BRIGHT AND VERSATILE: Potato shrub is a purple wonder.

The heavy summer rains have resulted in all sorts of surprises in the garden. One of these is the potato shrub (Solanum rantonnetii), which is providing highveld gardeners with an abundance of purple blooms.

While this 2m-tall shrub from Latin America performs well in medium water usage areas and tolerates both heat and drought, it clearly enjoys abundant moisture.

Cultivars with deeper purple blooms, white blooms and variegated foliage are also available. Use at the back of the border, as a specimen plant or as a hedge.

The potato shrub can be grown, with skilful attention, as a topiary or as an espalier against a wall.

In frost-free gardens Solanum rantonnetii is evergreen. It tolerates mild frost (-2ºC), but loses it leaves.

Plant in compost-enriched soil that drains well, in full sun or partial shade, and prune to shape in spring. Keep well mulched in both summer to reduce water loss through evaporation and in winter to protect roots from frost damage. - Saturday Star