Thursday, December 1, 2022

 The South African Garden in Fall

While South African plants are in pretty much every garden on the property, there is a special garden reserved for South African plants (and occasional interlopers from elsewhere) in the fenced back gardens area.   Here grow many species of plants grown from seeds from South Africa, either collected by myself or from other sources like Panayoti's earlier SA seed hunting expeditions or Silverhill Seeds.  Matt Prinsloo of Bulbomads is another good source and there are some things coming along from him that will mature next year in the South African garden and in other gardens as time goes on.

Our spring was normal in 2022 more or less, but after June the rains just stopped until September with one or two exceptions.  Thus it was an unusually dry summer so I had to hand water frequently with the hoses I have.  There were days I watered from morning till evening to soak the parched soil so I wouldnt actually lose some plants.  Fortunately most of the South African species can take drought and some do better with it than with too much rain.   Still I prioritized making sure that certain species got generous waterings such as Hesperantha coccinea, since I know it grows in and along streams from what I saw when I was last in South Africa before covid hit and our world changed. 

Speaking of hesperantha, it comes in pinks, reds and whites and while it wasnt their best year for me, we did get some nice autumn flowers from them.  They begin to flower in September and keep going until frost gets severe enough to knock them back.  I protect the corm/rhizomes with a wood chip mulch and that allows them to come through even cold winters.  Voles may thin them out at times, they are one rodent pest that I have a hard time keeping in check when they do appear. 

Hesperantha coccinea, a pink cultivar

Gladiolus "Lucky Star" has been hardy here so far and one bloomed later than usual.  I havent gotten it to set seed yet but if it could it would make for some interesting new hybrids as it itself is an unusual gladiolus cross. 

Gladiolus "Lucky Star"

Nemesia fruticosa never fails to delight in fall as it flowers more vigorously than ever.  It sometimes survives a mild winter here and in any case will freely come up from seed in any place where competition is not too tough. 

A late Osteospermum jucundum shows off its lovely purple daisies.  They also come in white as well and will gently self sow.  Harsh winters can damage the mats that the plants form but they recover well and after a mild winter those mats are overflowing with big daisies come spring.  

A nice white selago species also is in the photo above, it usually dies out during winter but I can keep it going from cuttings and it sometimes self sows. 

A yellow phygelius, probably Moonraker, really took off this year and has made quite a large patch.  It flowers more vigorously than the red wild form I grew from seeds I got long ago from Panayoti. 

A very free flowering yellow senecio species, name unknown, makes a mass of flowers among leaves of agapanthus plants which poke through the sprawling mass of yellow daisies.  It appears to be hardy and also self sows as do most senecios.  It will flower earlier but it is in fall when it is at its best. 

The red phygelius threw a few brightly colored flowers but the patch of it is really too big, its probably three meters wide by now. The one shown below is a seedling from that patch, also to e seen are some late flowers of Berkheya cirsiifolia.  Both are perfectly hardy here in New York. 

 These gorgeous white flowered Nerine bowdenii came from a friend in the UK.  They always bloom just before frost threatens and frost did take them out a few days later.  We need earlier blooming Nerine bowdenii selections, if there is such a thing.  The bulbs are pretty hardy and get a light mulch for winter but I am not sure if they even need it. Behind the nerine can be seen the wonderful grey foliage of Helichrysum splendidum.  Last winter was hard on them so I cut them back pretty harshly but they grew back with a vengeance.  Milder winters result in no dieback on the helichrysum and after such a winter yellow flowers appear and seed is produced.  They can grow quite huge as well if winter isnt cold enough to check their growth. 


The glory of the fall in the South African garden is surely these two plants of Kniphofia multiflora.  Huge spikes which tower above my 5'10" frame erupt into brilliant magnificence.   I do give it a generous wood chip mulch for winter but its so worth it.  Perhaps it would survive anyway but I refuse to risk it as I like it too much to risk losing it.  I cut the flower spikes just before frost to bring inside so that some seed can be produced, and I have gotten some seed over the years from the two seed grown clones crossing.  I have planted some in the front yard and at least two or three should be large enough to flower next year provided they get through the winter. Of course I did cover them up already so as to increase their chances.  


1 comment:

Panayoti Kelaidis said...

Thank you so much for resuming this blog: I love your Facebook posts, but your blog is a better place to refer back to. Please post more here and less THERE!

And may you and Grace have a great holiday!