Cape Town - Rare and unusual plants provoke enormous interest in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. An antidote to the thriving indigenous movements of the past 20 years, rare plant fairs feed the curiosity of plant lovers who thrive on new and unusual species.

Australia’s Rare Plant Fairs are held in late summer in the Yarra Valley, north-east of Melbourne.

The fairs include more than 40 small growers each year, with Australian-bred tuberous begonias a highlight of each show.

South Africa has two rare and unusual plant fairs, in Pretoria and Stellenbosch. Last year’s Rare Plant Fair in Stellenbosch attracted more than 1 900 people and included 35 stalls. Organiser Barbara Knox-Shaw said: “This year there will be closer to 40 exhibitors and we are hosting the 2014 Rare Plant Fair a month earlier.”

This year’s show on March 15 will include heirloom plants, interesting herbs, rare species, plants with an unusual history, and rare exotic and indigenous flora.

 

Plant collector gardens:

The best way to design a garden of rare and unusual plants is to consider colour and shape, rather than the origin of the plant.

 

Colour tips:

l Orange and red, exciting, dramatic and stimulating, are the extroverts of the flower world. Striking plants such as Kniphofia rigidifolia, with lime green and burnt red flowers, and bold cannas will draw the eye. Red flowers, in combination with copper and bronze foliage, have an opulent appearance.

l Other pleasing combinations include tangerine day lilies as a foil to dark red dahlias, cinnamon gazania near orange bulbine, strelitzia and orange-red crocosmia with blue agapanthus, and peach and orange zinnias with a carpet of peach nasturtiums.

l Pastel pink is a tranquil colour; bright pink is welcoming. Both are good choices near an entrance, or in pots on a patio. Perennial phlox, salpiglossis, dahlias and cleome add height and contrast in flower shapes in a summer border. Feathery astilbe comes in shades of pink. It needs moist soil and is often grown on the edge of a pond or stream.

l Blue comes in many hues, the palest used to cool down “hot” colours and add depth to a garden, the darker shades effective with rich red and orange. The blue of a summer sky is reflected in the daisy-like flowers of felicia and the blue flowers of plumbago. Introduce touches of lemon among blue to create a sunshine and shadow effect.

l Mauve physostegia provides vertical interest for pink zinnias and asters. Violet-pink vinca and red-purple verbena are striking with lime-green foliage, such as Helichrysum petiolare “Limelight” or duranta “Sheena’s Gold”. Purple is striking among pastels, and can be used as an accent, or to add richness when mixed with reds.

l White in the summer garden can strike a surprisingly jarring note, and should be used discriminately if it is to have the desired effect. Much depends on the type of flower. In bright sunlight, a daisy’s “whiteness” can be spotty, but the delicate white Japanese anemone, the airy butterfly flower, gaura, and the frothy lace flower will add a lighter touch.

l Cream and lemon are soft, muted colours that add touches of lightness to a garden. Many roses come in these shades and help soften brighter yellows. Yellow is a joyful colour, spilling sunshine and bringing light and vitality to a garden in the form of sunflowers and daisies, day lilies and rudbeckias.

l Sulphur yellow and gold are bold and showy, and guaranteed to attract attention. Some gardeners consider marigolds the stalwart of many summer gardens, others find them too “brassy”. If bronze-coloured marigolds are mixed with the golds, a richer, more pleasing effect is obtained.

l Peach and apricot are the first colours to lighten the morning sky. They are sparkling champagne colours that bring life to a garden. Use them with earthy tones of bronze and cinnamon to give a Mediterranean effect, or with maroon, plum or deep red for a more sumptuous look.

Join the Fair:

More than 35 specialist amateur and professional growers will sell their plants directly to visitors. There will also be stalls selling other gardening items.

Rozanne’s Garden will be in full autumn glory. Entrance is free.

Tea will be served under the oaks, and there will be wine tastings and sales of Rustenberg’s wines.

The Rare Plant Fair will be held next Saturday from 9.30am to 2.30pm at Rustenberg Wines, Rustenberg Road, Stellenbosch.

Cost: R10. Call 078 021 2101 or 021 844 0154. Visit www.rareplantfair.co.za

 

Gardening tips:

l Get ready to celebrate World Water Day (March 20). Conserve water in your garden by grouping plants with similar water needs to create different water-use zones, and save on water bills. Reduce the size of lawns and replace with paving or groundcover. Make a shallow basin around newly planted trees and shrubs to allow water to collect and filter down to the roots.

l National Water Week is the third week in March. Start thinking about planting water-wise South African plants this month. These include agapanthus, Anisodontea scabrosa, arctotis, Bauhinia galpinii, wild iris (Dietes spp), euryops daisy, felicia, gazania, osteospermum, plumbago, Tecoma capensis and Tulbaghia fragrans.

l Be water-wise. Grow annuals that need regular watering in containers near the house, rather than in borders, and incorporate water-retentive granules in the potting soil.

l In a water-wise garden, the indigenous medicinal perennial Bulbine fruticosa, with orange and yellow flowers, makes an attractive low-maintenance groundcover. The sap in the succulent leaves relieves bee stings and mosquito bites.

l Indigenous Euryops pectinatus is a water-wise shrub with grey-green foliage and yellow daisy flowers. It can be trained as a “lollipop” or trimmed to keep more compact.

l Grasses and grass-like plants are low-maintenance and attract birds to the garden. Aristida junciformis is an attractive, tuft-forming grass with an arching habit and white seed heads.

l Sedum “Autumn Joy” is one of the most reliable perennial choices for the autumn garden. This upright sedum has fleshy green leaves and umbrella-like pink flower heads that deepen to bronze-red as the season progresses, attracting bees and butterflies. Grow in full sun and well-drained soil.

l In a sunny patio container garden, plant indigenous, water-wise, medicinal perennial bulbinella (Bulbine fruticosa) with orange and yellow flowers. The sap in the succulent leaves relieves bee stings and mosquito bites. Bulbinella also makes an attractive low-maintenance groundcover. - Weekend Argus