Christine's garden Gardening Home page features Perenniels

Dietes Grandiflora is Third of my Twelve

I would not be a true South African gardener if I did not have this wonderful indigenous plant in my garden – Dietes grandiflora. I’ve briefly discussed Dietes before – it is a reliable plant in my garden and forms part of what I consider the  “background planting”. It forms a stunning backdrop to all my other foliage and flowering plants and is beautiful in its own right.

Also known as Wild Iris, this is a large wild iris grown throughout South Africa for obvious reasons. It’s evergreen, easy to grow and thrives in most conditions. For example, I have it growing in my sunniest beds with the roses where it gets about six to seven hours of full sun every day and I also have plenty of them growing in the back garden under the trees where they provide a wonderful contrast with their large strappy leaves which can grow to over a metre high.

Dietes grandiflora

Dietes grandiflora are both frost and drought hardy and will grow in either sun or shade. For best results and most flowers, plant Dietes grandiflora in full sun or light shade in well composted, well-drained soil and water well in summer. (Full plant profile at

Diana of Elephant’s Eye asks us to profile our twelve favourite plants. The ones we could not do without in our gardens. Dietes grandiflora is a stalwart in my garden – so this is one I won’t do without. They require so little attention and reward us handsomely season after season. This month Diana profiles her Pioneer plant – Spekboom.

[one_half]Dietes grandiflora in the rose bedDietes grandiflora[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Dietes grandiflora in bloomDietes grandiflora[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Close up of the flowerClose up of the flower[/one_half]

[one_half_last]The large strappy leavesThe large strappy leaves[/one_half_last]

I honestly pay these hardy perennials very little attention. They don’t demand any. I’ve hardly ever seen any insects on them (no tell-tale bite marks), they rarely require any sort of grooming and my rambunctious pets don’t even manage to damage the plants when they go bounding through the flower beds.

[one_third]Dietes in combinationDietes grandiflora[/one_third]

[one_third]The attractive seed headThe attractive seed head[/one_third]

[one_third_last]The lovely Wild IrisThe lovely Wild Iris[/one_third_last]

[one_third]Big upright strappy leavesBig upright strappy leaves[/one_third]

[one_third]Dietes grandiflora and GauraDietes grandiflora and Gaura[/one_third]

[one_third_last]White, purple and orangeWhite, purple and orange[/one_third_last]

I “cut my gardening teeth” on Dietes grandiflora. As a beginner, brown-thumbed  gardener these plants gave me a great boost initially by simply thriving and providing attractive foliage and the bonus of lovely flowers. It is for this reason that although I don’t talk about it often, it is on my list of plants I won’t garden without.

What are your favourite plants? The stalwarts that provide the backdrop to your garden?

Diana of Elephant’s Eye invites you to write a plant portrait each month. “I challenge you, in 2012, each month choose a plant. Archived pictures of flowers, berries, autumn leaves, wildlife endorsing your choice. Start fresh – what will be your signature plant?” Join Diana and friends on the 3rd Friday every month and showcase one of your favourite plants and see what others have chosen as theirs!

In January I profiled Carex evergold as my signature plant and in February I raved about the Pittosporum eugenioides ‘Variegata’. This month it’s Dietes grandiflora. Next month … perhaps a ground cover or a fabulous flowering plant. Come back and see!

That’s all folks!

Dietes grandiflora

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features Perenniels Trees

The Second of my Twelve

Diana asks this month to choose a tree with your heart. That one tree you will always plant, always want to have in your garden. If you have a new garden you will look for a place to plant it. That’s how much you love that tree! Well here’s my problem. In my “Garden of Twelve”, I already have a tree – an existing Betula pendula, Silver Birch. And it is a small bed. So planting another tree is not an option. So my favourite won’t make it to the Garden of Twelve.

My favourite tree is Pittosporum eugenioides ‘Variegata’ and I have two in my back garden. That tree that would go everywhere with me. Come enter my little forest with me and see how this tree lightens up the otherwise rather dark area.

Made with new software, I’m playing around with panoramas. Its lots of fun. Here you see a portion of my back garden, photographed and stitched together from three photographs. From the one Pittosporum to the other. This is the “youngest” area of my garden. Apart from the mature trees, every other plant here in this area, including the Pittosporums, all the Camellias etc. were planted 17 months ago. Everything had been ripped out of this bed and the shock to my system afterwards was great. I hated seeing the walls, I loathed seeing the neighbour roof and house. But now seventeen months later I am seeing the plants fill out and its starting to look fairly nice. It’s still my least favourite park of the garden but I spend the most time here now adding plants, trying new things and trying to make it a lovely place to just “be”. It’s the area favoured by birds. On any afternoon in the last few weeks you will find all sorts of birds here.

Panorama of the area with the two trees

The arrows mark the Pittosporums. Imagine how dark it might be without them twinkling in there. (The photo enlarges if you click on it).


And here are the gorgeous trees

[one_third]The Pittosporum on the left …The Pittosporum on the left ...[/one_third]

[one_third]Foliage detailFoliage detail[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Pittosporum on the rightThe gorgeous Pittosporum on the right[/one_third_last]

A last look at before and after …

[one_half]This was taken in December 2010This was taken in December 2010[/one_half]

[one_half_last]And taken 14 months later, in Febraury 2012And taken in Febraury 1012[/one_half_last]

So there you have my FAVOURITE shrub or tree.

What’s your favourite? Join Diana at Elephant’s Eye in her monthly “Dozen for Diana” meme. (Dozen for Diana by Elephant’s Eye  – on the 3rd Friday of every month Diana invites you to write a plant portrait. “I challenge you, in 2012, each month choose a plant. Archived pictures of flowers, berries, autumn leaves, wildlife endorsing your choice. Start fresh – what will be your signature plant?”).

The look I’m going for … woodland or mini-forest – this photo below taken at and angle and hiding the wall. I’m planting now for flowers in this garden. Japanese anemones are about to bloom, Digitalis planted for colour, Camellias and Azaleas will do their thing again and in Spring we have Freesias and other bulbs.

The look I'm going for ... woodland or mini-forest

Happy Gardening


Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

The First of my Twelve

I’m joining Diana at Elephant’s Eye in her monthly “Dozen for Diana” meme. Our friend Donna in New York is calling hers “Simply the Best“, I’m calling mine, “My Garden of Twelve“.

So I’ve known about this for a few weeks already and honestly, I’ve started my post for it four times! 4 times I started and four times I deleted. I just couldn’t get it right or feel any real passion for the plant profiles I was trying to do. Then I read the brief again. What does she really want us to do?

“1. I would like you to imagine a new empty small garden: Perhaps an enclosed courtyard? The view from a window? That new garden bed?
2. Choose Twelve plants that grow happily in your climate and soil! Make a list tailored for your garden.
3. Diana favours indigenous/native for wildlife. She also has roses. What do you like? What works in your garden?
4. Colour / scent / texture / interest – so we see A Garden.”
~ Diana of Elephant’s Eye (Western Cape, South Africa)

Right, now I get it.

Only, I don’t have to imagine an empty bed. I have one. A recently stripped bed. Its been stripped, composted, mulched, watered, left. It’s ready for some planting action. I have no plan. So lets use the bed and make a plan. 12 plants. 12 months. 12 progress blog posts.

[one_half]Bare Garden of Twelve in Jan, 2012Bare Garden of Twelve in January 2012[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Another angle, January 2012Another angle, January 2012[/one_half_last]

Current bed details:
Size of the bed: 3,2 metres long, 2.1 metres wide.
Aspect: East facing, against my west boundary wall.
Full sun / partial shade under the Birch tree.
Existing Plant material:
• A Birch tree, fair size.
• A young ornamental cherry (could be moved).
• A few random plants (Carex, Helichrysum petiolare, Lamium) that may be moved to other areas in the garden. Or not.

Desired Style: My own. I’ll work it out as I go along, but I’m thinking roses and grasses … perhaps. I can have 12 plants. And they need to work.
Name of the bed: For now I’ll call it my garden of twelve.
Intended plants: 12 plants. 12 that work. 12 plants that I love.
Problems / special considerations: My pets often walk in the front part of this beds so plants situated at the front cannot be delicate or fragile.

The First of my Twelve
Right, it’s nothing very exciting, terribly exotic, prestigious or even desirable. But I love it!

[one_half]Carex Evergold with petunias in my gardenCarex Evergold in my garden[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Carex Evergold grouped in my gardenCarex Evergold in my garden[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Bordering the Heliotrope in the Rose bedBordering the Heliotrope & Roses bed[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Chameleon plant peeping throughChameleon plant peeping through Carex[/one_half_last]

Plant: Carex hachijoensis ‘Evergold’ – Sedge
Why? I took a walk around my garden and asked myself the question … “If I pulled out every single plant and started from scratch, what is the very first plant I would plant again?”. In my garden, its Carex evergold. I just adore everything about this hardy plant. I know its not indigeneous, spectacular, bla bla bla … but it makes me happy and makes me want to be in the garden. So if I have these, then the rest follows.

In my garden of twelve, they already exist from the previous planting. As you can see in the photos (of the bed, above), they are planted all in a row – my rookie mistake. I plan to remove a few, then reposition the rest to create a more natural look. staggered, perhaps with a low growing, flowering ground cover in between, or something else, we’ll get to that … this is the First of my Twelve!

Carex Evergold

Plant Profile:
Type: Rush or Sedge
Family: Cyperaceae
Height: 0.75 to 1 feet / Spread: 1 to 1.5 feet
Blooms: Yes, but rather insignificant
Sun: Partial shade to sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Very low
Growth habit: It is a fairly dense, clump-forming sedge grown for its foliage effect.
Leaves: The leaves are grass-like, arching and variegated (creamy yellow with dark green borders).
Problems: To date I am not aware of any problems with Carex in my garden. I’ve lost one (a newly planted one) to what I think was cutworm. Other than that, they are easy, low maintenance, with a nice mounding growth habit. It is not spreading itself in my garden so is very well behaved and a bonus is that it can take a fair amount of abuse in terms of my pets trampling on it – which they like to do!
Seasonal interest: Carex is evergreen here in my climate, and looks great in all seasons with no colour changes.
References: Some information from the Missouri Botanical Garden, the rest is my own observation and experience.

My Garden of Twelve by Month in photos (Starts January 2012).
(From my Flickr Gallery which will be added to and updated monthly)

For a list of good memes, see our list at Gardening Blog Memes.