Pretty gifts that won’t cost you a cent

Editor Mary Jane Harris discovers that plant cuttings and slips are the gifts that keep on giving even when you least expect it

One of the best things about gardeners is that they’re not only generous with their knowledge they’re also unselfish with their plants. A chance remark about a beautiful lily often results in a gift of a couple of bulbs, and if you notice the fragrant scent of a creeper, a piece is usually snapped off instantly for you to take home.

Over the years I’ve returned the favour with seeds and cuttings of unusual, not easily found plants. I’ve found that slips and cuttings make great gifts and are personal reminders of your friends, their gardens and sometimes special occasions.

This summer, three plants, all gifts from friends, made a surprise appearance in my garden.

Salvia turkestanica


Having only seen the slips of these salvias on sale at the Johannesburg Garden Club’s plant sale, I was delighted when interior decorator Gi Alston gave me a pot with a couple of tiny, furry, silvery leaves. I planted them out and have to admit I forgot all about them. This summer I noticed huge pinky-mauve plumes shooting up at the back of the bed creating a lovely backdrop for the smaller plants. They obviously require very little attention and thrived in this bed which gets morning sun and afternoon shade.

Apostle plant (Neomarica caerulea)


A while ago Yvonne Tyrrell, who helped organise many of Garden and Home’s events, presented me with a couple of strappy leaves with tiny roots attached. I planted them out and the small strappy leaves gradually grew into 1m long ones but seemed to do nothing else for quite a while until this summer when they suddenly produced the most exquisite blue flowers. The blooms only last a day, and often by the time I get home in the evening, there’s nothing, not even a petal left to show they’ve flowered. I’ve discovered that the best way to appreciate them is to check in the evening to see if they’ve produced any purple buds. If they have, then early the next morning I go into the garden to be wowed by the clusters of dark blue flowers while I have my morning tea. They seem to like a sunny to semi-shade position and regular watering.

Autumn crocuses


These delicate autumn crocuses (zephyranthes) were a gift from former World Rose Association president Sheenagh Harris, now editor of the World Rose News. They flowered beautifully for a while but disappeared under a rampant Cape gooseberry and clumps of felicias. However after cleaning out the bed and some judicious pruning, I was delighted to see they’d returned. They’re hardy plants which need very little maintenance and also look lovely in containers.

But you do have to be careful about what you give your friends. One couple admired my blue forget-me-nots so I saved them loads for their garden. They had great success with them but the problem came when the forget-me-nots started to set their sticky green seeds. I’d forgotten that they had a pair of little Yorkies with long silky hair and the seeds caused so many tangles that these poor dogs practically had to be shaved. They certainly didn’t forget me.


To find out how to take softwood cuttings click here