21-day lockdown – Day 14 – Favourite plants
Every so often, I get asked what my favourite plant is. Working with such a rich variety of plants daily, it’s impossible to have a specific answer. Instead, I prefer to select a variety of my favourite plants for a specific setting. So, over the coming days, we’ll be sharing some of our favourite plants for situations we frequently encounter.
Plants for a forest garden
It takes several years to develop a forest as you need established trees, but many older suburban gardens already have an area that has naturally evolved into just that. This is one of my favourite garden themes as I love the magical qualities that can be created within a forest garden. With the upper canopy already in place, we can create stunning focal points with shrubs and groundcovers to create a lush and inviting space. We often see gardens where the lawn just won’t grow because the area is covered in shade for most of the day. Instead of battling with various lawn species it may be easier to convert the space to a forest garden. Contrary to the belief that shade plants are only green, here’s a selection of our favourite forest-plants worth considering.
Chlorophytum comosum (Hen-and-chickens)
This is a common filler plant and is ideal for covering large expanses of ground in shady area quickly. It spreads by sending out shoots on arching stems above the ground. The green variety is better suited for dense shade whilst the variegated varieties are better suited for semi-shade or sunny positions.
Clivia miniata (Bush lily)
Without doubt, this is our iconic indigenous forest plant that heralds the arrival of spring. Clivias simply must be mass-planted in order to marvel at their beauty. They’re commonly available in orange and yellow-flowering varieties with some hybridized variations being collector’s items. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll need to visit a Clivia show in spring to see some of the incredible specimens available.
Duvernoia adhatoides (Pistol bush)
This shrub or small tree is useful to fill a gap where you need some height in a shady position. It bears clusters of white flowers from mid-summer through to winter. A highlight of this plant is the reason for the common name – when the fruit ripens, they explode with a pop to disperse the seeds up to 7m from the parent plant.
Scadoxus puniceus (Paintbrush)
This stunning bulb produces a bright red flower in early summer. As it loses its leaves for several months of the year, it is not ideal for mass-planting because you’ll have a seemingly bare space. However, it creates a magnificent focal plant, making it worthwhile to include a small grouping near the base of a tree.
Hypoestes aristata (Ribbon bush)
This small shrub bears dense clusters of pink flowers in autumn. It’s one of those plants that tends to blend into the background and is often forgotten until it explodes into flower.
Plectranthus species (Spur flower)
There are over 40 different Plectrantus species with varying growth forms to suit many situations. These mainly shade-loving plants bear autumn flowers in shades of purple, pink and white. The shrubby varieties are 50cm – 2m tall and include Plectranthus ecklonii (Large spurflower), Plectranthus fruticosis (Forest spurflower), and the hybrid Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’.
The groundcover species reach heights of 15-45cm. Some common varieties are Plectranthus verticillatus (Speckled spurflower) and Plectranthus madagascariensis (Variegated spurflower) which bears variegated foliage which helps break the monotony of green foliage.