Seed Swaps

Garden design ideas and help

I’m building some contemporary raised beds, and I would love some advice for planting/design.

Some basic info: I’m in the Southern hemisphere, in Cape Town (mediterranean climate – dry summer, winter rainfall), and we’re in a severe drought, so I need drought-tolerant/waterwise plants, wind-tolerant, coastal-tolerant. Hardiness is not an issue, as we never get frost (I think we’re considered US zone 10 or 11?).

Ideally, I want to combine edibles and ornamentals, and I’d obviously prefer indigenous ornamentals to cope with the local climate (also, I think its more sustainable). Having said that, there will be something like 20+ meters of bed, so there is plenty of space to have “pockets” with different designs/themes.

The attached image is an example of what we are building – just much longer (basically along 2 whole sides of our property. Blame the dachshund for this). The paved area will be cobblestones (sandstone-coloured and white-coloured).

I absolutely love the English cottage look, but I think a modern/contemporary design might work better with this, and also I’ve found the Country Cottage look needs too much water. So, modern/contemporary (with lots of grasses), or mediterranean.

One side of the raised beds will be South-facing (ie, mostly shade in my hemisphere). It gets about 4-6 hours direct sunlight in summer but only about 1 hour sunlight in winter. I currently have a “Split-leaf philodendron” ( that is doing really well in this area, and some clivias.

The other side is East facing, getting about 6 hours of morning sun, and having afternoon shade.

Plants I already have (waiting to be planted) include:
Duranta Gold Mine (3 plants – good specimen plants?) (
Tulbaghia (society garlic) – both variegated and plain (
Polianthes tuberosa –
Several varieties of dwarf Agapanthus

Posted almost 2 years ago

That looks very nice!
I don’t think I will be much help with planting ideas as your climate is a bit warmer than mine, but I do have one idea for a plant that may like it where you live, as I use it as a summer bedding plant. Heliotrope is one of my favourite plants, mainly because it is purple but it also smells very nice and the bees love it too. In England it was used as a house plant and was popular about 100 years ago. Today, it is grown as an annual but I think it would be a shrubby perennial where you live?
Also, does lavender grow well where you are? Just one more purple plant (!) My favourite would be ‘Hidcote’ a really dark violet.
I hope this helps perfume and purple!

Posted almost 2 years ago | Last edited almost 2 years ago

Hidcote lavender

Posted almost 2 years ago

Hi, I’m southern hemisphere but tropical. Very similar climate but wet/dry season reversed so, wet summer, dry winter here, and our annual rainfall is measured in hundreds of metres. Our dry season is typically a 6 to 9 month drought.

I can grow mediterranean plants such as citrus. Look for smaller species and dwarf varieties for your situation. Like you, my garden focus is upon edibles, with supporting ornamentals having some function be it insect or bird attraction, mulch materials, or perfume to delight the senses.

I can’t suggest any native plants – you would have a better idea for those, but here are a few suggestions for edibles that all do well in my equivalent USDA Zone 11 garden:

Your split-leaf philodendron reminded me of Monstera deliciosa, (fruit salad plant) an edible split leaf philodendren – different genus and species. I have one growing in a fully shaded spot. Thrives on neglect. More sun will promote better fruiting which is edible if allowed to dry and the skin peels off naturally. Contains oxalic acid in higher concentrations when unripe.

What about gingers? They like shade, although they may require more moisture in the summer and dryness for winter. My gingers tolerated a very wet winter last year without problem. Perhaps look at Thai Ginger, (Galangal) it seems a bit hardier and more forgiving than the typical culinary ginger. A raised bed should be sufficient drainage for it. Buy a piece from a supermarket and plant it, a much more economical way to test out plant survival.

Having said that, while true gingers may want more summer moisture, False or Round Cardamom, aka Cardamom-ginger, thrives on neglect and will tolerate drought once established. Very hardy, with perfumed leaves that can be used in cooking – wrap fish, etc, in it. Generally assigned to the Alpinia genus these days, frequently listed as Alpinia nutans or A.mutica. I find it indestructible come rain, shine, drought or cyclone. Takes full sun, part sun, shade.

Part sun/part shade/dappled shade
Perennial Coriander (Eryngium foetidum), a part sun position may be better, but it does like part to dappled shade.
Gotu kola (the arthritis herb)
Daylillies are both beautiful and the flowers and buds edible.

I also have Brazilian Spinach (Alternanthera sissoo) growing in a bed that only gets afternoon sun. Once established it thrives on neglect. Pluck a few leaves and cook as a spinach substitute for hot climates.

Perhaps try some mints, common mint or peppermint are usually hardiest and drought tolerant once established. In cooler climates they go dormant for winter, re-emerging in spring. They may remain evergreen depending upon how warm your winter is. They don’t like tropical climates which are too wet and hot for their survival.

For sunnier spots:
Lemongrass will thrive, tolerant of excess water, drought, wind.
Garlic chives thrive here, tolerant of drought once established and handle excess rain quite well.
Onion chives may even grow for you, they don’t like the hot wet season here.
Bird chillies are very hardy and tolerant of total neglect.
Five-Spice Herb (Plectranthus amboinicus) aka Cuban Oregano, Indian Borage, Mother of Herbs.
Mexican tarragon (Tagetes lucida)

I’m wondering how strawberries would grow for you. They don’t like tropical summers with the excessive humidity being a problem.

Tomatoes should grow well, summer or winter for you. I can only grow tomatoes through the winter here as summer is too hot and wet.

In general fruit and vegetables, you should be able to grow any number of beans or other legume plants. They thrive in heat and do not require loads of water.

Corn will also grow throughout the year in warm climates. Time sowing or planting to coincide with your rainiest period.

Slightly larger fruiting perennials:
Mulberry – if you could find a dwarf variety or keep it well pruned.
Coffee bush
Curry Leaf Tree (pruned or potted)
Fig (potted and pruned – keep away from plumbing)
Miracle Fruit

If you are not already familar with it, I’ve found this site useful in the past:
Perennial Vegetables I’ve linked to the Mediterranean-Subtropical page. Have a look at the Hot and Arid Climate page while you’re there.

And if you want to further ideas, Eric Toensmeier is moving content over to his new site: Perennial Solutions. US based, but applicable by climate.

Hope that gives you some ideas to work with.

Posted almost 2 years ago | Last edited almost 2 years ago

I’m in a similar climate to you, so here are a few of my successes:

  • dwarf mandarin
  • limequat
  • dwarf lemon
  • orange
  • for your south facing bed: hydrangea quercifolia, lovely autumn colours in leaves and blooms,
  • various salvias withstand sun and tolerate drought (There is a very wide range of colours and sizes)
  • herbs such as sages: common, tricolour, golden, pineapple
    thymes: common, lemon, orange, variegated
    oregano:greek, variegated, golden
    perennial basil
    chives: ordinary (mauve flowers), garlic (white)
    mints: common,apple, Moroccan, peppermint, chocolate (for teas)
    lemon verbena (can be grown as small tree or bush)
  • succulents
  • sedums: Autumn Joy, Matrona, Jose Aubergine, Tricolor, Frosty Morn,sieboldii
  • tagetes lemonii
  • arctotis
    Hope this helps. Good gardening.
Posted almost 2 years ago

Hi there

You’ve had a lot of wonderful advice from other contributors so you may no longer have room for my suggestions.

I have an indigenous vegetable in my garden which is extremely drought resistant and delicious. Its a ground cover that creates a spread of pale green leaves, similar to NZ spinach, Tetragonia decumbens. If you can’t get it anywhere, let me know and I’ll grow some for you. I’m doing someone’s vegetable garden in Greenpoint and it looks like you may be on the Atlantic seaboard ?

There may be some other plants you like that I grow in my garden in Goodwood (Cape Flats) sand. Check out the easy vegetables linked to my garden website page

kindest regards

Posted 11 months ago

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