Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Indigenous Beauties : Aloe vanbalenii

Who needs flowers when you've got this Aloe in your garden?

Aloe vanbalenii

I started these 'Indigenous Beauties' posts as a way of highlighting indigenous plants that are not very commonly used in the garden, but really should be. This plant doesn't quite fit into that category, because I've noticed that people are paying more attention to this particular Aloe...and for good reason.

Aloes are especially useful in a garden, because they mostly flower in winter when everything else is looking dry and spent. Add to this, the fact that during hot, dry periods, the foliage of many aloes will start to turn red, and you'll begin to see their unique place in a garden.

Aloe vanbalenii especially, needs very little attention, and forms dense clumps of competing plants. In times of plentiful water, or in a little shade, their foliage is a pleasing apple green, but as the heat increases, they turn a deep orange-red colour. They remind me of a bunch (what is the collective-noun?) of Octopuses jostling for their place in the sun.

Their foliage looks great in combination with yellows and other warm colours. Here they've been planted with equally hardy silvery Kleinia fulgens to fill the gaps. The silver really emphasises their colour.

They are stemless, so they don't get tall, but each plant will spread to about 1m wide and about 50cm high. Their flowers are yellow, and occasionally pink.
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