Cape Town - Great garden plants may be old favourites or recent introductions, evergreen or deciduous, indigenous or exotic. Some creep, some crawl, there are those that like company, while others prefer to stand alone, but all justify the space they occupy.
Here are the top 10 plants most likely to offer year-round value, that you should have in your garden this autumn. They are well-behaved and easy to grow.
This is not a true jasmine, but is known as the star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), referring to the jasmine-like perfume of the star-shaped flowers. This easy-to-grow, versatile vine with leathery dark green leaves and sweetly scented creamy-white flowers has great landscape value as an evergreen climber for fences and pergolas, on a trellis, softening concrete walls, as a clipped hedge or as an informal groundcover on banks and under trees.
This large, rounded deciduous shrub with an eventual height and spread of two metres is of great garden value throughout the seasons. In summer, the oak-leafed hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) has panicles of white flowers which show up well among the oak-shaped green leaves, and as autumn approaches these leaves deepen to a rich burgundy before falling. Additional interest is also found in the tan bark of the stem that flakes as it ages. It does best in cool conditions in fertile, well-drained soil and sun, or in light shade in hot gardens.
The evergreen growth habit of sasanqua camellias is neat and attractive with variation in form, making them suitable for growing in many parts of the garden. It is tall and graceful for boundary plantings, as specimens in the landscape, as slender columns to frame views, or with a rounded growth habit for screening. The foliage can be clipped and controlled in a small garden, and there are compact varieties for containers.
Sasanqua camellias grow in sun, or partial shade. Their showy, sometimes delicately scented single, semi-double or double blooms in white, pink or red appear in autumn, and show up well against the glossy green foliage.
Although in appearance the cane-like stems resemble bamboo, heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is not a bamboo. It is valued in the landscape for the slender upright stems and dainty foliage that contrast well with bold leafed plants. The fern-like foliage is green in summer with pink new growth, deepening to copper and rich red in autumn and winter in cold gardens, with the colour less intense in warmer regions. Spikes of small white flowers are followed by red berries in autumn.
Dwarf heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica “Pygmaea”) is a compact plant, ideal for small gardens where it can be grown as a low hedge, alongside a water feature and in containers.
These garden hybrids (Abelia x grandiflora) are low-maintenance, moderately frost-hardy shrubs that grow in full sun and some shade. Glossy abelias are attractive throughout the year, with gracefully arching branches carrying small glossy green leaves and clusters of white-tinged-pink, bell-shaped flowers. Abelias are reliable as background shrubs, for informal hedging, as a screen for compost heaps or clipped as a formal hedge. Abelia x grandiflora “Francis Mason” has copper to yellow-green foliage.
Honeybells (Freylinia tropica) is an indigenous fairly fast-growing, evergreen shrub reaching a height of 2m, with an attractive upright growth habit of loosely spreading branches and small leaves. Many species of butterflies and moths are attracted by the nectar in the white, blue or mauve honey-scented tubular flowers. It makes a good background shrub, a medium height screen or hedge, or a standard “lollipop”. Trim to keep neat and encourage bushiness.
Grow perennial agapanthus in indigenous and water-wise landscapes, and to add grace and colour to your summer garden. Dwarf agapanthus are perfect for edging paths, borders and containers, while medium and tall growers can be mass planted, grown along driveways, clustered in borders, or landscaped around a pool. Their strong root system is good for holding soil on banks.
Agapanthus flowers range from powder to dark blue and purple. White flowered agapanthus show up well in the evening garden. Agapanthus with striped foliage are a perfect foil to those with plain green leaves.
Day lilies are low maintenance and reliable perennials with early, midseason and late-flowering varieties that make it possible to have continuous blooming from early summer well into autumn. Flowers can be single or double, ruffled or plain, star-shaped or rounded, in cream, peach, pink, lemon, gold, red and burgundy, plain or bicoloured.
Plant in large drifts and borders. Even when not in bloom, the graceful arching foliage is an asset near a water feature, among ornamental grasses and as a contrast to plants with upright foliage or compound leaves.
Spreading fans of tall dark green, sword-like leaves are useful as accent plants in the landscape, and even more so when they are reliable and drought-tolerant. In nature, wild iris (Dietes grandiflora) grows near water, although their clump-forming rhizomes will also grow in sand or clay soils. This indigenous perennial can be grown as an accent or filler, in broad sweeps in the landscape, alongside water features, in industrial landscapes and public spaces. Tall spikes of white flowers with yellow and lavender-blue markings appear sporadically, with the main flowering in summer just before or after rain.
Jelly burn plant
An indigenous succulent, the jelly burn plant (Bulbine frutescens) is heat- and drought-tolerant, grows in poor soils and blooms repeatedly. The succulent, evergreen grass-like foliage grows in clumps to about 30cm tall, with orange or yellow flower spikes with frilly yellow stamens. It does best when planted in full sun and well-drained soil. Plant as a groundcover or in pots around a swimming pool.
As well as the flowers providing long-lasting colour, the jelly-like juice in the leaves is very effective in treating insect bites and sunburn.
GENERAL GARDENING TIPS
* Now is the time to plant seeds for winter-flowering annuals. Try calendula, cornflower, ornamental kale, nemesia, pansy, primula, stocks and viola. Sow seeds now and plant out the seedlings in May for colour in the winter garden.
* Prepare soil for seedlings by removing weeds and breaking up clods of earth. Mix in superphosphate and fertiliser at the rate of a handful per square metre. Rake and water the prepared area, and water the seedlings before and after planting.
* The dainty single or double pink and white flowers of the English daisy (Bellis perennis) make a neat and attractive edging along a lightly shaded path. Grow in rich, moist soil.
* Colour your winter garden with green, white, lavender and purple-leafed ornamental kale. Plant in patio pots, on gentle slopes and grouped in beds, in a sunny aspect and rich soil.
* If you had a splendid display of pansies one year, and the following year they were inferior, it could be they were suffering from soil sickness. This is caused when plants are grown season after season in the same position, resulting in a deficiency of plant nutrients and a lack of resistance to pathogens in the soil. If it is impossible to rotate the plantings, remove as much of the soil as possible and replace with soil from another part of the garden.
* Nerines with umbels of frilly, bright pink blooms flower in autumn. Check for black-and-yellow striped caterpillars that bore into the bulbs and leaves, and treat with an Eco Insect Control for caterpillars.
Kay Montgomery, Weekend Argus