Be wise with water in your garden

Written by Catherine Clulow

So you’ve all heard it before, water is scarce…, gardens are thirsty… So what do you do? Today we remind you of some handy ideas and tips to be wise with water in your garden.

Water is a scarce and precious commodity globally, and especially in SA with unpredictable rainfall and an ever increasing demand for it. We need to think of the future, garden for the future and encourage that water-wise indigenous gardens should be the norm. Don’t be fooled by a common misconception that water-wise means something dull and dreary, perhaps an image that pops to mind is that of rockeries and cacti…

Think of beauties like these, not to mention the diverse variety of fynbos gems out there:

The succulent Kerky bush requires little water (Crassula ovata)

succulent leaves Kerky Bush Crassula ovata ALN 098
Crassula ovata ©Alice Notten

The wind and drought tolerant camphor bush (Tarchonanthus littoralis)

wind and drought tolerant small tree Coastal Camphor Bush  Tarchonanthus littoralis ALN 054
Tarchonanthus littoralis ©Alice Notten

The wind resistant and fast-growing Keurboom (Virgilia divaricata)

wind resistant fast growing Keurboom Virgilia divaricata 9 Oct 15 ALN 137
Virgilia divaricata ©Alice Notten

The highly adaptable and bee loved Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)

Alice Notten- adaptable Cape Honeysuckle Tecomaria capensis yellow  ALN 053
Tecomaria capensis ©Alice Notten

The deep, strong rooted Plumgabo with its delicate soft flowers (Plumbago auriculata)

strong deep roots Plumbago Plumbago auriculata ALN 087
Plumbago auriculata ©Alice Notten

There are many ways to use water wisely and plant for the future- here are some ideas and tips from The Botanical Society of SA

6 simple water-wise garden tips and ideas

1. Prepare the soil well and add compost

Dig in plenty of compost, it keeps the microbes and earthworms happy and is great for water retention, as well as adding nutrients.

2. Reconsider your lawn

Think about the lawn space you need and use and perhaps you’ll consider alternates. Buffalo and Cynoden grass requires less water and less mowing- double win there. Remember not to cut your grass too short as longer blades shade the roots and reduce water evaporation.

groundcover Trailing Gazania  and mulch instead of lawn Gazania rigens
Groundcover trailing Gazania rigens and mulch instead of lawn ©Alice Notten

3. Choose locally suitable water-wise plants

There are numerous beautiful plants that require minimal to no watering once established. Plant before the rains to facilitate plants development of strong root systems before facing the dry season. Find out about location-suited best indigenous plant options.

4. Group plants with similar water needs together to optimise watering regimes. Be wise with watering correctly and only when necessary

Water thoroughly, less often and when evaporation is low (early mornings and evenings). Drip or underground irrigation also saves water and reduces weed growth.

5. Use mulch between plants

Mulch prevents water evaporation and keeps the soil cool. It also reduces run-off and erosion, suppresses weed growth, enriches the soil and prevents soil from compacting. There are a variety of options- be creative (bark, compost, newspaper, straw, dried leaves)

mulch examples
Mulch examples ©Alice Notten

6. Create shade and windbreaks

Plant fast-growing wind-resistant water-wise trees and shrubs suited to your area to shelter your garden from drying out.

And there you have it. Easy enough, isn’t it?

BotSoc are partnering with Reliance Nursery and collaborating with Metro roof|solar|electric to showcase a water-wise demonstration garden at the upcoming not-to-be-missed Cape Town Flower Show in October, pop in and see us there, and there’s loads more to do and see at the show too.

SANBI gardens also have water-wise demonstration gardens for your guidance, education and inspiration and many nurseries can advise on suitable local indigenous plant options.

Happy gardening and remember to be wise with water in your garden!

Further information:

Visit PlantZAfrica to find out all you need to know about indigenous plant options

How to create a bee-friendly garden

Written by Life Green Group and Catherine Clulow

It is time to start planting for the bees! With #WorldHoneyBeeDay around the corner, celebrated annually on the third Saturday of August, Life Green Group & BotSoc decided to explore and share about what planting methods and indigenous flowers attract bees to your garden.

There is a massive shortage of bees in urban areas as concrete, pavements and infrastructure do little to attract them- yet they play a vital role in gardens. The type of garden which bees are attracted to is typically an overgrown, flowering and fragrant type cottage garden. Think overgrown cottage gardens or scented gardens.

Sadly hybridised and seasonal exotics like pansies aren’t going to cut it for these critters – hybridised plants don’t have the high nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein) content and have lost most of their scent to make way for unnatural colours and varied flower structures.

Each flower has a unique scent and bee’s favourite colours are blue-mauve and yellow. They like the plants planted in bulk and close together. They also need plants that flower at different times of the year so they have a year-round food supply –  Little tip: aloes and kniphofias keep hives going in winter.

Here is a list of sweetly scented, brightly coloured local plants that are known to make bees wings buzz.


Anisodontea scabrosa (Pink mallow

This ballerina-like plant flowers with grace all year round, providing endless pollen for the bees, and are eye candy in your garden!

FullSizeRender (17)
Anisodontea scabrosa © Life Green Group

Grewia occidentalis (Cross-berry)

If the seeds of this plant are used to sweeten milk in African cultures… imagine what the flower can do for honey!

Grewia occidentalis fruit flower foliage 13 Dec 14 ALN 100
Grewia occidentalis ©Alice Notten

Mundulea sericea (Cork bush)  

Botanical purple, this bush is a fine garden specimen that attracts bees, birds, butterflies and insects- it’s their fast food restaurant in the Highveld.

Mundulea sericea -  Colin Ralston
Mundulea sericea ©Colin Ralston

Ehretia rigida (Puzzle bush)

The puzzle bush is alive with activity and its twisted branches and sweetly scented blossoms attract swarms or six-legged creatures, including bees.

Other shrubs to look out for are the buddleja and bauhinia species.



Ensure you purchase indigenous non-hybrid versions that naturally have high nectar content for the sunbirds and bees. Aloes will keep your bee garden alive in winter.

BEE FLOWER5 - aloe
Bee visits Aloe ©Alice Notten

Kniphorfia (Red hot poker)  

Who doesn’t love a red-hot-poker, like the aloes, it too flowers in harsh times and is a real head turner in a garden and the bees have taken notice.

Kniphofia uvaria bee Kirstenbosch ALICE NOTTEN 099c
Kniphofia uvaria visited by a bee at Kirstenbosch ©Alice Notten

Tecoma capensis (Cape honeysuckle)

The Cape honeysuckle keeps the bees busy with their lovely yellow, red or orange blossoms, these beauties also make for a fine garden shrub or bush with some shear work.

Cape Honey Bee - Ashley Newell
Cape Honey Bee on Cape Honeysuckle ©Ashley Newell

Clivia miniata (Clivias)

For those shady areas! With all these sun loving shrubs you need something that keeps the shady areas bee-friendly too and this is truly a magnificent local species the bees and gardeners  alike simply love.

Clivia miniata Paul Odendaal
Clivia miniata © Paul Oudendaal


Lampranthus aureus (Vygies)  

This flourishing ground cover produces sweet little flowers, and is not only a must have in a succulent garden, it is highly adaptable and is vital in a bee garden.

2014_08_Fabio Marco Obertufer_ Life in Springish_1st
Pollination in action ©Fabio Marco Obertufer

Felicia amelloides (Kingfisher Daisy)

Felicia plants are already a much loved garden species and now there is a reason to plant more of this blue and yellow daisy bush in your bee–friendly garden.

blue-felicia-daisy-1292090_960_720 LGG
Felicia amelloides © Life Green Group

Euryops (Bush Daisy)

Looking to add a sunny statement to your bee garden? Try any of the three Euryops daisies and they will be sure to cheer the bees up too!

Euryops pectinatus bee Kirstenbosch ALICE NOTTEN 130c
Euryops pectinatus at Kirstenbosch attracts the bees ©Alice Notten
Harvest Time - Alan Williams
Pollinators at work ©Alan Williams

Dimorphotheca (African Daisy)

Related to sunflowers the African daisies are what attract countless tourists to the Namaqualand every spring and it doesn’t just have the tourists and locals running, bees love them too!

Dimorphotheca Whitsend Kirstenbosch ALICE NOTTEN 067c
Dimorphotheca whitsend at Kirstenbosch ©Alice Notten

Geranium incanum (Carpet Geranium

The symbiotic relationship doesn’t get any sweeter than that between the carpet geranium and bees. With regards to geraniums try ensure it is the original species and not a hybridised version sold in some nurseries.

Geranium incanum bee Kirstenbosch ALICE NOTTEN 098
Geranium incanum at Kirstenbosch ©Alice Notten

Osteospermums (Cape Daisy)

Make sure you have a less hybridised version but the Cape daisy, making for a beautiful bee garden addition! It will put a smile on your face and Barry the Bee’s too!

Other indigenous plant families that you can use in a bee garden are: Pelargonium, Salivia, Scabiosa, Helichrysums, Gladiolus and Agathosma


If in SA, you have to try fynbos honey- it’s delicious! The Cape Floral Kingdom is home to thousands of prolifically flowering plants from proteas, pincushions, spiderheads and blushing brides to an array of ericas and many others in between that provide much needed pollen to bees.

You cannot go wrong with an indigenous fynbos garden for the bees, especially if your garden has lots of proteas and ericas.

Bee on Leucospermum - Pat Thompson
Bee on Leucospermum ©Pat Thomson

And don’t forget shallow birdbaths for water.

May your gardens be indigenous, buzzing and beeautiful, creating havens for our precious bees.

Don’t forget to like the Botanical Society of SA on Facebook and follow us on Twitter too.

Information sources

To read up more about the mentioned species, we recommend you visit PlantZAfrica.

There are fantastic related resources and updates on research available from the SANBI Biodiversity Research, Assessment and Monitoring Division here.

How BotSoc and SANBI fit together: a successful strategic partnership

The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) have worked in a mutually beneficial and successful partnership for over 100 years. Many folk confuse the two or misinterpret that they are one and the same- this is not true. Here we lay out a few facts to clarify who we, BotSoc, are and how we fit together with SANBI.

BotSoc’s mission: “To win the hearts, minds and material support of individuals and organisations wherever they may be for the conservation, cultivation, wise use and study of the indigenous vegetation of southern Africa.”

The BotSoc is a non-profit, non-government voluntary membership based organisation operating within its own legalistic and governance policies and guidelines.  The BotSoc is a registered entity with the Department of Social Development with Public benefit and Tax exempt status under the Income Tax Act.  It is managed by a member elected Council in terms of the Society’s constitution and the Council is responsible for the oversight, guidance and strategic direction of the Society in terms of its objectives and focus areas.

A strategic advantage of the Society is that it enjoys a more than 100-year-old relationship with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and membership to the BotSoc offers the member the rights of free entry into all the national botanical gardens.  SANBI with its head office based in Pretoria is a public entity under the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) – the government body vested with the mandates to ensure the protection of our biodiversity treasures.  BotSoc supports – through its Branches – all SANBI gardens nationally and they share a Memorandum of Agreement which outlines the areas of co-operation and the mutually beneficial activities and support areas.  This relationship is believed to be the oldest public-private partnership between a NGO and a public entity.  Joint centenary celebrations were held during 2013 with a special commemorative Veld &Flora issue being published documenting the 100 year story.

The BotSoc activities are aligned under the following pillars:

A) Conservation

B) Environmental Education and Outreach

C) Membership, Branch support and Operations

The BotSoc works in partnership and collaborates with various other conservation bodies, agencies, government bodies as well as other organisations in the pursuance of its mission.

Governance is important – The constitution of the BotSoc endows the Council with the power to take full responsibility for the management of the operations of the Society.  The Council employs and empowers the Executive Director to manage the day-to-day operations through a vicarious relationship with the mandates and delegated authorities in place.  All head office staff, branch committee members, as well as contract staff are ultimately responsible to the Council.

Branch committees are the “engines” of the BotSoc on the ground keeping the Society true to its objectives through the various local activities and programmes undertaken.  Branches receive financial support from membership income to sustain the member nurturing activities within the different regions.

Members are the mainstay of the BotSoc.  BotSoc members enjoy various benefits which includes free entry into all SANBI gardens, the quarterly Veld & Flora magazine, opportunity to partake in walks, talks and outings, as well as being afforded various opportunities to volunteer within the activities and programmes of the BotSoc.  BotSoc has a membership base of over 24 000 in 30 countries.

BotSoc vs. SANBI: 11 quick facts

  1. BotSoc is a registered non-profit, non-government entity                                                      SANBI is a registered public entity with Government
  2. BotSoc is not funded by government, SANBI is partially
  3. BotSoc’s main source of income for operations is from membership subscriptions and donations. SANBI’s main source of income is from government grants and donor /project funding.
  4. BotSoc mandates are informed by the Society’s mission statement. SANBI’s mandates are set by government and global trends in the biodiversity conservation sector.
  5. BotSoc is a support organisation to the SANBI national botanical gardens. SANBI manages and upkeeps the SANBI national botanical gardens.
  6.  BotSoc enjoys tax exempt status and donations may attract donation tax benefits in terms of the Income Tax Act. As a Public Entity tax considerations are not available for donations to SANBI.
  7.  BotSoc is managed by a member elected Council in terms of the Society’s Constitution. SANBI is managed by a ministerial appointed board under the Dept. of Environmental Affairs (DEA).
  8. BotSoc operates within the framework of the Dept. of Social Development and SARS Tax Exempt Unit under the Income Tax Act as guided by Council. SANBI operates with the framework of the Public Service frameworks and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and other government prescriptions (SCOPA/AG office, etc.)
  9.  BotSoc supports some activities within the SANBI mandates in terms of biodiversity conservation. SANBI carries the responsibilities for the mandates set out by Government in terms of biodiversity conservation.
  10.  Join the BotSoc and become a member of the BotSoc, a voluntary based membership organisation. BotSoc membership allows the free entry into all SANBI national botanical gardens and offers volunteer opportunities.
  11.  BotSoc enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with SANBI by them offering the BotSoc as an entity the free entry benefit to all SANBI gardens to all BotSoc members. SANBI enjoys the support of the BotSoc as a voluntary membership based Society and enjoys the volunteer support in the various areas within the SANBI as offered by the BotSoc member.

Calls to action 

  • Sign up to join here. Members are encouraged to recruit a non-member to join the BotSoc. Remember you can gift a membership too. Read 10 reasons to join BotSoc here.
  • Sign up for a volunteer activity in your local garden (education/garden/herbaria/admin/guiding)
  • Join the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) programme and monitor and survey SA’s most threatened plants
  • Join a Branch committee – where all the action is
  • Become a member of the Heritage circle by making a bequest/donation which will enjoy donation tax benefits
  • Become a member and enjoy psychological wellbeing, connecting with nature in the botanical treasures on offer within the SANBI gardens.
  • Sign up with the MySchoolMyVillageMyPlanet card and make the Botanical Society your beneficiary.
  • Follow and engage with us on Facebook and Twitter
  • Follow our blog by clicking below and you’ll receive our latest posts via email


It’s going to be blooming fantastic. Don’t miss the Cape Town Flower Show 2016 – Win tickets today!

So, people have been talking about it, you’ve seen the logo and snippets across social media channels and in printed media … and you still don’t know what I’m talking about?  It’s The Cape Town Flower Show of course.

This really awesome event takes place 27-31 October 2016, at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town.  So, save the date, because you simply have to be there.

Set in a gorgeous, significant and historical venue in the centre of world renowned Cape Town, at the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom – who could ask for a better place for this show to be held? This event will bring you natural wonders like never before, showcasing inspiring, contextual and educational content helping raise awareness and promoting the importance of sustaining our local biodiversity as a precious natural resource.

Attractions include: show gardens; demonstrations, talks and workshops; a specially curated ‘flowers in art’ exhibit; a floral theatre with floristry displays and a brand new MasterFlorist™ competition; and a food and drink garden. There is so much to see, so much to do, so much not to miss out on.

We are super excited and proud to announce that The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) will be there. BotSoc in partnership with Reliance Compost are collaborating with Metro Roofs to showcase a stunning and sustainable water-wise garden exhibit. You can learn how to view your roof in a whole different light, get tips on harvesting rainwater and how to install simple systems to save water in your garden. Come and see a diverse array of stunning indigenous plants and wise planting ideas, and be sure to grab a take-home water-wise tips brochure that will be available at our garden at the show. And you can also find the BotSoc stand in the exhibitors’ hall, where the BotSoc bookshop will have a fantastic selection of quality natural heritage books on sale, where you can also become a BotSoc member.  Find out more about BotSoc membership.

So, if you have your tickets, excellent, and we look forward to seeing you there.  If you don’t have tickets yet, why not enter our giveaway below – it’s worth a shot. We have just two giveaways on this blog, so if it’s not your lucky day when the prize is drawn or you need more than two tickets, you can get your tickets today by visiting The Cape Town Flower Show on Computicket

CTFS Logo+dateCOL

***Win 2 tickets to the 2016 Cape Town Flower Show***

We are offering one lucky BotSocBlog reader a chance to win two tickets to the Cape Town Flower Show worth R360. These tickets offer access to the wonders of this awesome show hosted at the Castle of Good Hope.

And what you have saved on the entry price you could spend on treating yourself to something at the show – from products on sale to food and drink or whatever tickles your fancy.

3 easy steps on how to enter:

  1. Tell us what you most look forward to seeing at the CT Flower Show 2016 by checking out The Cape Town Flower Show
  2. Comment below and let us know, please include your email address
  3. Share the love if you want to tell others about this giveaway on various social media channels

Terms & Conditions:

  • This prize may not be won by any staff member of BotSoc or their direct family members or any associated companies to the Cape Town Flower Show
  • The prize is redeemable at the complimentary ticket counter at the Castle of Good Hope on the day and valid for entry on Thursday 27 October 2016 only.
  • Giveaway closes 10 August 2016 at 12h00.
  • Please note that you can only enter once and the winner will be chosen by We will contact you via email and your name and contact will be shared with the CT Flower Show organising team to ensure you’re on the guest list

You may want to like the Cape Town Flower Show on Facebook and follow the show on Instagram and Twitter too.

And don’t forget to like the Botanical Society of SA on Facebook and follow us on Twitter too.

Best of luck!

***The lucky winner is Shelli Louise Marx***

5 small indigenous trees for a little South African garden

Written by Life Green Group & Catherine Clulow

Not every passionate gardener has a massive garden and sometimes landscapers need to find a little tree to full a smaller area without it ruining foundations or the tree getting “too big for its roots.”

In a previous blog we shared with you about a few tree-forming shrubs that are great options for smaller gardens, you can read that blog here.

Today we share about five small, indigenous trees that landscapers recommend you use in your small South African garden:

1 Jacket plum (Pappea capensis)

papae capensis
Pappea capensis © Life Green Group

The Jacket plum is a prime tree for gardeners trying to attract birds to their garden. Its cherry-like fruit is a favourite among the fruit eating birds such as the mousebird, starling and big beaked barbet.
Not only is it a hit with the birds, it has a neat single stem; dense round crown and non-invasive root system making is a superb garden specimen for any Durban, Joburg or Mpumalanga garden.
It is one of the most adaptable trees in Africa and can handle dry and cold conditions by varying its size. It is best to plant the Pappea capensis in groups of three of more as male and female flowers occur on different trees.

2 False Olive (Buddleja saligna)

Buddleja saligna (1)
Buddleja saligna © Monique McQuillan

One of the best trees for butterflies and bees is the false olive, it also makes for an excellent screening tree to hide unsightly spaces. It gets copious amounts of white pompom flowers in season and may reach 10 metres high in warmer areas. It can be planted close to buildings and foundations and has a lovely grey tone to its bark and leaves, that give it a very bushveld look and goes well with very neutral garden and building tones.

3 Dogwood (Rhamnus prinoides

The 7 metre tall dogwood is fast growing and can be used to form a super hedge or as a great screen tree. It has wonderful glossy leaves and is very effective near a fishpond as its low foliage provides hiding places for aquatic life. It’s also a fantastic tree for bees  – urban areas are seeing a massive decrease in bee populations so gardeners should be planting with these busy insects in mind.

4 Common Rothmannia (Rothmannia capensis

Rothmannia capensis 260_35
Rothmannia capensis © Monique McQuillan

When it comes the Rothmannia capensis it is all about the flowers. This evergreen tree is a fantastic small garden specimen with its heavenly scented big white flowers and large green fruits. For a small tree it gives fantastic shade and can be planted as a lawn tree. It gets to about 10 metres tall with a dense round crown.

5 Blue Guarri (Euclea crispa subspecies crispa)

Euclea crispa subsp. crispa
Euclea crispa subspecies crispa © Life Green Group

Slow growing and neat the Blue guarri is a fantastic small garden addition. It has a single stem and a neat, thick and well-structured crown. It is loved by lichen, and like the false olive, it has blue grey undertones to its leaves and bark. Only female plants will produce fruit so it is recommended they are planted in clusters of both sex.

And there you have it, another great share of advice from Life Green Group and the Botanical Society of South Africa. Remember that the SANBI National Botanical Gardens have fantastic indigenous nurseries where you can purchase your choice of indigenous beauty to green up your space, as well as ask further advise. Are you enjoying any of these species in your garden? Or planning to plant them? Let us know in the comments below.

You can find out more about the BotSoc on their other social media channels and website, we look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time…

Information sources/ further reading

If you wish to find out more about these species and their growth forms, ecology etc., a great resource we recommend, is looking them up on PlantZAfrica.


Learn about Mandela’s Gold this Mandela Day 18 July

Written by Catherine Cluow

Today, the 18th July is Mandela Day, a day not only to celebrate his life and legacy, but a day of action to better the world, it’s a global movement to honour his life’s work and make a positive difference.

The Botanical Society of South Africa tries to contribute to making the world a better place by promoting, supporting and encouraging environmental awareness and education, as well as plant and biodiversity conservation. Let us share with you about a very special plant, and what is a more appropriate choice to educate you about on Mandela day, than the Mandela’s Gold, an elegant and beautiful floral gem, named in honour of our Tata Madiba.

In August 1996 Nelson Mandela visited Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, planted the pepper-bark tree near the Visitors’ Centre and unveiled the special yellow Mandela’s Gold Stelitzia named in honour of him- here are a few facts about this plant:

  • This flower is pollinated by birds’ feet. The bird perches delicately on the sticky anthers and picks up pollen on its feed while feeding on the nectar, the specific pollinator bird perches in the right spot resulting in the blue anther covering petals to open up exposing the pollen. Although the pollinator is not found in Cape Town and it is not certain exactly who is doing the job, many birds visit and enjoy the nectar but do not perch in the correct position for pollination.
  • The Strelitzia plants are easy to grow: needing a warm, sunny location with rich loam soils.
  • The rare yellow form of the Strelitzia/ crane flower/ bird of paradise is a natural variant of the normally orange species that crop up infrequently. Yellow plants do not always produce yellow offspring. At Kirstenbosch these plants are hand-pollinated to ensure yellow flowers result and the germinated seeds need to be carefully protected from being eaten by squirrels. Have you ever noticed the flowers have chicken mesh wire around them from time to time? This is to protect the developing and germinated seeds from being eaten.
  • Once established the plant needs minimal watering but for best results give them regular deep watering through summer, and feed generously with manure compost and/or fertiliser about once a month during summer.
  • They are wind tolerant but frost sensitive.
  • Slow growing beauties, they may only flower in the third year if in an ideal setting. In poorer conditions, they can take up to 5-7 years to flower. But the wait is worth it!

We hope that you enjoyed this read, please follow our blog and tell others about it too. To find out more about BotSoc click here. We’d also love to engage with you over our other social media channels, you can find us on Facebook and Twitter (@BotSocSA).

Have a great Mandela Day and tell us what you are doing for the environment, we’d love to hear from you…

Information sources:


7 Flowering, tree-forming shrubs ideal for small SA gardens

Written by Life Green Group and Catherine Clulow

Let’s be honest not everyone can fit a baobab in their backyard which is why there are shrubs, beautiful flowering shrubs. Shrubs are usually messy, can appear somewhat overgrown but they are highly adaptable and trainable and they also flower prolifically.

So with the right pruning and correct maintenance they can become a showcase feature in your small garden.

So without further ado here are 7 indigenous shrubs that make for wonderful trees in a small South African garden:

1.The River Indigo (Indigofera jucunda)

When it comes to this shrub it’s controlled chaos –the River indigo is messy if left to its own devises but it can easily be trained into a single stemmed tree. Nurseries often sell it as a tree and most of the pruning work has already been done for you. The river indigo reaches a fair height (up to 4m) in the correct conditions and gets lovely sprays of ballerina pink flowers.

Indigofera KBG MM 3974 (2)
© Monique Mcquillan

2. Pride of the Cape (Bauhinia galpinii)

This coral-coloured beauty can take over a garden, with a bad habit of climbing the Bauhinia galpinii can ramble on forever, but with the correct shear work this shrub can become a wonderful shade giving tree in any small garden.

Bauhinia galpinii- Monique mcquillan
©Monique Mcquillan

3. Tree Hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus)

The tree hibiscus is the only hibiscus plant in the world that is classified as a tree! Durbanites this shrub is for you. It has stunning lemon yellow flowers and it reaches a height of three to six metres. It does not handle frost very well but makes a delightful addition to a tropical backyard.

Hibiscus tiliaceus- Monique Mcquillan (3)
©Monique Mcquillan

4. Dwarf coral tree (Erythrina humeana)

Ever wanted a large lucky bean tree in your garden but couldn’t fit one in… Well, this shrub flowers scarlet blossoms at single story window height and attracts loads of sunbirds. In colder areas it dies in winter and grows back in summer. In warmer areas it may need some pruning. Generally the dwarf coral reaches 1.5 metres in height, take care to plant it away from foundations as its root system is invasive.

Erythrina humeana 163_57 MM (5)
© Monique Mcquillan

5. Cross-berry (Grewia occidentalis)

Like the river indigo, this shrub is naturally a bit chaotic but with yearly pruning it can become a single stemmed tree of about three metres tall, with a wild flowering canopy. The cross-berry produces magnificent mauve flowers so next time you go to the nursery add this small tree to your list. Birds love it and it can be planted close to infrastructure.

Grewia occidentalis 30 Nov 08 ALN 045c
© Alice Notten

6. Yellow Bauhinia (Buahinia Tomentosa)  

Mad about yellow? Well this is one of the larger shrub species and can get to four metres tall. The yellow Bauhinia has lovely lime coloured leaves that go well with its yellow bell-shaped flowers.  It does well in full sun and makes for a great container plant.

Bauhinia tomentosa - J.M.Garg
© J.M.Garg

7. Cork Bush (Mundulea sericea)

No Gauteng garden is complete without a cork bush. Flashy, attractive with a non-invasive root system this small tree is Highveld gold. Naturally, it forms a single stem with a bushy crown and can get seven metres high. It is graceful elegant and much loved by landscapers and wildlife, especially butterflies!  In summer it gets beautiful wisteria-purple flowers.

Mundulea sericea -  Colin Ralston
© Colin Ralston

For more on how to train your shrub click here and to learn more about these indigenous plants, we recommend looking them up on PlantZAfrica.

So there you have it, gorgeous indigenous options for small SA gardens. Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below and please consider following our blog. To find out more about the Botanical Society of South Africa please find us on social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter) and visit our website.

Happy gardening!