Shrubs for Your South African Garden

One of the most important features of a balanced garden landscape design, the shrub can be used in a variety of ways. With many indigenous shrub specimens to choose from - hardy, waterwise options are readily available...

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What exactly is a shrub? According to the Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary, a shrub is "a perennial plant with many persistent woody stems from or near the base".

Along with trees, shrubs form the permanent backbone of the garden landscape and as such, great care should be taken in selecting suitable plants for your requirements, taking into account the size and shape of the plants you choose once they reach maturity as well as the climate in your area.

Selecting your shrubs

Depending on your needs you can choose shrubs that are small or large, evergreen or deciduous and tender or hardy. The diversity of shrubs with beautiful foliage, flowers, berries, or all three is endless, so try to achieve interesting combinations by grouping tall, upright shrubs with wider, rounded or low growing specimens and pay attention to creating an interesting mix of colour and texture.

Shrubs can be selected to form an effective windbreak, as a screen to hide unsightly walls, unpleasant views or create privacy, as a background for smaller herbaceous perennials and annuals, as an attractive specimen on a small lawn or as decorative accents in large containers.

How to plant your shrubs

Once you have decided on the placement of your shrubs, a good rule to follow when planting, is to dig a hole at least twice the size of the container. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole and mix the soil that has been removed from the hole with compost or kraal manure and one or two handfuls of bone meal. Carefully place your shrub in the hole and fill in around the roots with the soil mixture making sure that the level of the soil is the same as it was in the bag. Firm down and water thoroughly. Stake the young plant if necessary and finish off by placing mulch around the shrub to keep the roots moist and cool.

There is an enormous selection of shrubs of every conceivable type available today but listed below are a few of the most popular ones:

  • Azaleas:  There are so many different types of these magnificent acid loving shrubs available that you can be assured of a spectacular show for many months. Be sure to keep the soil moist.
  • Bauhinia galpinii:  a splendid indigenous rambling shrub with brick red, orchid like flowers that will happily cover a sunny, dry bank.
  • Buddleias:  Most of the buddleias have heavily perfumed flower trusses. These shrubs are hardy and can withstand both cold and drought.
  • Callistemons:  The range of these popular, easy to grow shrubs is continually increasing from tall growing plants to dainty dwarf specimens and in a diverse selection of colours including pink.
  • Gardenias:  Who can withstand the heady fragrance of these magnificent shrubs? Consider some of the abundantly flowering indigenous gardenias for hardiness.
  • Hibiscus:  To lend an air of tropical splendour to the garden, the bold, exotic blooms of the wide range of hibiscus come in an array of vibrant colours. Plant them in a sheltered position in the colder garden.
  • Hydrangeas:  The popular macrophyllas bring a palette of pink, white or blue to the summer garden. These handsome shade lovers need to be kept well watered in hot, dry weather.
  • Leucospermum:  The well shaped pincushion is the most easily grown of the protea family. These shrubs are valued for the multitude of pincushion flowers in yellow or orange.
  • Plumbago:  Available in a delightful sky blue or white, these rambling shrubs are hardy and will cover themselves with flowers for most of the summer.
  • Raphiolepis:  Lovely and neat, these worthwhile shrubs have attractive glossy, dark green leaves and masses of pink or white flowers. Indian hawthorn does well in both the warmer and colder regions of the country.

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