Published by the Citizen on 20/06/05




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Succulents

Published by the Citizen on 20/06/05
In our fast moving society and hurried lifestyles homeowners have very little time for gardening. With careful and creative planning a low-maintenance garden that needs little watering can be created so that a beautiful and natural surrounding at home helps us to unwind and get rid of the day’s stress. There is a wealth of plants in our country that are easy to grow and require the minimum of maintenance. Recently a group of plants called ‘succulents’ has entered the landscaping scene again. The term ’succulents’ covers a huge group of popular South African plants of considerable variety. These plants are adapted to withstand long periods of seasonal drought that most of South Africa experiences. Succulents have fleshy leaves, stems and sometimes swollen roots in which water are stored. The mostly neat and compact growth form of these plants makes them easy to garden with and worthwhile to consider for a wide variety of uses in the garden.
Mesembryanthemums or Vygie-like plants have brilliant flowers that lie like jeweled cushions on the soil and provide banks of eye-dazzling splendour in the garden. They have been popularly grown in gardens for many years. Delosperma echinatum is a most attractive dwarf, compact plant, thickly covered with white tipped bristles on the stems and leaves that glisten in the sun. The white or yellow flowers are long lasting. These plants occur in the Cape Province but are successfully grown on the Highveld. Oscularia deltoides is widely used in horticulture, especially for its striking reddish teeth on the triangular grey leaves. The red stems and masses of pink flowers make this a pretty groundcover.
The Aloes light their candle-like flowers at different times of the year in different parts of the country. They are remarkably adaptable and may be grown where rain falls during their natural resting period without rotting. They should however be planted in particularly well-drained soil. Many Aloe hybrids have been cultivated that flowers more prolific, have darker colours and are more suitable for general gardening conditions. Aloes come in all sizes, from the smallest miniature plants like Aloe brevifolia to tree forms like Aloe barberae. The small Aloe aristata (Guinea Fowl Aloe) forms an amazing compact border while Aloe barberae can be used as a stunning feature plant. All gardens can have Aloes, even the gardener with the tiniest garden or flat-dwellers can grow a few Aloes in containers.
The Crassula family contains some very attractive flowering species and many gracefully-formed plants. Although the general perception is that succulents grow in full sun, there are many that can be used with great success in shade or half shade. The Fairy Crassula (Crassula multicava) is a fleshy-leaved groundcover with the most beautiful dainty pink flowers in winter that does extremely well in shady areas. Planted en masse under trees it makes a wonderful display. There is a form available of which the leaf has a purple underside. In a bit more sunny position the plant grows compact with upright leaves which show off the attractive purple colour. One of the most showy plants is Crassula perfoliata (Red Crassula or Red Treasure). This universal favourite can never be supplied in enough quantities. The flowers are unsurpassed for brilliance of colour. Hundreds of tiny red flowers are massed together in a dense flattish head. The spectacular scarlet colour can be seen from afar. Even when not in flower the plant is attractive. The broad fleshy grey-green leaves are flattened and curved sideways like a sickle. A collection of these plants in a bed or rockery is a beautiful sight.
A visit to the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is a must this time of the year. The world class magnificently designed rock garden is ablaze with colour. The Aloes are in full bloom and the many other succulents are putting on a brilliant show. Many succulent leaves change colour in winter and the play of the sun on these plants bring a different dimension to the garden. The rock garden with its many nectar rich flowers is also a great attraction to many sunbirds and others that have discovered this source of food.
Our Nursery ‘At the Garden’ stocks a wide variety of succulent plants for many different situations in your garden. For more information phone Suzette at 0823309751. Email: atthegarden@absamail.co.za


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