Louise Sims

At first glance, this elegant, upright, small shrub looks as if it would revel in a dry sunny spot, much where you would expect to grow lavender and rosemary. You would imagine that its silver grey leaves and tiny white flowers would sit happily in a typical Mediterranean habitat. Well, it didn’t take long to discover that this plant originates in southern Africa … and guess what? It mostly grows along river banks and watercourses!

I raised my plants from seed and planted them out the following spring. I am ashamed to admit that, at the time, I didn’t look into their preferred environment and assumed they’d like it sunny and well drained. As it turns out, they seem to like that too!

Gomphostigma virgatum

I imagine that given the hot sun and damp, if not waterlogged, soil that they get in southern Africa, they would attain the 2.6 metres quoted on the Plantz Africa website; however mine have barely reached one metre after three years.

This is a very easy and accommodating shrub, and it is fast becoming more widely available. Because of its open habit, it rubs shoulders very happily with many late summer flowering perennials and especially with grasses. It can be pruned back quite hard in early spring, much as you would a buddleja.

The common name for G virgatum is ‘River Star’, and it is traditionally used to restore strength to a very tired person … well that’s most of us after a day’s gardening!

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