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Favorite South African Plants

Frank McDonough

By Lynn Langley.

Frank McDonough came to our September meeting ready to share his enthusiasm about South African plants. Currently the Botanical Information Consultant at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden (which includes three acres of South African plants), and with more than 35 years of horticultural experience, he is the go-to source for information on plants.

For Frank, the best kind of problem is a mystery he has to solve—and he spends a lot of time thinking about garden and horticulture challenges. Frank takes issue with the current "gravelscaping" trend in garden design. He is concerned that the use of weed block causes water to run off into the storm drains. Alternatively, the use of drought tolerant ground cover allows water to go into the ground and increase ground water reserves. Frank believes that, along with following good design, picking the right plants is crucial for developing a lasting landscape.

Frank's slideshow depicting twenty must-have South African plants was both beautiful and informative. It included some inspiring images from the Arboretum.

His South African plant favorites are:

1. Clivia: most species need shade to partial shade; planting in a bottomless plastic pot encourages more profuse blooms

2. Dymondia margaretae: lawn substitute that takes about two years to establish; it is sensitive to foot traffic

3. Aloe striata (Coral Aloe): a stunning aloe that can be susceptible to aphids

4. Aloe rooikappie (Little Red Riding Hood): has beautiful blooms lasting up to ten months

5. Felicia amelloides (Blue marguerite; Blue daisy): short lived perennial that lives about four years; needs little fertilizer, good drainage, and regular deadheading

6. Amarygia hybrids (Amaryllis belladonna): larger than amaryllis; plant under crepe myrtles for a stunning display as they bloom at the same time

7. Euphorbia resinifera (Moroccan Mound; Resin Spurge): tough and geometric, providing good texture in a garden; use extreme caution when handling as it emits a highly irritating latex (resin)

8. Bulbine frutescens (Stalked Bulbine): new cultivars of this plant bloom six or more months per year

9. Kniphofia uvaria (Red Hot Poker): blooms in June and July; pairs well with Mexican Sage; attractive to hummingbirds

10. Delosperma (Ice Plant): grows in the high mountains of South Africa; prolific bloomer; Denver Botanic Garden is introducing many varieties

11. Pelargonium peltatum (Ivy Geranium): many varieties that bloom easily; plants can live several years and readily propagate by cuttings

12. Euryops pectinatus (Golden Shrub Daisy): the green-leafed variety ('Viridis') is more common than the gray-leafed variety; avoid overwatering

13. Olea europaea ssp. Africana (Wild Olive): grows up to forty feet with a vase-like shape; can be used as a shrub

14. Bauhinia galpinii (Orchid Tree; Pride of De Kaap): blooms for several months

15. Pelargonium sp. (Scented Geraniums): fragrance and colorful blooms enhance any garden

16. Elegia tectorum, previously Chondropetalum tectorum (Cape Rush): a grassy, sedgelike plant with fairly low water requirements

17. Osteospermum cultivars (Daisybushes): grows quickly; attractive and requires little water; new cultivars live about five years and older cultivars live much longer

18. Agapanthus 'Ellamae': needs good drainage and partial shade; water once or twice weekly; otherwise, don't pamper this plant

19. Arctotis (African Daisies): needs to be deadheaded; replace every five years, as they are short-lived

20. Cotyledon orsbiculata (Pig's Ear): white foliage makes this a great contrast plant; it is toxic to dogs

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