract bees and nectar feeding birds like the sunbirds. The leaves are used medicinally for corns, boils and warts and the leaf juice is used to treat earache, toothache and epilepsy. Syphilis is treated with an enema made from the leaves. They are also dried and used as a protective charm for an orphan child. Carl Pappe, a physician came to the Cape in 1831 and he studied the medicinal benefits for epilepsy. He wrote Indigenous Plants Used as remedies by the Colonists of The Cape of Good Hope in 1847. These plants have escaped from gardens in Australia, New Zealand and California and become an invasive weed, probably because they require very little water. It is the larval host for two moth species as well as Pale Hairtail, Burnished Opal, Natal Opal, Common Black-eye, Henning's Black-eye and the Cape Black-eye.

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.

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.

Jasminum angulare

(Wild Jasmine)

A slow growing, evergreen scrambling shrub or vine that grows to 7m high. It produces masses of white, scented, star-shaped flowers in summer and it attracts a variety of birds. Plant in full sun to light shade and water regularly. It is a bit tender and does best in frost-free gardens but can handle a few degrees below freezing without damage. Useful as a climber or espalier and the flowers are used in arrangements. The fresh leaves poison sheep and cattle. It is a larval host to the Cambridge Blue butterfly and 6 species of moths. The name is derived from the Persian yasmin = a fragrant shrub.

Leonotis leonurus

(Wild Dagga)

Another drought hardy, evergreen shrub that is very dependable. It is common and widespread throughout South Africa and grows amongst rocks in our grasslands. It is fast growing and there are yellow, orange or white flowering forms. The flowers are good for the vase but you do want to leave many on the bushes as they attract the sunbirds and the insect eaters. They are also good for a butterfly garden as they are the larval host for the Bush Bronze butterfly. They flower in autumn and will need cutting back at the end of winter. A must for a bird garden as once you get to recognize the sunbirds chirping, you will be very pleased that you are making them happy. It has been admired since 1652 and was growing in the Chelsea Physic Garden in London in 1712. It is called Wild Dagga as the Khoi smoked the dried leaves and it was said to be narcotic. It is considered to be a miracle plant as it is used medicinally to reduce blood pressure, for arthritis, sores that will not heal, athletes foot and nits. The leaves are used for headaches, coughs, colds, convulsions, weak joints, cataracts, hemorrhoids, a diuretic and for obesity. The roots are used for snake bite and to keep snakes away. The flowers are used for asthma, haemorrhoids, headaches, chest problems, bronchitis, tapeworm, TB, jaundice, skin diseases, muscular cramps, bee and scorpion stings. A wealth of uses. It is now planted in Australia. The name is derived from the Greek leon = lion; ous, otis= ear; alluding to the resemblance of the corolla to a lion's ear.

Lessertia frutescens was Sutherlandia frutescens

(Cancer Bush)

This is an evergreen shrub of 1,25m x 1m which is frost resistant and drought resistant. It is very fast growing and easy to grow. It will tolerate all soil types and requires very little water. The bright orange-red sweet pea shaped flowers open in spring to summer and it is one of the most multi purpose and useful of South African medicinal plants. The Khoi and the San people living in the Cape were the first to use this plant medicinally. It's common name indicates is use in cancer treatment. A tea is made from the flowers, pods and leaves for treating intestinal cancer. It is also made into a wash for sores, and drunk to reduce fevers, treat chicken pox and blisters. The botanist Thunberm wrote in 1772 that a decoction of the roots and leaves is used as an eye wash. It can also be taken for flu, liver problems, bladder ailments, rheumatism, diarrhoea, backache, as a daily tonic and stomach problems. The leaves, stems and fruit capsules can be boiled and the water added to the bath to bring down fevers and side effects of flu. It should not be used by pregnant women as it has been known to cause abortions. It also attracts birds and is the larval host plant for the Brown Playboy and the Lucerne Blue butterflies. Can take frost and is grown outdoors in England. The leaves and seeds are smoked as a dagga substitute. Named for Jules Paul Benjamine Delessert ( 1773-1847 ) a French banker, industrialist, philanthropist and botanist. with a notable herbarium and botanical library and he was an entrepreneur. He was made a baron by Napoleon. The old name of Sutherlandia came from James Sutherland (1639-1719) a Scottish botanist and the first superintendent of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh and Professor of botany at the University of Edinburgh. In 1683 he published a book which led to his doctorate and professorship. Frutescens means 'growing in a shrubby way'.

Melianthus comosus

(Small Melianthus)

An evergreen, attractive multi-stemmed shrub where all the parts of the plant produce a strong, unpleasant smell when bruised, hence the Afrikaans common name, ‘Kruidjie-roer-my-nie’. The large, grey-green, serrated leaves are clustered towards the tips of the branches. The small, nectar rich bird pollinated flowers are borne in short clusters, followed by four-winged bladder capsules which are often as a decorative addition to flower arrangements. An ideal plant for a low maintenance and water wise garden. It is suitable for mixed borders and should always be cut back after flowering. It also attracts birds and as it is the larval host plant, it attracts the Arrowhead butterflies. It is medicinally used as a poultice for sores, snake bite, swelling, painful feet and bruises. The root bark is used to make a tonic and it is used in the bath to promote sweating. Named from the Greek meli , the latin mel=honey; ; anthos =flower. The honey flowers contain abundant nectar, but judging by the stink, I would not expect edible honey.

Orthosiphon labiatus now Ocimum labiatus

(Pink Sage)

The name has changed to Osimum labiatus. This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in sun, shade or semi-shade. It is a very popular garden plant as it is hardy to a moderate degree of frost and extreme drought, once established. It is prized for its showy display of pink - mauve flowers which open in summer and it makes a stunning show. They attract insect eating birds and butterflies. The aromatic leaves smell of mint when crushed. It is suitable for containers and is ideal for small gardens. If you have a large garden do mass planting for a stunning effect.

Polygala virgata

(Purple Broom)

This erect, slender, eye catching, evergreen shrub grows to a height of 1,5 to 2,5 m. A single stem is formed at the base of the plant and slender hairless branches occur at the top. It is fast growing, hardy and can be grown in any garden in South Africa. Once established in the garden it will tolerate drought, wind and some frost. With its beautiful sprays of flowers it will be an accent plant in a shrubby garden or rockery. Planted in good enriched soil in a sunny or semi-shade position in the garden. The purple tuft of hairs is a distinctive characteristic to identify all Polygalas. Peak flowering time is from September to February. The fruit is a two-celled capsule and the seed is small, black and oval shaped.Simple leaves are alternately arranged on younger branches and usually drops before flowering. The leaves are narrow in shape, dark green with a velvety texture and 10 mm in length. It grows naturally on bushy hillsides and along stream banks. It grows in sandstone, clay or limestone slopes and along forest margins. The leaves and stems were traditionally prepared and used as blood purifiers. It is anti viral and is used to treat Herpes simplex. The plant is grazed when in reach of stock and game. The beautiful flowering sprays can be used in a vase. The shrub is a buzz with bees, insects and bumblebees which are attracted to the bright purple magenta flowers. It is the larval host plant for the Long-tailed Blue butterfly.

Strelitzia juncea

A very striking plant that makes a great feature plant. It has long cylindrical leaves that end in a sharp point and they grow to about 1 to 2 meters tall. Their flowers are the same as the Strelitzia reginea and they open in spring and summer. They are very slow growing and take about 10 years to flower. Plant in the sun to get better flowering. Their growth rate can be increased with fertilizing in spring and winter. They occur naturally in the Eastern Cape so they are drought resistant and will cope with light frost. The sunbirds and sugarbirds are attracted to the nectar and the seeds are eaten by birds, mice and squirrels. Their status is listed as vulnerable because of unscrupulous collectors, alien invader encroachment and quarries. They are long lasting in a vase. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor. Juncea means 'like a reed or a rush'.

Strelitzia reginae

(Crane Flower)

This evergreen shrub is water wise and is Kwazulu Natal's floral emblem. It will thrive in the sun or semi-shade. The striking orange and blue flowers open on and off all year. They attract birds - insect and nectar eaters as well as butterflies. It is a statement plant suitable for containers. It is ideal for small gardens and is long lasting in a vase. This plant is one of South Africa's most successful exports! It was sent to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in 1733 and was named by Sir Joseph Banks. It was named in honour of Queen Charlotte, the wife of George 111. George decided to send a gift to Catherine the Great of Russia. He sent 300 Strelitzia which weighed 3 tons by cargo ship, escorted by a frigate, to St Petersberg. They were then loaded into 15 coaches to be driven to their new home at Pavlovsk. When I lived in San Francisco I noticed that it was planted everywhere in parks, pavements and gardens. One would have thought that it was their national flower. This plant, like so many of our South African plants is used medicinally as decoctions from the flower is used as an enema for inflamed glands fro VD. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor.

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