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Adiantum capillus-veneris

(Maidenhair Fern)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 30 cm high and 20cm wide. It is suitable for all soils types but prefers a well-drained soil which is moist. It can grow in semi-shade or deep shade. It is an ideal plant for containers and is often used in a bathroom. They don't like to be in a draught. It is medicinal and is used for coughs, colds, pleurisy, bronchitis, catarrh and respiratory ailments and it is believed to be mildly diuretic. It is mystically used by placing the leaves in water in the bedroom as it brings grace, beauty and love. In Europe a drink called Capillaire was considered a favourite drink for the ladies of the court. It is made by boiling 3 cups of sugar in 3 cups of water, the juice of 3 lemons and 3 cups of fern fronds. Boil for about 30 minutes until thick. Cool and bottle. It can be taken neat as a cough syrup or diluted. It also makes a good, warm night time toddy if one is tired or cold. Dried leaves are burnt and inhaled for blocked sinus and fresh leaves are stuffed into the shirt for chest problems. The name is derived from the Greek 'diantos' which means incapable of being wetted. The leaves of the Maiden Hair fern shed water and will remain dry even in a rain shower.

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.

Chlorophytum bowkeri

An evergreen groundcover that grows 10 cm. When in flower, the plant produces long, thin stems which carry white flowers. It flowers all year round. It an ideal plant for containers and hanging baskets. Mass plant in the shade or semi shade for a lovely effect. If it does get frosted, it will bounce back in spring. It is also a medicinal plant. The name is derived from the Greek 'chloros' meaning yellow green and 'phyton' meaning plant, referring to the green leaves and greenish flowers.

Crinum moorei

(Moores Crinum)

This evergreen bulb grows about 1m high and 1m wide. It produces fragrant pink flowers in summer and the leaves die off after flowering. This Crinum does not tolerate direct sun. It will tolerate light frost but should be in a sheltered position to protect the dormant bulbs from harm. The flowers are perfumed, more so in the evenings. Plant the bulbs in shade or semi shade with compost and fertilizer and mulch well after planting. Ensure that you leave sufficient space between the bulbs as they produce new bulbs around the mother plant. Water deeply and regularly during the months of spring and summer for best results. It is used medicinally for urinary tract infections, to treat cattle, cleanse the blood, treat infected sores and for acne. It attracts insects eating birds and butterflies. An ideal plant for wetland gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily.

Crocosmia aurea

(Falling Stars)

This deciduous bulb’s flowers grow to 1m so they are frost resistant. It is fast growing doing well in shade, semi-shade or sun. The orange flowers in summer attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It is great for wetlands as well as containers that are well watered. The corms are used medicinally for dysentery, diarrhoea and infertility. The flowers are long lasting in the vase and very beautiful in the garden. It is ideal for small gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'krokos'= saffron and 'osme'=smell.This refers to the scent when dried flowers are placed in water.

Dietes grandiflora

(Large Wild Iris)

This evergreen groundcover is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in sun, shade or semi-shade. The white flowers open in summer, and they attract birds - insect eaters and butterflies. It is suitable for wetlands and can even be planted in the water. It is clump-forming and is ideal for small gardens. It is believed that when in flower, rain will follow. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'etes'=an associate referring to the flower spike that lasts 2 years. An associate as the flowers are similar to Morea and Iris families.

Dietes iridioides

This evergreen groundcover has sword-shaped, dark green leaves in a loose fan. This prolific flowerer carries its flowers on a wiry, arching stem. The flowers are white with mauve markings, dainty and new flowers open continually during spring and summer. It is drought-resistant and will thrive in semi-shade as well as full sun, often where little else will grow. It tolerates both wind and frost. There are many medicinal uses as infusions made from the rhizome are taken orally or in enemas to treat dysentery, are used during childbirth, for hypertension and as a tonic for goats. Roots are used for first menstruation. It is also an ideal plant for a wetland garden. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'etes'=an associate referring to the flower spike that lasts 2 years. An associate as the flowers are similar to Morea and Iris families.

Falckia repens

(White Carpet)

Very fast growing, evergreen groundcover that grows to 5cm high. It can grow in sun or shade and looks great when squeasing in between rocks or when cascading down over a container. It also is useful between pavers, provided that it gets enough water. The flowers are white or pink and flowering time is from late September to December. An ideal groundcover for wetland gardens. Flat growing, attractive, indigenous alternative to "Daisy Lawn". The word 'repens' means creeping which refers to it's growth habit.

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.

Hypericum revolutum

(Curry Bush)

This multi-stemmed shrub or small tree is fast-growing, evergreen and grows to 3 m high and spreads about the same width. The stems have reddish brown, scaly bark and drooping branches. The evergreen plant's leaves release a curry-like smell when crushed and after rain. The fresh, green foliage and bright yellow flowers are reasons to have this delightful plant in your garden. Flowers are single and bright yellow, up to 50 mm in diameter. Flowering time is in summer and autumn. The fruit are reddish brown capsules enclosing the seeds. The wood of this plant is used as timber and for building material in some African countries. Medicinally, it is used to treat stomach ache and the leaves are cooked and strained to heal sores and VD, backache from kidney infections. It is said to be ‘nature's firebreak’, as it does not burn well and therefore protects forests. It can be planted in the full sun to semi shade, in well-drained soil and needs to be watered regularly. It would do well along a stream or near a water feature. A regular light pruning will to keep it neat. It can be used in containers, for mass planting as an informal hedge and as a pioneer plant. It deserves a place in any fragrant garden and it attract birds and bees. The name is derived from the Greek hyper=above, eikon= a figure, icon, image. From the ancient practice of placing flowers above an image to ward off evil spirits.

Impatiens hochstetteri

(Mauve Impatiens)

A fast growing water loving groundcover. It grows about 30 cm tall and 40 cm wide. It has soft oval rounded petals. The flowers open in summer. Plant this lovely groundcover in dappled shade, particularly near a pond or stream as it loves moist conditions. It requires a protected position in frosty gardens. A leaf and stem infusion is also used as a tradition medicine for dealing with eczema. The name is derived from the Latin impatiens = referring to the bursting of the seed pod and forceful scattering of the seeds.

Impatiens sylvicola

(Salmon Impatiens)

A low scrambling annual or short-lived perennial which roots at the lower nodes. The leaves are spirally arranged, more or less broadly ovate-lanceolate, 2-10 cm long, and the margin is scalloped or toothed. Flowers are solitary or in few-flowered clusters, pink or mauve with a deep mauve to red spot near the base of the upper lateral petals. The flowers open in summer. It is a lovely groundcover for a wet land areas in the garden or plant it near pond in dappled shade. Frost tender. The name is derived from the Latin impatiens = referring to the bursting of the seed pod and forceful scattering of the seeds.

Lobelia cuneifolia

An evergreen groundcover that grows to 0.2 x 0.2m. It is a fast growing groundcover when planted in a warm, semi-shade area. It is a water loving plant. The blue/purple flowers open in summer. It looks lovely when planted in a hanging baskets or containers as it will scamper off over the edge. Mystically it is used to attract love and stop storms. Named for Masthias de L'Obel (1538-1616) a Flemish botanist, traveller and plant collector. He studied medicine and was physician to William, Prince of Orange. he left the Netherlands to escape the civil war and went to England to be King James's physician. He wrote describing 1500 plant species.

Melianthus major

(Giant Honey Flower)

This evergreen shrub grows to about 2.5m high and 3.5 wide. It is an easy garden plant and is grown worldwide for its attractive foliage. It prefers a warm, sunny position with good drainage. Although quite tough and adaptable, it will flourish in deep, rich soil, especially if given plenty of water. It grows fast and will make a show within a few months. It is particularly attractive in spring when in flower and sporting its new lush leaf growth. The name comes from 2 Greek words meaning honey flower.The flowers produce nectar which attracts bees, wasps, sunbirds and the Arrowhead butterflies. It is also the host plant for 1 moth specie. Cut it back after flowering to encourage new growth. Although the leaves are toxic they are used medicinally as a topical aid for pain, aches, rheumatism and backache. A gargle is used for sore throats and the liquid is used on snakebites. Warmed leaves can be bound over boils and abscesses to bring them to a head. Four leaves boiled in a big pot of water is used to treat sores and ulcers. A mixture of Meliathus , Artemesia, Khaki Bos and Leonotis leaves are brewed in boiling water and once cooled it is used to control aphids and fruit fly. An ideal plant for small garden. 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.

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.

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