Magazine article Sunset

Landscaping, South African-Style

Magazine article Sunset

Landscaping, South African-Style

Article excerpt

Familiar plants and fresh ideas for California gardens

Where would western gardens be without calla lily, agapanthus, clivia, bird of paradise, a host of heaths and flower bulbs, cycads, Transvaal daisy (gerbera), ice plants? All are native to South Africa, and all are common in Western landscapes.

On a recent trip to South Africa, I learned how gardeners there - especially those in Western Cape Province, which has a Mediterranean climate similar to that of California - use their horticultural treasures.

Western Cape Province, at Africa's southern tip, gets much of its garden style from the natural landscape, which is covered with fynbos - a plant community that looks (and periodically burns) very much like Southern California's chaparral. Fynbos plants are familiar: many kinds of heaths (Erica) predominate, with pelargoniums, geraniums, and proteas popping up all over - especially in recently burned areas. Wildflowers make fabulous displays in open country, and many of them are bulbous plants such as Babiana, Ixia, Ornithogalum, and Sparaxis that also do well in mild-winter parts of the West.

Borrowing from nature, South African gardeners blend heaths, proteas, and evergreen perennials such as birds of paradise and felicias in large islands of mixed shrubs.

In the West, this planting scheme would work well with many of the heaths, which adapt well to our often alkaline soil, and proteas. Proteas are useful plants in Sunset climate zones 16, 17, and 21 through 24, if you grow them in fast-draining soil.


The landscape of Western Cape Province is loaded with daisies, and dozens of kinds find their way into every part of the gardens there. …

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