Agapanthus makes a decent fire-break. A common enough flower in South African gardens, agapanthus can serve as a fire-break if you plant it close enough to the house. It is also drought resistant and its leaves help relieve swollen feet if you put them inside your hiking boots. It grows happily enough even in poor soils, so is easy to plant and maintain.
Buchu is great for hangovers. Although challenging to grow (plant it after first rains and you will have more luck) buchu attracts bees and butterflies to the garden, and is a natural insect repellent if rubbed on your skin or bedding. To deal with hangovers simply add a handful of the leaves to boiling water and drink as a tea.
The wild almond (of Van Riebeeck’s Hedge fame). is, in fact, a protea and not an almond at all although its fruit looks like almonds and even has a similar bitterness. If you water it well (it needs lots of water) in its first two years, it will grow as high as 8 metres and will attract insects, birds and squirrels to your garden. Don’t eat the fruits though, as they are poisonous unless soaked for a few days first in wate
Eat the sour fig raw. The dried fruit often sold on the side of the road in Cape Town is great for sprawling quickly over undesirable banks and areas of the garden you want to cover. But you might not know that you can eat the fruit raw (bite off the bottom and suck out the syrup) and that drinking the leaf juice will hep with indigestion, toothache, vaginal thrush and earache (although not necessarily in that order). It also helps subdue insect bites and bluebottle (man-of-war) stings.
There are 23 different species of honeybush, only 9 of which are used for tea. Honeybush produces an exciting pea-shaped yellow flower in spring that is a feature for any garden. The plant grows quickly, needs pruning, and looks best when planted in groups at least one metre apart. To make a tea simmer the dried leaves and shoots for 20 minutes.
April Fool was the first flower ever collected from Table Mountain this beautiful flower is also known as the March flower, paintbrush lily and velskoenblaar. It was also probably the first South African flower to feature in European literature. They are bulb flowers and do well in pot
There is a rumour that the silver tree grows only if it can see Table Mountain from its place in the garden, which may explain why they are so difficult to grow. Perseverance pays when it comes to this plant, and if the first one dies, plant another as they need all the help they can get.It depends on the hairs on the leaves to survive. When the air is moist, the hairs collect moisture by standing up. In the process the plant no longer looks silver but green. If it is dry, they flatten again to protect from moisture loss.
You can roast the seeds of pincushions to eat. Not only do pincushions look beautiful in your garden, and in many a bouquet sold overseas, but they attract the sunbird and the Cape sugarbird who love their nectar. In exchange the birds pollinate the plant. To roast the seeds remove the hard shells first, or even eat them raw in salads. But once planted, the pincushion does not like being moved
The blue water lily, or lotus flower is South Africa’s most commonly grown indigenous water lily. Known a Nymphaea nouchali, after Nymphe the Greek goddess of springs, this beautiful water lily is also known as a paddapreekstoel (or frog’s pulpit). They are great for ponds, wooden barrels and old kitchen sinks and you can cook or roast the tubers – used by the Cape Malay and local Cape farming communities in curries
Wild garlic’s strong smell keeps moles and snakes out of the garden. Crush it on your skin and it will keep fleas, ticks and mosquitoes (as well as most humans) away. But its best use is as a seasoning in cooking, or the leaves and flowers are delicious raw in salads