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.


  1. I have gone all politically correct re animals...eating less and less meat etc. But...snails? That is something else all together. If you feel strongly about it you could: create a habitat just for them somewhere in the garden where they can't escape and move any you find to there, collect them and put them in someone else's garden, parcel them up and send them to someone you don't like much, or just make an exception and keep stomping on them. I know what I am going to do.

  2. Hi Hazel
    Love your suggestions- maybe I should dump them in someone's rose garden!
    P.S. I have been thoroughly enjoying you blog even tho' I don't comment often - great jams!

  3. Very good oath I should try keeping some of those advices as well
    Happy new year!

  4. This is getting too SERIOUS for me... I'm going to try to maintain a reasonable balance, as I always do. As Hazel says, avoiding harm to living things is OK up to a point, but do we have to be kind to snails and vine weevils, and chafer grubs, and aphids, and, and, and...?

  5. I am not suggesting we go out and hug a snail - but if you are going to kill some creepy crawlies, then do it responsibly in the most eco friendly way possible. The key is to get nature back into balance. Chemicals are only one aspect, Mark touched on another - reuse, recycle. There are many more issues and I believe gardeners have a huge impact on the environment. It's up to us whether that is good or bad.