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Successful Verge Plants offer up

design ideas for Resilient Gardens   Page 2

By Anno Torr

March articles: Previous   Next

Thriving verge designs translate well into resilient home gardens.


Steep sunny, dry bank with sandy soils.


Situation and conditions:

Narrow flat shelf adjacent to the boundary wall; steep bank to the roadside; day-long sun; sandy soils; no extra watering.


Easy-care, low-maintenance and water wise characterises the loose-limbed Plumbago auriculata; add sky-blue flowers for much of the year, and there is little to beat this well-loved shrub. It thrives on this narrow platform in front of the boundary wall, coping with reflected light from the light-coloured walls, full-day sun, dry soils, and no supplemental water. Planted at the edge of the platform provides room for its loose-limbed form. Aristida junciformis provides cover down the slope their soft, fountain-like form fits around rambling limbs. Roots bind the surface soil to the more secure substrate, and its density helps to prevent soil erosion and compaction caused by sun, wind and raindrops. Gazania rigens, grey and green leaf provides edging as does the resilient Lampranthus whose candy-floss pink flower discs and blue-grey leaves add a quiet elegance.  Searching stems will clamber over low-rise stumps and rocks, even other plants close-by, but they seem not to smother its neighbours.

Aloe vanbalenii adds twisting limbs that rise above the weeping grasses. The Octopus Aloe eventually forms multiple heads large enough to cope with the friendly overtures from creeping vygies. Leaves are bright Granny Smith green in spring and summer, with brush-strokes of red and amber in a dry winter. This ground Aloe and the single-stemmed Aloe ferox flower from the end of autumn through winter.


  • Gazania rigens (Trailing Gazania) S; Fr

  • Plumbago auriculata (Plumbago) S; Ss; Mod Fr

  • Aristida junciformis (nGongoni) S; Fr

  • Aloe vanbalenii (Octopus Aloe) S; Fr

  • Lampranthus species; there are so many species and hybrids. Choose one to suit your region. S; Fr

  • Trees: Vachellia xanthophloea (Fever Tree) S; Mod Fr

                  Aloidendron barberae ( Tree Aloe) S; Light Fr

Dry bank design: Vibrant succulents for the driest of slopes


Provides shelter, food, beauty, and soil protection in extreme conditions.


Plants featured in our images:


  • Kalanchoe sexangularis (Bushveld Kalanchoe, Red-leaved Kalanchoe) S; Fr

  • Aloe vanbalenii (Octopus Aloe) S; Fr

  • Agapanthus praecox (Agapanthus) S; Ss; Fr

  • Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (White Lady) S; Fr

  • Curio crassulifolius (Blue Fingers) S; Light Fr

  • Crassula sarmentosa S; Ss; Mod Fr

  • Bulbine latifolia (Broad-leaved Bulbine) S; Ss; Sh; Fr

  • Kleinia fulgens (Coral Senecio) S; Light Fr

  • Crassula multicava (Fairy Crassula) S; Ss; Sh; Fr


Western Cape gardeners can replace featured species with the following known to have survived the current harsh conditions:

  • Aloe vanbalenii: Aloe succotrina, Aloe striata, A. maculata

  • Crassula sarmentosa: Oscularia deltoides; Ruschia macowanii; Pelargonium reniforme; Hermannia stricta

  • Kleinia fulgens: Bulbine frutescens; Hermannia species - Hermannia stricta; Pelargonium reniforme; Lampranthus roseus; Gazania krebsiana

  • Bulbine latifolia: Hermannia sassifera; Bulbine frutescens



Soils: sandy, nutrient-poor     Exposure: full sun

Water: summer rainfall; no supplemental watering     Management: very little

Area: South Coast, KZN. Humid, high heat, warm, dry winters, wet summers. Photos were taken in mid-June after a prolonged drought. Plant colours indicated dry soils. Despite this, plants flowered profusely.



The condition of the lawn edging indicates just how dry conditions are here. So too the intensity of red and russet of the succulents that turn this brightly coloured display into a desert oasis!

Maroon Kalanchoe sexangularis and bright green Agapanthus praecox provide the outside frame and work to anchor the loose topsoil on the lower bank. Sinuous limbs of the Octopus Aloe, Aloe vanbalenii, add focal base-weight, surrounded by flexible groundcovers like Crassula sarmentosa, Curio and Kleinia fulgens whose spread curves to fit around the solid Aloe leaves. The blue-green Curio fingers serve to separate and define the edges of the aloe clumps and strappy Agapanthus leaves. Kleinia fulgens thrives on this hot, dry bank, planted in generous circles to great effect. On this June day, butterflies hovered over almost every flower here! Kalanchoe sexangularis should plump out when the spring rains arrive turning increasingly green as soil moisture improves – as will all of the succulents, for that matter.  

Bulbine latifolia grows in both full sun and afternoon shade along this bank, but crisp, dried-out leaves and anaemic colouring indicate unhappy plants that battle in the day-long sun when the soil is so dry. Crassula multicava has also struggled to maintain plumpness and dense growth, but they’re sure to do better with some afternoon shade. In fact, a patch of robust Kalanchoe sexangularis grows fuller in shade than its sunnier siblings.

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