Landscaping with Bulbs

Nico Holtzhausen
Wed, 08 Oct 2003 04:03:43 PDT
I suppose it would be a good idea to introduce myself at this point.  My
name is Nico Holtzhausen, I am one of Mary-Sue's recruits on her visit
to South Africa.  My wife Jeanette and I live in Cape Town and we have
been growing bulbs for about three years (at a very small scale).  I
would summarize our interest as follows:  Firstly to appreciate the
bulbs in their natural habitat and to be involved in their conservation,
secondly to raise the profile of our indigenous bulbs locally by growing
the hardier and commoner species in the garden (landscaping if you want)
and thirdly to grow them in pots.
Naturally, our focus is on South African natural species, mostly
winter-growing, but also summer growing.  One of the problems (from a
landscapers point of view) with growing our winter-growing bulbs in the
garden is their seasonal nature.  Planting them on your lawn, which
seems like a popular options among the members of the discussion group
(maybe everybody is looking for an excuse not to mow the lawn?), seems
like an elegant solution here.   In Cape Town there is a natural white
Sparaxis specie (could be Grandiflora, although the flower looks a bit
too small), which does amazingly well at the sides of the roads and in
parks.  The plants are quite small, about 5cm in height, which seem to
help them in their struggle for survival against the insensitive lawn
mowers of the council. Just about a month ago, the lawn at one of the
sites had been mowed, and right now they are flowering with enthusiasm
in mass.  A large flowered pink Oxalis specie is another low growing
plant that provides wonderful displays on lawns in the Cape Town area.  
In the beds, there seem to be a number of options as to how to use
winter-growing bulbs.  Firstly, and the one that you will mostly come
across if you read books about indigenous gardening in South Africa, is
to use the bulbs in rock gardens.  This refers to the waterwise part of
your garden which gets no irrigation (i.e. only rain in winter) and
which could also contains succulents and optionally rocks. In this type
of garden, open soil patches in summer is quite acceptable.  This is
also the only way to landscape with plants that do not tolerate summer
Secondly, the bulbs may be treated as annuals, which imply that they
should be removed (and stored for next season) at the end of spring and
then replaced with something else for the summer months.  Thirdly, they
could be inter-planted with other herbaceous perennials or summer
growing/winter dormant and/or evergreen bulbs. Kirstenbosch botanical
garden (in Cape Town) has some wonderful displays on how these bulbs may
be inter-planted.  Watsonias and Chasmanthes may for instance be
inter-planted with winter dormant or evergreen Agapanthus species. 
These are just some ideas on using winter-growing species for
Unfortunately, due to work and other obligations I won't be able to
contribute regularly to the list, but I can assure you that I find it
very interesting to read about the activities of bulb enthusiast
elsewhere in the world.  
Nico Holtzhausen
Software Engineer
C301 Warehouse Building
Black River Park
Observatory, 7925
Cape Town, South Africa
+27 21 4421240                    main
+27 21 4421279                   direct
+27 21 4421264                    fax   

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