Christine's garden Gardening Home page features Perenniels

Abutilon cutting and buds

A few months ago a friend of mine (the one with this wonderful garden) gave me a cutting of his Abutilon (Chinese lantern, flowering maple) which I had admired. I kept the cutting in the pot he gave it to me in for a couple of weeks / months and finally at the beginning of spring I planted it out into the garden as a tiny little plant. I’ve been watching it grow in anticipation of it looking as gorgeous as his does. On a walk-about of the garden this morning guess what I found? Not only has it grown significantly, but it has BUDS!! (Is it normal to get this excited about buds on plants, or is it just me?)

So here we have the plant as it is now …

Abutilon buds

[one_half]Lots of buds, YayLots of buds, YAY![/one_half]

[one_half_last]Gorgeous Abutilon budsGorgeous Abutilon buds[/one_half_last]

[one_half]New shoots on the broken partNew shoots on the broken part[/one_half]

[one_half_last]I see the aphids like it tooHmm, I see the aphids like it too[/one_half_last]

When I planted the cutting I accidentally broke a piece off the plant which I stuck in a pot and has now also taken root and is sprouting new leaves. Soon I will be able to add another of these lovely shrubs to my growing garden.

And I see I’m not the only one excited about the Abutilon … aphids are busy moving in and making themselves at home. Going to have to hose them off a bit later when the sun goes down …

Happy Gardening

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

Proud of my Camellias

Well this was a first for me … today a friend I had not seen in a few weeks “ooohed”  and “aahed” about my Camellias and complimented me on my garden! It was a great moment. My lovely daughter is always enthusiastic and Barbie, bless you, you always say lovely things about the garden and I know you both mean it – but when a friend who has little interest in gardening told me today how lovely everything looks and stopped in front of the newly blossoming Camellias and said “wow, what lovely glossy leaves and beautiful flowers” … well, I felt so proud and happy!



[one_half]More prettiness[/one_half]

[one_half_last]My favourite one[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Much more of the pretty[/one_half]

[one_half_last]And then some of the glossy[/one_half_last]

And the Camellias really are show-stoppingly gorgeous right now. Only three of my +/- 25 Camellias have started flowering and they really are giving us a wonderful show. A beautiful red and two different pinks are flowering in the front garden. One small shrub (the red) and two very large shrubs are covered in flowers. It has been a lot of work keeping them in tip-top shape and bug free. Aphids have been at them throughout the summer and its required bi-weekly inspections and washing off of pests and now we have these lovely healthy blooms. What a joy!

I’ve just read this: Aphids are attacked by a number of natural enemies including ladybug beetles and small wasps. I was wondering why I have so many wasps in my garden …

Happy gardening and I wish you a “blooming good week”!

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

First Camellia bloom of the season

The days are getting noticeably shorter here and the temperatures have dropped from the high 30’s of last week to a slightly chilly 23º C today. I had to go looking for a warmer jersey for the first time this year because my normal cardies were not doing it for me anymore. So I guess Autumn is actually here. We will in all likelihood still have some warmer days again until the chill sets in in mid to late April. Such is Autumn here in Cape Town. One day you are desperately trying to escape from the heat and the next day you’re looking for warm clothes…

It’s my very first “caring-about-my-garden” Autumn and so I’m watching the changes happening in the garden with interest and some anticipation (and expectation!). I have lots of Camellias in the garden of varying age, size and types and am watching all of them get buds. To my delight the first one has started to flower – beautiful crimson flowers which I thought I would share …

[one_half]First Camellia BloomFirst Camellia Bloom[/one_half]

[one_half_last]… and the SecondSecond Camellia[/one_half_last]

These are on a small(ish) compact shrub (about half a metre in height and sprawling one metre wide). The first flower opened on Tuesday and today there are four blooms on it with about twenty buds ready to spring into action. I love these shrubs, I’ve had a few of them attacked by aphids and have been diligently spraying these bugs off whenever I saw them and a quick check today and the Camellias are bug-free (Yay!). How do I care for them? Regular watering (its been daily watering during our summer heat), checking for bugs and spraying, all got some extra compost a week ago and regular fertilising with special fertiliser for Camellias. And of course they all have a generous layer of mulch around them. That’s it. They seem to be pretty hardy because they are all beautiful, healthy plants.

Watching the Camellias of all colours and sizes flower will no doubt cheer me up through the next four months when not much else will be happening in the garden … and I’m sure I will bore you to death with endless posts and photos of them all 🙂

I’ve just been on the American Camellia Societies website which has an encyclopedia of over 800 varieties of Camellias … wow! I didn’t know there are that many. It looks like a great website, one I’m sure to learn a lot from.


Christine's garden Gardening Home page features Trees

Mackaya Bella – Forest Bell Bush

[one_half]My shrub ‘Makhaya Bella’Makhaya Bella[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Flowering Makhaya Bella (From Bella[/one_half_last]

For a long time I’ve been trying to find out what one of the shrubs in my garden is. I’ve trawled through books and made assumptions and been wrong every time.

The main reason its been so difficult for me to identify this shrub is, that is has never flowered as long as I’ve had this plant, so I was trying to identify it by its leaves only. Not an easy task for someone as ignorant about plants as I am. I suspect the reason it has not flowered is that it was stuck in a very dark corner between the Willow tree and a Banana tree and received absolutely no light, never mind sun. It was in a very dark, deep shaded area. In December we were forced to remove the massive banana tree (it was causing structural damage to a wall) and now that this shrub has been getting light again it has almost doubled in size in the last two months. But still no flowers.

Yesterday I happened across some old gardening notes I had that says this shrub that I love so much is called “Asystasia Bella“. I googled it and found very little information and even fewer photographs that convinced me that this is indeed my shrub. Quite by chance this morning I did some more googling to discover that it is Asystasia Bella, but better known as Mackaya Bella (Forest Bell Bush), family Acanthaceae. I then found this page with two photographs of Makhaya Bella under cultivation at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Yay!! I’ve finally identified my shrub.

I’ve had to cut it back a lot in the past month because it was growing out of control and started to “fall over”. All the cutting has caused it to bush out even more. I staked it 2 months ago and its already outgrown the stakes, so it’s obviously a much happier plant now that it is getting some light. I love the leaves on this shrub – they are a lovely dark green, the plant is strong and healthy and seems to be immune to the pests that attack other plants here. Its easily propogated – because I like this plant so much, I took a cutting about four weeks ago and planted it directly in the soil in the back garden – its taken well and has started to grow new leaves! (not bad for a brown-thumb huh?!)

Now how can I get mine to flower like the one in the second photograph?

Notes I found on Makhaya Bella (from
Mackaya bella
is a beautiful shrub or small tree with slender branches bearing dark green leaves. The leaves are simple and oppositely arranged. Small, hairy pockets are often found in the axil of the veins. It has beautiful, large and attractive mauve to white flowers in terminal racemes usually marked with fine purple-pink lines. The genus Mackaya was named after James Townsend Mackay, author of Flora Hibernica. There is only one species in the genus Mackaya. The genus Mackaya was once included in the genus Asystasia. Its specific name bella means “beautiful”, a tribute to its large bell shaped flowers.

The forest bell bush occurs naturally in the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu Natal, Swaziland and Northern Province in evergreen forest, often along the edges of stream. This plant occurs nowhere else in the world except in Southern Africa which means is endemic to this region. Mackaya bella is commercially available in almost any local nursery in South Africa. It makes a stunning display if planted in a pot and can also serve for screening in a semi-shade area. The river bell is a desirable garden plant, which thrives in shade but flowers best with more sun, although this may cause leaves to yellow. The wood was once used to kindle fire by friction. The beautiful Blue Pansy butterfly caterpillars (Precis oenone oenone) feed on this shrub.

Gowing Mackaya bella: Growing Mackaya bella is easy from semi-hardwood stem cuttings taken during spring and autumn. Plants can also be propagated from seeds. Cutting materials may be treated with root stimulating hormone and should be planted in washed river sand. Rooting can be hastened by keeping the cuttings in a misted bed. In the garden forest bell bush should be planted in well-drained soil, with plenty of compost. Water well in summer, but less frequently in winter. To encourage bushiness plants should be pruned often. Mackaya bella is frost tender and it is advisable to plant it in a protected spot in cold regions. If is frosted, it should be drastically pruned to encourage new growth from the base. Mackaya bella performs best in sub-tropical to temperate regions.

More links to info about Makaya Bella:
Makhaya Bella at iGarden (Mackaya Bella thrives in Sydney’s climate)

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features Trees


My hibiscusI have two hibiscus shrubs (but they are more like trees). Both have obviously been here for many years as they are huge. I love these two shrubs because they are lovely to look at, always healthy and grow so rapidly that we have to keep cutting them back or they would take over completely. I’m a complete rookie at identifying plants and have made a few mistakes so far, but I think I have identified this Hibiscus in my garden correctly. I believe it is a Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, also known as Chinese Hibiscus which I read actually originates from South-East Asia.

The one in these photographs lives in my back garden, right in the far corner inbetween two trees (which I have yet to identify). It requires little attention besides hard pruning once or twice a year, has lovely foliage and produces masses of flowers seemingly all year round. The second one lives in the “back yard”, in a cemented area where it grows out of a hole in the cement between our and our neighbours’ properties. I like it there – it is where our rubbish bins and pool pump live and it transforms this area from being unattractive to a shady, flower filled area. This Hibiscus is also huge and requires hard cutting back at least twice a year or it would grow into the windows of the house. Birds and bees seem to love these two shrubs / trees. I see birds here every day which always makes me happy.

[one_half]My hibiscus[/one_half]

[one_half_last]My hibiscus[/one_half_last]

Happy gardening!