Thursday, 25 July 2013 00:28

Thrift, Sea Pink - Armeria maritime

Armeria 'Ballerina' Lilac. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofArmeria 'Ballerina' Lilac. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofThrifts can be found growing in the wild on maritime cliffs and meadows, salt marshes and mountain rocks all over Britain and Northern Europe. It is an evergreen perennial plant that produces compact tufts of grass-like leaves. The long stems are topped with papery pink or white flowers from spring to autumn. The flowers last long in a vase. It is a good ground-cover or border plant, forming a slowly spreading carpet. It does well in water wise gardens designed as xeriscape, rock or pebble gardens.

This tough little plant grows well throughout the country and is frost and drought resistant. It is not suited to very humid regions but will tolerate salty winds at the coast and saline soils. It will grow in nutritionally poor soil and prefers light sandy soils that drain well. Thrifts will grow about 15 to 30cm tall and spread 30 to 40cm wide and love full sun. They cannot grow in the shade. If you remove the dead blooms, the plants will continue to flower into autumn.

If the plants are overcrowded, they can be divided once they have finished flowering.

(Armeria 'Ballerina') The Fleuroselect gold medal is a coveted award in the plant world, and for the first time it has been awarded to two Armeria varieties, A. pseudarmeria 'Ballerina Red' and A. pseudarmeria 'Ballerina White'. These are first year flowering perennials that produce striking, ball-shaped flower heads on short, strong stems (20cm). They flower in summer, and are heat and drought tolerant. They over-winter as rounded, dense cushions of growth. They can be used in mixed borders, as edgings and in containers. They grow to a height of + 20cm, and can spread +-15 cm, clump-shaped with mid green linear-shaped leaves.

Holcus mollis 'Jack Daws' Picture courtesy Green Acres Nursery CaliforniaHolcus mollis 'Jack Daws' Picture courtesy Green Acres Nursery CaliforniaHolcus has 8 species of perennials which belong to the grass family (Gramineae/Poaceae). It originates from the woodland and grassland areas of Europe, North Africa and western Asia. 

Holcus mollis 'Albovariegatus' is the smallest, softest little creeping grass, with deep green leaves which are broadly margined in creamy-white. In summer it produces pale green or pinkish flowering panicles, which turn beige with age.

Creeping velvet grass is a low-growing perennial which forms a creeping mat and enjoys growing in cool, slightly damp places in the garden. It can even be mown; making a pretty lawn or groundcover for shady areas. It is also a lovely edging plant for the shady border and great for rock gardens. It will even grow in little cracks in paving and walls etc, clinging on and slowly spreading, as long as there is sufficient moisture.

This little grass performs best in regions with cool summers and adequate rainfall; thriving both inland and at the coast. In hot regions the clumps will look untidy in summer and will need to be cut right back. It can also survive extremely cold winters; in temperate climates it is evergreen, and in cool to cold climates it is semi-evergreen or dormant in winter.

Creeping velvet grass will grow moderately to +-15 to 20cm tall and 30 to 60cm wide. It prefers light, poor to moderately fertile soil which is moist, yet well-drained; but will adapt to most garden soils, including acidic and chalky alkaline ones. It can be planted in semi-shade to sun; but on poor soil it does best in semi-shade; water regularly during hot, dry weather.

The best foliage is seen on young growth, so it benefits from the occasional hard trim; and the clumps are easily divided in spring or autumn. The foliage often deteriorates in colour once the flowers appear, so it is best to cut these off.

It does not suffer from any serious insect or disease problems, but has some susceptibility to rust.


Pelargonium capitatum Picture courtesy capitatum Picture courtesy The rose-scented pelargonium occurs all along the coastline, from Lamberts Bay on the Namaqualand Wild Flower Route, to the Peninsula and through to Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape and into KwaZulu-Natal. It can be found growing on sand and limestone near the coast, on disturbed areas, low hillsides and coastal sand dunes.

This pelargonium is cultivated for its rose scented oil that is extracted from the leaves. The leaves are used in pot-pourri, and make a pleasant herbal tea to treat coughs and fever, colic, flatulence, vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, stomach cramps, kidney and bladder ailments. It also has relaxing and astringent properties. The leaves can be rubbed into the skin to soften and soothe cracks, calluses and scratches. They can also be made into a poultice for bruises, stings and abscesses; and are added to bath water to sooth rashes.  Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

It is a bushy, widely spreading, low-growing plant that produces pretty pink flowers in spring and summer, and has sweetly scented hairy leaves that smell of roses when crushed. The rose-scented pelargonium is used to stabilise dunes in re-vegetation projects and, because it spreads widely; it makes an excellent groundcover for coastal gardens.

This versatile perennial plant will grow happily, with minimum care, in sun or semi-shade. It is semi-hardy to frost if it is planted in a warm, protected position in the garden and is kept on the dry side in winter. It will grow quickly to about 30cm tall and 1.5m wide. Although this plant is water-wise; for good results in the garden, plant it into composted soil, water it moderately during dry spells and feed it with 3:1:5 during the flowering season. Prune it fairly hard after it has flowered, to keep it in shape.

Pelargonium capitatum can easily be grown from seeds and softwood cuttings.

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