Since Piet Oudolf, gardeners have learnt to see swathes of various grasses as desirable. Things of beauty. No longer weeds=OUT. Reeds and grasses have morphed into something we seek out. To plant in our garden, and enjoy.
(This post was originally published on the 9th November last year)
If you have been following Dozen for Diana, so far I have chosen a focal point/informal hedge, a small tree, a variegated groundcover, some colourful groundcover daisies, a white arum and a white pelargonium - for my imaginary smallish, townhouse/courtyard garden.
These plants are happy with the long hot summer and wet winter of a Mediterranean climate. Double points if they are from
. South Africa
Third, got to have something special –
flowers to pick,
These are our indigenous reeds. If you see a Cape_Dutch house, with its graceful gable and thatched roof – that thatch is Elegia tectorum. Or insignis. Tectorum means roof. (You may have met this plant as Chondropetalum, but all those species have recently been moved into Elegia.) The name Elegia is presumed to come from the Greek elegeia, a song of lamentation, and may be a reference to the rustling sound of the papery sheaths and bracts in the breeze. – from PlantZafrica .
An architectural focal plant, growing in a clump, arching out gracefully, and they get LARGE, so allow space. 1.5 metres high, and 2 or 3 metres across! As the stems grow the tips have a sharply pointed bract, so it is not suitable if you have toddlers running around. This, is a grownup’s plant.
When you drive across country, the proteas (especially if they are flowering) and drifts of restios in seeps and low damp patches – will tell you that you are back in fynbos. The ericas and bulbs usually require you to stop, and walk, if you want to see them.
My favourite is Elegia capensis, which produces its whorls of leaves, exactly like the Northern hemisphere Equisetum. A particularly unusual and beautiful way of growth! (Leonotis, Lion’s Ear is the only other plant like this, that I can think of.)
Because most species grow in damp places, in the garden, they will need some water when newly planted. And they are used to howling South-Easters, so they want space and fresh air, thank you.
Calopsis, bergbamboes on the left, with Chocolat, and dwarf papyrus on the right
The various species range in size from this (going to be huge) Bergbamboes (translates as mountain bamboo. Common name, it is NOT related to bamboo!) The name Calopsis is derived from Kalos meaning beautiful and opsis meaning sight. The specific name paniculata means a tuft. - from PlantZafrica .
Choose your plant carefully, as you cannot prune it back. It is the size it is, basta. If you cut into the stems, they will die, and the plant will fade away. The thatchers harvest carefully, once a year, and taking stems that are already a full year old. Allowing the next year’s supply of thatch to grow thru undisturbed by cutting above the new growth.
Olifantsriet at bridge
In the garden you simply tidy away the odd dead stem. Living within a protected environment in the centre of the clump are our
cockroaches Aptera fusca. No, these are not your common kitchen cockroaches. They live outside, in the garden, on bits of dead plants. On a winter afternoon a few mothers get together, with all their little people, very much like a kindergarten – and they all soak up the sun. Not sure if the few I have seen here, came with us in pot plants from Table Mountain Camps Bay, where we lived on the mountain slope, 3 houses away from nature reserve. They will squeak at you, if you bother them! Table Mountain
Photos and written
by Diana of Elephant's Eye