White breath of heaven

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Masses of white flowers in autumn through to summer trademark Coleonema album, also known as Cape May, white confetti bush and aasbossie. The latter name came about because fishermen rub their hands on the aromatic leaves to remove the horrific redbait (aas) odour. Great as potpourri thanks to essential oils, it makes for an effective insect repellent – Which is why it’s a hit with campers.

This erect, much-branched and compact shrub grows to a height of 2 m. Closed flower buds are tinged pink, but are white when open. The flowers are carried in such profusion that the bush is a cloud of white, attracting bees and butterflies. Needle-like linear leaves have oil glands on the reverse and when crushed, they have a characteristic sweet nutmeg-like smell. Five-lobed ripe fruits may be found up to end-November and the ripe seed is ejected like a catapult.

Occurring from Saldanha Bay to Bloubergstrand, this buchu is very much a coastal plant, able to withstand strong coastal winds. It’s also lovely as a topiary specimen, bonsai or container plant.

In the garden, use the confetti bush as an accent plant, a hedge or as filler for companion plants such as Erica, Restio and Protea. It needs full sun and acid, composted soil. Add a layer of mulch to keep the soil and roots cool in summer. Don’t allow plants to dry out. Once established, they’ll survive long periods of drought.

Ref: pza.sanbi.org; Photo: Jan Thomas Johansson