Back to your roots – indigenous flowers for the winter garden

By Alice Coetzee

Whether you’ve been to see the Namaqualand flowers, or it is still on your bucket list, don’t let that stop you from creating a little bit of floral heaven in your garden.

Did you know that South Africa is richer in indigenous flowers than most other countries? We are so lucky that Namaqualand daisies, nemesia, protea, diascia and many more that originate from the Cape floral kingdom can grace our winter and spring gardens.

Here is a selection of quick flowering indigenous winter annuals

African daisies are generally referred to as Namaqualand daisies because they are the stars of the show when Namaqualand bursts into bloom. True to their origins they are water wise and flower abundantly throughout winter.

Two easily available seed varieties are ‘High Noon Mixed’ (orange- gold) or the white ‘Silver Hills’.

There is also a ‘Namaqualand Flower Scatterings’ that contains a mix of African daisies and other indigenous flowering varieties. It produces a profusion of colour beginning in winter and changing throughout the season until spring.

Whether planting just the daisies or the mix, prepare and level the areas where the seed is to be scattered. Sprinkle the seed as evenly as possible (mixing them with mealie meal helps) and cover with a light layer of soil, firm down and water. One way to firm down the soil is to roll a plastic pipe over the soil. This gets rid of any air pockets between the seed and the soil.
Water regularly, especially while the seed is germinating. Do not weed until the plants are well established. After that they need little care.

Easy going gazanias

Two other daisies that hail from the Cape are Gazania Caledon Giants and Arctotis New Mixed. Both have large blooms, in a large range of colours, grow in full sun and are drought tolerant. They thrive in hot sunny gardens and aren’t fussy about the soil, as long as it drains well. Use them as groundcovers and to add colour to succulent gardens, rockeries, and pavements.

Dainty Diascia

The delicate blooms of Diascia ‘Pink Queen’ mix well with other low growing edging plants like nemesia, lamb’s ear and alyssum. Diascia grows easily in any garden soil, withstands moderate frost and just needs regular watering. Autumn and spring is the best time to plant Diascia because they flower best when it is cooler, adding colour before and after other flowers are finished. Plant en-masse for an effective display and cut back old stems in spring. They are also disease resistant.

Nemesia from seed

Nemesia ‘Carnival Choice Mixed’ is a low grower with vividly coloured flowers and has few equals for beds, borders or edgings. It grows well in semi-shade but is best in sun. Pinch out growing shoots of young plants to make them bushier. Water regularly in winter and cut back stems after flowering. This seed variety germinates within a week and stays compact (20 to 25cm high). It attracts bees and butterflies.

Kingfisher blue

Felicia also known as the ‘Kingfisher daisy produces a cloud of blue daisies with sunny yellow centres, that attract butterflies. They grow in full sun but in very hot gardens will do better with some afternoon shade. They grow in ordinary garden soil that drains well and are drought tolerant, once established.

This true blue daisy grows up to 45 cm with a 1m spread.

A pride of Proteas

Did you know? Proteas can be grown from seed, but you will need patience. They can take between two and three months to germinate and will only flower from three years onwards. Kirchhoffs has a range of protea seed, including such well known varieties as the king protea (Protea Cynaroides, broad leaf sugar bush (Protea Eximia), bearded protea(Protea Grandiceps), blue sugar bush ( Protea Nerifolia) and the sugar bush (Protea Repens).