About me

About me
🌿 I've been gardening ever since a child, when I spent time with my father in his vegetable garden. But my fascination with Echeverias started in the 1980's, when my father gave me a pot with five Echeverias, which turned out to be E. imbricata. At first I wasn't much interested in them and planted them in some obscure corner of the garden and completely forgot about them. How great was my surprise when, a couple of months later, I noticed that they had spread and made a beautiful display - I was hooked!
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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Echeveria harmsii

Family : Crassulaceae
Botanical Name : ECHEVERIA harmsii
Plant Common Name : Plush Plant

This soft little fuzzy succulent has beautiful leaf colour that adds interest to small gardens and pots. It is a rosette-forming species that hails from northern Mexico. This evergreen forms small asymmetrical rosettes comprised of fleshy, football-shaped leaves with a burnished-red cast along the leaf edges. The rosette will occasionally send out pups, or lateral plantlets. As these accumulate, the plant develops a mound-like habit.

This succulent has large, beautiful flowers, but it is not a heavy bloomer. In spring it sends up stems topped with orange, bell-shaped flowers with golden throats. Each stem may include many flowers that open at different times for a longer season of colour. The blooms are highly attractive to hummingbirds.
Like most succulents, this plant prefers full sun and needs very porous soil, whether grown in a pot or a frost free rock garden. As plants age, they grow rangy but this can easily be remedied with careful pruning. The cuttings root easily in moist sand. Watering should be done sparingly as this is a very drought tolerant plant. Feed it occasionally from spring to summer occasionally with a liquid fertilizer solution at half strength.

This one started flowering shortly after I put out out in the sun in January, but I have just brought in for the winter as I'm not sure how it will handle the frost we get here.

The beautiful flowers of Echeveria harmsii - taken on my patio

Image from the web somewhere


Monday, 20 April 2015

Cotyledon orbiculata

Family: Crassulaceae
Common names: pig's ear (Eng.); plakkie, platjies, varkoorblare, varkoor, kouterie (Afr.)

I was lucky enough to find this lovely specimen at Sterlig Nursery in Roodepoort in January. It will be spending the winter inside with some of my other succulents and then, in spring, go into the new rock garden I'm planning.

This succulent plant has thick leaves which may vary from green to grey, often with a red line around the margin. Cotyledon orbiculata has five varieties, based on differences in leaf and flower shape. The variability of leaf size, shape and colour is also influenced by the immediate environment. Selected forms in cultivation have been given names such as 'Elk Horns' or 'Silver Waves'.

Flowering time is mostly in winter from June-August, but in the winter rainfall areas such as the Western Cape, it is often in midsummer. The colourful, hanging, tubular/bell-shaped flowers are carried in clusters on the ends of an elongated flower stalk. They are mostly orange-red , but yellow flowering forms are also occasionally found (Ernst van Jaarsveld pers. comm.).


Cotyledon orbiculata is widespread throughout South Africa, but is usually confined to rocky outcrops in grassland fynbos and karoo regions. Black frost will damage the flowers, if planted in an unprotected spot, but the plant itself will tolerate moderate frosts.


The brightly coloured flowers attract bees and birds, which feed on the nectar of the plant. The silver-grey leaves of some forms owe much of their attractive colouring to a powdery white coating which may assist in reflecting much of the sun's heat to prevent excessive water loss from the thick succulent leaves.

Uses and cultural aspects

This is a well-known medicinal plant. The fleshy part of the leaf is applied by many South Africans to soften and remove hard corns and warts. The Southern Sotho use a dried leaf as a protective charm for an orphan child and as a plaything. In the Willowmore District, the heated leaf is used as a poultice for boils and other accessible inflammations, in particular, earache.

Growing Cotyledon orbiculata
This is an easy to grow plant suitable for a number of places in the garden. Cotyledon orbiculata is an ideal plant for the rockery, but also grows well as a pot plant placed on a veranda (stoep). It will also add texture and form to the well-drained flower border. When planted as a pot plant, good drainage is important. It is often found in full sun, but also grows well in semi-shade under trees. This is an ideal plant for the water-wise gardener.

Plants may be grown from seed, but take care in the early stages not to over-water. The best time to sow the seed is in spring, and they should be kept moist, not waterlogged. Once the seedlings have reached 20-40 mm they can be transplanted.
Taking tip cuttings is the fastest method of increasing plant numbers; they must be kept fairly dry to prevent rotting. Once the tip cuttings have rooted they can be transplanted in a medium of 2 parts gravel to 1 part compost.

This plant has few pests, but it may be attacked by snails in the garden.


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Grass Aloes

In the hope of reaching the moon
men fail to see the flowers
that blossom at their feet.
- Albert Schweitzer

I found a large clump of Grass Aloes (A. verecunda) not far from home on the road to Magaliesburg (Gauteng, South Africa), flowering profusely after all the veld fires we have had in winter, spread out over the charred landscape, providing bursts of red colour.

Grass Aloes are an appealing group of deciduous aloes, and loses all its leaves in winter which only reappear after the first rains in Spring. The plant has thick fleshy roots in which it stores water during the dry winter months.. As the name implies, they grow mainly in grasslands subject to winter fires. Their leaves and colours resemble their habitat, making them difficult to find when not in flower. These largely miniature aloes have very attractive flowers, making them desirable, if difficult, plants to cultivate. Their growing pattern is closely related to the winter fire cycles of the veld here in South Africa, some species responding directly to burning and producing leaves, flowers and later seed after such events. Tare often burned during winter and then re-sprout with the onset of spring.

This well known grass aloe is commonly found along rocky ridges and rocky slopes on the Witwatersrand and Magaliesberg as well as in mountainous areas of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga. In years gone by it was even more prolific, but numbers have been greatly reduced due to development on the ridges and from harvesting by succulent collectors. A number of different forms are found throughout its distribution range.

Grass fires used to be less frequent in earlier centuries. They were initiated by lightning strikes, on the whole, at the beginning of the rainy season in September and October. These fires were ideal in that they cleared the habitat of moribund grass and other vegetation just before grass aloe species initiated their growth cycles.

Fires are more frequent nowadays and may occur at any time during the dry winter months from May until late spring, October. Plants are as a result, left exposed to harsh conditions for many months before they start to grow. Some species are even starting to appear on the endangered species list.


Sunday, 12 April 2015

What is a garden without Vygies?

Lampranthus roseus – Red vygie, Mesembryanthemum

Mesembryanthemum (meaning “midday flowering”) is a genus of flowering plants native to Southern Africa. This easy-to-grow and hardy evergreen succulent is very easy to maintain and thrives under conditions few other will tolerate. On its thin branches it carries succulent leaves, and during spring masses of daisy-like, rich pink flowers.

It requires full sun and is suitable for all regions without severe frost or hot, humid conditions with lots of rainfall. This is a newby to my garden, planted in a basket, so I will have to bring it inside in winter to protect against frost.

I was given a few cuttings by a friend and it started flowering within days of me planting it.

This is a frequently cultivated and a rewarding floriferous plant. It is easily propagated from seed or cuttings and needs a sunny position. Seed can be sown at any time of the year in shallow trays in a sandy mixture and germination is within 3 weeks. Cuttings are best planted during the summer months. The plants are short-lived and are best replaced every 3 years. Lampranthus roseus prefers a sunny, well-drained slope. The plants thrive in rockeries or containers in a sunny position. Plants are subject to downy mildew and should be sprayed with Ridomil from midwinter to just before flowering. The species is particularly impressive when massively planted on large areas to cover the soil.

There are over a hundred varieties of Lampranthus and many of them are valued as garden plants. Usually relegated to the rockery or succulent garden, these plants are far more versatile and can be incorporated in most areas of the garden, where their lustrous blossoms will enhance their surroundings. Lampranthus species have smooth, three-angled leaves, and the group varies from an upright, bushy growth habit to lax, cascading or creeping ground covers. Some bushes extend to a meter across.

The mother plant from which my cuttings were taken

Common Names include:

ENGLISH: Red vygie, Many-petalled Lampranthus, Rosy dewplant, Rosy Dew Plant, Oxenbould daisy, Mini Ice Plant

AFRIKAANS: Roosvygie


Thursday, 9 April 2015

Shade-loving Aloe zebrina

Family : Asphodelaceae

Common names : zebra leaf aloe, spotted aloe

Aloe zebrina is a small, variable, stemless compact succulent. The succulent leaves of Aloe zebrina are densely clustered into a rosette and have a slightly channelled upper surface. The colour of the leaves varies greatly but they are usually green and marked with large oblong whitish spots; the margins are armed with stout, brown-tipped teeth and the leaf tips are dark red to brown. It has pale but striking coral-coloured tubular flowers that occur in rather sparse inflorescences. The fruit is a dehiscing capsule with many seeds. Seeds are dark-coloured and broadly winged, which assists in dispersal.

Aloe zebrina is widespread in northern South Africa and is also widely distributed in Namibia, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe and is not listed as threatened, mainly due to its wide distribution.

The habitat of Aloe zebrina is normally dry thickets and may include marshy meadows on river banks. It suckers freely and therefore forms dense groups. Blooms are mainly found from February to May, but also June to August. The pollination is performed by birds and this aloe does equally well in shade or full sun.

In north-western Botswana, the roots of Aloe zebrina are among the main dyes for the Hyphaene palm fibres, which are used in weaving baskets, to give them a golden-yellow colour. The method was adopted for wool dyeing by European settlers who modified it to create better colours with other metallic mordants. The roots can easily be collected on a sustainable basis because of the plant's ability to readily form new roots.

The people along the Kunene River in Angola prepare cakes from the pressed and boiled flowers. The powdered stem and leaf bases are taken medicinally by women after delivery to cleanse their system. The (bitter) juice of many Aloe species is used as a disinfectant for wounds, as worm expellant and also to treat skin problems.

Aloe zebrina has potential for cultivation in arid to semi-arid, frost-free locations.


Friday, 3 April 2015

Pleispilos compactus

At the end of January 2015, I had ordered 25 plants from an on-line auction on FaceBook, and this Pleiospilos compactus was amongst them.

How great was my excitement when I at last noticed that it was starting to flower in the last week of March!

It's been overcast and raining a lot the past couple of weeks, so the flowers stayed closed, but yesterday was pure sunshine and the Pleiospilos compactus flowers opened at last! It certainly was worth the wait!

Pleiospilos compactus (subsp. canus) is a genus of succulent flowering plants of the Aizoaceae family, native to the Cape Province of South Africa. This species have two or four opposite, very fleshy, grey-green leaves growing from a short stem that may be underground and they reproduce both sexually and asexually. Vegetative offshoots emerge from the root system. Seed set occurs in early spring around March.

The plants are also known as kwaggavy (“Quagga mesemb”), lewerplant (“liver plant”), lewervygie (“liver mesemb”), klipplant (“stone plant”), split rock or mimicry plant. Growth is with 1-3 leaf-pairs, but it may form small mats.

It is a very adaptable plant, it will grow whenever it has water and good sunlight, but it will become dormant in very hot weather to conserve water. It need full sun to light shade with a very open compost that drains quickly. The container should be at least 10 cm deep to accommodate the long tap root, so I will be transplanting this one shortly to accommodate new growth. Very little water is needed during the growing season.

In late summer to early fall before night-time temperatures fall, watering of the plants is stepped up to once a week. When the night-time temperatures drop to 9°C, watering is restricted throughout the winter months. In the winter, it grows new leaves from the centre of the split, and the new leaves then consume the old leaves. If the plant is over watered, the old leaves remain and the plant usually rots and dies. Do not water it when it is splitting, just leave it alone.

Even with no watering the leaves don't shrink and prune up like some succulents do when they are not watered, they stay plump even after several months with no water. For an idea of how succulent these plants are, a mature specimen can easily go a whole year without any water. If the plants are grown correctly, ideally there should only ever be 2 pairs of leaves. The lower ones are the previous year's, and the top ones, the current year's. One sign of good care is a firm, round, symmetrical plant with no old leaves still attached at the end of summer.

I am thrilled to know that he plants are hardy down to -5°C, as our winters can sometimes deliver some severe frost.

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