Cape Town - The countdown has begun. In nine weeks, the Kirstenbosch Branch of the Botanical Society will host its 39th Annual Plant Fair at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

It is to take place at Kirstenbosch Stone Cottages on the corner of Rhodes and Kirstenbosch Drive on Saturday, April 12 (9am to 3pm), and Sunday, April 13 (9am to 1pm).

This year’s theme is Nourishing Bees and Nurturing Chameleons.

 

The Kirstenbosch branch of the Botanical Society has called on gardeners across the Peninsula to consider joining the fair as exhibitors, and to take a stand for the two days. If you are a beekeeper, plant grower or other business or individual with products that might be related to the theme, you are invited to sell your wares.

Primarily a fundraiser for Kirstenbosch, the Botanical Society’s (Botsoc) Plant Fair aims to popularise the conservation of indigenous plants through horticulture. The event attracted more than 2 600 visitors last year.

It is a wonderful family outing, with good food and entertainment.

Not surprisingly, conservation and education exhibits will feature prominently.

A demo garden will be developed with the theme of bees and chameleons, workshops and talks will be run throughout the event, and the Botanical Society will have a variety of environmentally friendly garden-related products for sale.

There will be a strong presence of related environmental NGOs and BotSoc-Sanbi partnership initiatives like Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (Crew) and iSpot.com Fabulous plants.

One of the most exciting aspects of the plant fair is the range of cutting edge, very special indigenous plants which are being specially grown for sale at the fair.

Here is a glimpse of the exciting, rare, and in some cases, “red listed as vulnerable” indigenous plants that will be available at the fair, and can be added to your garden:

* Golden pagoda (Mimetes chrysanthus): This outstanding, rare, protea family shrub was only discovered in 1987. It grows to 2m and bears showy golden flowerheads from February to June which have a soft sweet fragrance, and attract bees and butterflies.

The golden pagoda occurs at only two localities on the Gamkaberg and Perdeberg, near Herold.

It is red listed as vulnerable, meaning it faces a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Grow the golden pagoda in a warm, sunny position, preferably on a slope, in well-drained acidic soil.

It will do well in sandy or clay soils, provided it is well-drained and is well-suited to sunny rockeries, retaining walls, fynbos and Mediterranean water-wise gardens.

* Fan or Franschhoek Aloe (Aloe plicatilis): The fan aloe is a striking, tree-like shrub 3m to 5m tall. It makes a wonderful accent plant with orange-red flower heads between August and October. The fan aloe is one of the few aloes found only in fynbos. They can be seen growing wild on the steep rocky upper slopes in the mountains in the Franschhoek and Elandskloof area. Grow the fan aloe in well-drained, sandy, acidic soil. The fan aloe prefers a sunny but cool, well-ventilated spot, that is well-watered but also well-drained.

* White aerva (Aerva leucura): White aerva brings reliable creamy white colour and texture to the late summer and autumn garden. It is excellent for floristry. Flowerheads keep their colour when dry.

White aerva is a herbaceous perennial with graceful stems to 750mm, topped with masses of tiny flowers packed into spikes that hang like strange woolly worms, from December to May.

Grow white aerva in fertile garden soil in a sunny spot with plenty of water during spring and summer. Aerva goes dormant in winter when the plants should be cut back to ground level.

* Port St John’s impatiens, Mrs Flanagan’s impatiens or giant pink busy lizzy (Impatiens flanaganiae): This indigenous impatiens from the Eastern Cape is found growing wild in cool forest in a small region near Port St Johns in the Transkei, and in southern KwaZulu-Natal.

It is Red Listed as Vulnerable, meaning it faces a high risk of extinction in the wild.

The Port St Johns impatiens is a soft perennial to 1m, with large delicate orchid-like pink flowers that float like butterflies above its large, dark green leaves, in early to mid-summer. It is deciduous, going dormant in winter and surviving due to its tuberous red roots.

* Fireball lily (Scadoxus multiflorus ssp. Katharinae) is a spectacular bulbous for a shady spot.

The fireball lily is deciduous with large soft spreading leaves during summer. In late summer (December- March) it produces a large, spherical flowerhead made up of about 200 bright orange-red flowers. The flowerheads are 25cm in diameter on plants 110cm high. The Fireball lily grows wild in forests, forest margins, savannah woodland and on shady river banks from the Eastern Cape northwards into tropical Africa. This plant is toxic to grazing stock.

* Silver spurflower (Plectranthus oertendahlii): This is a compact, mat-forming shade-loving perennial with decorative silvery variegated leaves and sprays of white flowers in autumn (April to May). The silver spurflower is a rare species from the forests and wooded river valleys near the coast from Port Shepstone to Umtamvuna. It is not threatened.

Grow in light shade, dappled shade, semi-shade or deep shade, or on a shady veranda or indoors. It is easy to grow and easy to root from cuttings, but short-lived and should be renewed regularly to keep it vigorous.

* Tygerberg spiderhead (Serruria aemula var. congesta): The Tygerberg spiderhead forms a low shrublet with silvery pink, sweetly scented flowerheads in winter-spring (July-October), which are loved by bees.

The Tygerberg spiderhead used to grow on the sandy flats between Kuils River and Firgrove but is now extinct in the wild.

Grow groups of three Tygerberg spiderheads in well-drained, sandy, acidic soil in a sunny, well-ventilated position. It is ideal for rockeries, retaining walls, embankments and large containers.

This plant is relatively short lived, and should be replaced every few years. Propagate by seeds or cuttings.

* Become an exhibitor: Help sponsor a section of the fair or develop products to sell. For info, call Catherine Gribble or Kate Steyn on 021 671 5468, fax: 021 671 7146, or e-mail: [email protected] or [email protected] za

 

GENERAL GARDENING TIPS

* Marguerite daisies (argyranthemum) add colour to borders and containers, and mix well with annuals and perennials. Modern cultivars, with their compact growth habit and flowers in white, cream, yellow, pink, apricot and ruby, are suitable for the smallest garden, and make attractive subjects for pots. Marguerites need sunshine and well-drained soil enriched with compost.

* Water citrus trees regularly as far as the drip line. Pick up and destroy or bury any fruit that has fallen or been damaged by hail to discourage the breeding of fruit flies.

* Ties on staked shrubs, trees and standard roses can become tight and restrict growth. Remove and replace with new ties using a figure-of-eight loop between stake and plant to allow for movement.

* Summer flowering perennial, Gaura lindheimeri, requires full sun, ordinary garden soil and little water once established. Its butterfly-like blooms in white and pink are held on tall, thin stems, adding lightness in a border. Roots are easily damaged, so only divide when necessary.

* Encourage butterflies in your garden by providing shelter from strong winds, sun to warm their wings for flight, flat stones where they can sun themselves, some rocks with shallow holes that hold water for them to drink, and some muddy puddles.

 

l Grow day lilies in large drifts, as a ground cover, or in a mixed border. Their arching foliage looks good near a water feature or among ornamental grasses. Use single colours in large sweeps for impact, or in smaller groups to add colour where needed.

* Very few soils are perfect, so it makes sense to spend a generous amount of your gardening allowance on compost and fertiliser. - Weekend Argus