Tuesday, November 26, 2013
In contrast to the wildly cottagey back garden, with its beautiful but high maintenance imports in bloom, the small front garden at my parents' house is heavy on South African plants (with some exceptions) and gets very little attention, aside from occasional watering. South African classics thrive here. Phygelius capensis (which we saw growing wild in Lesotho, beside a roaring mountain stream) is very tall, almost six feet. It's known as Cape fuchsia.
Behind the Cape fuchsia grows the real thing, Fuchsia magelannica, from South America, loved by the tiny needle-beaked sunbirds. The little Agapanthus growing here seem to have dodged the dreaded borer, which has decimated much of my mom's previously extensive Agapanthus collection.
And in the background is a shrubby Plectranthus zuluensis - it blooms early; many species favour late summer and early autumn. And behind that, in a series of wine barrels, which it shares with a peppermint Pelargonium and various Streptocarpus, is that scourge of front parlors and windowsills, the Asparagus fern, proudly South African.
I want to know whether the young shoots can be eaten. The plant is related to the vegetable asparagus (Asparagus officinalis), which turns into an immediately similar-looking plant, if allowed to live beyond juicy fat shoot. I found only one passing reference on PlantzAfrica: "Some of the South African Asparagus species are used as vegetables or for medicinal purposes."
And then the Web turned silent.
I may have to boil up a few.