Gardening Club – January update

We had our first Edington Garden Club meeting for 2021 on Thursday the 7th January 2021. Due to the Covid-19 Lockdown the meeting was held on Zoom. Our speakers for this meeting were Dr Stephen and Mercedes Henning who discussed South African garden plants found in the United Kingdom. How we treat these plants in England depends on where they originated in South Africa. In England we find some of these South African plants growing happily in the garden and tolerating temperatures down to -5oC while others we can only keep as house plants on a windowsill.

South Africa is a large country some five times larger than the United Kingdom and has a huge variation in climate and topography. Most of South Africa sits at a high altitude or height above sea level. It is largely a dry country, with most of its western region being semi-desert. Rainfall increases in the east and most of the rain falls in summer. The summers are warm to hot, while the winter temperatures can vary, depending on locality from bitterly cold to cool. The eastern side of the country on the Indian Ocean is lush, well-watered and warmed by the Mozambique Current. There is winter rainfall in the west (on the Cape Peninsula and its surrounds) and the climate is Mediterranean.

So, if we use plants from the cooler to cold regions of South Africa, we find that they will grow quite happily in the gardens here in southern England. The plants from the more tropical eastern regions don’t do so well during our winters but can be brought inside until spring. The plants and succulents from the arid semi-desert regions can be grown in our rockeries as long as the soil is sandy and there is good drainage. A lot of South African plants can tolerate temperatures down to -5oC but must not stand in waterlogged ground. This is because although the winters in South Africa are very cold, they are always dry. Rain often does not fall for 3-4 months over winter and the grass all turns brown.

Some of the plants discussed from the harsh inland, highveld from altitudes between five and six thousand feet were the Agapanthus, Gladious, Pelargoniums, Acacia karoo – the sweet thorn, and the succulent Cotyledon orbiculata. These can grow quite well in the UK as long as they don’t get too wet in winter.

From the Lowveld, plants such as Arum Lilies (or Calla lilies) grow well in the south of England. Also, from the Lowveld and Kwa-Zulu-Natal are Crocosmias which do well here in Edington. Another plant doing well here from these regions is the Kniphofia or Red-hot poker.

From the more arid regions of South Africa there are Aloes and various succulents which can do well in our rockeries as long as the drainage is good. Gazanias from Namaqualand also do well in England but need dry, sunny, well drained and fertile soil. Mesembryanthemums from the same area can also do well here but they can be very sensitive to frost.

Osteospermums from the Western Cape has also been found to grow very well here in Edington and grow easily from cuttings.

The talk ended with the possibility of growing the King Protea (Protea cynaroides) here in Edington. It is very tough, tolerating wildfires, drought, and frost. It requires acidic soil that is poor in nutrients. Someone in Cardiff has kept one in a container outside for many years, so they should do well here.

Thank you Stephen and Mercedes.

Our next EDGC meeting will be via Zoom on 4th. Feb The Wiltshire Wildlife will speak on Hedgehogs. Please contact Jacky for joining information 01380 830133