Uncarina is an unfamiliar plant from Madagascar (now called Malagasy) which should be grown much more often in the warm garden. These shrubs have soft, almost velvety palmate leaves with red stems. The flowers are large and tubular with a flattened disk of bright yellow petals. They demand a warm, sheltered spot away from severe frosts in a light, well draining soil.
Ursinia is a South African native closely related to the familiar arctotis. The plants spread quickly creating a dense groundcover of very fine, feathery foliage that closely resembles dill. The bright yellow and orange daisy flowers appear from spring to autumn on stout stems above the foliage. They close at night and on cloudy days. Plant in poor, very well drained soil in a sunny spot.
Vallota, the Scarborough Lily, is an amaryllis. Fields of these bright orange lilies adorn the countryside of northern England hence it's name. But it was only recently discovered that the bulbs are natives of South Africa. They apparently reached England when a Dutch ship was wrecked centuries ago on the coast.
Flowers appear with the foliage in spring if the site is warm or summer and early autumn if planted in cooler partial shade. Clusters of 3 inch trumpets rise above 30 cm stems. Plant the bulbs in late winter in a light but rich soil in full sun or drier light shade. Great in containers.
Veltheimia viridifolia, the Veldt Lily, is another South African bulb which should be grown more here. The plants resemble kniphofia, the Poker Plant, in glowing red orange with green tips. Best grown in gritty soil away from freezing temperatures. Great in containers.
Verbascum, the Mullein or Velvet Plant, is a perennial of the northern temperate zones. While short-lived, it seeds easily guaranteeing a prominent show each summer once established. The 2.5cm blooms resemble buttercups and are tightly packed along tall, narrow stems that can tower to over 2m. in some varieties.
Mullein is to summer what foxglove is to spring. Most are various shades of yellow but orange, red, cream, pink and white varieties exist. V. dumulosum is a dwarf variety used as a groundcover. Ordinary garden soil that drains well in a sunny, airy position suits them best.
Verbena includes over 200 species all native to the Americas from Canada to Chile. Although most are perennial groundcovers they are often grown as annuals in the sunny garden. Verbena bonariensis, Purple Top, is a tall form that has naturalised around the world. V. rigida, Vervain, is equally hardy in a paler shade.
The classic hybrid verbena of the garden, Rose Vervain, is a favourite bedding plant for full sun, in light, rich soils. They prefer warm, dry spots and quickly deteriorate if over fed or over watered. Cut back after flowering to keep the plants bushy and stimulate new blooms.
Virgilia is a fast growing small tree native to South Africa. Under ideal conditions a young tree can grow over 2m. (6 ft.) in a single year. This makes them quite valuable for the new landscape garden where colour and height are needed quickly to fill in while more permanent plantings become established.
The pea-like flowers resemble small clusters of wisteria with a similar scent and are borne profusely from spring to late autumn over the ferny, evergreen foliage. Plant in light, open soil in sun or part shade. Virgilias have shallow roots so may need staking in windy sites or damp soils.
Vitex, the New Zealand Puriri, includes nearly 200 species. They are mostly shrubby small trees with shiny evergreen foliage, numerous tubular flowers and red, pink or white berries. While they grow much better with ample watering until established, the best known native V. lucens usually grows quite easily in drier positions being watered with only natural rainfall. Very hardy on the coast and great for attracting native birds.