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An expert guide to summer gardening

This is the time to plan what you want to do in your garden and what plants you want to add that will attract birds, bees, and butterflies

By Staff Reporter | December 6, 2021 | Gardens

I can only talk for myself, but this has been a fantastic year as I have made the most of seeing my country and enjoying the different seasons and flowering times of the year. My annual trip to Namaqualand in spring is always a treat as the rains that fall in winter turn this dry landscape into a kaleidoscope of colour that is hard to describe unless you have been there to experience this incredible transformation. Luckily my job, which is also my hobby, takes me to so many beautiful places.

November is the start of summer although this year we have had a very mild start other than a lot of welcome rain. It does make life a little easier when you landscape a garden and mother nature provides rain, saving you the endless task of watering.

I recently completed the landscaping of a new shopping centre in Newlands West which overall is a very difficult site because it was built on shale, making planting very difficult.

Six weeks down the line and with some lovely rains the plants are starting to grow, the place transformed. Sadly, the entire precinct of the M5 that runs past the centre is covered in some of our worst alien invaders, including Lantana camara, Solanum mauritianum or bugweed and the yellow trumpet bush, Tecoma stans. Plans are in place to remove much of these alien plants and allow the natural grassland to flourish.

This is when the selection of plants becomes important as the site is hot, dry and windy with very little soil to speak of. I found indigenous grasses the perfect remedy for this difficult site and they have responded well. Once established they will grow and survive with very little attention and watering.

Summer is a great time to garden as the weather is warm, the days longer and there is lots of rain. This is the time to plan what you want to do in your garden and what plants you want to add that will attract birds, bees, and butterflies.

If you have sunny and shady areas in your garden, make sure you select plants that grow in these conditions. Never put a shade-loving plant in full sun because it will burn the leaves and kill the plant.

Try to stick to a palette of plants that flower throughout the year and create interest in texture, height, and form. Think of the size of the plants in relation to the size of your garden. Small gardens must have smallish trees and shrubs whereas a larger garden gives you the flexibility to plant large trees.

Think also of flowering times because you want different plants to flower throughout the year to create interest. However, do not create a “fruit salad'' of plants because you will have no uniformity to the garden. Select about 20 different plants and then use them cleverly. Listed below are some of the plants for sun and shade that will tick all the boxes.

Sun loving shrubs:

Bauhinia galpinii (pride de Kaap); Turraea obtusifolia (small honeysuckle-tree); Gardenia thunbergia (forest gardenia); Orthosiphon labiatus (small shell bush); Plectranthus ecklonii (large spur-flower bush); Tecoma capensis (Cape honey suckle); Polygala myrtifolia (September bush); Leonotis leonoris (wild dagga); Becium obovatum (cat’s whiskers); Hypoestes aristata (ribbon bush); Gomphocarpus physocarpus (milkweed); Plumbago auriculata (Cape plumbago).

Sun loving groundcovers:

Agapanthus praecox; Tulbaghia violaceae (wild garlic); Aloe cooperii (Cooper’s aloe); Asparagus sprengerii (asparagus fern); Asystasia gangetic (wild foxglove); Dietes grandiflora (wild iris), Gazannia sp; Crassula multicarva (fairy crassula); Barleria obtusa (bush violet); Bulbine natalensis rooiwortel); Aloe chabaudii (grey aloe); Osteospermums (African daisies); Delosperma sp. (ice plant); Carpobrotus dimidiatus (Natal sour fig); Scabiosa sp.; Cotyledon orbiculata (pigs ears); kniphofia sp (red hot poker); Eucomis autumnalis (pineapple plant); Gladiolus dalenii (African gladiolus).

Shade loving shrubs:

Mackaya bell (forest bells); Plectranthus zuluensi (Zulu spur flower); Dracaena aletriformis (dragon tree); Plectranthus ecklonii (spur flower); Rothmannia globosa (September bells); Plectranthus saccatus, Plectranthus fruticosus (spur flowers), Acocanthera oppositifolia (Bushman’s poison); Pavetta lanceolata (brides bush); Pavetta revoluta (dune brides bush); Carissa bispinose (num-num)

Shade loving groundcovers:

Chlorophytum bowkeri; Clivia miniata (Natal lily); Haemanthus albiflos (white paint brush); Chlorophytum krookianum (giant chlorophytum); Dietes grandiflora (wild iris); Crocosmia aurea (falling stars); Dietes iridiodes (African iris); Plectranthus ciliatus; Agapanthus praecox; Barleria obtusifolia (bush violet); Scadoxus puniceus (blood lily); Setaria megaphylla (giant setaria).

Happy gardening.

This article is sponsored by Chris Dalzell Landscapes, specialising in landscaping, consultation, plant broking and Botanical tours. If you have questions, email [email protected] or visit

Written by Chris Dalzell.

This article originally appeared on IOL.