Our Favourite 5: Pond, Topiary & Scented Plants

Looking for a little bit of everything? Check out our favourite 5: pond, topiary, and scented plants! Perfect for adding a touch of nature to any home or office.

Today’s blog is an article with three lists of common gardening situations with five plants or trees listed per topic which we would choose for this situation. These are for each topic the most popular and are not all which you can choose. These three topics are Pond plants, Topiaries and lollipops, as well as Scented flowering plants. Without further ado…

POND PLANTS

Waterblommetjie 

This indigenous aquatic plant is commonly named Waterblommetjies, and I am sure at some stage you have eaten the flowers it produces in a Waterblommetjie Bredie or stew. The leaves and flowers float on top of the surface of the water, but the tubers or plant must be planted directly into pond ground or into a pot towards the centre of the pond or water feature. This aquatic plant occurs naturally in winter rainfall areas and its natural growth habit is to go dormant in the summer months. This plant sports long oval leaves and spikes of white inflorescences, which are sweetly scented and attract pollinators like bees. Waterblommetjies tend to seed themselves, so the plant reproduces vigorously and must be controlled. Aponogeton clumps are divided in summer.

Sedges 

This family of indigenous sedges includes many different species, which all grow differently to different heights and widths. They are naturalised in warmer climates. These plants are planted on the margins of ponds and water features. Some deeper, some shallow depending on the type. The most recognisable feature of these plants is the rounded or spiked (depending on the type) culm or flowering stems which are eventually tipped with brown spikelets. Plants like to receive full sun but can also grow in half-day sun. Old culms can be removed in the winter months and rhizomes can be divided in spring. Cyperus papyrus, Cyperus textilis, and alternifolius are very popular larger growing varieties, which must be planted deeper. Cyperus papyrus nana is a lovely smaller growing variety, which should be planted on shallow margins.

Louisiana Iris 

This exotic rhizomatic plant can be grown in the garden beds if the soil is damp or plants are well watered but does very well in aquatic circumstances as well. Louisiana Irise’s are marginal pond plants and shouldn’t be placed too deep in the pond or water feature. They are winter growing and flower in spring but their peak flowering time is in October usually. The leaves of the plants are sword-like and the large showy flowers come in a variety of colours for example blue, purple, yellow, pink, and white. Irises prefer full sun but can also be planted in half-day sun. They are divided in late summer, but only divide if plants are older and need reviving. Please note when choosing Irises to grow, that the yellow flowering Iris pseudacorus is an invasive variety that should not be planted.

Water lilies

Many different species of water lilies are grown in South Africa but the most commonly grown type is the large flowering sky blue indigenous variety Nymphaea nouchali var caerulea. Water lilies are clump-forming perennials with thick spongy tuberous rhizomes. The large and flat, rounded leaves are found on long petioles or leaf stalks. These leaves start off green when young but eventually develop brown or purple splashes on them. Water lilies can spread about 1m wide if not wider. The large star-like flowers come in the common sky blue colour, but sometimes you can get white, mauve, or pink forms as well. These flowers are sweetly scented and therefore attract pollinators like bees. Water lilies are usually found in waters 30 to 90cm deep. They go dormant in winter if not being grown on the coast, but should be left in the water during this period. When planting make sure you plant with loamy soil and bonemeal to make sure they receive enough nutrition. Water lilies are propagated via division and if container-grown should be divided every two years in springtime before new growth appears. When choosing Nymphaea’s to grow, please keep in mind that the yellow flowering, Nymphaea Mexicana is an invasive species that should not be planted.

Floating hearts

This indigenous perennial aquatic plant has flat round floating leaves and small either white or yellow star-like flowers with a feathery appearance. This plant has a thick stem underwater at the base with floating stolons growing off it. Flowers usually appear from October through to May. Nymphoides need to be planted in waters 30-40cm deep and can be quite fast-growing, requiring to be controlled. Please when choosing to plant Nymphoides make sure that you do not plant Nymphoides peltata as this is on the alien invasive list.

Other plants which can be planted in ponds and water features that I have not made mention if yet are Zantedeschia aethiopica’s, Juncus species (different species available), Acorus, and Wachendorfia thyrsifolia, and these are only but a few plants.

When choosing pond or water feature plants you need to be very careful with your choice as a lot of the water plants are invasive as mentioned above. Some other invasive varieties are Ponterderia (Pickerel weed), Eichhornia crassipes (Water hyacinth), and Pistia stratiotes (Water lettuce).

Topiary/Lollipop plants

Glossy Abelia 

This medium-sized exotic shrub makes the perfect topiary or lollipop because of its naturally rounded shape and small glossy leaves as well as a compact growth pattern. This means it can be regularly pruned into shape and do well. This plant produces masses of white bell-shaped flowers from late spring through until late autumn. It blooms on new wood so having to prune it into shape shouldn’t affect flowering. It is best to prune these shrubs from late winter to early spring. Abelia’s are not frost-hardy, so do not grow them in very cold areas. They prefer full sun and bloom best in this circumstance, but they can also be grown in half-sun. They are quite tough, tolerating most soils, moderate watering, and don’t often experience pests and diseases. Abelia’s have a medium-sized non-aggressive root system, making them great pot specimens. There is also a hybrid available which has more lime/yellow leaves called ‘Francis Mason’.

Ficus

This specific Ficus has medium-sized leaves forming a perfect head of foliage on top of a strong, sturdy bark. If pruned and clipped regularly the leaf size will be reduced and it maintains its shape for a long period, naturally making this shrub a popular lollipop. Please note though that it has a strong, large root system and therefore be careful planting it too close to structures or rather plant them into pots, but strong ones. Within this species (macrocarpa), there are many different hybrids with different colour leaves. The plain microcarpa has dark green glossy leaves. Ficus microcarpa ‘Hawai’ has cream and green foliage. Ficus microcarpa ‘Golden King’ has gold and green foliage. There are other varieties as well but these are the most commonly available ones. They do best in full sun but can also be grown in half-sun. They also survive in shade but will become leggy and therefore will not do well as lollipops. They are quite water-wise but are not pest-free so keep a lookout for any critters harming your perfect lollipops.

Indian Hawthorn 

Raphiolepis are medium-sized, evergreen, exotic shrubs with tough, leathery, dark green foliage. They are spring flowering and flower profusely in either a white colour (R.indica) or pink (R. delacourii light pink, R.delacourii ‘Kruschenia’ dark pink). The best time to prune these plants is after spring flowering. These shrubs do well planted in pots or the ground as they do not have very large root systems. They grow in various climates, from coastal to cold inland areas. They are easily kept as a lollipop because of their dense foliage ‘heads’. They have low watering requirements and enjoy well-drained sandy soil, but can also be grown in other soils as long as drainage is not a problem. They are not usually prone to many pests and diseases.

Roses 

Many rose species are grown as lollipops, but in general floribunda varieties do best as lollipops, because of their more compact growth pattern. Hybrid tea varieties will be more difficult to cut into shape and this may affect flowering. Some popular floribunda varieties found in topiary and lollipops are ‘Iceberg’ (white), ‘Burgundy Iceberg’ (burgundy), and ‘Simplicity’ (bright pink). Roses should always be grown in full sun, to keep plants healthy as well as get the most out of flowering. They do well in pots and the ground. Whenever choosing to plant a rose, keep in mind that although they are gorgeous, they are also extremely high maintenance. They need regular, deep watering, require good feeding (Minimum 6 times yearly), and require constant spraying as they are constantly plagued with various pests and diseases. For this reason, they are planted at wine farms as an early warning system for the winegrower. They are not classified as environmentally friendly plants. This is also why I would recommend planting floribunda’s as they are hardier than the floribunda’s and needless caring for.

Australian Brush Cherry

This is probably the most popular topiary or lollipop plant because of its small glossy foliage, which forms a dense shrub, especially when regularly pruned. They look fantastic in most gardens but particularly suit formal gardens. Syzygiums do produce creamy powder puff flowers in summer, followed by dark pink berries, but you will more than likely not experience these because of regular pruning. They grow in most climates and are quite versatile but may experience some damage in heavy frost-prone areas. They are grown in either full sun or light shade. They are water-wise plants especially once established, but the foliage will be lusher if getting watered in summer properly. This shrub has a medium-sized root structure and prefers well-drained composted soil.

There are more plants that make fantastic lollipops like Cupressus ‘Wilma’ (plus other conifers), Hibiscus ‘Autumn Leaf’, Solanum rantonnetii & montreux (dark purple), Tecoma capensis, and the list goes on.

Scented flowering plants

Yesterday, today and tomorrow 

This exotic shrub has bright green, glossy, dense foliage and if pruned regularly makes a great topiary or lollipop. This shrub will flower mainly in spring but will usually flower more than once a year, displaying a second flush in summer. The flowers are dark purple, fading to light purple and then white, with all colours on the plant at once. These showy flowers are also very sweetly scented. These shrubs like to be grown in full sun but can also be grown in half-sun and have moderate watering requirements. They grow in most soils as long as it is well-drained and have a small root system so do well in pots and the ground. Before planting Brunsfelsia’s remember that they are part of the nightshade family and therefore have toxic leaves and fruits, so be careful where you place them. Many different species exist within this genus.

Gardenia’s

These tropical and exotic evergreen shrubs do well in warmer areas and do not tolerate heavy frost. Both the dark green glossy leaves and the large white flowers are gorgeous. The flowers have a strong sweet smell, which is not overbearing. There are many different varieties, growing to different heights and also have different shapes, as well as different flowers. Gardenia augusta (prev jasminoides) is the normal large shrub variety. Gardenia Impulse is a smaller growing variety with single white flowers, which is a compact grower and makes a fantastic pot plant. Gardenia radicans is a stunning groundcover or spreading variety with smaller blooms. Gardenias prefer growing in morning sun or dappled shade. The secret to Gardenia’s is that they require acidic soil and should be fertilised with an acidic fertiliser. They need to be kept quite well watered.

Jasmines 

Some Jasmines are climbing plants and others are shrubs which do some climbing, so you can choose with the shrub varieties to prune off climbing tendrils off and keep them as shrubs. They usually prefer full sun or half-sun and have moderate watering requirements. They are hardy and will grow in most soils. Jasminum officinale and polyanthemum are exotic climbing varieties. Jasminum angulare and multipartitum are both indigenous shrub climbers, as mentioned above you can choose if you want to keep it as a shrub or let it climb. All of the above-mentioned jasmines produce white sweetly scented flowers, varying in size depending on the type.

Frangipani

This tropical and subtropical deciduous tree has stout, succulent-like stems and branches which are topped with large bright green leathery lanceolate leaves. This tree has an umbrella shape and produces masses of clusters of large sweetly scented flowers for months on end. The flower’s fragrance is strongest in the early evenings. There are many different colours available in bright shades. This tree being tropical is not tolerant of growing in very frost-prone areas but will grow in all other areas including the coast. They prefer to be grown in sunny areas, in sandy well-drained soils. They can be grown in large pots as well.

Star Jasmine 

This exotic evergreen climber can be pruned into a shrub as well, and even Lollipop versions are available sometimes. Trachelospermum can also be grown as a ground cover. The glossy dark green foliage is very attractive, and this plant produces masses of star-like white flowers which are very sweetly scented during late spring and early summer. Trachelospermum prefers being grown in sun and will flower beautifully under this circumstance, but can also be grown in some shade. The growth rate is moderate to fast, although it may start off fairly slow. These plants can be grown in most soils and have moderate to once established, low watering requirements.

Many other scented flower plants exist for example Lonicera japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle), some but not all Roses, indigenous shrubs like Buddleja’s and Carissa bispinosa, and annual plants, for example, Stocks, Alyssum’s, and Dianthus. These are only but a few examples.

In conclusion, we hope is that this article has given you some inspiration as to what to plant in your pond, which topiaries to add to your garden for that formal look, as well as which scented flowering plants to introduce to please your senses. Happy gardening.

The article was written by Jessica Ruger (Horticultural blog writer) on behalf of Contours Landscapes and Contours Design Studio. Ficus picture provided by Trees South Africa.

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Let’s plan your landscaping project together!

We plan, install and maintain award-winning landscapes for our commercial clients and project partners. Clients who wish to add function, value and inspiration to their outdoor spaces and properties.

Our roots are in Cape Town, but our footprint stretches deep into southern Africa.