- Author: Trisha Rose
Breath of Heaven, Coleonema pulchellum, (formerly Pink Diosma) came to mind the other day. I am struggling through a Plant ID Class and surprisingly my small work group received an assignment to evaluate an existing design and suggest any corrections that might better enhance the space. The group assignment is an entrance to a school campus with a lot of vehicle traffic, but not many pedestrians. There is an existing drip system and a controller already on site, but it doesn't look like it has been maintained consistently given the number of dead plants inhabiting the space. One of my neighbors has the Coleonema pulchellum planted as a border along the perimeter of her front garden. Her "lawn" is mostly flagstone with a few beds of roses and low shrubs. The star of her garden is this stunning border of Pink Breath of Heaven. The bordering hedge is situated with a south-western exposure with a drip system and it is thriving in this full-sun placement. This low hedge has been blooming most of the winter and the blooms will persist through spring, then on and off throughout the rest of the year. This graceful South African native is well suited to our zone 9B (USDA zone) climate and is nourished by the mist blowing in from the Carquinez Strait. The billowy stems grow to a height of 1 1/2 and 4 feet wide. I am going to suggest that we add these compact shrubs to the "correction" design plan, as I think they will add some much needed color, remain low enough as to not obscure traffic in either direction and thrive in the full sun location. These shrubs will continue to flower and provide something pleasant to look at as the drivers enter and exit campus. Now we just need to add maintenance of the drip system to the school's landscape management plan.
If this plant sounds like something you would like to add to your garden, these shrubs prefer soil which is well-drained. You will need to add some amendments to your clay soil when you plant these shrubs. They are half hardy to 10 F. They are relatively free of pests and will suffer from root and crown rot if the soil doesn't drain well. Two other forms exist: A white flowered shrub, C. album or White Breath of Heaven is often sold as Diosma reevesii or D. ericoides and a species sold as Diosma pulchra 'Sunset Gold' has yellow foliage.