“A garden requires patient labour and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfil good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” Liberty Hyde Bailey
The year speeds by marked by the changing array of blooms in our gardens. As the season gets hotter, plants which have flowering that is triggered by cooler weather (such as Osteospermums) give their last flush of flowers for the season and plants that love long days and hotter weather like the beautiful Geraniums (bush or ivy leafed Pelargoniums) begin to display at their very best.
If you want a changing selection of colour and prefer to buy plants in bloom, you will need to visit your garden centre regularly to see what’s in flower. However, buying plants in flower also means that your plants will only settle in during the coming year and will be at their showiest in the following year. It also makes it tricky to establish plants that flower in the hottest part of the year when plenty of after care is needed in order to ensure their survival.
Ideally, now is the time to begin planting your late summer to autumn colour, but how will you know which indigenous plants are going to be in flower?
Let’s take a look at some of the plants that are flowering now and some of the plants you should consider planting now so that they’re ready to beat the heat and give you blooms during that awkward January to March period.
Now in flower
As already mentioned, Geraniums (Pelargoniums) will be giving their best from now on. Forget any preconceptions you might have had about Geraniums, especially bush Geraniums, there are some exquisite hybrids out there these days. There are also some superb species types. These are hardier than the hybrids and last longer in the garden. If they get leggy, give them a fairly hard cut to rejuvenate the plants. Some of the wild Pelargoniums have smaller flowers than the hybrids, but some, like the stunning Pelargonium cucullatum, produce really showy blooms and need less
maintenance than the hybrid types. The smaller flowered species like Pelargonium reniforme or Pelargonium ionidiflorum should also not be ignored. These two species create a low mound of foliage topped off with the sweetest little flowers!
See also: Indigenous species and hybrids
Arctotis, Osteospemums and Gazanias in a bewildering range of colours started flowering in late winter and will continue for a little while longer, so if you saw some gaps in your spring garden, you can use these colourful plants to make sure next spring is a winner. Remember to check on how heat tolerant the varieties you choose will be. Some of the hybrids don’t seem to last through the summer very well. Species types are generally more reliable. Try Osteospermum fruticosum and Osteospermum jucundum as well as the creeping forms of Gazania such as Gazania rigens.
Although most people see vygies as spring colour, different species flower at different times of the year, so while the early spring vygies are finished blooming, some species are in full flower now while others are in bud.
December is the time for the stunning Erica verticillata to come into flower. This plant, once believed to be extinct is available in a number of shades of pink to red and grows into an attractive shrub about 1.5m tall. Remember to trim it frequently and lightly to maintain a full growth habit.
Nothing says ‘Christmas’ like the colour red and Crassula perfoliata and it’s equally crimson sister Crassula coccinea will be flowering around Christmas time and into January just when most of your garden plants are struggling with the heat.
Graceful Salvia chamelaeagnea (Bloublomsalie) starts flowering in November or December and forms tall spikes of blue and white florets through till March. Cut it back hard after flowering for an even showier display next time around.
A less well-known summer to autumn flowering species of shrub called Ruttyruspolia (Rutty for short) will soon begin flowering. Although it won’t tolerate very harsh frost, you can plant it in the same kind of conditions where Bougainvilleas thrive and it has a similar growth habit without being spiny or overly vigorous.
If you really want something exceptional for shade, you can’t beat Scadoxus multiflorus ssp kathriniae. The glossy leaves are pretty, but it’s the flowers carried in balls of bloom as big as your head that will amaze and delight even the most jaded gardener. They work very well with Clivias: the Clivias flower in spring and are followed by the Scadoxus in summer. Add Nerines to the mix for autumn flowers and Haemanthus albiflos for winter and you’ll have an ever-changing display of blooms and foliage textures.
There are so many beautiful indigenous plants out there that they can’t possibly be discussed in one article, but these are certainly some of the highlights. Chat to a horticulturist at your local garden centre or visit a nearby botanical garden to get lots more fantastic ideas for using indigenous plants in your home garden.