Indigenous Spring Beauty Nemesias
Spring flowers the world over have a softness and beauty that captures the spirit of the season itself. Our indigenous spring flowers are no exception, especially the trio of nemesia, diascia and bacopa, which are still wild at heart.
Even though they have been successfully ‘domesticated’ with larger blooms and a wider colour range, nemesias, diascias and bacopas retain the dainty charm of veld flowers. Of the three, Nemesia fruticans is the most ethereal, and is only found in South Africa. It produces masses of tiny, snapdragon-like flowers on long, slender stems, and when in full flower the leaves are almost obscured. What makes the flowers stand out are the bright yellow protuberances in the throat. While the original colours are mauve, pink and white, the newer hybrids are available in a range of vibrant colours including magenta, burgundy, dark blue, yellow and orange. Nemesia fruticans hybrids are fuller, bushier plants than the species, developing into mounded upright plants with larger flowers and glossy green leaves. In cooler gardens they may flower from September through summer and even into autumn. Nemesia strumosa is a more compact species (25cm high and wide) that is good for containers or as an edging. It is a true annual with a colour range that includes orange, yellow, crimson and red.
Using nemesias in the garden
Nemesias are mostly grown as annuals, even though classified as perennials. They have become popular bedding plants that are used as an edging, in mixed borders, as a groundcover, and as fillers in containers and hanging baskets. In garden beds nemesias can be paired with diascias, alyssums and dianthuses, as well as interplanted among spring bulbs.
To really get the benefit of the pretty blooms, plant en masse, in drifts or fill in between other larger plants and shrubs. In their natural habitat, nemesias occur in summer-rainfall grassland areas, making them suitable for adding pops of colour in grassy gardens or in rocky outcrops.
Nemesias do best planted in full morning sun with afternoon shade. Enrich the soil with compost before planting, which will also help to ensure that the soil drains well. Water well once a week – too much water can lead to stem rot. When the plants stop blooming, cut them back by a third to bring them back into flower. If grown as perennials, plants should be cut back in early spring. Plants are frost tolerant, and if the upper growth is burnt by the frost the plant re-sprouts, thanks to its woody taproot that survives both frost and summer fires in the wild. Nemesias will self-seed if plants have been allowed to set seed before being taken out.