20 January, 2012

My new signature plant

Dozen for Diana 1

I would like you to imagine a new empty small garden.
1. An enclosed courtyard? The view from a window? That new garden bed?
2. Choose (12) plants that DO grow happily in your climate and soil! Make a list tailored for YOUR garden. 
3. I favour indigenous/native for wildlife. I also have roses.
4. Colour scent texture interest - so we see A Garden.

Blue sage flowers
macro in a Mason jar for the portrait

My garden, mediterranean in climate, is in the bottom left corner of Africa. Beyond the mountains lies the Karoo semi-desert, and the east of our country gets summer rainfall.
First my plants have to survive the long hot summer, 40C on Monday. 104F (I grew up whining about 90 in the shade). Second we can have a deluge in winter, on clay soil. From aestivation to Noah’s Ark. Third, I have to love them. Add a fourth virtue for my Dozen.

Blue sage leaves

Signature plant I prefer to repetition, which is the underlying intention. Jean – My Moth's Lily. Don’t know if Jean sees this as her signature plant – but the emotion behind her choice of THIS plant is what I want. Choose your meme plants (one a month or) as and when life allows. Think of Gail at Clay and Limestone, who hosts Wildflower Wednesday. Hers is Practically Perfect Pink Phlox.

Blue sage, in the rose garden, with Dusty Miller beyond

When I chose my original Dozen for Diana I remembered the Camps Bay garden. Many of those plants came with us – as cuttings in one litre yoghurt bakkies, en kyk hoe lyk hy nou.

Solitary seedling

What the eye sees, as the signature plant at Elephant’s Eye, is Dusty Miller Centaurea cineraria. Exuberant silver fountains, echoes that link the parts of the garden. It gets points for human interest (my visitors leave with cuttings), and being capital M Mediterranean.  

Blue sky and marshmallow cloud

We have clouds, but no rain 

As he drives to Cape Town along the national road, I see my new signature plant. The blue sage Salvia chamelaeagnea which was part of my original dozen. Currently hosting butterflies and sunbirds. Climate soil colour wildlife indigenous/native, chosen. If this is to be my new signature plant I need to spread it around the garden.

One of my favourite plants, is this tall wild sage. Salvia chamelaeagnea. The flowers are a soft, gentle, sky blue. A warm day, slightly hazy. But not the metallic, brutal heat which is lurking in the wings. You can see flowers, stems and leaves are covered with tiny hairs. As I brush against it in the rose garden, I come away in a cloud of fragrance (OK it is a herby, medicinal smell, but quite pleasant) . If I handle the plant to prune, or pick, my hands are sticky with fragrant oils. I see seedlings coming up, which makes it a welcome volunteer. And this shrubby plant is happily attempting to be my focal point in the Winter Chill, ‘white’ rose bed.

Blue sage

To be seen flourishing alongside the national road. Cut back after flowering. Leaves are dotted with glands, strongly scented, leaving sticky fingers. The bottom lip of the flower, is a platform for bees. Full sun, water in winter.  Cuttings – harvest young shoots from the base in spring and early summer. September not March then. 

In southern Africa 22 Salvia species occur naturally, with most of them distributed through the south western Cape. Between 800 and 900 species of Salvia are found in the temperate and tropical regions of the world. Members of the sage family are known worldwide as excellent herbs and beautiful garden plants. Salvia chamelaeagnea, which grows wild in the south western Cape, is no exception. Flowering bright blue during the long hot summers, these plants are easy to find in the dry landscape where they grow along seepage areas, riverbeds and in sandy soil among rocks. Salvia chamelaeagnea is well adapted to survive fires, which regularly sweep though the fynbos vegetation, by resprouting from its woody rootstock. Salvia chamelaeagnea forms a dense shrub, growing almost 2 metres high, with many strong, upright stems. The stems are square- shaped, a typical feature of the family Lamiaceae. The flowers are formed in whorls along the top third of the stems, any time between November and May. Individual plants flower for a month or two.  It varies in colour from blue, mauve, pink to pure white. Flowers with a dark blue top lip and white lower lip are the most common.

Horticultural info from PlantZAfrica.

The ears, the hands, the eyes, the Cloud Monster! 

What is your signature plant? What do you love and it is happy? Or what do you PLAN to repeat, because your thoughtful eye says, THAT is my signature plant!

Rock from Malta

The English composer Ketelbey wrote Bells across the meadow, inspired by the bells of Ta Pinu church on Gozo, Malta. With meadows or sung at Qormi church. Near my laptop lies a chunk of honey gold stone, claimed from masons building a house on Gozo.    


Donna of GardensEyeView is near Oneida Lake in NY. She is calling her collection - Simply the Best, all native to her area. Hepatica 'silent token of an April day'.

Joy in her CanadianGarden has made her first choice, roses - for intoxicating fragrance or subtle colour.

Laura of PatioPatch is reviewing a London Courtyard Garden for her friend. First choice there, to counterbalance 4-5 storeys on 3 sides, is a climbing jasmine.

Christine in Cape Town of  TheGardeningBlog HAS an empty bed.  My Garden of 12 begins with Carex Evergold, because it makes her want to be in the garden!

An exotic entry from Cindy at  enclos*ure in Rwanda. She has chosen burgundy leaved bananas to add quick drama and height, and fruit!

Kathy of TheVioletFern in the 'North Country' upstate NY. In a northern January winter, she wants sunflowers for bees, birds and chipmunks.

Pam'sEnglishCottageGarden is in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Garden, Astolat Farm, and woods. She has chosen the English bluebell. 'Epitome of the English countryside' and Home.

Ronnie of 
Hurtled To 60  (is somewhere in England, near the sea?) She has chosen columbine Aquilegia, which reminds me of my MIL and her Swiss garden.

Christina Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides in Italy shares my mediterranean climate. She has chosen Stipa tenuissima which 'billows in the slightest breeze'. Mexican feather grass or Mare's Tails, which grows guiltily in my own garden as an invasive alien.

Esther's BoringGardenBlog is at home near the coast of Dorset (England). First on her list are nasturtiums. That's Not her First Choice.

Denise (who writes in Dutch about her peaceful Japanese inspired garden) has returned us to the first choice, by Donna,  Hepatica

The Sage Butterfly (who is where, doesn't say on her blog) has chosen hydrangeas. To me, Christmas flowers in a shady garden.

Experiments-with-Plants b_a_g (born again gardener, in case you didn't know) lives in Greater London. His heart and mine sing with lime-green Nicotiana. Did you know that seeds are double-fertilised?

Pictures by Diana and Jurg, and words by Diana of  Elephant's Eye 
- wildlife gardening in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa
(If you mouse over brown text, it turns shriek pink. Those are my links.) 


  1. What a lovely signature plant. Now you've got me thinking about signature plants. I love your cloud photos.

    Have a great weekend ~ FlowerLady

  2. Diana I love the salvia...I am calling my dozen, "Simply The Best". My first was hepatica a native to me. Here is the link:


  3. Diana I am glad I finally got over here girl !
    I am linking you up on my post for my favourite plant .. I'm in rose mode but I suspect my choices will change through out the season?LOL
    Your salvia is so pretty and hard working in your garden with such heat and dry conditions .. a perfect choice for you : )
    So here I am:
    http://canadiangardenjoy.blogspot.com/ Thanks !
    Joy : )

  4. You also made me think of signature plant, but my favorite is not endemic to my country, not even a native, don't even thrive here! hahaha! I wonder why some people (like me) wants those which are alien!

  5. It would be very hard to pin myself down to 12, but I can give you my number one plant-Snowdrops.
    They remind me of my grandmother,who loved them and my mother, who made sure that I planted some of my grandmothers in every garden that I owned. Now that I am in my 'forever' garden, I am going for quantity, and hoping one day soon to have drifts of them.

  6. Diana, these are my favourite plants - salvias and the blues are the best. Love their profiles and open mouths. Am joining you with a plant that goes along with changes I made/am making to a friends courtyard garden.

  7. That give me something to think about. I'm not sure if I could narrow it down to one plant as my signature plant, but it would be fun to try!

  8. Love your choice! That blue is stunning, and goes so well with other plantings. Can't beat something that blooms 7 months out of the year, is scented, and attracts bees.

  9. I am thinking about this Diana~and have the weekend to mull it over....I love me central Basin native plants and have written about them as signature plants~Will check my archives, too. gail

  10. This is a hard one. What is my signature plant? I will have to think about it! If I go by repetition and structure, it would be either Japanese maple or Yaupon Holly. I love your blue salvia! We also have hot summers and wet winters on clay soil. More than once I have noted your growing a plant that succeeds for me to, though my summer is more humid, I think.

  11. I love your flowers / plants and especially dig the mountains with clouds! Beautiful!
    Not able to play along with that Meme.
    I could take photos of some of the Aloe downstairs or hope the Bougainvillea they planted will survive, but that would be past the point, right? ;-)

  12. Hi Diana - The first of my Twelve is up:

    The Cloud Monster? Classic!!

  13. Deb - our summer is brutal. Toasted roses.

    NicoleB - perhaps you would like to join the Wildflower Wednesday towards the end of the month?

  14. Hehe, with what flowers?
    Especially in the coming months ;-)
    It will start to get warmer here and there will be barely anything blossoming, unless I can get into someones garden ;-D

    But I will enjoy your posts from afar :-)

  15. Signature plant...HM-mmm... For me, I think I have a favorite that varies from year to year. And I add more of it in that year that it is favored. However, I could say hydrangea, echinacea, yarrow, and rosemary definitely go on the list. I will continue giving this some thought...

  16. Hi Diana. I'm in -- a day late. I'm starting out with bananas, already said to be taking up 23% of Rwandan's arable land, but such a great, dramatic ornamental plant.

  17. Sages are one of my favorites. Your signature sage is beautiful! I grow common sage here but have had difficulty overwintering I think due to my wetter soil. This year it is overwintering in my cellar. I'll keep trying. My one in a dozen for Diana: http://thevioletfern.blogspot.com/2012/01/one-in-dozen-for-diana.html

  18. Dear Diana,

    For the first of my dozen I'm picking the English bluebell -- certainly not native to Pennsylvania, but for me the epitome of the English countryside. I'm linking you to an archived posting: http://pamsenglishcottagegarden.blogspot.com/2010/05/taste-of-england-for-mays-monthly.html

    Pam x

  19. Lovely idea Diana but left me pondering for a while. My garden is a mixture of lots of plants, but when I focus my mind I suppose my favourite plant and one that I would not do without in any garden of mine, whether it be large or a courtyard, would be Aquiliga (Columbine) I wrote about them in May last year http://wp.me/p1jkAI-rL I wish they flowered all year round. This is my one for Diana

  20. This is a good idea Pauline, one which I will join in when I can (hopefully once a month as you suggest). Many of my signature plants are the ones that self seed prolifically in my garden or that I just love. To begin a link to an older post but it is the plant that I use everywhere and links different spaces within the garden. Christina

  21. Dear Diana, I also love salvias and that one is a lovely soft blue - but I think if I changed my signature I would have a major identity crisis! cheers, catmint

  22. Hello! This is the link to my post about Aquilegia written in May called "Grannys bonnet is growing in my garden" http://wp.me/p1jkAI-rL

  23. Ok.Done it.



  24. Thanks for your comment. Have added rough-and-ready nasturtium picture.

  25. My signature plant has to be Nasturtium. Beautiful colours, self seed themselves each year and they're edible too. Perfection in a simple plant!

  26. Signature plant! well I thought naw, I don't have one, well, its not Thistles and its not Heather. Then it struck me, I do, its the fantastic underrated Alchemilla Mollis, its all over the joint, not only because it self seeds, but I like it.

  27. Diana, my favourite flowers are Hepatica flowers. I wrote about them twice last year:
    and I will hopefully write about them again when they bloom in march or april.

  28. I am terrible - every flower I see I think is the best and want it in the garden! At the moment I am just loving my pale pink and dark pink bougainvilleas.And in the wild, I am loving the Aristea glauca flowers that line the paths in Silvermine.

  29. Diana - a cold January foggy morning has me musing. I have been stripping back and stripping back in order to get a dog and chicken proof fence into our little town garden. For me the plants have to be the little patch of woodland that I lost. Hazel coppices are still here and snakeshead fritillaries. To make a dozen I want Viburnum opulus, hellebores, cyclamens for autumn, lily of the valley, solomons seal, primula, snowdrops, allium bulgaricum. I know the forget me nots and primroses are still lurking.

  30. Diana, after giving it some thought, I realized that any garden I was to plan in the future would have to have some hydrangeas. I have only recently come to appreciate their beauty and strength in the garden. So...here is the link...


  31. Hi Diana - Thanks to your request, I had an excuse to blog about nicotiana yet again ! -

  32. What an interesting post Diana, and I will have to go away and think about what is my signature plant.

    Also what I would have if I could only have a dozen plants .... dificulte


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Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
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