No matter where you are, spring is usually a colorful time.
Many deciduous trees bloom in the spring before the leaves appear. A notable color in and around Durban in the springtime is white. I’ve made a project of this to name a few of my favorite white plants that bloom in September, which you can use in your gardens, regardless of their size. It’s never too late to add new plants.
I get questions all the time from the public who have read these articles, asking me how they can improve their gardens and what plants will bring birds, bees and insects to their gardens. Often times you will have a garden with the most interesting plants, but they were planted incorrectly or in the wrong place. All you need to know are plant preferences and move them around so that they maximize your space.
Dombeya rotundifolia (wild pear). Flower best in the cooler, drier parts of KwaZulu-Natal, but in the Upper Highway area of Kloof and Hillcrest, they flower very well. I have five large trees in my garden that have been blooming for five weeks and still have a few more weeks of blooming. The flowers are white and fragrant and are found at the end of the branches. It grows quickly to around 5m and makes a pretty garden specimen.
Xylotheca kraussiana (African-dogrose). Small semi-deciduous tree. Form a pretty focal point in your garden with lightly fragrant white flowers that appear in late August and September. The tree can reach 10m under ideal conditions, but normally grows to around 3-5m in private gardens. The fruits are yellow, woody and, when opening, exhibit black seeds with a red aril. It is the mother plant of the blood red Acraea butterfly. Very rewarding tree for a small garden.
Gardenia thunbergia (forest gardenia). Flowering shrub or small tree with showy white flowers and very fragrant, especially at night. A shrub or small evergreen tree, the gently scented flowers open at night and bloom only one day, but continue to produce flowers for several weeks, but particularly from late spring through summer. Ideal for a small garden. To be planted preferably in partial shade. The fruits remain on the plant for many years until they eventually drop to the ground.
Rothmannia globosa (September bells). Small evergreen tree that grows to around 7m, producing softly fragrant white bell-shaped flowers in September. Mostly evergreen, it is an ideal tree for a small or large garden with plenty of shade.
Tabernaemontana ventricosa (forest toad tree). Small to medium-sized evergreen tree that produces lightly fragrant white flowers throughout the year. Very rewarding for any size garden and attracts lots of wildlife, birds and insects. Produces a large, smooth and persistent pod that splits in half, revealing an orange pulp with encrusted seeds. Can grow in dark, shady gardens.
Mackaya bella (forest tramp) A large shrub or small tree that bears shiny dark green leaves and beautiful clusters of showy, white to purple, bell-shaped flowers in spring and early summer. Perfect if you have a very shady garden. The flowers are pollinated by honey and carpenter bees, and it is the food plant of the blue pansy butterfly.
Carissa bispinosa (num-num). This evergreen shrub produces beautiful, glossy foliage with fragrant star-white flowers reminiscent of jasmine in spring. Carissas, if growing, make attractive ornamental shrubs and can be trained and trimmed to make excellent hedges or along walls to cover ugly spaces. Grows well in sun and shade. Easily grown from seed.
Turraea obtusifolia (small honeysuckle). Produces masses of showy white flowers in summer and decorative orange-red berries in late summer through winter. The flowers are large, showy, pure white and produced abundantly in small clusters among the leaves in mid to late summer (January and February). I have had one in my garden for 14 years that is covered in flowers and seems to bloom all year round. In shady areas it becomes a scrambler, so it is best to grow this shrub in full sun to maximize its beauty.
Ground covers and bulbs
Dietes grandiflora (wild iris). It’s a very common ground cover in most gardens, but it’s great for holding embankments, covering ugly walls, and creating height in your garden. It is the best filler plant for open areas, especially in the shade. Plants grow from an underground, perennial, evergreen rhizome, and can form large clumps. The flowers are mass produced, normally before or after a summer rain, and are white with yellow nectar guides inside the flowers. Easily grown from divisions or seeds, this is probably the simplest and most attractive of all known ground covers for your garden.
Crinum macowanii (nenuphar). Summer-growing deciduous bulb, with large fleshy leaves 1 m long, strip-shaped with underlying margins. The large, bell-shaped, lightly scented white lilies with dark pink stripes are produced on umbels of five to 25 flowers at the end of a long stalk from September to December. It grows quickly, requires full sun, and needs lots of water during the summer. In winter, when the plant is dormant, it does not need a lot of water and does not like to be disturbed, especially the delicate roots. If the roots are damaged, it will affect its flowering. Watch for the amaryllis caterpillar that feeds on the leaves. If you have a wet part in your garden, plant the bulb there as it will grow and thrive under these conditions.
Anthericum saundersiae (Anthericum weeping). Perfect herbaceous plant that covers quickly and produces numerous small white star shaped flowers that attract bumblebees. It is a good filler in flower beds. It grows up to 400mm tall, spreads very quickly and can be cut once a year to allow new growth in the spring. Requires full sun and plenty of water.
Chlorophytum bowkeri (giant chlorophytum). Perennial, evergreen and perennial ground cover that grows up to 1m tall mainly in shady areas and needs water. Can be split and split once a year to produce many more plants. It forms large, dense clumps of numerous light green, striped leaves. The flowers are clustered on long spikes atop slender stems, with more than one flower per bract. The pure white star shaped flowers are very showy and will close at night. It flowers in summer (November to February).
Asystasia gangetica (creeping foxglove). Fast growing ground cover, blooms nonstop and grows easily from cuttings. Not for small gardens as it is very vigorous and will cover most of your garden in a matter of months. It produces a cream-colored flower with purple mosaic markings on the palate (lower petal of the corolla) in spring and summer. Perfect for banks that need to be covered quickly. They grow best in the shade but can get some sun.
Things to do this month
We have such a choice of plants in South Africa so when planning make the most of what’s available and try to be locally native.
Do ornamental lawns use the most water of any crop in the world? As water becomes more and more scarce every year, we must be aware of using as little water as possible. The only lawn I have is on my edge and I leave that to the elements of nature. The only water it receives is rainwater and I make sure that in winter I never mow my lawns or add water or fertilizer until it rains, which does is not often in winter. When I mow my lawn (once a week in the summer), I mow it as high as possible to allow healthy root growth and more leaves to absorb photosynthesis.
Take all the leaves that have fallen from your trees in the winter and lay them out in your flower beds. Mulching prevents water loss, adds nutrients to the soil, and prevents weed growth. It’s a simple process which is Mother Nature’s best way to add and improve the quality of your soil.
Prune shrubs and trees that are overgrown or have finished flowering for this season. Pruning stimulates growth and now is the time to prune them to allow these plants to produce a new growth spurt for the summer. Check your shrubs for insects, especially mealybugs that attack old, unhealthy parts of the plant. Remove the infected parts and let the dormant buds initiate a new growth spurt for the summer. Always watch your plants for insects. If you must spray, use a natural product that does not harm the environment or kill beneficial insects.
Go for a walk. It’s good for the soul.
- This article is sponsored by Chris Dalzell Landscapes, who specializes in landscaping, consulting, plant brokerage, and botanical tours. Email your questions to [email protected]
The independent on Saturday