Spur your patch on to a pretty autumn show

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Copy of ca Spur flower 2_CITY_E1 . Spurflowers bloom in autumn.

“Different colours can affect our emotional and psychological state. We feel calmed by soft pinks, mauve and blue, and energised by the vibrant colours of red, orange and yellow”. Eileen Campbell

In autumn, the spur flower family (plectranthus) surges to the fore, to make a glorious show in our gardens.

There is such an impressive variety of these indigenous perennials from which to choose, from groundcovers to medium-sized shrubs. Though most prefer partial shade, there are a few succulent spur flowers, like Plectranthus neochilus, that can bear the brunt of hot sunshine. The latter seems to flower at various times of the year, but autumn is its peak season. A close relative, P ornatus, though found in the wild from Ethiopia to Tanzania, has become semi-naturalised in SA. Both have strongly aromatic leaves, which some may find unpleasant, and both are useful for planting in rockeries.

One of the earliest to flower in my garden has been an Australian species, P argentatus.

Its blooms are rather insignificant, but it makes its presence felt by its velvety leaves which bring a shimmer of silver to a dark corner.

Many plectranthus species are suitable for pot culture. Two favourites are the Stoep Jacaranda, P saccatus, and Plectranthus “Mona Lavender”. The first is a showy plant, its small leaves contrasting with masses of mauve flowers that are larger than most of its kind. A beautiful, white-flowering form, found in KZN’s Ngoye forest, has been given the cultivar name “King Goodwill”, to reflect the latter’s help in conserving this woodland.

“Mona Lavender” is a superb hybrid between P saccatus and P hilliardae. It is free-flowering and produces blooms at various times of the year. This plant produces a profusion of mauve flowers and has dark green leaves which have an attractive purple underlining, rather like the popular groundcover P ciliatus, which is known as the Gossip Plant because it spreads so rapidly.

Thus, both are shown to advantage if grown in raised pots or beds.

For taller shrubs, look no further than P ecklonii, which has striking, named cultivars such as “Tommy” (white), “Erma” (pink) and “Medley Wood”, which is a rich violet-blue. Visit Kirstenbosch to see all these beauties in a splendid setting.

Spur flowers are rapid growers and should be pruned back after flowering. The taller varieties will need to be cut down to about knee height. It is easy to propagate cuttings in moist sand or even in a jar of water.

Orange is such a vibrant colour and brings a real glow to the autumn garden. Easy-to-grow crocosmias are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in Britain, where cultivars varying in colour from red through to yellow are readily available. They are the passion of John Foley, the BBC Young Gardener of the Year, who has been collecting them from the age of 13.

As with the agapanthus, little mention is ever made of the fact that the crocosmia originates from SA. - Cape Argus

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