Monday, January 17, 2011

My Garden Plans for 2011

This one is especially for Fer’s carnival. See mygardeninjapan.
I have great plans / dreams for my garden for 2011. Maybe with a little advice and encouragement from my blogging friends, I will be able to make my dreams a reality.
We get mostly winter rainfall and for the past few years I have been really upset about all the water going down the drain. In summer when it is really dry I keep wishing we had some of that precious water. The first thought was to install rainwater tanks, but they are ugly and expensive as well.
So I came up with the great idea of building a river bed and leading it into a pond. The rainwater can be led from the gutter into the river bed and then into the pond. If the pond gets too full I have planned a bog area. We have a lot of bulbs that grow in temporary winter ponds and then like to be totally dry in the summer.
We plan to do this in our back garden where we already have a small pond that can be incorporated into the design. If this one works out well then I would like to do the same in the front garden – but don’t tell my husband – he is already groaning about the amount of work ahead.

On Sunday we went to the Harold Porter Gardens in Betty’s Bay to get some ideas. The pic below gives an idea of what I trying to create.

This is the area I have to work with.

The area in the shade behind the blue pipe will remain grass. The area in the sun extending towards the pool will become bog and pond. The river will run down on the left and fall into the pool somewhere after the white pole – old wash line post that will finally be removed.

Same thing just from the opposite side. The existing pond is in the back ground. The rainwater pipe will be led along the back wall, which will hopefully be hidden  soon by a few young trees and shrubs that were planted a few month’s ago. 

Hubby contemplating the work ahead.

So quite a big task ahead, all the help, advice and encouragement will be appreciated.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Dating Game

I am one of those people that believe every cloud has a silver lining and you must grab opportunities with both hands.
In February 2010 hubby was generously helping trim some overgrown shrubs in our front garden. Somehow he managed to twist his neck and probably due to a car accident 3 years ago he ended up crushing the disc between the 5th and 6th vertebrae. That resulted in an operation to fuse the 2 vertebrae and having to wear a neck brace for six weeks.
Problem: What to do with an ugly patch of tar outside your back door and a husband that can’t sit still
Solution: You hire 2 willing helpers and you get hubby to supervise. Remove the offending tar, build some curvy walls, bring in loads of compost and soil and voila you have a veggie patch.
Since then we have added some pavers on the pathway and have planted wonder lawn, pennyroyal, oreganum and felicias in between. The ever present alyssum have made themselves at home too.

We have had some disasters in the patch like the lettuce and rocket bolting, the strawberries dying and the cauliflower not getting heads.
But we have also enjoyed quite a few meals with cherry tomatoes, lettuce and swiss chard
At the moment we have zucchini and butternut growing. Being the novice gardeners that we are, we couldn’t understand why the butternuts would grow to about 5cm and then die. Luckily Mark my favourite veggie/cooking blogger from the UK soon put us right.
Apparently our butternuts needed some help in the bedroom area and so started the dating game. Every morning I dash outside and look for male and female flowers so that I can hand pollinate them. Some mornings I am lucky and there are equal amounts of males and females and then everyone is happy, and other days I am not so fortunate and someone becomes the proverbial wallflower. Not sure I am doing it right but I pretty much destroy the male in order to pollinate the female – it seems a little like the praying mantis who bites off her suitors head after he has fulfilled his purpose. I wonder if the human race wouldn’t turn out better if we girls got something like that going. Just kidding guys!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why I Garden

I think gardening is in my genes. My great grandfather was curator of the Durban botanical gardens and later became a nurseryman. My grandparents had a child’s dream garden, lots of lush green lawn to play on, great trees to climb in, lots of places for hide and seek and always plenty of mangoes, pawpaws and litchis ready for picking.
My father too loved his garden and more often than not he would come back from his morning walk nursing a cutting kindly snipped by a friendly neighbour.
But I think to me gardening is more than just creating a beautiful picture. To me it is about trying to preserve our natural beauty.
I have always loved walking on wild untouched tracts of land hoping to and always finding a shrub or flower I hadn’t seen before, then the botanist in me would rush back home and dig out the gardening books and try to identify it.
It saddens me to see what we have done to our beautiful planet. Even with all the Green movements I think most people are too busy to live really eco conscious lives.
Gardening helps to absolve some of the guilt I feel about the destruction of our earth.
If I can restore just one little space with what nature intended then I feel I have taken a step in the right direction.
Regrettably my garden will never make the front page of a garden magazine, but at least I know I have done no harm – I have not sprayed herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, I have not used chemical fertilizers. Occasionally my plants look rather sad when they have been attacked by some or other insect or disease but they generally bounce back and hopefully next season they will be stronger
Writing this set me thinking about the Hippocratic oath and one phrase stands out – “first do no harm” So I have borrowed a little and written my own.

 I swear by Hegemone, the goddess of plants, and the Horae, the goddesses of the seasons, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:
I will consider dear to me all that is natural, and will strive to preserve as much of nature as humanly possible. As my parents have taught me this art so too I promise to teach my children.
I will follow routines for the good of my plants and the earth according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anything.
I will not poison, pollute or contaminate the earth, but will garden in accordance with the laws of nature.
I will preserve the purity of my life and my environment.
I promise to restore what those before me have destroyed.
I will harvest only enough for my needs and will leave sufficient to feed god’s creatures and ample seed to allow plants to multiply.
If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I ignore it, may the opposite be my lot.

 I guess if I am to honour my oath I will have to find another way to deal with the snails and stop killing the little horrors!


DESCRIPTION: This clump forming succulent perennial is a must have for almost any South African garden. It makes an ideal ground cover for dry sunny areas. It bears beautiful orange or yellow star shaped flowers with prominent yellow stamens. The flowers appear almost all year round except for a few months in winter. When broken, the leaves ooze a gel that helps soothe insect bites and stings and quickly stops bleeding from cuts and scrapes. It is also useful for treating eczema and soothing chapped lips.
DISTRIBUTION: Widespread in SA, it is found along the coast from Namibia spreading down to the Peninsula and extending along the south and east coast and inland as far as Mpumulanga.
CULTIVATION: Grows easily in any sunny spot. It produces fewer flowers if planted in light shade. It grows from seed and cuttings, but is easiest by division of the rhizomes. Although it appreciates the addition of compost it does well in poor sandy soils. Bulbine is a water wise plant, tolerating long periods of drought.