Flowering perennials for full sun

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An avenue of Agapanthus. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaAn avenue of Agapanthus. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaHandy list of summer flowering perennials for full sun to light shade

In our modern world we often find ourselves pressed for time and wondering where we can free up some in order to do the things we really enjoy. Gardeners are no exception, and whether you like gardening or not, everyone loves a beautiful garden overflowing with greenery and brightly coloured flowers, but seldom do we count the cost in time spent on creating and maintaining such a garden.

That's where flowering perennials can save the day, because unlike annual plants which grow, flower and die all in one season, perennials can last several years before they need replacing or dividing. Also many perennials spread easily, and this, together with their longevity, makes it really worthwhile investing in them for your garden.

Once planted, perennials will save you time and effort as you only need to weed, water, and occasionally divide. Another plus is that by dividing them, you can have an endless supply of plants, saving you a fortune over the years. And, if you have a glut of plants after dividing them, pass them on to other gardeners, they are sure to appreciate the gesture. In the long run, perennials are cheaper than continually buying annuals, and with time they can spread out to fill large areas of the garden, so if you want flowering perennials throughout the seasons, visit your garden centre regularly and pick up your favourite selections to keep your garden blooming all year round.

Perennials also include ornamental grasses which are planted for their lovely foliage, so do not limit yourself only to flowering varieties. Perennials come in all shapes and sizes, and there are both evergreens, and those which go totally dormant in winter. There are also short-lived perennials and long-lived ones, and fortunately most of the popular cultivars will last several years, and readily lend themselves to propagation, so you really can’t go wrong with these rewarding plants.  

Because they remain in the soil and grow over successive years, the root systems of perennial plants help to improve the structure of the soil. As they grow and spread out they create channels and spaces through which water can percolate, as well as pore spaces for aeration of the soil to occur. This benefits all the plants in the area, as well as the microorganisms in the soil, giving them the oxygen and water they need to survive. With deeper root systems that stretch further down into the soil, perennials are able to access nutrients out of the reach of annual plants. They then bring these nutrients up to the surface where they and other plants can access it. Once established, perennials with deeper roots will need less frequent watering than shallow rooted annuals. They also help to shade the soil from excessive heat, and during downpours, or in regions exposed to strong winds, will help to prevent soil erosion.

Hemerocallis 'Stella de Oro' Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyHemerocallis 'Stella de Oro' Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyChoosing the right perennial plants for your garden can be as challenging as it is fun, but if you are realistic about your needs, and select plants which grow well in your climate, you are sure to be successful. Also, always remember to group your garden plants in watering zones, it is much easier to have separate beds for plants which need regular watering, from those which can survive on very little, or no supplemental watering.

Because perennials remain in the soil for a long time it is vital that you prepare the planting beds well, according to the needs of the plants selected. It is also essential that they are planted in the correct amount of sunshine or they will not do well. So, if you just do a little research to find those most suitable for your garden, you are sure to become a perennial fan. And once you have a good structure of more permanent shrubs, trees and perennials, if you have the time and money to spare, you can always add seasonal annuals to fill in the gaps and provide even more of a show, but if you do not have the time to plant annuals, your perennials assure that you still have blooming success.

In the list below I have included perennials for all regions of South Africa, including frost hardy perennials, tender perennials that prefer warmer or more humid regions, and those for hot and arid areas, so you are sure to find some which are suitable for your specific region. Included are the most popular perennials but I have also included some old fashioned beauties which are not that freely available but can be sourced online.

Happy perennial gardening,

Darlene

Osteospermum Akila Mixed. Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum Akila Mixed. Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.za  African Daisy, Van Staden's River/Sundays River Daisy, Bergbietou, Jakkalsbossie, umasigcolo nkonekazi, u-Mesigcolo-nkonekazi (Dimorphotheca)

African daisies are available in a wide selection of new cultivars with unique petal shapes and funky colours like: purple, violet, wine-red, white, pink, yellow, orange, and terracotta; and their central disks look as if they've been coloured with metallic paint. Hybrids are  selected for their long blooming time, and can flower through spring, summer and autumn.

They grow in a variety of landscapes, from arid to subtropical, tolerating drought, and dry and windy environments; making them perfect for exposed coastal, and water-wise gardens. Some are hardy to frost, while others are tender, so select those most suitable for your climate. Their blooms will only open fully in full sun, and the plants adapt to most soils which have perfect drainage. An occasional feeding will keep them blooming, and pruning after flowering will keep them neat. After a couple of years the plants get woody and unattractive, and need replacing.

The upright species are delightful in the flower border, making the greatest impact when planted in groups; and the spreading species can be used as a border for the flower garden, to line pathways, or in a rockery where they can cascade over the rocks. Their trailing habit also makes them ideal for hanging baskets and pots. They are also hardy groundcovers, and perfect for stabilising sandy soils on embankments. And, because their fibrous root system goes deep, they are drought hardy, and able to withstand veld fires.

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Agapanthus 'Little Diamond'Agapanthus 'Little Diamond'  Agapanthus, Bloulelie, Agapant, isicakathi, ubani (Agapanthus)

Agapanthus are divided into two major groups; evergreen and deciduous. The evergreen species grow wild in the winter rainfall regions, and the deciduous species come from the summer rainfall regions. However, virtually all the Agapanthus that we grow in our gardens are hybrids of Agapanthus praecox, called the "Common Agapanthus." This evergreen species has 3 subspecies; praecox, orientalis and minimus, and all are trouble-free plants which flower from mid to late summer, and are prized for their large balls of blue or white flowers. Hybrids are available in all sizes, from tiny miniatures to giants which reach 1m tall.

Agapanthus praecox is semi-hardy to moderate frost and easy to grow, thriving in full sun or light shade. It will tolerate poor soil, but for best results plant in fertile, compost-enriched soil that drains well. Water regularly during the growing season, and fertilise in spring and summer. This low-maintenance plant only requires dividing every 4 to 5 years, and the regular removal of dead leaves and flowers to keep it neat.

Agapanthus is most effective if planted in massed displays, and the larger growing cultivars are wonderful if planted towards the back of the perennial border. The dwarf varieties make excellent ground covers, rockery and border plants; and also look lovely planted in containers. All varieties are ideal to stabilise the soil on slopes and perfect for seaside gardens, because they tolerate strong winds.

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Zantedeschia 'Schwarzwald'Zantedeschia 'Schwarzwald'  Arum Lily, Calla Lily, Kleinvarkoor, Witvarkoor, mohalalitoe, magapule, intebe, ihlukwe, ilabatheka-elimhlophe, ilabatheka-omhlophe (Zantedeschia)

Today a new generation of Zantedeschia hybrids have been bred from our original indigenous species; not only for their fashionable colours in all shades of pink, yellow, white, cream, apricot, peach, orange, purple (almost black) and red; but also for their sheer flower power. Most species are deciduous, going dormant and surviving the dry season by storing water in their fleshy rhizomes, but others may remain evergreen if they are watered throughout the year, or are grown in marshy conditions.
 
Arums grow best in moist, temperate climates, but grow easily throughout most of the country as long as they can be watered regularly. Because the plants are generally dormant during the cold winter months they are reasonably hardy, but some species are hardier than others. Except for the common or white arum which grows in full sun or semi-shade; they all thrive in full sun (at least 6 hours a day.)  The species vary in height from 60cm to 1m tall, with the flower stems reaching even taller.

The common arum can be planted in ordinary garden beds, but is ideal as a marginal plant alongside streams, or on the edge of a pond; and can even be planted into a pot and submerged into water, as it does not need drainage. It makes a useful foliage plant in shade under trees but in deep shade will not flower. The brightly coloured varieties are excellent in the sunny flower border, and fabulous in containers, where they will flourish for many years. When your planter is a mass of colour, bring it onto the patio, place it beside the pool or on the deck, and enjoy; and when not in bloom, the pots can be moved to another area, until they bloom again.

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Platycodon 'Astra Blue'Platycodon 'Astra Blue'Balloon Flower, Chinese Bellflower (Platycodon grandiflorus)

Gardeners have always valued the old-fashioned balloon flower, not only for its whimsical flower buds, but because this plant is one tough cookie! The puffy bud intrigues gardeners, because as they grow, they inflate like an origami balloon, before unfurling into a gorgeous five-star bellflower. Their flowers come in sought-after shades of blue and purple, as well as pink and white, and flowering begins in mid-summer and continues into autumn. There are many cultivars of balloon flowers, some have a compact growth habit with a height of about 12cm, while others are taller, growing up to 60cm.

Although it loves regions with good summer rains and mild winters, it is hardy down to -15°C, but in cold regions dies down completely in winter. If the roots are mulched to prevent them from freezing, they reappear again in late spring. Bellflowers are not suited to very hot, dry, or humid regions. This long-lived perennial will adapt to most well-drained soils but loves fertile, slightly acid soils. It loves full sun, but will take light shade, especially in hot regions. Once established, water moderately during prolonged hot or dry spells. Fertilise and mulch the roots in spring, and remove the spent flower stems to promote repeat flowering, and to keep the plants neat.

Balloon flowers are perfect companions for ornamental grasses, and spiky plants, and look great in rock or gravel gardens. Their delicate form and cool colours complement many perennials, and they are essential in flower beds and perennial borders. The dwarf varieties are wonderful edging plants, alongside pathways, and in mixed containers, and the older and taller-growing varieties, with their bluish leaves and long trailing stems, are lovely in large hanging baskets, and also very useful in perennial borders, woodland, and cottage gardens.

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Gerbera 'Moulin Rouge'Gerbera 'Moulin Rouge'  Barberton Daisy, Rooigousblom (Gerbera jamesonii)

These indigenous plants grow wild only in the eastern part of Mpumalanga and the southern part of the Limpopo Province; occurring in grasslands and on rocky slopes; on sandy well-drained soils. They are renowned for their beautiful blooms borne on long stalks. Gerbera jamesonii grows +-45 to 55cm tall, but hybrids vary greatly in height. Flowers can be single or double and come in an array of colours; from red to orange, pink, yellow, and white. If grown in the right conditions, they will flower for many months through summer and into autumn; and if their needs are met they do not require a lot of care.
 
They thrive in the summer rainfall regions; performing best in climates with warm summer days and cool nights. However, they tolerate some frost if the roots are mulched in winter. Barberton daisies are suitable for coastal regions but do not like high humidity. They can be planted in full sun to light shade; and in extremely hot regions, some shade would be appreciated. The soil should be extremely well-drained, and mixed with plenty of organic material. In the winter rainfall regions they require regular summer watering and perfect drainage. Although the plants are wind tolerant, the flowers last better in a wind protected area. They perform well if watered moderately in summer; and enjoy regular fertilising during the growing season. Remove dead flowers to encourage further flowering. Although it resents disturbance, after two or three years, when the plant has about six crowns and becomes overcrowded, it can be lifted for division and replanting.

Barberton daisies are one of the most popular ornamental flowers in the world, and are used in the garden in flower beds, as edging or border plants, as well as in rockeries, where they require minimal maintenance once established. Because they are deep rooted, these daisies are valuable to use for mass plantings to prevent soil erosion. They also make excellent potted plants for warm patios.

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Penstemmon 'Red'Penstemmon 'Red'Beard-tongue (Penstemon hybrid)

Penstemon remain a firm favourites with gardeners because not only are they beautiful and easy to grow, they are also heat and drought tolerant. Hybrids are compact, bushy plants, which vary in height from +-40 to 80cm tall. They have narrow green leaves, and large bell-shaped flowers, produced in loose spikes at the ends of tall stems. Penstemon is most commonly seen in bright reds, but is also available in shades of soft pink, through salmon and peach, to deep rose, lilac, dark purple, blue and white. Flowering peaks from late spring and continues into autumn, but in coastal gardens flowers can appear year-round.

Although the plants thrive in full sun, they will tolerate some shade, and in very hot gardens will appreciate some light shade. If they are kept on the dry side in winter, they are hardy to moderate frost and low temperatures. Penstemmons love light, well-drained soil, but adapt to most soils, and even thrive in poor and alkaline soils. Water regularly but do not overwater because they are susceptible to root rot, especially if the soil is heavy and drains poorly. Pinch the plants back after the first flush of blooms in spring, and continually cut the faded flower stems back to side shoots to keep them flowering into autumn. Prune the plants back hard in winter to encourage a new flush of dense growth in spring. While extremely showy through their lifespan, they are relatively short lived perennials and need replacing every 3 to 4 years. Propagation is by division of the roots in winter, or by seeds sown in autumn.

Penstemon is long-flowering in the landscape and even does well in containers. Exciting new varieties are compact and well-branched, with shiny foliage and clear, strong flower colours, making these beauties essential in perennial flower borders. Because many are native to desert areas where they handle harsh, dry conditions, while still providing a colourful impact, they are a favourite to use in xeriscape or rock garden designs.

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Bearded Iris 'Armageddon'Bearded Iris 'Armageddon'Bearded Irises (Iris)

Irises are elegant and reliable flowering perennials, no matter whether they are short, medium or tall growing varieties. They come in amazing colours to suit every taste: Blue, purple, white, yellow, pink, orange, brown, and even black; and several also have a sweet scent. Irises come into full bloom during spring and early summer, from August onwards. Generally they rest during the heat of midsummer, and re-bloomers will have another flush in late summer and autumn. Modern hybrids are bred for their re-blooming capabilities, resulting in varieties which will bloom almost all season.

Irises can be planted throughout the year and are suitable for all our growing regions, except for the humid coastal and inland regions. They thrive in regions with high summer rainfall like the Kwa-Zulu Natal mist belt, and grow well on the Highveld, with a cold spell below zero setting their clocks for flowering in spring. In cold regions a layer of mulch will protect the roots from freezing. In arid regions they need year round watering, and in the winter rainfall regions they must be watered well in summer. Irises flower best in full sun, but will take some shade; with afternoon shade being beneficial in extremely hot climates. They adapt to most garden soils, but must have perfect drainage. They are extremely water-wise, only requiring watering when the top three inches of soil dries out. Apply a thin layer of compost and a dusting of bone meal around the base of the plants each spring, leaving the rhizome exposed. The feeding roots are very close to the surface of the soil, and they require sunlight right down to the rhizomes, so do not allow neighbouring plants or weeds to encroach on their growing space, and remove plant litter regularly. In autumn the leaves die down and the plant enters a completely dormant state. Divide every 4 to 5 years, preferably in late summer. Discard the old divisions in the centre of the clump, selecting only large new fans with leaves to replant.

Bearded irises fit beautifully into almost every style of garden, and because the tubers take up very little room, they can be tucked into any small spaces. They add spectacular colour to flower borders, and are excellent accent and contrast plants throughout summer, with their fans of sword-shaped, bluish green leaves.

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Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaGaillardia 'Arizona Sun' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaBlanket Flower (Gaillardia)
 
Blanket flowers are stalwarts of the summer garden and appreciated by seasoned gardeners around the world for their resilience and nonstop blooming from spring through to autumn. Plant breeders quickly saw their blooming potential and developed inspiring new varieties with large single or double flowers, in rich shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown, which are held atop spreading mounds of narrow, fuzzy, grey-green leaves. New varieties include: Gaillardia 'Fanfare,' a sturdy, compact cultivar which grows +-45cm tall and 45cm wide, and produces astonishing red and yellow-orange flowers, packed with mini-trumpet petals. Gaillardia 'Mesa' is another astonishing cultivar which has non-fading, intensely yellow flowers, and grows +-40 to 50cm high. Gaillardia 'Arizona' is a brilliant hybrid with large blooms in shades of red and orange.

Blanket flowers grow well throughout South Africa and in order to flower well, require full sun. They tolerate moderate frost, but in very cold regions they are most often planted out as summer annuals. They can take humidity, and in the warmer regions of the country are reliable short-lived perennials. Established plants are heat and drought tolerant, making them ideal for hot and dry parts of the country, but in these regions they will perform best in the garden if they can be watered moderately during prolonged dry spells. Poor soils seem to encourage more flowering than overly rich soils, so go easy on the compost and fertiliser. However, the occasional feeding to encourage repeat blooming will not harm them. It is not essential to cut off the dead flower heads, but doing so will keep the plants looking neater, and many gardeners agree that it does extend the blooming season. Propagation is by division of the roots in spring.

The bold flowers blend especially well with soft textured leaves or airy ornamental grasses, for an informal modern look, or for more contrast, try planting them with spiky plants like red hot pokers, aloes or daylilies. They are essential in meadow gardens, cutting gardens, and rockeries. Use them in flower borders or simply as fillers in those difficult hot spots.

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Bloody Crane's-billBloody Crane's-billBloody Crane's-bill (Geranium sanguineum)

This beautiful evergreen has the unfortunate common name of "bloody crane's-bill" because its foliage turns a bright crimson in autumn; and the ‘bill’ derives from the appearance of the fruit capsule of some of the species.

This geranium species has beautiful leaves which are more distinctly cut than other geraniums, giving the plant a delicate appearance. It hugs the ground, forming a bushy mound +-25 to 30cm tall with a spread of 30 to 40cm. In spring it flowers so profusely that the blooms completely cover the leaves, and it will also flower sporadically throughout summer and into autumn. Several cultivars have been bred, with flower colours like; purple and white, paler pinks, and streaked colours.

The bloody crane’s-bill is a long-lived perennial and does not require a lot of care. It grows easily throughout the country, including those hot and humid regions, and is hardy to frost. Another plus is that it will thrive in full sun or light shade, and in very hot and dry regions prefers semi-shade. In very cold regions it will die down completely in winter, but if the roots are well mulched to protect them from freezing, the plant will shoot again in spring. Plant in fertile well-drained soil and water weekly during dry spells. In midsummer, rejuvenate your plants by removing old flowering stems and leaves.

The bloody crane’s-bill is a low-maintenance and greatly rewarding perennial for gardens great or small. Because its stem is branched and the rootstock is strong, this plant is perfect to stabilise soil on slopes. It’s also the perfect border plant, and a spectacular groundcover when massed in large areas. It can even serve as a filler plant for those small gaps in the garden; so from rock gardens to cottage gardens, you will look far and wide to find a more stalwart performer. Great companion plants for the bloody crane’s-bill include; Campanulas, Lavender, and Daylilies, and it’s wonderful for planting underneath Roses and other shrubs.

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Barleria repens 'Purple Prince'Barleria repens 'Purple Prince'  Bush Violet, Kleinbosviooltjie, idololenkonyane (Barleria)

Barleria repens and Barleria obtusa are loved for their masses of tubular flowers which bloom intermittently throughout the year in warm climates, but especially in it late summer and autumn. Barleria repens grows wild from KwaZulu-Natal to tropical Africa. Its has deep purple-mauve or pink-red flowers, and is lovely trained up a trellis. New hybrids  include: 'Rosea' which is compact, with rose-red flowers; 'Purple Prince' which has royal-purple flowers and makes an excellent ground cover, low shrub or hedge; and 'Tickled Pink' with its large magenta flowers is excellent in large areas and banks, as a spreading groundcover. It is also lovely in containers, and easily pruned into a low hedge. Barleria obtusa is a spreading, small shrub that has the same characteristics and growth requirements as Barleria repens. It thrives in the summer and winter rainfall regions, from the Western Cape to KwaZulu-Natal; and north into Mpumalanga and the Northern Province; putting on a spectacular show it late summer and autumn with its dainty violet or pink flowers. New cultivars include: 'Pink' with its vibrant  flowers; and 'Blue' with its sought-after blue flowers.

Both are fast growing evergreen perennials which thrive in warm, moist, coastal, and frost-free areas of the country, but are hardy to moderate frost if planted in a protected position. They flourish in full sun or light shade, and adapt to most garden soils, but enjoy light, well-drained soil, enriched with compost. Regular watering during long dry spells and feeding occasionally with a balanced fertiliser in summer will encourage lush growth and good blooms. They respond well to fairly hard pruning, right after they have flowered.

Because they take sun or light shade, bush violets are perfect to plant in difficult beds where the sun changes with the seasons. If pruned they make ideal groundcovers for large areas, and are especially good underneath large trees, as long as the shade is not too dense. In containers they will spill over the edges with great abandon, so plant them in retaining walls, or allow them to tumble down steps or rocks, where they can be admired.

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Gaura 'Passionate Blush'Gaura 'Passionate Blush'Butterfly Gaura (Gaura hybrids)

These vigorous, easy to grow, trouble-free perennials will bloom all spring and summer, until the first frosts, and their delicate flowers are borne on long wiry stems which move in even the slightest breeze and could be mistaken for a cloud of butterflies.  Besides the ever popular White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri,) a number of newer compact cultivars have been developed. The white gaura is a low-growing, clump-forming plant with tall flower spikes +-90 to 150cm tall, and a spread of 60 to 90cm. Its compact cultivars rang in height from 30 to 60cm. Look out for the lovely 'Siskyou Pink', 'Cherry Brandy', 'Crimson Butterflies', 'Ballerina' and 'Blaze.' They are perfect for small gardens and pot culture. Today, butterfly gauras are available in a range of colours from light to dark pink, and white; and some varieties also have beautiful red or yellow foliage. Resist the temptation to cut back the plant after it has flowered, as it takes on beautiful autumn tints, particularly in cold weather.
 
These hardy perennials come up again and again each season, and do well in most regions, but are not suited to very humid situations. They will grow in very hot regions if their roots are mulched and they can be watered deeply. Because they have a long tap root, once established they can survive lengthy periods of drought. Follow a regular watering schedule during the first growing season, and thereafter only an occasional watering during long dry spells will suffice. They are fully hardy to frost and will grow in any fertile, well-drained soil. Butterfly gauras love full sun but will tolerate light shade; in too much shade the flower stems have a tendency to sprawl. Cut off one third of the plant in early spring and feed with a general purpose fertiliser before the new growth appears. They can be propagated by dividing the roots, but this is not recommended unless absolutely necessary, as the tap root is best left undisturbed.

Gauras are generally planted to add a touch of whimsical lightness to a mixed flower border. Their wild, slightly unkempt look mixes well with grasses and natural style plantings, and their lax growth habit makes them particularly useful for filling in gaps in the border, and linking other planting groups together. This also makes them a good choice for meadow, cottage and rock gardens. The butterfly gaura looks fantastic planted in large drifts, but also makes a statement if planted singly, or in a pot. It makes a fantastic groundcover if planted in mass, and if the taller growing cultivars are given some space, their wispy stems will lean gracefully over pathways and other little plants.

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Watsonia pillansii. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaWatsonia pillansii. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.za  Cape Bugle Lily, Pink Watsonia, Suurkanol, Kanolpypie (Watsonia)

There are about 52 Watsonia species endemic to South Africa, mostly concentrated in the south-western parts of the Western Cape, but also extending north into Namaqualand, and east into the summer rainfall areas of southern KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, Mpumalanga and Swaziland. Most are deciduous fynbos plants and adapted to a Mediterranean-type climate with hot dry summers, and wet winters; but there are some evergreen species which occur in the summer rainfall regions. Watsonias produce beautiful upright, lance shaped leaves, and erect spikes of showy flowers in spring and early summer, and are available in shades of pink, bright orange, red, mauve, pink, white and maroon.

Although most species are adapted to a winter rainfall climate, they will still thrive under summer rainfall conditions provided they are grown in well-drained soil and can be watered during their growing season. All are easy to grow in full sun or light shade, and in South Africa the corms become available in March and April, and are planted out in March, April or May; at a depth of approximately half their diameter (+-4 to 6cm deep) and about 10 to 15cm apart. The corms look like fat, flat gladiola bulbs and there is a small point, or even a bit of last year's stem, on the side that should be placed facing up. Water well after planting; and moderately thereafter until established. They do not require rich soil, but adding compost to the planting beds, and mulching around the roots occasionally will give them a boost. They do not need copious amounts of fertilisers; and an occasional feeding during the growing season (autumn, winter and spring) with a balanced fertiliser will be sufficient. Actively growing and blooming plants will look at their best if watered moderately during long dry spells. If the plants are happy in their position they will multiply freely, and the clumps will continue to flower regularly as long as they do not become overcrowded. Lifting and dividing every three to five years will keep them blooming well.

Because Watsonias are low-maintenance, water-wise plants, they are ideal for busy gardeners. They are suitable for all garden styles, and look magnificent in mass plantings, or in perennial borders. They are also excellent for soil retention on banks. When not in bloom, the foliage is still decorative, and after flowering has finished, attractive seed pods are produced. The blooms last quite well in a vase, so feel free to cut the stems for bouquets as this will not hurt the plants.

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Bloody Crane's-billBloody Crane's-bill  Carpet Geranium, Horlosie, ngope-sethsoha, tlako, malko (Geranium incanum)

The carpet geranium is a popular indigenous garden plant, and in the wild it can be found scrambling through the natural vegetation, along the eastern and southwestern coastlines of South Africa; from Malmesbury to KwaZulu-Natal, and into tropical Africa. It forms a dense, mounded carpet of beautiful, finely divided green leaves; and can grow up to 30cm tall, but the occasional trimming, to keep it about 15cm tall and 20cm wide will keep it dense and neat. The masses of delicate, pale mauve, magenta, lavender or pink flowers can appear at any time of the year; peaking during spring and summer.

This tough coastal plant will also grow inland, tolerating all but severe frost. If it is grown in full sun, it forms a tighter carpet than if it is grown in some shade. Although it tolerates drought and neglect, the plant will respond best if it is planted in well-drained soil with added compost. Water regularly during dry spells, and feed with a balanced fertiliser in spring. The carpet geranium will seed itself around the garden and if you don’t want volunteer seedlings popping up, trim the plants after every flush of blooms.

The carpet geranium makes a good groundcover for full sun and is effective to stabilise the soil on banks. It is lovely trailing over pots, hanging baskets or a retaining wall, and also makes a good border plant. Its softly textured leaves are perfect to soften pathways, steps, and expanses of gravel.

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Bulbinella 'Orange'Bulbinella 'Orange'  Cats Tail, Geelkatstert, Khomo-ya-Ntsukammele, Ibucu, intelezi (Bulbine frutescens)

The cats tail is widespread in the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape, and also occurs naturally in the Orange Free State and KwaZulu-Natal. It is a branched perennial succulent with fleshy evergreen leaves that look good all year round with minimum care. Cat’s tail will bloom profusely all summer long, and the pretty star-shaped flowers with their fluffy stamens can be yellow or orange, and are carried on long stems above the leaves, usually about 30 to 40m tall.

This little plant is easy to grow, and hardy to frost and drought once established, needing very little water. It flowers profusely when planted in full sun, but will grow in semi-shade; slowly spreading to form large clumps. They will grow in any soil and are tolerant of poor, dry soil, but for best results in the garden, plant it in fertile, well-drained soil and water moderately during very long dry spells. Prune as required, and propagate in spring by division of the existing clumps. If grown correctly, this remarkable plant is not plagued by pests or diseases.

The cats tail provides a tough, water-wise groundcover for dry beds; and is useful for coastal gardens, tolerating windy conditions and poor soils. It is also great to use in large mixed perennial borders, and in rock and pebble gardens. A great plus is that bees are attracted to the little blooms like magnets.

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Dianthus 'Hobbit'Dianthus 'Hobbit'Clove Pink (Dianthus caryophyllus)

Clove pinks are grown for their beautifully scented double flowers in spring and summer, and numerous cultivars have been selected for garden planting. Old varieties grow quite tall +-45 to 80cm, but the new hybrids are very compact, growing about 20 to 45cm tall and spreading almost as wide. They are also available in many delightful and exciting shades of: pink, rose, red, purple, yellow, orange and white; and in pure or bicoloured flowers with distinctive frosting. The flowers have a wonderful velvety sheen and are excellent for the vase.

Although clove pinks love sun, they generally need cool growing conditions, without excessive heat and humidity. New hybrids are more heat tolerant, and will grow in hotter regions where they receive about 4 to 5 hours of full sun, but are protected from the fierce midday heat. These perennials are hardy to moderate frost and require fertile well-drained soil that is neutral to slightly alkaline. If your soil is slightly acid, add agricultural lime to the soil about 4 weeks before planting. Keep the plants slightly moist, never allowing them to dry out totally, but do not overwater as this will turn the leaves yellow. To encourage repeat blooming cut back the plants when they have finished flowering; and feed regularly with a liquid fertiliser to prevent the centre of the clump from drying out. Lift and divide the clumps every two years, or when they become overcrowded.

The pot carnation makes a lovely border plant and grows beautifully in pots. It is perfect for scented, romantic, cutting, or cottage gardens. The more you cut the blooms, the more the plants will produce, and just a few plants will provide you with enough flowers for several arrangements.

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'Iindian Summer. Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.za'Iindian Summer. Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaConeflower, Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Rudbeckia belongs to the Asteraceae (daisy) family and all 25 species are native to North America. Today's gardeners have many outstanding cultivars to choose from; and the flowers come in single, semi-double and fully-double forms; and in a range of colours from lemon-yellow to gold, chestnut, mahogany, and bronze, as well as multi-coloured blooms. Most species flower from midsummer through autumn, and are ideal for cutting. The plants have coarse-textured, hairy green leaves, and in late autumn they produce large cone-heads full of seeds. The flowers attract bees and butterflies, and the seeds are relished by seed eating birds, providing a valuable food source in autumn. 'Indian Summer' is an All-America Selections (AAS) winner from 1995, producing an abundance of golden-yellow blooms 15 to 20cm across.

The flowering stems can reach +-90cm to 1m tall and the plants require at least 6 hours of sunlight a day in order to produce sturdy enough stems to support the profusion of blooms. Coneflowers are adaptable to a wide range of garden conditions, but in very humid regions they are susceptible to fungal diseases, so plant them where there is a good air flow and do not space them too closely together. In very cold regions this short-lived perennial plant is often grown as a summer annual.

Because coneflowers are easy-to-grow and low-maintenance, they are ideal for beginner gardeners; requiring only minimal care for a spectacular show of cheerful colour. They can be planted singly or in pots, but are superb for planting in drifts to create informal borders, or to grow along fences and walls.

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Hemerocallis 'Stella de Oro' Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyHemerocallis 'Stella de Oro' Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyDaylily (Hemerocallis)

These popular, easy to grow, perennials have been extensively hybridised, and their colour variation is astounding, with many shades of cream, yellow, orange, red, pink, lavender, maroon, purple, and combinations thereof. The flower shapes and sizes also vary enormously from  miniatures with small single blooms, to large doubles. Peak blooming time in South Africa is from November to mid-January, but hybrids will extend the blooming season because they start flowering very early and continue through summer. Choose your varieties carefully and you will have flowers all summer.

Daylily species can be either; evergreen, semi-evergreen, or dormant. The evergreen varieties will remain evergreen, except in cold regions where they will also go dormant with the first heavy frost. Semi-evergreen varieties recede partially in winter, except in warm climates. This adaptability ensures that we have species to suit many climates. Daylilies love full sun but tolerate light shade, and in hot regions the flowers will benefit from midday shade, and this is particularly relevant for dark-coloured flowers, such as red, purples, and blacks because these colours will often scorch in hot sun. Daylilies are hardy to frost and not fussy about soil as long as it drains well. Add lots of organic matter to the planting beds, and keep the plants well watered, especially during dry spells, as the quantity and quality of blooms are directly related to the moisture of the soil. Applications of a balanced fertiliser in spring, and once while they are blooming, is sufficient to keep them healthy. Over fertilisation results in fewer flowers and more leaves.

Daylilies are so versatile, looking great if planted singly, or massed in large garden  eds. Even a couple will brighten up a perennial flower border, and a single potted specimen will liven up a small patio or balcony; so visit your favourite nursery today to find the right varieties for your region.

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Scaevola 'Blue Horizon'Scaevola 'Blue Horizon'Fairy Fan-flower, Common Fan-flower (Scaevola aemula)

Many beautiful cultivars of fan-flower have been bred which flower prolifically and almost continuously in warm climates; or until the first frost in colder regions. The birght little flowers appear all along the stems and have a distinctive fan shape, and today they tare available in gorgeous shades of purple, blue, mauve, and white. This petal colour is combined with a white, or more commonly a yellow centre, resulting in a bright eye-catching little flower which is bound to draw attention. This prostrate and spreading little plant grows +-30cm tall with a spread of 50cm to 1m, with some cultivars remaining even lower.

The fairy fan-flower is evergreen and although it loves full sun, it will also take light shade. It is easy to grow in temperate, tropical, and humid subtropical gardens; thriving in coastal gardens, where it tolerates heat, salt spray, sandy soil, and periods of drought. Unfortunately the leaves of this tender perennial will be burnt by frost, but the roots can survive short periods of temperatures as low as -3°C if they are thickly mulched in winter. In extremely cold regions the fairy fan-flower is usually grown as a summer annual. Plant in fertile but not overly rich soil which drains well, and to keep them looking at their best, water moderately during dry summer spells. The plant will rebound if allowed to wilt prior to irrigation, but is touchy about overwatering; especially on heavy soils. Although the fairy fan-flower is a relatively short-lived perennial, lasting about 18 months to 2 years, it is so rewarding to grow, and well worth the effort.

The fairy fan-flower will trail down beautifully if planted in hanging baskets and window boxes, and looks absolutely charming spilling over low walls, or cascading down flights of stairs in the garden. It also makes a wonderful groundcover and edging plant for all types of gardens, but is especially pretty in cottage gardens and on the margins of woodland gardens, as well as in rockeries. Its trailing or prostrate habit, combined with its long flowering period, makes this little plant a sure winner for all types of gardens.

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Festuca gautieri. Picture courtesy MalanseunsFestuca gautieri. Picture courtesy MalanseunsFescue Grass (Festuca)

Festuca is a genus of perennial plants with about 300 species which belongs to the grass family Poaceae. The majority of the species can be found in cool temperate regions of the world, and they vary in size from small tufts with fine thread-like leaves, to 2m tall grasses with broad leaves. Gardeners grow the smaller species for the ornamental value of their fine, densely tufted foliage, with a pincushion like appearance. In summer they produce slim, blue-green, grass-like flowers which give way to buff coloured seed heads.

Bearskin Fescue (Festuca gautieri) has bright green leaves and grows +-20cm tall and 20cm wide. Silver Fescue (Festuca glauca 'Silver Eyecatch') has distinctive silvery blue foliage and grows +-20cm tall and 30cm wide. Blue Fescue Grass (Festuca glauca) has distinctive blue-grey leaves and grows +-20cm tall and 30cm wide.

Fescue grass can bear very harsh summer and winter temperatures. Although it will tolerate heat and drought once established, it needs to be watered regularly in summer to look at its best. It is hardy to frost and can be grown in full sun to part shade; in hot regions it will appreciate some semi-shade. This grass will grow in most moist, but well-drained garden soils; it cannot, however, tolerate heavy wet soils, or constant high humidity. Comb through the plant in spring to remove dead foliage, and shear back after flowering to remove old, weathered foliage. Older clumps tend to die or rot out from the centre, so divide the clumps every 2 or 3 years, in spring.

These easy to grow plants will bring a light airy feel to your garden, rippling and shimmering in even the slightest breeze. Fescue grass looks right at home in alpine and Mediterranean gardens, pebble gardens, or pots; where its foliage will act as a backdrop to more colourful plants. Because of its strong architectural shape, it can be used on its own, or planted in massed beds as a feature plant; it makes an excellent groundcover or border plant when planted +-25cm apart.

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Gazania 'New Moon'. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaGazania 'New Moon'. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.za  Gazania, Treasure Flower, Botterblom, ububendle, Ubendle (Gazania)

Gazanias are little rays of sunshine with their bright blooms, and stalwarts of the African summer garden. These herbaceous perennials have a very wide distribution range, mainly within the winter rainfall regions of South Africa; but can be found in virtually all the provinces, from Namaqualand in the west to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, extending into the Great Karoo, the Free State and some regions of Gauteng and the Lowveld. There are a number of hybrids, each with its own unique growth habit, with both trailing and clump forming species. Colours range from bronze to red, orange, pink, yellow, cream and white. The satiny flowers can be of a single colour or in graded shades; and the bases of the petals often feature spots, dots, or darker areas with contrasting stripes and mottling. In warm regions most varieties will produce flowers all summer, or year round.

These fast growing, short-lived perennials flourish in seaside gardens, tolerating salt-laden air and strong winds. They are often grown as summer annuals in severe frost regions of South Africa but will tolerate moderate frost if they are planted in a warm, sheltered position in the garden, and the roots are mulched in winter, the soil is well-drained, and the plants are kept fairly dry during very cold snaps. Gazanias need full sun because the blooms only open in sunshine, closing at night. New varieties are being developed, which are more tolerant of semi-shade and whose blooms open on overcast days. Water moderately during dry spells, and deadhead the plants frequently to encourage more flowers. Established plants can be planted out at any time of the year, but in the winter rainfall regions the seeds are usually sown at the start of the rainy season. Propagation is by division in early spring or autumn.

Gazanias are essential in water-wise and low maintenance gardens and tolerate high pollution in cities. They are most effective if planted in massed displays of a single variety, as a groundcover or border; or by using several species of gazania together. They are an excellent groundcover to prevent soil erosion on slopes; and the trailing varieties are particularly good in pots, hanging baskets and window boxes.

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Pelargonium zonal 'Katinka'Pelargonium zonal 'Katinka'  Geranium (Pelargonium)
 
The popular geraniums you find at most garden centres actually belong to the genus Pelargonium. These beautiful hybrid plants with their wide array of vibrant colours have been bred from our indigenous Pelargoniums, and in ideal climatic conditions will flower all year round. Modern hybrids have been brought to a high standard of perfection with absolutely beautiful leaf colours and long lasting blooms. There are many popular types to choose from: Zonal pelargoniums are called 'zonal' on account of the coloured zone, which appears on the upper leaf surface. They produce large flower heads in shades of pink, orange, red, purple and white. Fancy leaved pelargoniums are zonal pelargoniums with very fancy leaves which are edged or banded by colours such as yellow, white, burgundy or coral. Ivy pelargoniums have ivy-like leaves and a trailing habit, which, together with their vibrant flowers in shades of pink, red, purple, and white, makes them perfect for planting in window boxes and hanging baskets. Regal pelargonium species and their numerous varieties thrive in part shade and can grow quite tall. They have the largest flowers and bloom prolifically. Individual flowers are frilly and pansy-like in shape, variant in colour, and the two upper petals are usually blotched in a darker shade. Flowers are available in white, orange, purple, red, and burgundy.

Geraniums are hardy to moderate frost, and although they are normally grown in full sun, some morning or afternoon shade will do them no harm. They require fertile, but light soils which drain well very well, and will not tolerate 'wet feet' or heavy, slow-draining soil. The key to watering geraniums is to water them thoroughly, but then to let the soil dry between watering. If you are planting into pots, a good commercial potting mixture will suffice. In garden beds, dig in lots of compost. Geraniums respond well to regular feeding in summer with a fertiliser for flowering plants, and this is especially important if they are grown in pots.

These rewarding and free flowering plants look fantastic in a bed all by themselves, or mixed in with other annuals or perennials. They also make attractive edging plants for the flower garden. In fact, they are perfect for any sunny spot that calls for a splash of vibrant colour. They remain popular mainstays in containers, hanging baskets and window boxes, where their cascading blooms can be admired.


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Golden RodGolden RodGolden Rod (Solidago Hybrids)
 
In cultivation Solidago species have largely been replaced by their hybrids. These hybrids are a varied group and can form tight or spreading clumps, ranging from 30cm to 1.8m tall, but most new garden varieties will grow quickly to about 40cm tall and 30cm wide. Some species spread vigorously and can be invasive if not controlled, but luckily most of the modern hybrids do not have the same invasive tendencies as the species. Goldenrods are mostly short-day plants and bloom in late summer and early autumn. Hybrids have many subtle variations of yellow flowers, including a pale primrose yellow, canary yellow and golden yellow.

They are easy, undemanding plants which are hardy to frost, and grow throughout South Africa, except for those very dry regions. Plant them in full sun, in good, well-drained soil, and water regularly in summer. They also need protection from strong winds. These plants will die down in winter, only to spring back to life again in spring. Cut out the spent blooms regularly to prolong flowering and cut back all the stems down to the ground once they have finished flowering. Feed in summer with an fertiliser for flowering plants but never feed with high nitrogen fertilisers or it may encourage excessive growth that tends to flop over. Overcrowded plants can be divided every 2 to 3 years.

Introduce the colours of autumn into your garden by planting golden rod in cottage or meadow gardens as well as bee and butterfly gardens. The short varieties make excellent border plants and the taller varieties are great planted in the back of a flower bed. Goldenrod is used as a food plant by the larvae of various butterfly species and the flowers last well in a vase. And, if the seed heads are left on the plants in winter, they will attract seed eating birds to the garden.

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Dierama. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaDierama. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.za  Hairbells, Grasklokkies, isiDwendweni (Dierama)

These evergreen perennials grow from large, fibrous-coated corms, forming large clumps of narrow, grass-like green leaves. They can take 2 to 5 years to reach their ultimate height, and the species vary in size from 1 to 1.6m tall, and 75 to 90cm wide. The slightest breeze causes the stems to sway gently, adding a magical quality to the plants, and flowering is mainly from September to March, depending on the species. Cultivars come in shades of pink, reddish-pink, mauve and white, and even after the flowers have fallen, the silvery or brown flower bracts give the plant the appearance of a tall elegant grass in flower.

Hairbells are hardy to frost, growing well in the summer rainfall regions, and at the coast. They like an open and airy site in full sun, and deep watering in summer, especially in dry regions. They will grow in seasonally boggy soils in summer; but will not tolerate water-logging in winter. Corms are planted out in spring; and spring and early summer are the best times to plant out from nursery bags, but care must be taken not to disturb the roots. Although evergreen, the plants take a rest period in winter and it is important that even during this phase they must still receive adequate sun, to produce good flowers next season. Apply a general purpose fertiliser in spring, and leave the plants undisturbed for five years or more, dividing only when absolutely necessary.

Hairbells look great in grassland gardens, cottage and informal gardens, as well as in gravel or rock gardens. Try mixing them with ornamental grasses, or use them as an accent plant in flower borders. They are a good choice to plant on banks and slopes and are attractive near water, but careful positioning is necessary as the corms must not get too wet in winter. They will also grow in deep containers.

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Delosperma 'Sequins' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaDelosperma 'Sequins' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.za  Ice Plant 'Sequins' (Delosperma floribunda 'Sequins')

The hardy Ice Plants are native to dry areas in South Africa. A striking new introduction in the vygie range is the Delosperma floribunda 'Sequins' selection. The glistening deep purple flowers each have a large white centre, and will flower almost the entire summer long; with hundreds of flowers being produced on a single plant.

This ice plant will grow about 10 to 15cm tall and can spread 45 to 60cm. It is a low maintenance plant that is extremely hardy to heat, cold and frost; and is also very drought tolerant. Plant it in full sun and well-drained soil. It should not be overwatered and only needs fertilising once a month. In regions with wet soils in winter this will likely perform as an annual.

This selection forms a low mat of succulent evergreen leaves that spread quickly, making it an excellent groundcover for hot, dry slopes and sandy soils. For a groundcover, space the plants 45 to 60cm apart. 'Sequins' is lovely if grown in tubs and mixed containers, in the rock garden, or as an edging plant. The flowers will attract butterflies and bees to your garden.

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Anemone hupehensis var JaponicaAnemone hupehensis var JaponicaJapanese Anemone (Anemone x hybrida)

Anemone is one of the stars of the late summer and autumn flower garden with its attractive leaves and simply beautiful cup-shaped flowers, in single or double rows of silken petals; and in shades of pink, mauve, or white. The plants grow +-60cm tall with an equal spread, but the flowering stems can reach 1.2m; although it can take several years for the plants to reach their ultimate height. 

Anemones thrive in areas with good summer rainfall and are fully hardy to frost. They are not well-suited to extremely dry, or humid regions, but do well in coastal gardens if protected from wind. In the winter rainfall regions they must be watered thoroughly and the soil must drain perfectly. In cooler, moist inland areas they can be planted in full sun; but in drier, hotter situations, they will appreciate midday shade. In mild climates they are evergreen but in frosty regions they will go dormant in winter. Because they spread quickly, be prepared to lift and divide the clumps if they spread beyond their bounds, and site the plants where they will not over-run other more delicate plants.

Mass plantings of white anemones are a great addition to the ‘all white’, or 'romantic moonlight garden' and wonderful for mixed flower borders. They are essential in Japanese, informal, cottage, and picking gardens, and thrive on the fringes of woodland gardens.
 
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Alstroemaria 'Inticancha Purple. Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaAlstroemaria 'Inticancha Purple. Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaInca Lily, Peruvian Lily (Alstroemeria aurantiaca)

Inca lily hybrids produce large clusters of azalea-like flowers in bright orange, yellow and golden yellow, various shades of pink, as well as lilac,  white, or red. Most hybrids flower throughout summer and into autumn, providing excellent cut flowers. All are long-lived perennials which form large clumps, and many hybrids have been developed which are evergreen, or nearly so; and which flower for most of the year. Compact hybrids grow +-20 to 40cm tall, and the taller ones vary in height from +-60 to 90cm.

Plant at the correct depth; loose rhizomes should be planted +-10cm under the surface of the soil, and plants in nursery bags must be planted no deeper than the soil level around the plant in the bag. Try to avoid disturbing established clumps for at least 2 to 3 years, after which they can be divided in autumn. Each division must have a minimum of 5 or 6 buds, which will develop the new plant.

They are easy to grow perennials which can be planted throughout the country. Although they thrive in the summer rainfall regions, they also grow in the winter rainfall regions if watered regularly in summer. In very cold regions they will go dormant in winter and the roots are hardy to a temperature of -5°C if thickly mulched. They love full sun but in very hot regions, will appreciate a bit of midday or afternoon shade. Inca lilies are very adaptable and grow in most garden soils, but thrive in rich slightly acid to acid soil which is well drained. Feed monthly in summer with a fertiliser for flowering plants. Dead flower stems can be removed by 'pulling' them carefully from the bottom of the plant; the 'wound' caused will help to initiate the next flowers.

These versatile plants can be grown in mixed flower beds, and are essential for all romantic, cutting, cottage and woodland gardens. New compact, free flowering hybrids are available which have specifically been bred for containers. 'Inticancha' is one of these hybrids which, because of its compact growth habit and long flowering season, is perfect for terraces and patios. It also makes a beautiful border plant in the garden and an excellent groundcover if planted closely together.

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Felicia 'Out of the Blue' Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaFelicia 'Out of the Blue' Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.za  Kingfisher Daisy, Blue Marguerite, Bloumagriet (Felicia)
 
True blue is a sought after flower colour because it is quite rare, and these daisies, with their masses of striking sky-blue and yellow flower heads fit the bill, catching the eye wherever they are planted. Sky-blue, pale blue, violet-blue, pink and white flowered forms are available, as well as a variegated variety. Depending on the climate, flowering times can vary; in some regions the plants may flower almost continuously, and in others their best flush may be in spring and summer, or late summer and autumn.

These evergreen perennials are long-lived, low maintenance and water-wise, growing vigorously and easily, with little fuss. They perform extremely well at the coast, where they tolerate strong winds, but, because they revel in hot, dry climates, may struggle in very humid regions. Otherwise, they tolerate a wide range of temperatures, including some frost inland. In regions with heavy frosts they are often planted as long flowering summer annuals. Although they love full sun, they will also grow in light shade, requiring only occasional feeding, moderate watering, and well-drained soil.

Kingfisher daisies are excellent container plants, and if planted in mass, make a real statement. Mix them with grasses, aloes, pincushions, red hot pokers, and other indigenous plants for a glorious show, or use them in mixed flower borders. They are also excellent for pebble gardens and rockeries, and provide valuable colour if combined with other plants in retaining walls. And although mainly sun loving, they will also grow quite happily in in the dappled shade of trees. In fact, these versatile little gems can be used almost anywhere you have a reasonably sunny spot in the garden.

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Lantana montevidensis 'Sundancer'Lantana montevidensis 'Sundancer'Lantana, Trailing Lantana, Bird’s Brandy, uTywala bentaka (Lantana montevidensis)

Because they do not set seed, Lantana montevidensis and its hybrids are the only non-indigenous lantanas that may lawfully be grown in South Africa.

Lantana montevidensis originates from South America and is a beautiful trailing evergreen with purplish foliage, which changes in autumn into lovely bronze tones. It produces masses of little lilac flowers from spring to late autumn; and for most of the year in warm coastal conditions. Its hybrids come in white, mauve, pink, and yellow.

Lantana montevidensis ‘Malan's Gold' has gorgeous serrated golden-yellow and green leaves, and rose-purple flowers with yellow eyes. It is a spreading, carpet-forming plant which grows +- 60cm to 1.2m tall, and if left unpruned will spread wider than it is tall. This lantana does best in light shade; especially in very hot regions.

Lantana hybrids thrive in frost free gardens and at the coast; but are semi-hardy if planted in a protected spot in the garden. Cultivars vary in height from +-50cm to 1.2m tall; and most prefer full sun. Lantana thrives on neglect and performs well in hot dry conditions; as well as in impoverished soil. To keep them looking at their best, plant in compost enriched soil and mulch regularly; water moderately during dry spells; apply a complete fertiliser in spring; and prune lightly after flowering.

Because these hybrids are compact, low-growing and spreading plants they are excellent to use as a groundcover in large areas, or in rock gardens. In hanging baskets or tall containers they adopt a lovely trailing habit, which also makes them great to train over low walls.

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Lavandula 'Lavander Lace'Lavandula 'Lavander Lace'Lavender (Lavandula)

Lavender remains popular with gardeners for its ease of growth and its long blooming period in summer, as well as for its green or grey-green leaves, and aromatic flowers, in many shades of purple, lavender, and blue.

French Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) grows +-40cm tall with an equal spread, and has large dark plum-purple flowers and grey-green leaves. 'Dancing Kite' (Lavandula stoechas 'Dancing Kite') grows +-80cm tall and 40cm wide, with lovely large, dark black-purple flowers, and grey-green leaves. 'Pippa White' (Lavandula stoechas 'Pippa White') grows +-70cm tall and 60cm wide, with soft burgundy to lilac-purple flowers, with smoky-white wings and velvety green leaves. English Lavender (Lavandula spica) grows +-1m tall with an equal spread, with grey-blue flowers and beautiful grey leaves. Spanish Lavender (Lavandula dentata) grows +-80cm tall and 60cm wide, with blue flowers and green leaves.  Canary Island Lavender (Lavandula pinnata) is only semi-hardy to frost and grows +-1m tall and 80cm wide, with dark blue flowers and green leaves. There is an enormous variety of lavender to choose from, so visit your garden centre to find those most suitable for your garden.

Lavender is evergreen, grows easily throughout the country, and is both drought and frost hardy. Their most important requirements are full sun, and very well-drained soil. Garden hybrids vary in height and spread, and need to be pruned after flowering to keep them looking at their best.

Lavender is extremely versatile in the garden and can be used from cottage to modern designs. It’s a ‘must-have’ for romantic and cutting gardens, and bees and butterflies are attracted to it like magnets. Because lavender is also available as a standard plant ,and will grow happily in a large pot, there is the perfect lavender for your garden, be it large or small.

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Liriope muscari 'Royal Purple'Liriope muscari 'Royal Purple'Lilyturf (Liriope)

Liriope is a low-growing grass-like, evergreen perennial which is grown for its attractive glossy green leaves and unusual white, lilac or purple bell-shaped flowers, carried on erect stems from mid to late summer and autumn, followed by pea-sized black berries that persist well into winter. Cultivars vary in height from +-25cm to 1m tall. The two species most common in cultivation are Liriope muscari, and  Liriope spicata. L. muscari stays in a neat clump while L. spicata is a vigorous spreading variety.

Lilyturf is fully hardy to frost and grows best in regions with good summer rainfall, but can be grown in drier regions provided it is watered regularly. It grows well at the coast if planted in a sheltered position; and except for a few, most varieties are not suited to very hot, humid conditions. Most cultivars will grow in full sun, semi-shade and even deep shade; and in hot regions the plants do better in semi-shade. They adapt to most well-drained garden soils but prefer a light fertile, slightly acid to neutral soil, which is moist but well-drained. Propagation is by lifting and dividing overcrowded clumps in autumn or spring.

Lilyturf is low-maintenance and  a great choice for busy gardeners. Variegated varieties will add golden, silver or white flashes of colour to shady gardens, and all make excellent groundcovers underneath trees and shrubs; or as an edging for walkways. Lilyturf is often planted next to the foundations of buildings to help disguise and soften them; and is especially useful to plant on steep slopes, because the dense mat of roots holds the ground exceedingly well, preventing soil erosion. With its finely textured foliage it provides a handsome backdrop for more colourful plants, making it a useful evergreen for mixed planters of seasonal annuals or perennials. Lilyturf looks great in any garden style, from ultra-modern to Japanese pebble gardens, woodland, and even cottage gardens.

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Marguerite 'Summer Melody'Marguerite 'Summer Melody'Marguerite Daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens)

Marguerites are old favourites because they are evergreen, easy to grow, and flower prolifically in summer and autumn, until the first hard frost. Many wonderful hybrids have been bred which vary in size from dwarf, compact varieties +-35cm tall, to larger growing ones which can reach 75 to 90cm tall. Hybrids include single, semi-double and double flowers, large or small, in many shades of pink, red, yellow and pure white, and most have a dark-coloured centre that is most often yellow.
 
Marguerites are semi-hardy to moderate frost, and in severely cold regions are often grown as a summer annuals. They do best in warm summer regions with cooler night temperatures, and although they need lots of sunlight to flower well, in extremely hot regions they will appreciate shade during the hottest time of the day. Fortunately the newer hybrids are much more heat tolerant than the older varieties. Marguerites need a wind protected position, and adapt to any fertile, well-drained soil. Water regularly, keeping the soil moderately moist, but not waterlogged; and feed with a balanced organic fertiliser every 6 weeks during the growing season. Newer varieties are selected to flower continuously without deadheading, but spent blooms should be removed on older varieties. These short-lived perennials need to be replaced every couple of years, or they will become very woody and unattractive.

Daisy bushes are wonderfully versatile low-maintenance plants which thrive in Mediterranean climates and are often cultivated in flowerbeds, borders and containers. They make perfect 'filler plants' to plant between large growing shrubs until they are established and the daisies need to be removed. Marguerite daisies are perfect for cutting and will last up to a week in a vase.

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Mazus reptansMazus reptansMazus, Creeping Mazus (Mazus reptans)

Mazus is a delightful self-rooting, low-growing, perennial groundcover. It has attractive bright green leaves, and produces masses of small lavender-blue or white flowers with yellow and white centres; from late spring to mid-summer, with sporadic blooms throughout summer and autumn if conditions are right. There's also a white variety called 'Alba.'

Mazus does best in a sheltered spot in the garden, growing very quickly in semi-shade or full sun. In very hot and dry regions it will appreciate some shade during the hottest part of the day.  It is hardy to cold and frost; in warm regions the plants are evergreen, but are semi-evergreen or dormant in cold winter regions. In cold regions the roots must be mulched to prevent them from freezing. If the soil is kept moist, the plant will tolerate hot, humid summers. Mazus thrives in a moderately fertile, moist, but well-drained soil; but adapts to any well-drained garden soil, including clay. If the plants receive adequate sunshine they will remain short, +-3 to 5cm, with a spread of 25 to 30cm. Water regularly in summer; especially during dry spells. Divide overcrowded clumps every 2 to 3 years in spring or autumn.

Mazus has long been prized as a groundcover because it forms a dense ground-hugging carpet, and grows very quickly without being aggressive. It is sometimes used as a lawn substitute in small areas with limited foot traffic; and will tolerate the occasional mowing. Mazus is ideal planted between stepping stones and alongside steps, and thrives in rock and woodland gardens. It is a pretty border plant and is an attractive filler plant between larger summer flowering perennials. Because it grows well in slightly moist soil, it’s an excellent choice for waterside gardens and next to water features. It is also wonderful to stabilise the soil on slopes and will trail down beautifully if planted into hanging baskets and containers

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Michaelmus Daisy 'Purple'Michaelmus Daisy 'Purple'Michaelmas Daisy (Aster novi-belgii)

These beautiful old fashioned perennial plants remain popular with experienced gardeners for their wonderful late summer and autumn colour. Just when your summer garden begins to fade they begin to bloom; commanding attention with their abundant daisy-like flower heads. There are single and double varieties available in shades of purple, violet, blue, pink, reddish-pink and pure white; each with a striking yellow centre. Hybrids come in varying heights from 25cm to 1.2m tall.

Michaelmus daisies grow well in temperate gardens and are hardy to frost, dying down completely in the winter, even in frost free areas.

They grow well throughout the country but are not suited to very dry areas; and in humid regions they are susceptible to fungal diseases.They adapt to most garden soils but prefer to grow in light sandy soils that have been enriched with compost, and which drain well. The soil should be kept constantly moist, without being waterlogged. Plant them in full sun or semi-shade and pinch back the growing shoots in spring to keep the plant compact; pinching later will compromise the quantity of the flowers. Apply light applications of organic fertiliser three times a year.

Michaelmus daisies are ideal for the middle of the perennial flower border, and their delicate colours blend in well with most other garden flowers. Mix them together with evergreens and when they die down in winter, mark the spot where they are growing to avoid accidentally digging them up. These daisies are essential in cottage gardens, romantic, and picking gardens.

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Physostegia virginianaPhysostegia virginianaObedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)
 
The Obedient plant is a vigorous perennial which is native to North America, and belongs to the mint family. It is easy to grow; producing flowers in lovely pastel shades of rose-lilac, lavender, pink or white, on tall upright stems in summer and well into autumn.

The Obedient plant is hardy to frost and grows well throughout the country, but is not suited to humid regions. In dry regions of the country it will require regular watering in summer to look its best. It will adapt to most garden soils, but thrives in well-drained soil that is not too rich. Very rich soil will result in floppy growth. This plant will seed itself in the garden and spreads fast. It will also grow in full sun or semi-shade, to +-1m tall with a 50cm spread. Prune it right down in autumn and apply a complete fertiliser in spring. If necessary, divide the plants every 3 years or so.

Being a part of the mint family makes the obedient plant perfect to grow in damp areas, but be warned under moist conditions it can become invasive. It is valued for its late summer and autumn blooms, which extend the flowering season in the garden, and is an excellent candidate for adding contrast to the perennial border with its lovely bright green leaves. The obedient plant is essential in cottage, romantic, and cutting gardens because the flowers last well in a vase, and bloom for such a long season.

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Perennial PhloxPerennial PhloxPerennial Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
 
Phlox is an old-fashioned favourite that is easy to grow and flowers all summer and autumn. This perennial is native to North America and all our beautiful garden hybrids are bred from these. Gardens, both old and new, can benefit from their brilliant flowers in shades of purple, scarlet, pink, mauve, salmon, and clear white. Phlox grows +-50 to 80cm tall and spreads 50 to 80cm.

It grows best in temperate regions with good summer rainfall and is not suited to very hot and dry regions. In humid regions it is susceptible to fungal diseases, but newer varieties are more resistant. It will grow in drier regions, and in the winter rainfall regions, provided it can be watered regularly. It is hardy to frost but in cold regions becomes dormant in winter, emerging again in spring. It loves full sun but tolerates light shade, thriving in good, moist, well-drained, loamy or sandy soils; favouring  alkaline soils, so if your soil is very acid, add agricultural lime to sweeten it. Periodic pruning will produce more stems and a later blooming plant. Mulch with compost and feed with an all-purpose fertiliser in spring. If necessary, the plants can be lifted and divided in spring or autumn.

Perennial phlox is a staple of the perennial border and the backbone of many a cottage, cutting, and romantic garden. Its attractive leaves and softly shaded blooms blend in well with most other perennials, making perennial phlox well worth investing in for season-long colour, with a minimum of effort or outlay.

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Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue'Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue'Pincushion Flower, Bitterbos (Scabiosa columbaria)

The origin of this clump forming perennial plant is uncertain. It looks remarkably similar to our indigenous Scabiosa africana and is often sold as indigenous. It is grown for its masses of pink or lavender-blue flowers that flit about on long bending stems from summer until the first frosts; and as the flowers open, they look like little cushions with pins sticking out, hence its common name. The pincushion flower is evergreen with deeply lobed, grey-green leaves which are slightly hairy, forming a low-growing mound 40 to 60cm tall and spreading up to 90cm wide.

It is fast growing, hardy to frost and loves to grow in full sun, but in very hot summer regions will tolerate part shade. It adapts to most garden soils but prefers sandy, well-drained soil, with some added compost. Once established it is drought tolerant but performs well if watered moderately during the growing season. Feed monthly during summer with a balanced organic fertiliser. The pincushion flower is a short lived perennial that should be replaced every couple of years. Divide overgrown clumps in spring or early summer to stimulate growth.

The pincushion flower is ideal to fill gaps and in the garden and grows easily in containers. It is an ideal choice for a wild or butterfly garden; and most effective in rock and pebble gardens. Plant it in the perennial or mixed flower border for months of colour - the sweet smelling flowers will attract bees and butterflies to the garden, last well in a vase, and even the seed heads are dried to use in arrangements.

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Dyschoriste thunbergiiflora Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaDyschoriste thunbergiiflora Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.za  Purple Bells, Persklokkies (Dyschoriste thunbergiiflora)

Dyschoriste thunbergiiflora is a much branched, upright to sprawling evergreen perennial shrub found growing wild in east Africa, particularly Kenya; occurring mainly in open bush and riverine grassland. It remains a popular garden plant because it produces masses of striking violet-blue trumpet flowers, marked with dark blue spots and lines in the throat. The blooms just keep on coming almost all summer and well into autumn, attracting butterflies to your garden; and if the plant is kept well irrigated it will produce attractive lush foliage all season.  

Although purple bells thrives in the warm frost-free regions of the country, it is semi-hardy to moderate frost if planted in a sheltered position in the garden and mulched in winter. It adapts to sun or semi-shade and tolerates most fertile, well-drained garden soils. The plant grows quickly to +-1 to 1.5m tall with an equal or slightly larger spread, but can be pruned lightly in spring or after blooming to keep it more compact. Although this plant loves water, it is reasonably drought tolerant; tending to go dormant in drought conditions.

Purple bells is a fast growing and a colourful solution for those moist, sunny to shady spots in the garden and looks wonderful if planted next to a water feature or pond. It is also an excellent low maintenance shrub for the mixed border and easily trained by light pruning. It is also easily persuaded to clamour up a trellis or other support; and a striking choice for cement or clay containers.

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Echinacaea 'Pow-Wow' Pink Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaEchinacaea 'Pow-Wow' Pink Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaPurple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Coneflowers belong to the daisy family, and produce an abundance of daisy-like flowers with swept-back, rose-purple petals, and large, coppery-orange central cones, borne atop sturdy stems for a long period from mid-summer to autumn. Established plants will spread quickly to form clumps +-50cm tall; but can reach 1.2m once mature, with a 60cm spread. Numerous compact cultivars of coneflower have been developed, with new colours; and which bloom for longer.

This adaptable and easy to grow plant thrives in the temperate summer rainfall regions; both inland and at the coast. It is tolerant of wind, heat, humidity and poor soil; and is fully hardy to cold and frost if the roots are mulched in winter. In cold regions this herbaceous perennial which will go totally dormant in winter, but in mild climates it may remain evergreen. Although it is hardy and drought tolerant, to look at its best it requires watering during long dry summer spells, and is therefore not well-suited to extremely dry regions. It is not fussy about soil pH, but dislikes both very dry and very boggy soils, preferring to grow in moderately fertile, well-drained soil; excessively rich soils can cause the plants to become leggy. The plant produces sturdy flower stems if grown in full sun, but will tolerate light shade. In autumn, cut back the dead flower stems right down to the ground. Coneflowers benefit from a spring and autumn mulch with well-rotted compost. Divide overcrowded clumps about every 4 years.

Smaller varieties are good container plants and all cone flowers are excellent for massing in the mixed flower border, or utilised as a groundcover in large areas. Try mixing them with ornamental grasses and other perennials for seasonal interest throughout the year. The flowers will attract bees and butterflies to your garden, and birds will flock to the seed heads.

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Hypoestes aristata 'Purple Haze' Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaHypoestes aristata 'Purple Haze' Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaRibbon Bush, Lintbos, uhlonyane, uhlololwane (Hypoestes aristata)

Hypoestes aristata can be found growing in the wild from the Eastern Cape to tropical Africa and is commonly found in thickets, damp areas, forests and forest margins. This easy to grow perennial shrub needs little attention and will reward you with abundant spikes of purple flowers with dark purple spots from May to early spring when very little else is in bloom. Flowers are also available in shades of pink, white and light purple. This little evergreen grows quickly to +-1.5m tall and 1m wide, with a rounded shape and soft, hairy, dark green oval leaves.

The ribbon bush is well known and cultivated almost all around the country. It is tolerant of coastal conditions; and semi-hardy to moderate frost, but can be damaged by black frost or severe cold associated with dry, icy winds. Plants do best in full sun to semi-shade at the coast, and in semi-shade in hot inland gardens. They will adapt to most well-drained garden soils and benefit from well-composted soil. The plants are drought tolerant once established, but appreciate summer watering, and a lot less in winter. Cut back quite hard after flowering to prevent the plants from becoming lanky, and feed occasionally with an all-round fertiliser.

This versatile plant is essential in all wildlife gardens and is a great pioneer plant for new gardens, especially at the coast. It is great in borders and very useful for those sunny to shady areas of the garden where very little else will grow; competing well with tree roots. It is also a versatile plant for out of the way plantings, which receive little or no water, and for mass planting in harsh conditions such as road verges and traffic islands. During the summer months when it is not in bloom the bush has a neat and compact appearance, making it a wonderful filler plant. It will attract butterflies to your garden and is a valuable food source for them when nectar is scarce.

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Brachyscome 'Radiant-Magenta' Picture courtesy www.nuleaf.co.zaBrachyscome 'Radiant-Magenta' Picture courtesy www.nuleaf.co.zaRiver Daisy, Swan River Daisy, Cut-leafed Daisy, Australies Madeliefie (Brachyscome multifida)

The river daisy is a delightful sprawling groundcover which produces masses of tiny, daisy shaped flowers above a dense mat of feathery foliage. Plant breading has produced numerous cultivars and many improvements to plant form, flower size and colour range; and today they are available in a range of colours such as pink, mauve, pale and deep blue, as well as white; many with striking yellow centres. Flowers appear predominantly in spring and summer but also sporadically throughout the year. It grows +-30 to 50cm wide and 20 to 30cm tall, depending on the variety and growing conditions.

River daisies can be grown in much the same way as other daisies and will tolerate a wide range of conditions; but do not perform well in areas with very hot, humid summers. Despite their delicate appearance, they are surprisingly hardy, growing well at the coast and tolerating quite arid conditions; as well as moderate frost. In severe frost regions the leaves may be burnt but the plant should shoot again in spring if the roots are thickly mulched in winter. Like all daisies they love full sun but will tolerate light shade, and although they do not need much water once established, moderate watering during long dry spells will keep them looking at their best. In the wild they grow in very shallow sandy soils which drain well, but in the garden they can be grown in a wide range of soil types. Cut back after summer flowering to keep the plants compact and to encourage more flowers. Fertilise and mulch the roots in spring.

This low maintenance and water-wise plant is a beautiful addition to any garden and is especially effective in mass plantings, producing a very effective and eye-catching ground cover. It is also stunning draped over retaining walls, as well as in pots and hanging baskets. It is quite at home in cottage gardens, excellent in rockeries and Rose gardens, and a wonderful border plant.

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Limonium pereziiLimonium pereziiSea Lavender, Perez's Sea Lavender, Papierblom (Limonium perezii)

Sea lavender is a tough evergreen perennial of coastal habitat and native to the Canary Islands, off the west coast of Africa. Most gardeners remember this plant as “Giant Satice,” because it grows +-50 to 60cm tall with a 40cm spread. Its thick, oval to round leaves are about 30cm long; and like most Limonium species form attractive, low-growing mounds. Large flower heads of tiny papery, violet-blue and white flowers are produced nearly all year round in favourable climates, but are especially prolific in summer. The individual flowers are minute but make a stunning display because they are borne well clear of the foliage on wiry branching stems, in dense, billowing sprays.

Sea lavender thrives in warm, coastal, and frost free regions of the country, but also grows well in colder inland gardens, being hardy to moderate frost and temperatures as low as -3 C. In these regions it will do best in a sheltered spot. It performs best in full sun, but will still bloom in a dry, lightly shaded location, and although it is adapted to light well-drained soils, will tolerate most garden soils which drain well. Once established it is drought tolerant. Apply a balanced organic fertiliser in early spring and remove spent blooms after flowering to keep the plants looking tidy and to encourage further blooms. Divide overcrowded clumps every 2 to 3 years in early spring.

Sea lavender grows well in seaside conditions as well as inland, and is an outstanding low maintenance perennial for water-wise gardens. It is a great accent plant among big-leaved tropical plants and is conveniently small enough for beach cottages and bungalows; in courtyards, patios and sheltered front-entry gardens. Plant it along palisades, on dunes and embankments, in dry streambeds, or amongst landscape boulders and rocky outcroppings. It is most effective in massed beds, and if planted +-40cm apart, makes a lovely edging plant or groundcover. It also mixes well with other annuals or perennials in containers.

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Salvia hybrid 'Victori'a Picture courtesy www.steyns-nursery.co.zaSalvia hybrid 'Victori'a Picture courtesy www.steyns-nursery.co.zaSalvia, Blue Sage, Blou Salie, Pineapple Sage, Pynappelsalie (Salvia)

There are hundreds of different types of salvias and they all have beautiful tall flower spikes, and attractive green or grey-green leaves which are often aromatic. They will flower almost all summer and autumn, and new selections are valued for their extended blooming season and spires of flowers in shades of red, pink, bright blue, violet, cream and white. Tall and dwarf varieties are available, varying in height and spread from +-15 to 1m tall. Perennial salvias have become mainstays of the summer garden, providing season long colour at very little expense.

Mexican Bush Sage, Velvet Sage (Salvia leucantha) is a spreading shrub with soft, narrow, wrinkled leaves that are pale green on top and woolly and silver-white underneath. In spring long sprays of white flowers appear, contrasting beautifully with the velvety purple calyces. Autumn Sage, Cherry Sage (Salvia greggii hybrids) has numerous named cultivars, varying in height from +-30cm to over 1m. Its mid-green leaves have a minty fragrance, and contrary to its common name, blooms throughout summer and autumn. Cultivars are available in many shades of scarlet and red, as well as rose, pink, salmon, lavender, pale yellow, apricot, violet, and white.

Anise Sage 'Black and Blue' (Salvia guaranitica) has bright, cobalt-blue flower spikes which are framed by black calyces and stems; appearing from mid-summer and continuing deep into autumn. Pineapple Sage, Pynappelsalie (Salvia elegans) is spectacular when in full bloom with its masses of tubular, blood red flower spikes that contrast perfectly against the bright green leaves. The leaves have a wonderful fresh pineapple scent when crushed.

Take care when choosing salvias because not all are hardy in all regions, and extreme frost is fatal to them. Moderate frost may damage them but they usually recover quickly in spring. For this reason, with the exception of those frost-free and humid regions, salvias are often grown as summer annuals. They perform extremely well in hot gardens, and adapt to most fertile soils which drain well. And, although drought tolerant, they should be watered moderately during dry spells. They thrive in full sun but take light shade; especially in very hot regions. Salvias are not hungry plants and overly fertile soils, or too much fertiliser, will reduce flowering, so feed only once a season in spring. Cut back lightly after each flush of flowers and new growth will soon emerge, and your plants will bloom almost continually.

The taller varieties add accent to flowerbeds and the dwarf varieties make excellent border plants, and work well in containers.

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Erigeron. Picture courtesy www.nuleaf.co.zaErigeron. Picture courtesy www.nuleaf.co.zaSeaside Daisy, Fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus)
 
Erigeron is a small evergreen perennial that belongs to the daisy family. It grows quickly to +-30cm tall 60cm wide, forming a spreading mat and covering quite a large area. In summer and autumn it is smothered with yellow centred, small white daisies, that turn rose-pink as they mature. If the plant is grown in poor soil, the small green leaves also have a pretty red tinge.
 
The seaside daisy, as its name implies, grows well in coastal gardens, however, it does just as well inland and is hardy to frost. Although it flourishes in full sun, it will also take some shade. The seaside daisy tolerates any well-drained soil, and is a trouble free, water-wise plant which requires only moderate watering during dry spells. Cut back the flowered stems back to ground level in early spring to encourage fresh, new growth, and lift and divide large clumps every second or third year, discarding the woody crowns.

This tough little plant will grow almost anywhere. Try it as a groundcover in difficult areas or as an edging plant in a mixed border. It looks most effective spilling over walls or creeping down the sides of stone or brick steps, or tucked into wall crevices; where it seeds itself and spreads slowly with its rhizomatous roots. It also attracts bees and butterflies to the garden.

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Leucanthemum superbumLeucanthemum superbumShasta Daisy, Shastamadeliefie (Leucanthemum x superbum)

The ever popular shasta daisy is a robust perennial which grows in a bushy clump; producing narrowly oblong leaves and brilliant white daisy flowers with golden yellow centres, all summer and autumn. The cultivars vary greatly in size from tiny singles with simple petals, to semi-doubles, and huge doubles with frilly, feather-like structures. The cultivars vary in height and spread, from 30cm to 1.2m tall.

Shasta daisy grow throughout South Africa, from the subtropics to the coldest parts; going dormant in winter, but quickly re-sprouting in spring. They thrive in full sun but can be planted in semi-shade, and in very hot regions some midday shade would benefit the plants. Some cultivars with double flowers do really well in partial shade. They adapt to most well-drained soils, but like a small amount of lime in the soil, and appreciate being fertilised and watered regularly in summer. To maintain vigour, divide the plants every 2 to 3 years, in spring.

Shasta daisies brighten up any bed, blending effortlessly with other perennials, and making them all-time favourites for borders. The smaller cultivars make great groundcovers or edging plants, and also look delightful in pots. Shasta daisies are very impressive planted in groups, but even a single plant can brighten up any dreary spot.

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Justicia brandegeeana. Picture courtesy www.steyns-nursery.co.zaJusticia brandegeeana. Picture courtesy www.steyns-nursery.co.zaShrimp Plant, False Hop, Krewelplant (Justicia brandegeeana)

This shrubby evergreen with its soft-green leaves reaches 1 to 1.5m tall, and its unusual flowers emerge from bracts that form off the stems, starting out white, and turning anywhere from pale pink to deep salmon. A chain of bracts will continue to grow until it falls off naturally, and can grow up to 30cm in length. 'Yellow Queen' has yellow bracts; and 'Lime and Pink' has unusual lime and pink bracts. Flowering is most prolific in summer, and in warm climates blooming can be almost continuous.

It thrives in warm frost free, and humid subtropical regions which receive good summer rainfall. If protected from strong wind, it grows well in coastal gardens; and in the winter rainfall regions will require regular summer watering. Although it dislikes temperatures below 7°C it tolerates light frost if planted in a protected spot, and if cut right back, shoots again in spring. In warm, moist regions it can be planted in full sun to semi shade; but in hotter, drier conditions it grows best in semi-shade. This plant adapts to most well-drained soils, and looks best if watered regularly. An occasional mulch and feed with a balanced fertiliser is all it needs to keep blooming; and regular light trimming or tip pruning will keep the plant bushy and neat.

Shrimp plants are widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical gardens for their long flowering season. They are wonderful additions to the small shrub or flower border and sunny rockeries. They also grow well in a container and can look spectacular in a hanging basket.

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Pentas 'Pink'Pentas 'Pink'Star Flower (Pentas lanceolata)

The Star Flower is native from Yemen to East Africa and is grown extensively throughout the tropical and temperate regions of the world. These compact free-flowering plants produce large clusters of tiny star shaped flowers almost all year round, in shades of red, purple, white, lavender and pink. They vary in height but the modern hybrids are lovely compact bushes, growing +-30cm tall and +-30cm wide.

Star flowers are evergreen perennials which grow quickly in full sun or semi-shade. They grow best in all the frost-free regions of the country, and are tender to all but light frost. In warm regions they are grown as a perennial plant which is replaced every couple of years, and in frosty regions they can be grown as a summer annual. Plant them into good, well-drained soil and water ell in dry weather. Cut off the dead flowers regularly to encourage more blooms.

These charming plants look great in pots, so plant them in hanging baskets or window boxes and enjoy their blooms for months on end. They look wonderful if planted in groups in the garden, and butterflies seem to be drawn magnetically to them. Pentas also makes a wonderful summer annual plant if it is planted in drifts of uniform colours, and can be used to dramatic effect in landscape flowerbeds.

It mixes well with any number of warm weather summer annuals like alyssum, petunia and verbena. Red pentas and blue Salvia guaranitica also make a beautiful combination, or try it together with buddleias, ixora, and lantana.

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Stokesia laevis 'alba'Stokesia laevis 'alba'Stokes' Aster (Stokesia laevis)

Stokes' aster is native to the south-eastern coastal plain of the U.S.A; where it grows in wetlands. This vigorous perennial has a lax habit, forming a low mound of leathery green leaves, growing quickly to +-40cm to 60cm tall, with an equal spread. It is loved for its large double, lilac, purple, blue, rose or white flowers, from summer to autumn. The flowers last well in a vase and will attract butterflies to your garden.

Stokes' Aster is evergreen to semi-evergreen; remaining evergreen in mild winter areas. It is tolerant of hot, humid summer regions and is also hardy, tolerating all but severe frost. It is easy to grow, as long as the soil can be kept dry in winter; and it is watered well in summer. Wet soil in winter is the main cause of death for this plant. It adapts to most garden soils but prefers fertile, slightly acid spoils which are light and well-drained. In hot regions, mulch the roots to keep them cool, and to keep the roots protected in winter, in cold regions. Remove spent flowering stems regularly to encourage additional blooms, but leave the late seasons flowers on the bushes, as the green and pink seed-heads and bracts are exceedingly attractive and can used in dry flower arrangements.It flowers best if planted in full sun, but will appreciate some afternoon shade in very hot regions. Cultivars are propagated in late winter or spring by dividing the root clumps.

Stokes' aster looks best planted in groups and looks lovely planted at the front of perennial borders and in cottage gardens.  It grows easily in pots and is a good candidate for mixed containers.

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Angelonia 'Serena' Blue. Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaAngelonia 'Serena' Blue. Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaSummer Snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia hybrids)

These tropical evergreen perennials easy to care for, and planted for their lovely snapdragon-like flowers, born on slender upright spikes. They bloom continuously during the hot summer months, and have bright green willow-like leaves. Hybrids grow +-25 to 40cm tall and will spread +-30 to 40cm, and are available in clear flower colours or two-toned combinations of: rose, pink, blue, lilac, violet-blue, purple, and white.

Summer snapdragons love humid, tropical and warm sub-tropical conditions. They are tender to frost, and in cold regions are planted as summer annuals. They grow well throughout the country but are not suited to very dry summer regions, unless they can be watered well. They take heat and full sun, but will still flower in light shade. These ‘toughies’ even withstand heavy thunderstorms. They love sandy soils but grow in all fertile, well-drained soils. Although drought tolerant in tropical gardens, it is best to water moderately during dry spells, and a monthly feeding will keep them flowering abundantly. Do not remove the old flowers because ‘deadheading’ actually hurts the continual blooming characteristic of the plants. It is also not necessary to prune, because this will ruin their naturally beautiful form. Propagation is from tip cuttings or by division of the roots.

Their lovely growth habit and long blooming season makes them perfect bedding plants and worthwhile additions to flower borders. Numerous hybrids have been bred for compact growth, making them ideal for container plantings, where they add height and accent, without overpowering the other plants.  

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Armeria 'Ballerina-Lilac' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaArmeria 'Ballerina-Lilac' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaThrift, Sea Pink (Armeria)

The genus Armeria accounts for over a hundred species, mostly native to the Mediterranean, although Armeria maritima is an exception, being distributed along the coasts of the Northern Hemisphere, including Ireland, parts of the United Kingdom such as Cornwall, and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in Wales

Thrifts are evergreen perennials with compact tufts of grass-like leaves, and from spring through summer they produce long stems, topped with delicate, papery, pink or white flowers. The older varieties grow about 15 to 30cm tall with a 30 to 40cm spread, but two new selections, bred from Armeria pseudarmeria, called “Ballerina Red” and “Ballerina White” are the first Armeria garden hybrids to have been awarded the ‘Fleuroselect’ gold medal, a coveted award in the plant world. These cultivars produce striking ball-shaped flower heads on short, strong stems about 20cm tall, with a 15cm spread, and are both heat and drought tolerant; overwintering as rounded, dense cushions of growth. Thrifts love full sun, and cannot grow in the shade, and although these tough little plants grow well throughout most of the country, they are not well-suited to humid regions. They are both frost and drought resistant, and tolerate salty winds at the coast, as well as saline soils. They grow in nutritionally poor soil and prefer light sandy soils that drain well. If you remove the dead blooms, the plants will continue to flower into autumn; and if the plants become overcrowded, they can be lifted and divided once they have finished flowering.

Because thrifts form slowly spreading clumps, they are delightful in mixed flower borders, and make a tough ground-cover or edging plant. They are ideal in water-wise gardens designed as xeriscape, rock or pebble gardens. Gardeners will be delighted to know that the pretty little flowers also last well in a vase.

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Diascia 'Whisper' Cranberry. Picutre courtesy www.newplant.co.zaDiascia 'Whisper' Cranberry. Picutre courtesy www.newplant.co.za  Twinspurs, Horinkies (Diascia integerrima)

These little gems belong to the snapdragon family and there are about 70 species, all of which occur only in southern Africa. The species can be annual or perennial, with most of the perennials occurring in the summer rainfall regions, and the annuals in the winter rainfall regions. Twinspurs are renowned for their abundance of flowers throughout summer, and the varieties of Diascia available at garden centres today are mainly new hybrids. The species vary slightly in height, growing +-25 to 40cm tall. These hybrids have been bred to be even more floriferous, with many exciting new pastel and bright shades of pink, white, red, lavender, mauve, deep plum, vivid orange, and even apricot and tangerine.

Twinspurs thrive in full sun or light shade and will grow in any well-drained soil, benefitting from the addition of some compost. (Diascia integerrima) is perennial and one of the most widespread, toughest and floriferous of the all the species. It is tolerant of dry conditions but responds well in the garden if watered moderately. It is also tolerant of cold temperatures and heavy frost. The plants go semi-dormant in winter and by the end of summer they will start to look straggly, so cut them right back and mulch the soil for winter; in the spring new growth will soon emerge. New plants can be planted each season or two, and often perform better than those left to overwinter.
 
These little gems will attract butterflies to your garden, and are perfect for mass plantings, putting on a brilliant show if planted in large sweeps in the garden; with some varieties making excellent groundcovers. They are pretty to fill little pockets between other plants in the garden, alongside garden paths, as well as in rose and herb gardens. Try them in hanging baskets and containers, planted singly or mixed with other plants. If planted in containers feed them monthly and cut off the old flower stems regularly

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Verbena peruviana 'Red'Verbena peruviana 'Red'Verbena, Garden Verbena (Verbena x hybrida)

There are hundreds of cultivars and several series of cultivars of verbena, varying not only in flower colour, but also in their growth habits. Some are small, dense and compact, others are erect and bushy, and many are open and spreading or trailing.  The small individual flowers are borne profusely in dense clusters all summer and into autumn, and come in shades which include; white, pink, crimson, scarlet, vermilion, purple, blue, and yellow. Some are bi-coloured, some have a central white eye, and some are fragrant. Trailing varieties may extend 30 to 60cm, and the largest erect forms may reach 45cm tall.

In warm regions verbenas are grown as short-lived perennials, and although they are semi-hardy to frost, in cold regions they are usually treated as summer annuals. Their main requirements are full sun and fertile but very well-drained soils, making them ideal for hot dry sites. Once established, only water them when they are dry. Verbenas are susceptible to fungal diseases, especially in very humid regions, so try to avoid overhead watering. Young plants may be pinched to promote bushier growth; and regular deadheading of the spent flowers will encourage additional blooms. Over fertilising will encourage abundant leaf growth, at the expense of the flowers, so when planting young seedlings, do not add fertiliser. When established a single feed with a complete fertiliser will suffice.
 
Because they flower so profusely, verbena is a popular container plant and perfect for hanging baskets and window boxes. It also looks good in rock gardens, as an edging plant, or a short-lived but extremely colourful groundcover. An added bonus is that their cut flowers last long in a vase and attract butterflies to the garden.

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Euryops 'Sunshine Classic' Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaEuryops 'Sunshine Classic' Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaWild Daisy Bush, Harpuisbos (Euryops)

Euryops is part of the Asteraceae family, and 87 of the species are widespread in southern Africa, with 30 occurring in fynbos. They produce starry sunshine-yellow blooms throughout the seasons, depending on the variety grown. Their hardiness, ease of growth, and long flowering season has made them popular garden plants around the world. The species vary greatly in height, from 45cm to 3m or more, and have various leaf forms, from the more classical daisy type leaf to fine needle-like leaves.

Wild daisies are evergreen and grow easily both inland and at the coast, as long as they are planted in full sun and in very well-drained soil - these plants will not tolerate soggy feet. They can vary greatly in size, depending on the soil and the climate in which they are grown. They are hardy to frost (about -1°C) and some will even tolerate severe frost. Water moderately during dry spells, and in the summer rainfall regions they will require regular watering in winter and spring. Prune the bush back lightly after it has finished flowering, and cut it fairly hard every couple of years. After about 5 years the plants will become straggly and will need replacing.

Wild daisies are excellent pioneer species and one of the first plants to re-establish themselves after a fire. In the winter rainfall regions they make great water-wise plants and are lovely planted in fynbos gardens. They look good if planted in groups of three or more, and are great filler plants for cottage gardens, as well as in perennial or mixed shrub borders. The smaller types even grow easily in pots. The seeds attract many seed eating birds, and the flowers are attractive to butterflies and many other insect pollinators, who will in turn, will attract insect eating birds.

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Tulbaghia violacea. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaTulbaghia violacea. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.za  Wild Garlic, Wilde Knoffel, Isihaqa, utswelane (Tulbaghia)

Tulbaghia are clump-forming perennials with linear leaves and abundant umbels of small, star-shaped flowers throughout the growing season. They are a small genus of about 20 species from southern Africa, but the two most popular with gardeners are Tulbaghia violacea and Tulbaghia simmleri, because they have attractive flowers and are proven low-maintenance landscaping plants.

Cape Wild Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) is cold hardy, fast growing, and can be found growing in the Little Karoo, the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. It can reach a height of +-35 to 50cm; forming a clump +-25 to 30cm wide. The slightly fleshy leaves smell strongly of garlic when bruised. Clusters of mauve, tubular flowers are held above the leaves on a tall flower stalks. It will grow in full sun and semi-shade. Variegated Wild Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea 'Silver Lace') is a hybrid with attractive variegated grey and white striped leaves, and umbels of delicate mauve flowers on long stalks. It grows +-30 to 50cm tall and can thrive in very poor soils. Sweet Wild Garlic, Soetwildeknoffel (Tulbaghia simmleri) is a summer rainfall species endemic to a relatively small area in the northern Drakensberg of Mpumalanga, and in Limpopo. It has grey-green leaves and lavender-pink flowers, and in its summer-rainfall habitat it flowers from spring to autumn, but in a winter-rainfall climate it flowers during winter and spring. The leaves smell of onions if crushed. It is hardy to moderate frost, but not prolonged freezing temperatures. It is suitable for temperate and subtropical areas, and will tolerate humidity. It also prefers a lightly shaded position, growing +-20 to 35cm tall and wide; Tulbaghia fragrans 'Alba' has pure white flowers.

Wild garlic is a tough edging plant for hot pathways, a popular groundcover for large open areas, and a ‘must-have’ for xeriscape gardens, rockeries and gravel gardens. Xeriscaping is gardening with plants that are appropriate to their site, and which can be maintained with little or no supplemental watering. It is also great for hot courtyard gardens and balconies, growing easily in pots.

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Dietes grandiflora. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaDietes grandiflora. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.za  Wild Iris, Wilde-Iris, Isiqungasehlati (Dietes)

Dietes belongs to the Iris family and there are six species, five of which occur only in the eastern parts of South Africa. Wild irises are easy to grow evergreen perennials which spread by underground rhizomes to form large clumps +-1.5m wide. The 1m long, rigid sword-shaped leaves are dark green, and the large iris-like flowers held on the ends of long flower stalks, are borne in profusion, and can appear anytime in spring and summer - often after good rains. There are several species which are cultivated in gardens:

Large Wild Iris, Groot Wilde-Iris, Isiqungasehlati (Dietes grandiflora) grows along the eastern coastal areas of the southern Cape, Eastern Cape and southern Kwazulu-Natal, and has large white blooms marked with yellow and violet. In coastal gardens plant it where it is sheltered from strong winds, and inland plant it where it receives good sunshine. It is very drought tolerant, can withstand moderate frost, and adapts to most soils. Yellow Wild Iris, Poublom (Dietes 'Bicolor') occurs naturally in the Bathurst region of the Eastern Cape, where it thrives in damp locations, but is also drought hardy. It has light yellow flowers with three dark purple spots, and narrow leaves. This species tolerates mild frost and grows best in full sun, except in hot inland gardens where partial shade is best. Wood Iris, indawo-yehlathi, isiqiki-sikatokoloshe, isishuphe somfula (Dietes iridioides) is widely distributed from the Eastern Cape through to KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. The flowers are also marked with yellow and violet but are smaller than the large wild iris, the leaves are broader and the plant is shorter, +-50cm tall. These versatile plants will grow in full sun or semi-shade, on moist or dry soils.

These low maintenance, water-wise perennials are perfect to plant as a large groundcover in expansive garden beds. Although the plant does not flower well in very shady conditions, it is nevertheless one of the few plants that can satisfactorily be grow under trees in spite of tree root competition. Wild irises are also ideal to use in areas that need to be established quickly, and perfect to stabilise the soil on slopes.

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Achillea 'Summer Pastels' mix. Picture courtest www.ballstraathof.co.zaAchillea 'Summer Pastels' mix. Picture courtest www.ballstraathof.co.zaYarrow, Old Man’s Pepper, Knight’s Milfoil, Bloodwort  (Achillea millefolium)

 
Today yarrow is available in a wide range of flower colours, including lavender, purple, cream, white, apricot, yellow, lilac, red, rose, and pink. The small, antler-shaped leaves growing along its thin, light green stems, give the plants a delicate feathery appearance.

Early in the growing season the leaves grow in a mound near the ground, but during the flowering season the slightly hairy flowering stems reach upwards to +-30 to 90cm to display their characteristic blossoms, reminiscent of tiny, flattened daisies, growing in large, flat-topped clusters.

Newer cultivars include: Achillea Flowerburst 'Red Shades,' a perennial which stands up to wind, drought, heat and humidity, blooming tirelessly through the summer, even in poor, dry soils. Achillea Summer Pastels ‘Mixed’ is a heat and drought-tolerant variety with lavender, purple, white, apricot, cream, rose, and pink flowers. Its tall flower stems also make this lovely border plant suitable for cut flower production, and for drying. 

Yarrow loves heat and full sun; growing best in hot and dry conditions, and thriving in impoverished, well-drained soils, but will adapt to most soils with perfect drainage. In very poor soils a good dressing of compost will suffice to get your plants established, and supplemental feeding is not necessary, unless your soil is extremely poor. An annual side-dressing with compost should be sufficient to keep yarrow blooming beautifully. The one thing it cannot tolerate is heavy, wet soil, so if your soil is heavy and rainfall abundant, it may be best to grow yarrow in raised beds or planters. This evergreen is hardy to moderate frost, but in regions that experience severe frost or snowfall, the plant will die down completely in winter. Mulch the roots well and yarrow will readily pop up again in spring. Yarrow spreads quite rapidly, so make sure you allow at least 60cm between each plant. Although drought tolerant once established, moderate watering will keep the plants at their best, and regular deadheading will keep them looking neat, and encourage more blooms.

Garden hybrids have become staples in gardens around the world, because of their tough nature and ease of growth, and their beautiful foliage and flowers which are excellent to cut for the vase, or to dry for winter arrangements. The flat flowers and soft foliage contrast nicely with plants with spikey flowers or leaves; and since they can take heat, drought, and even poor soil, they are a natural choice for difficult areas, and perfect to stabilise sandy soils and prevent soil erosion, especially on slopes.

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