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Indigenous plants for your garden
“Indigenous Plants for your Garden”
from the Highway Mail series
compiled by Lindsay Gray on behalf of Hillcrest Conservancy
AN AUTUMN DELIGHT
Over the next few weeks, we will look at some of the beautiful indigenous shrubs that you can use to brighten up your autumn garden.
The ribbon bush, Hypoestes (‘Hypo-estes’) aristata, is in full flower at the moment, creating delightful drifts of lilac throughout my garden. This is a soft-wooded shrub that can reach between 1,2 m and 1,5 m in height and at least 1 m in width, so allow space for it to spread. It has soft, dark-green leaves with spikes of tubular mauve, pink or – less common – white flowers. Each flower has two ‘lips’ that curl back like a florist’s ribbon (hence its common name), revealing dark purple speckles.
Hypoestes tolerates the sun but is more comfortable in light to medium shade, as its natural habitat is mostly thick vegetation in forests and on the forest margins, as well as in woodland and thicket bush clumps. It needs little water and will tolerate light frost. The shrub propagates easily from cuttings, but it also self-seeds over quite a distance and will take over unless you remove any unwanted seedlings as they appear.
In summer, Hypoestes has a rounded, compact shape and creates a wonderful backdrop to a varied foreground planting of smaller shrubs, perennials, grasses and groundcovers. Oddly, when it is flowering, the shrub often falls open in the centre. Not that this detracts from the glorious show of flowers, but it does mean that you will need to prune it back hard after flowering.
Hypoestes is an important plant for attracting insects to the garden as it is a larval food plant for several butterfly species such as the Yellow, Blue and Brown Pansy. The flowers are rich in nectar, attracting a variety of other insects which, in turn, are a valuable source of food for insectivorous birds like Robin chats, Thrushes and Barbets.
From a landscaping point of view, this plant is extremely useful as it can be used in a variety of garden themes, such as a country garden, a forest or woodland area, thicket or bushveld. When massed under large trees, it creates a striking groundcover, albeit a tall one.
The ribbon bush pairs well with the orange flowers of the crane flower, Strelitzia regina, (flowering now) and those of the wild dagga, Leonotis leonurus, which is coming into flower, as well as the yellow daisy bush, Euryops pectinatus, that was featured in our last article.
Hillcrest Conservancy is a non-profit group of volunteers and relies on your support to protect the environment. Proceeds are used for on-going Hillcrest Conservancy projects, e.g. IAP control and education.