Blue cat's whiskers
by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa
Ours was bought as indigenous at the Kirstenbosch Plant Sale in 2008. I was doubtful about 'ugandense' tropical Africa, but was assured it also grows in South Africa. Originally described from Kenya - says the University of Florida. Horticultural info from Missouri Botanical Garden. Clerondendron ugandense became Rotheca myricoides 'Ugandense'. Easy to remember as Oxford and Cambridge for the distinctive two blues.
Our little plant battled to survive in Porterville, to keep a few leaves, and produce the odd flower. It needed a kinder, cooler, moister, shadier home. Dug it up and put it in a much too small pot - sink or swim - and moved it with us to False Bay.
Planted against the afternoon shade side of the house. With cool damp sea breezes and the potted Septemberbossie to break the force of the Southeaster. It lives on the East Patio just outside the glazed kitchen door where the open flowers look me in the eye. This is one of my favourites among the 'blue' flowers and my November Dozen for Diana.
The leaves whorl out in three ranks, making the leafy plant interesting. Plenty of exuberance to trim for my vases, when it reaches IN to the kitchen. Or up to the window, didn't expect it to GET that high. Flowers for carpenter bees, then fruit for birds.
My Cornish Stripe garden was inspired by the broad blue and white stripes on my tea mug. Or wisps of cloud against a deep blue sky. I'm learning that is quite hard to achieve blue flowers. Most of mine have slid over to purple, mauve, lavender side of blues.
As I step out of the kitchen door, that East side of the garden is filled with purple flowers. Scabiosa entertains Thomas, tappy tappy, biff biff, and another one bites the dust. As a focal point on the table I have a potted Streptocarpus. Also wonderful for tappy biff and shred. Sigh, it was nice while it lasted and there are buds furling up ... Coleus neochilus is flowering its way to our current signature plant along the North, East and South sides.
The blue and white high contrast I also emphasise with dark and light foliage. Japanese maple and Prunus nigra have leafed out nicely, but I need to work them into more appealing shapes. An errant magenta Pelargonium reminds me of an earlier gardener, but the magenta picks up on the very dark leaves.
For some light sparkles beneath their glooming hedge I am now happy to achieve the repetition of luminous white pelargonium flowers along the boundary wall. Cyperus albostriatus comes from our indigenous forests in Knysna and is flourishing. Variegated Felicia gives me creamy leaves and blue flowers. Plectranthus madagascariensis and variegated mint both give me endless cuttings to fill the gaps.
The lemon tree was a grateful given and I added the climbing Senecio, whose large flat yellow daisies are kindly just that echo of the ripe lemons.
Hoping that the inherited and my potted Agapanthus will bring me Christmas flowers now they have had a chance to settle in.
PS I can find this plant among the trees and shrubs at Plant Portraits and I can see when I planted it at East Patio. Jean is surveying how we keep garden records. So far - [my] computer-only records are a distant third to handwritten or a mixture.
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