Last month, I described some of the wonderful Australian native plants in our garden, and since like ours, many Australian gardens often grow proteas and diosma as well, I thought I might write a post about some of the South African native plants in our garden. Hailing from a similar latitude in the Southern Hemisphere and with a common Gondwanan ancestry (South Africa and Australia were joined 150 to 80 Million years ago), many South African plants share similar growing requirements to our native plants and have adapted easily to our climate.
Many were introduced from the 1830s on during the Australian Gardenesque period of garden design, as they were hardy and sufficiently different and colourful to lend an exotic air to the garden. The Strelitzia or Bird-of-Paradise plant is a superb example and looks like a brilliant blue crane with a golden orange crown. Unfortunately, it hates the cold and I suspect would not survive our heavy frosts here in Candelo, though they grow well on the coast!
However, Leucospermums, Leucadendrons and Proteas are far tougher! They are the South African cousins of our Waratahs, Banksias and Grevilleas, all belonging to that ancient family Proteaceae, and the similarities in their flowers and leaves is very obvious.
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I was surprised by the large number of common garden plants that originated in South Africa like pelargoniums, red hot pokers, plumbago, aloes (top 2 photos below), pigface (bottom photo below), felicia, diascia, agapanthus and gladioli.
Bulb lovers also owe an enormous debt to South Africa with the export of freesias, clivias, dietes iris, nerines, babianas, crinum lilies, amaryllis, ixias (below), watsonia and eucomis (pineapple lily), though perhaps we should have let them keep their Arum lilies, which have become a major weed problem in Western Australian national parks (first photo); oxalis, the bane of every gardener’s life, especially in old gardens; and even that roadside escapee Leonotis leonurus (Wild Dagga) in the second photo below!
Because this post was quite long and there are quite a few South African bulbs in our garden, I will be discussing them in their own separate post next week.Please note that I am restricting my post solely to those plants which I am growing in my garden. I will also be avoiding agapanthus, which I have already discussed in some detail in its own feature post at the beginning of 2016 at: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/01/12/one-year-on-and-januarys-feature-plant-agapanthus/.
I am beginning with Proteas and Leucadendrons, the quintessential South African plants, as they share a common ancestry with Australian natives, so are a good link to the previous post, followed by some old-fashioned and very familiar favourites!!!
A member of the Proteaceae family like waratahs, it has conical flowers composed of large leathery outer bracts (modified leaves), which look like petals and surround the central banksia-like cluster of styles. There are 194 species, as listed on: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Protea_species, but common ones here include the Oleander Leaf Protea, P.nerifolia; the Common Sugarbush P.repens; the Queen Protea P. magnifica and the most famous of them all, the King Protea, P.cynaroides, which is the National Flower of South Africa.A friend gave us a protea called Special Pink Ice, P. nerifolia x susannae, for a garden warming present. It is supposed to be one of the hardiest proteas, which is just as well as we have just transplanted it to its third position and the root ball was very poorly-developed, so we have given it a good prune and hopefully, it will like its new home in the native garden area next to the waratah. We have seen 2.5 metre tall trees locally, so the climate obviously suits them. They also like well-drained slightly acidic soils, so it should like growing in front of the cypress. I think the problem has been that both previous positions were in slightly shady situations, whereas they really need full sun. It has flowered for us with beautiful long-lasting pink blooms in the Autumn and Winter.To see these amazing plants in full bloom, it is well worth visiting the National Rhododendron Garden in Olinda, Victoria (http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/national-rhododendron-garden) or the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mt. Tomah, NSW (https://www.bluemountainsbotanicgarden.com.au/). For more on their growing conditions, see: http://www.protea.com.au.
Another South African plant genus, which flowers in Autumn and Winter and which I will definitely be growing, is the Leucadendron, also a member of the Protaeaceae family. A medium to large evergreen shrub, 1 to 3 metres high, it has large showy colourful bracts, which conceal the flower at the tip. There are many different species and hybrids and I find it hard to choose between the colours- green, red, yellow and orange.
They all look so fantastic in floral arrangements. Some of the hybrids, which I would like to grow include:
Safari Sunset L. laureolum hybrid https://www.gardenia.net/plant/Leucadendron-Safari-Sunset-Conebush;
Winter Gold L. laureolum https://www.flowerpower.com.au/gardening/pick-of-the-proteas/;
Amy L. laureolum x salignum https://www.kings.co.nz/leucadendron-amy;
Burgundy Sunset L. aureolum hybrid http://www.protea.com.au/our-plants/burgundy-sunset; and
Inca Gold L. aureolum x salignum https://proteaworld.com.au/product/uncategorized/75mm-inca-gold/.
They like similar requirements to proteas- full sun and slightly acidic, well drained soil. Because they have shallow roots, they dislike soil disturbance, so mulching is important to prevent weeds. Again, they are tough and hardy, low maintenance and drought tolerant.Diosma (Confetti Bush/ Breath of Heaven) Coleonema pulchellum
Native to the Cape Province in South Africa, this is a pretty little shrub with a rounded growth habit, fine fragrant evergreen leaves and masses of scentless tiny pink flowers from late Spring to Spring (July to October). I love using them in floral arrangements as their dainty blooms and foliage are a great filler. Very hardy and frost tolerant, they like full sun and good drainage.Euryops
A member of the daisy family Asteraceae, the Euryops genus includes 100 species, the majority originating in South Africa, with only a few species from further north in Arabia. The genus name is derived from the Greek words ‘eurys’ meaning ‘large’ and ‘ops’ meaning ‘eyes’, referring to the large bright yellow flowers, which are borne on long erect stalks throughout the year. They are useful in small bouquets, as their flowers don’t close at night like other daisies. They love sunny warm positions and well-drained soils, so thrive in the centre of my Moon Bed.I transplanted my plants from an old neglected garden, where they were growing wild, and I believe they are the African Bush Daisy or Paris Daisy, E. chrysanthemoides (‘chrys’ meaning ‘gold’ and ‘anthemoides’ meaning ‘flowers’ in Greek). An upright half-hardy fast-growing evergreen, 1.5 metres high and 1.2 metres wide, with mid-green glabrous leaves and masses of yellow glowers from Spring to Autumn, with the odd flower throughout the year. Bees and butterflies love them! It dies back with the frosts, but fortunately self-seeds prolifically, so I am never without a plant!Perhaps, I should have the frost-hardy Golden Daisy Bush (or Yellow Marguerite), E. pectinatus instead! It has deeply lobed ‘pectinate’ (meaning ‘narrow divisions like a comb’) downy grey leaves; and golden flowers from Summer to Winter. See: http://pza.sanbi.org/euryops-pectinatus. However, all parts of this plant are poisonous if ingested, so given that I sometimes use the odd flower to decorate cakes, it is just as well that I grow the other species!!!
Osteospermum (African Daisies)
Another very familiar sight, Osteospermum (‘osteo’ meaning ‘bone’ and ‘spermum’ meaning ‘seed’) has 50 species from South Africa and 15 species from the Arabian peninsula. They used to be classified in the genus Dimorphotheca, but now the latter only contains annual forms.They are half-hardy perennials and subshrubs, which do not handle frost well, so I am growing my specimens in terracotta pots up by the house, where it is warmer.Osteospermums have alternate lanceolate leaves and daisylike composite flowers, which bloom from late Winter to Spring and which close at night. They are composed of a central blue, yellow or purple disc, surrounded by white, cream, pink, mauve, purple or yellow petals in the shape of ray florets. There are so many different types. The common old-fashioned tough and hardy trailing varieties are mainly pink, purple and white, but hybridization has added more compact yellows and oranges to the mix like Sideshow Copper Apricot. There are even double varieties or spooned varieties like Whirlygig. Some of the varieties can be seen at: https://www.bhg.com/gardening/plant-dictionary/annual/osteospermum/.
Osteospermums love rich soil and warm sunny positions, but will tolerate dry soils and drought. They make an excellent ground cover on roadside banks. For more information, see: http://www.osteospermum.com/.
Other African Daisies: Gazanias and Gerberas
Gazanias are also known as African Daisies or Treasure Flowers; belong to the Asteraceae family; have 16 annual and perennial species, all hailing from South Africa except for one species in the tropics; have composite flowers with ray florets and a central disc of a contrasting colour, which do not close at night; and do not like frosts either, which is a great shame as I love their large bright sunny faces! Traditionally yellow or orange, colours now include: white, pink and red, with two toned, multicoloured and double forms. They have narrow, silvery-green lance-shaped leaves with lighter undersides and bloom from late Spring to early Autumn.A fast-growing ornamental ground cover, they used to cover roadside banks at Castlemaine, Victoria. They are easy to grow, low maintenance, love sun and tolerate drought, dry poor sandy soils with low fertility and coastal conditions. Gerberas (Transvaal Daisies, also called African Daisies) are another love and another genus in the Asteraceae family, hailing from tropical regions in South Africa, as well as Asia and South America. There are 40 different species, of which G. jamesonii is the most popular and was first described by Robert Jameson in 1889. Most domestic cultivars are the result of a cross between two South African species, G. jamesonii and G. viridiflora.Classifed as a tender perennial plant, these long-lasting flowers have a large capitulum, composed of hundreds of individual flowers and surrounded by striking two-lipped ray florets in yellow, orange, white, pink and red. There are single, double, crested double and full crested double forms. Tesselaars have an excellent range at: https://www.tesselaar.net.au/gerberas.
Gerberas are very popular with florists, who wire their stems to stop the head from drooping, as well as with researchers studying flower formation.Happiest in warm climates, they love sun and well-drained soil. Unfortunately, like osteospermums, they are frost tender, so it is just as well that they make excellent pot specimens! Another plant for the side path by the house!!! For more on growing gerberas, see: https://www.gerbera.org/ and https://www.gerberaresearch.com.au/Growing.html.
Commonly known erroneously as Geraniums, who in turn are also known as Cranesbills and are their cousins in the family Geraniaceae, the genus Pelargonium (‘pelargos’ is Greek for ‘stork’, referring to the beak-like shape of the seedpods), contains 250 species, 200 of which originated in South Africa, with a further 18 species from the East Africa Rift Valley and 8 species from Australia. The first species to be cultivated was P. triste, which was introduced to England in 1631.
They have alternate and palmately lobed or pinnate leaves and bear five-petalled flowers in umbel-like clusters and have been classified into 8 different groupings:
Zonal: P. x hortorum: Derived from P. zonale and P. inquinans, these bushes have succulent stems; leaves with zones and patterned centres and single or double flowers of red, pink, salmon, violet or white;Ivyleaved: P. peltatum: Trailing lax growth with thin long stems; thick waxy stiff ivy-shaped fleshy evergreen leaves, giving them excellent drought tolerance; and single, double or rosette blooms;Regal: P. x domesticum: Derived from P. culcullatum, these large, evergreen, floriferous bushes have compact short-jointed stems; no zoning of the leaves; and single flowers in mauve, purple, pink or white. Angel: Derived from P. crispum, they look like small Regals, with compact and bushy growth; small serrated leaves; and much smaller flowers;
Unique: Derived from P. fulgidum, but uncertain parentage and do not fit into any of the above categories. Shrubby and woody evergreens, they look like upright Scentedleaved Pelargoniums; have fragrant and often bicoloured leaves; and flowers with blotched or feathered petals;
Scentedleaved: One of my favourites, these shrubby evergreen perennials are grown for their leaf fragrance, which is used in cooking, perfumery, pot pourri and essential oils. I grow Rose-scented; Lemon-scented; and Peppermint-scented varieties. I was also aware of apple, nutmeg, cinammon and coconut varieties, but other fragrances include:
Raspberry; Strawberry; Peach; Apricot/Lemon;
Grapefruit; Lime; Orange ; and Pineapple;
Lemon Balm; Apple Mint and Lavender;
Almond and Hazelnut; Celery and Ginger;
Old Spice and Spicy; and the stronger more pungent scents of
Balsam; Camphor; Pine; Eucalypt; Eau-de-Cologne; and Myrrh;
Species: The forefathers of all the other groupings; and
Primary Hybrids: the first-time crosses between two different known species and usually sterile.
Pelargoniums are evergreen perennial and are heat and drought tolerant, but can only tolerate minor frosts, so I grow my pelargoniums in pots by the house. These include: Zonal, Regal, Ivyleaved and Scentedleaved Geraniums. The Geelong Botanic Gardens has an excellent Pelargonium collection, housed in the Florence E Clarke Conservatory, built in 1972 and housing over 200 cultivars. See: https://www.geelongaustralia.com.au/gbg/plants/pelargonium/article/item/8cbf43e7c1d1574.aspx.
For more on Pelargoniums, see: http://www.geraniumsonline.com.
Nemesia caerula (Perennial Nemesia)
Delicate perennial, up to 50 cm high, with linear to lance-shaped leaves and dainty two-lipped slightly fragrant flowers of white and pink (though other varieties may be blue, purple or cerise) in Winter and Summer. Hailing from South Africa, where they are found in sandy soil near the coast and scrubby soil inland, Nemesias like well-drained moisture-retentive slightly acidic soil with organic matter. They thrive in full sun or part shade and prefer protection from the hot afternoon sun in Summer.Perfect for cottage gardens, hanging baskets and borders, I am growing my Nemesia on the edge of the Soho Bed.
Plumbago auriculata blue (Leadwort)
A tough old-fashioned plant, which has crept through the fence from my neighbour’s garden. It is a sprawling shrub, which spreads by suckers, with pale baby blue flowers in Summer and while it is not my favourite plant, it really is very tough and manages to survive in the dry soil and shade under the Pepperina tree. For more about its care, see: https://www.dayliliesinaustralia.com.au/plumbago-plant-hedge-plants/.
Kniphofia (Red Hot Pokers/ Torch Lilies)
Also surviving under the Pepperina Tree is a large clump of the original Red Hot Pokers, K. praecox. These hardy perennials have grassy to sword-shaped strappy leaves, which are popular with basketeers and which emerge from vigorous rhizomes, and eye-catching bottlebrush-shaped blooms at the top of long stems from Autumn to Spring. Popular with nectar-loving birds like rosellas, honeyeaters and wattlebirds, the original flame-coloured blooms have been superseded by breeding programs to include a wide colour range from lemon and golden yellow, scarlet, apricot and salmon, and bicolour mixes, as well as a range of sizes and flowering times. Some of these hybrids can be seen at: http://www.drought-tolerant-plants.com.au/a/Perennial_collection/Kniphofia and https://www.gardenia.net/plant-variety/kniphofia-red-hot-poker.
They love full sun, moist humus-rich, well-drained soil and regular watering in Summer, but having said that, they really are as tough as old boots and can survive drought, neglect and light to moderate frosts.And finally, there are a host of very well-known and loved bulbs hailing from South Africa: the gladioli; freesias; nerines; clivias; arum lilies; clivias and rhodohypoxis, which I didn’t even realize was a bulb until this post!!! Stay tuned for their own special post next week!