In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful. If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Spring is a miraculous experience

My Clivias were already flowering in late-winter and putting up a spectacular show

The whole world comes alive after the winter in which it seemed that everything was dead. The world comes filled with colour and the scent of delicious greenery. The world that seemed so dull and cold has come alive once again. Little did we know that beneath the cold hard ground the plants and trees were preparing for rebirth. Spring gives us hope for rejuvenation in our own lives as well. Spring is a time to renew the excitement and zest for life that lives inside.

The Geraniums responded to the warmer weather by all flowering at the same time

It Must Be Spring
Hush, Can you hear it?

The rustling in the grass,

Bringing you the welcome news

Winter's day is past.

Soft, Can you feel it?

The warm caressing breeze,

Telling you the sticky buds

Are bursting on the trees.

Look, Can you see them?
he primrose in the lane,

Now you must believe it
Spring is here again!

Normally, by early September, we've had our early spring rains, but now, by early October, nothing yet, so Chrissie has to resort to watering the garden from the pond, which delivers strong water through the .75Kw pump. The normal garden hose relies on water tank pressure and is very weak.

My Aloes (A. ferox) flowered throughout winter until late spring, supplying much-needed sustenance to the nectar-feeding birds. Here Chrissie is neatening up the crusher stone edging which the chickens have spread far and wide!

5am on a spring morning is the best time to water the garden before the temperatures begin to rise. This gives the plants a good supply of water to face the heat of the day. Early morning also tends to be a time of lower winds and thus reduced evaporation. If watering cannot be done in the early morning, very late afternoon is also satisfactory. It is important to water early enough so that the leaves have time to dry before nightfall to avoid development of fungal diseases. If possible, choose watering methods that will not wet the leaves (such as soaker hoses) and thus allow for late evening watering.

In spring and summer I also let the girls out much earlier than usual and here they're enjoying some early-morning insect hunting.

My Arum lilies and the Phormiums did well over the winter. Phormiums are not tender greenhouse plants and they are especially good plants for cold and windswept gardens. They can easily tolerate minus 5°C and even minus 10°C, which has never really happened here. Phormiums require full sun in a moist but well drained soil. They will however grow well in poorer soils providing they are given regular granular feeds of a nitrogen based fertiliser. Phormiums are greedy plants which grow quickly if they are well fed. It is because Phormiums provide such a quick and colourful foliage display that so many councils use them on city roundabouts and roadside plantings.

Phormiums are pretty much pest free and most animals seem to ignore them. They are easy plants to grow and make lovely fillers in the garden. The range of coloured leaves between different varieties is enormous. Anyone who has experienced a failure after last winter should try again but remember to mulch heavily before the onset of a hard frost.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Air plant - Tillandsia

This is an epiphyte or air plant. It is a plant that grows upon another plant (such as a tree) non-parasitically or sometimes upon some other object (such as a building or a telegraph wire), derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris accumulating around it. Roots may develop primarily for attachment, and specialized structures (for example, cups and scales) may be used to collect or hold moisture.

When this was given to me by a friend, it was a mere three inches long and after about 3 years, is now a whopping twelve inches! But much to my own chagrin, it should have been much bigger by now had I not neglected it, also labouring under the misconception that it didn't need any extra water apart from rain. And I'm sure the severe frost we get here also hasn't helped.

This one hasn't developed any roots and is just wedged between a dead branch and the tree trunk. Epiphytic organisms usually derive only physical support and not nutrition from their host.

This one might well be Tillandsia albida, in the family Bromeliaceae (Bromiliad), but I'm not sure. There are over 550 species of Tillandsia (plus many hybrids), that grow in the Mexico, South and Central Americas.

Bromeliad Tillandsia have a life cycle of one plant growing to maturity and blooming. Before, during or after blooming (depending on the species) your plant will start producing young (PUPS), most plants will produce between 2 - 8 pups which in turn will mature, generally within a year and in turn bloom and produce pups.

General Info
  • Tillandsias DO have to be watered, they live 'in' air, not 'on' air. 
  • Tillandsias are NOT toxic to animals, although this does not mean your pet won't eat them, but they will survive the experience, your plant might not. 
  • Tillandsias are NOT parasitic, they do not harm the host tree. 
  • Trim away brown, bent or damaged leaves, this will not hurt the plant. 

Watering is one of the most important aspects of succeeding with Tillandsias, and one of the most misunderstood. Because their common name is Air Plants people tend to think of these plants as needing little or no water (as living on air). This is the biggest mistake you can make. Tillandsias NEED water, although they can survive for long periods of drought, they are NOT GROWING and certainly not thriving in these conditions, they are going dormant and just trying to survive, and will eventually die if water is scarce for too long, though its amazing how long they'll "hang in there" with very little water.

Thoroughly wet your Tillandsia 2-3 times per week; more often in a hot, dry environment; less often in a cool, humid one. They need to be watered (underneath as well as on top) to the point of runoff as though they've just gone through a rain storm, AT LEAST twice a week. The easiest way to achieve this is to actually immerse the whole plant in the sink or a bucket if possible, if not, use a hose or the kitchen faucet to totally wet your plant. Your plant will also appreciate a good soaking for several hours every one to two weeks.

They do not need much in the way of fertilizer - in fact it is better not to give them any fertilizer. Some growers like to give a little liquid fertilizer (diluted 25%) a couple of times a year to assist in flowering and to speed up the production of 'pups' - the baby plants. Do not over fertilize. Also, do not use distilled water when watering as this can cause the nutrients in the leaves to leach out of the plant.

NEVER 'plant' your Tillandsia. Putting a Tillandsia in soil is almost certain death to your plant. If you want it in a pot to look like a normal plant and you need to add some weight to stop it falling over, use gravel, pebbles or any other medium that drains rapidly. If your plant is placed in anything that holds water or moisture and doesn't dry out between waterings it will ROT!!! This is not a good thing!!!

Tillandsia aldiba (Photo Dave's Garden)

Mounting your Tillandsia
Tillandsias can be grown basically anywhere, on rocks, in a seashell or on coral, in ceramic or pottery, attached to wood (not pressure treated wood this is impregnated with copper, and copper will kill your plant), in a fork of a tree. Pin them on your curtains, make a wreath, attach to velcro and stick them on your mirror, attach them to a piece of wood and hang the wood in your tree (that way you can bring your plant in when its going to freeze). Glue onto a pebble or decorative stone, attach to magnets, hang on your front door, attach them to a piece of lattice so they can be hung indoors or outdoors, put them in terrariums (great decorations for use with lizards, snakes etc.). About the only limit is your imagination (with a few exceptions).

Reasons Bromeliads Tillandsias Die 

# They were not initially cared for properly (their owner was told they need little or no

# Thick- and thin-leaf varieties were combined in the same container (different
watering schedules).

# They did not get enough light (they were more than 10 feet from a bright window
or skylight).

# They were placed in DIRECT SUN. Garden windows are generally too warm unless they are shaded or facing south (in the Southern hemisphere).


# Don't worry about roots. You can cut them off to make it easier to place them in
containers (they will grow back). This also makes it easier to water them.

# Don't leave water sitting in the crevices of big, fleshy Bromeliads - Tillandsias.
Shake them off!

# Don't put them in containers that hold moisture around the base (or, let them dry
well before returning them to their containers).

# Don't throw Bromeliad Tillandsias away if there is any green left to the plants.
Soak them for 24 hours.

# Don't soak the flower while in bloom (prolonged periods of soaking will rot them).

# Don't water plants in clumps as much, as clumped Bromeliad - Tillandsias hold
more moisture.
# Don't combine thick- and thin-leaf varieties in the same container, since their
watering schedules will be different.

# Don't let them freeze!

- Constant air circulation -- as the name indicates -- is paramount to keeping your plant happy.

- Air plants need water; from late spring to mid-autumn, mist daily. In winter, mist only once or twice a week and once a month give them a good soaking.

- Fertilize monthly in spring and summer using a low-nitrogen liquid fertilizer mixed at only one-quarter strength. In general, fertilize weakly.

- Although they love warm weather, most air plants need protection from full sun. If it's a type that grows naturally wild on trees, keep it in moist, partial shade. If it is a ground type, such as T. cyanea or T. lindenii, grow it indoors in bright, filtered light and outdoors in partial or dappled shade.

- Don't let an air plant sit somewhere that's colder than 45 degrees; it will die at those temperatures. If you live in Zone 9 or warmer, you can grow an air plant outdoors all year if you keep it dry during the winter.

For more great info on care and on how to revive a neglected plant, read more HERE

Read more on grooming your Tillandsia 

PIC credit 

Airplant Tillandsia with 3 open flowers and daughter plant


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Incredibly appealing!

I've always found herb-strewn stone paths and terraces incredibly appealing. Herbs tucked amid the stones seem to give a path, no matter how new, a sense of history and romance. There are several plants that thrive in these restricted spaces, ignoring the trauma of being trod upon, and when the Slasto path was being laid, I asked the gardener to leave s space here and there where I could tuck in some creeping thyme.

I bought several different varieties at the local nursery, dug them in the small pockets that had been left, watered them well and waited. Before long, the path had lost its harsh, just-finished look, and tiny purple and white flowers covered the little clumps of thyme that grew here and there, releasing their fresh fragrance whenever anyone walked by. Soon other plants joined the thyme. A few springs of mint escaped from the culinary garden, chamomile seeded itself here and there and even savory, yarrow and fennel popped up between the cracks. I pulled out most of the trespassers, with the exception of the chamomile with its tiny white flowers.

Eventually, the thyme threatened to cover the entire path, so several times a year I must harden my heart and ruthlessly lift great mats of it off the stones and cut them back. For a day or two, the plants look ungainly, but shortly they begin to spread out again, the edges of the patches softening once more. Through it all, the bees continue to buzz joyously among the thyme flowers, relishing this herbal path as much as I do.

A new stepping stone path taking shape leading to the cottage at the bottom of the garden planted with Nasturtiums, Rosemary and Wild Garlic. This area was surprisingly free of harmful insects, probably due to the Wild Garlic planted at intervals.

I find that any spot that's doing poorly in the garden,  especially shady spots under trees, benefit from laying a couple of paving slabs or adding some crushed stone and with a garden ornament or two, can be turned into a really stunning area.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Food from trees - The Kei Apple

(Dovyalis caffra)

The Kei Apple produces a bountiful crop of roundish, velvety, bright yellow fruits with thick succulent flesh. It was there for the taking by the birds and, what they do not not eat, falls to the ground to ferment, attracting fruit flies and eventually rotting down, returning nutrients to the soil.

The tree, Kei-apple, Dovyalis caffra, is well known all over the eastern parts of South Africa, common in open bush and wooded grassland, and often near termite mounds. It belongs to a cosmopolitan family, the Flacourtiaceae, which are all good, fruit-bearing shrubs or trees, very often armed with vicious spines, and its name derives from the Kei River where it grows in abundance as a thick, shiny, spiny shrub up to three metres in height. The branches are armed with straight, robust spines up to 7 cm long.

Last year my trees, I have three planted at my wildlife pond, also bore an abundance of fruit for the first time ever and I ascribe this to the fact that we get heavy frost here in Tarlton (South Africa). It has taken almost seven years for my trees to reach just over three meters tall and I was absolutely thrilled to have the fruit. Of course I had to try them but they really are too acidic, with a slight hint of sweetness, to enjoy on a full-time basis. And I'm therefore also not surprised at all that Torti, my Leopard Tortoise, did not touch any that had fallen on the floor. But they look really beautiful displayed in a dish!

Some trees may grow to nine metres with a thick crown of green foliage; these large specimens are often less spiny as the tree has put its energy into its bulk, rather than into thorn production. The tree is known by a variety of other names: Dingaan’s apricot, wild apricot, wilde-appelkoos, appelkoosdoring, um-Qokolo (Xhosa and Zulu) amongst others. Although it is indigenous to warmer areas, it will survive mild frost, and long periods of drought. It grows well in poor soils. The Kei-apple makes a worthwhile addition to your garden as it serves a multitude of purposes, not least of which as a source of food for humans and animals alike.

Fresh, ripe fruits are rich in Vitamin C and pectin and, following the example of the Pedi people who squeeze the juice onto their pap, they would make an excellent addition to a fruit salad and to muesli and yoghurt. Nature seems to know best when to give us the right foods to boost our immune systems in preparation for the onslaught of winter colds and ‘flu.

In addition, Egyptian scientists have also reportedly identified 15 different amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) in the fruit. Monkeys and baboons, antelope and birds recognise their health-giving qualities and devour them voraciously in the wild! Most people, however, consider the fruit too acid for eating out-of-hand, even when fully ripe.

So, cut the fruits in half, remove the peel and two rings of hairy seeds. Sprinkle with sugar and leave them to sit for a few hours before serving as a dessert, or adding to a fruit salad. The fruits can be cooked, but take only a few minutes of cooking before they turn into a sauce. Thicken this with a little crème fraiche and serve it over ice cream. Kei apples are more usually made into delicious jams and jellies or, when unripe, into pickles.

Kei-apple Jam
Because of the apples high level of acidity, no lemon juice need be added to the jam.
. .
  • 450 g Kei apples, halved, peeled, de-seeded and thinly sliced
  • 450 g white sugar
  • Grated zest of one lemon (be careful not to include the bitter white pith)
  • 1 teaspoon ground (or 1 large stick) cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon raisins, a bay leaf, 2 cloves optional extras
Pack the sliced fruit into a jar, stand it in a saucepan of boiling water and let the apples stew for about 15 minutes, or until they start to become tender. Put the apples into a clean, heavy-bottomed pot, add the sugar and the grated lemon zest. Do not add the cinnamon if using ground cinnamon, because it will tend to become viscous when boiled.

Hardiness: A subtropical shrub or tree, capable of surviving temperatures to 20F.

Growing Environment: Kei apple's are both drought- and salt-tolerant and are often used as coastal landscaping shrubs.

Propagation: Usually by seed.

Plants bear in 4-5 years from seed.

Uses: Fruits are often sprinkled with sugar and eaten fresh. They can also be used in a variety of desserts.

Native Range: Native to the Kei River region of South West Africa, the Kei Apple has adapted to subtropical regions throughout the world and is sometimes planted for ornamental purposes in Florida, California, and Southern Europe.

Walking past this tree one has to be careful of the very hardy spines it produces, they can deliver painful pricks


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Olea Africana – Wild Olive

My Wild Olive (Olienhout in Afrikaans), planted in 2006 in my pond area, has suprised me with the most gorgeous little "olives" this year. The branches were so heavy that they looked like they were going to buckle under the weight of all the fruit! For weeks on end, this side of the garden was alive with the chatter and whistle of all the birds that flocked here to enjoy this bounty.

I also had a go at the fruit, why not? What's good enough for the birds, is good enough for me, right? It was mostly quite sweet with a slight acidic (sour) flavour and a tiny pip inside. I wonder how many new little Olive trees will be growing everywhere from the birds dispersing the seeds?

Sprays of tiny, lightly scented white to greenish flowers (October to February) are followed (March to July) by small, spherical, thinly fleshy fruits (either sweet or sour) which ripen purple-black.

This berry fruit is a favorite for fruit-eating birds, so look out for the Grey Lourie, Speckled and Red-faced Mousebirds, Redwinged and Pied Starlings, Rameron, African Green Pigeon and the Blackeyed Bulbul. Leaves are browsed by game and stock. This tree is an asset on farms and game farms, especially in very dry areas because it is extremely hardy and is an excellent fodder tree.

Olive leaf and olive leaf extracts (OLE), have anti-aging, immunostimulator, and antibiotic properties. A tea can be made from the leaves and I'm still scouring the internet to see if I can find a recipe. 

 Planted in 2006 at my pond, my Wild Olive has grown to about 4m tall and 4m wide.

I also have one planted about the same time in my bathroom court-yard garden and it's a favourite with all the birds, entertaining me early-mornings with their antics as I sit in the bath. this one, however, has never fruited yet.
This tree is found in a variety of habitats, mostly on the southern slopes of the Magaliesberg mountain range from the rocky areas exposed to all the weather elements, in the kloofs, right down to the river bank areas of the Magalies River but is widespread in Africa.

The Latin name for olive is olea; europaea = from Europe, and africana = from Africa. There are four species of Olea in South Africa. Olea europaea subsp. africana is a neatly shaped evergreen tree with a dense spreading crown (9 x 12m) of glossy grey-green to dark-green foliage. Leaves are grey-green to dark-green above and greyish below. The rough, grey bark sometimes peels off in strips. 

Propagate it from seed or from hardwood cuttings. Sow fresh seed in river sand. Treat cuttings with a rooting hormone. The slow-growing frost, drought and wind-resistant wild olive makes a good shade or screen plant in the home garden.


- Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than the roots. (The bigger the better). The extra space below and at the sides will be in-filled; but, having been loosened, will help the roots establish.

- Square holes are better than round ones as the roots can go round in circles if unable to break out of a round hole (yes, seriously!)

- As it has an aggressive root system don’t plant near your house, a pool or other buildings.

- Although this step is not essential, it will grow better if you mix some compost and bone meal with the soil taken out of the hole. Also it would be a good idea to fill the hole a little so that the plant will be exactly the same height in the ground as it was at the nursery.

- If it is am planted too deep, the stem may rot; too shallow and the roots above ground will die.

- Before planting, remove from the plastic bag! lol!

- Put the tree in the hole and replace the soil, compost and bone meal mixture, firming it down all around. The roots must be immobilized, so it’s essential that it is not loose in the ground.

- Use the heel of your boot to firm the soil as you back-fill, but do not compact the soil so that it is like concrete, as this prevents water and air circulation, causing roots to die.

- Water and cover the soil with a good heap of mulch.


- After planting, it is important to water at least once a week.

- It is better to give one good watering once a week rather than a little bit every day.

- Monitor to see if your tree looks thirsty (sagging limp leaves) and water if needed.

- Once planted, you can apply a general fertilizer around the base. (Culterra 5:1:5 is a good option).

- As your tree grows, it will require staking and pruning. Stake it against a straight wooden stick or pole, taking the strongest shoot up and pruning the bottom branches off.

Relax and watch your beautiful Olive grow approximately 800mm each year!

 ི♥ྀ *˚*¨*•.¸¸♥¸¸.•*¨*• ི♥ྀ •*

Friday, September 18, 2015

Garden sheds and other stuff

I love keeping a Gardening Journal - mine contains anything from garden design to new planting tips, names of flowers and shrubs that I've planted with dates to leaves of something I'm looking for and sketches of plants and birds in my garden.

I also make notes when something has been killed by the frost to remind me not to plant that again! I hate losing a plant and cannot even kill those I don't particularly want in the garden. Keeping a Journal tells me a story when I look back over the years and sometimes I will pick up a forgotten idea I never implemented and fit it into an empty space that I was wondering what to do with.

My gardening journal

A page from one of my journals with pressed Nasturtiums
I am also mad about garden sheds - whether it's a big shed with lots of space or a small little corner set up somewhere to keep all the gardening tools together, it's a joyful experience setting one up. Gathering all the tools, tables, terracotta pots, seedlings, chairs, wheelbarrows, shelving, birds' nests that have fallen out of the trees and boxes and crates together, scrounging for anything pretty, is a great past-time for me.

Setting up a garden shed can be as simple as just organising all your tools in one corner or it can be an elaborate affair - an old disused shed maybe, or an out-building or store room that's standing empty. Even a disused carport can serve as a garden shed by adding some sides to it for protection or enclosing it completely.

I converted an old disused carport into a garden shed, complete with a table and chairs, a couple of shelving units, hooks for all the tools, sun hats and garden gloves and a little cabinet for pencils and watercolour paints. It was very low budget, as everything came from the store room or hand-me-downs from friends and family. I set up the old kitchen sink lying in the one corner on an old cabinet, laid on some water and a tap and had a wonderful space for rinsing flowers after picking or washing hands and dirty used tools.

A corner in my garden shed


Friday, September 11, 2015

Growing Clivias from seed

Clivia miniata
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Common names: Bush lily (English); Boslelie (Afrikaans)

My Clivias have grown so beautifully in the last couple of years that I've become interested in growing them from seed to try and expand my collection. From the original three plants, I now have ten. They've been clumping nicely and I will also try lifting some to transplant to another area in the garden.

The world's love affair with South Africa's Clivia began in the 1800's when specimens were sent back to England from Kwazulu-Natal. In Victorian times this beautiful plant was very popular for indoor use in England and Europe. The discovery of the yellow flowered Clivia miniata (C. miniata var. citrina) in the late 1800's fuelled an interest which still persists today.

Part of the fascination has been with the breeding of Clivia, both between the four species (C. nobilis, C. gardenii, C. caulescens, C. miniata ) and between forms and colours within the species. Breeders select for specific traits in each generation which produces pronounced qualities such as huge, broad petalled flowers, red, yellow or apricot coloration, broad leaves, fan shaped leaf arrangement, variegation, dwarfism and many others. Internationally, the most advanced breeding of Cliiva is happening in the Far East, most notably Japan.

Clivia miniata is a clump forming perennial with dark green, strap shaped leaves which arise from a fleshy underground stem. The flowering heads of brilliant orange (rarely yellow), trumpet shaped flowers appear mainly in spring (August to November) but also sporadically at other times of the year. The deep green shiny leaves are a perfect foil for the masses of orange flowers.

Clivias are endemic to Southern Africa, meaning that they do not occur naturally anywhere else in the world! The wild bush lily grows in the forests of Kwazulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Swaziland. The habitat may vary from subtropical coastal forest to ravines in high altitude forest. The bush lily grows in dappled shade, often in large colonies. The soil is well drained and humus rich. Occasionally they may be found growing in the fork of a tree.

Sadly, in many areas, colonies of wild bush lilies have been destroyed by harvesting for traditional medicine and also by plant collectors. The rhizomes are reportedly extremely toxic but are used medicinally for various purposes.

I have at last picked my fruit, which now seemed ready for harvesting and extracted some seeds from the soft pulp inside

Harvesting Seed
Pick the fruit as soon as it starts to change colour or when it turns soft. Open it carefully and remove all the soft pulp as well as the loose fitting membranes that keep the Clivia seeds together. This is quite a messy job and one's fingers can get quite slippery, so keep a cloth at hand to often wipe your hands. Clean the seeds properly and wash the seeds with an anti-fungal solution or a weak solution of dishwashing liquid. I used the dishwashing liquid.

Germinating Seeds
If the Clivia seed have not yet sprouted, put a teaspoon full of damp compost in a sealed plastic bag with a few seeds. Place the bag in a warm place or on top of your fridge, near the back where the warm air rises, to speed up sprouting.

Alternatively, place clean damp (not wet) coarse sand (river sand is ideal) in a plastic container. I opted for this method, but I used some potting soil, no river sand at hand, as I cannot seem to see that the seeds will be OK in a plastic bag!, although I did take a few and put them in a bag with a bit of damp soil to see what happens. and I covered my container with some plastic as I did not have a lid for it.

Press seeds 50% into sand making sure that the eye (small dark round spot on seeds where germination will take place) are facing to the side. Don't plant the seed under the soil surface.

Close the lid and place in warm spot for 1 to 3 weeks until the seed has germinated. Do not water again.

When the seeds have sprouted
Take a pot or seed tray, about 15cm deep and put a layer of small stones or coarse bark chips in the bottom. Fill the container with a slightly acid growing medium, such as equal parts of coarse river sand and finely milled bark or a potting mix available at nurseries. (Clivias are not very fussy).

Firmly press down the mix and water well. Then make small holes, at least 2cm apart, to take the little taproots. Gently press each seed into the medium so that half the seed rests below the surface. Handle the seeds very gently.

Place the pot in a shaded position and keep moist by watering once or twice a week with a fine gentle spray.

Seedlings can be left in the pot for up to two years and at the beginning of the third year can be transplanted into permanent pots (especially the yellow ones) or into the garden. Alternatively they can be moved into well-drained individual black bags or pots after one year, in fresh growing medium adding a small quantity of bone meal. (Use one teaspoonful on each 15cm pot). Miniata, Gardenii, Robusta and Caulescens seedlings should flower at three to four years old with slightly longer for the yellow varieties. In pots Clivias prefer a well drained, slightly acidic potting mix such as composted pine bark. If grown in the garden they grow in virtually any soil type with varying degree of success, provided that they are not over watered.

How to identify the Yellow seedlings
When the first leaf of the seedlings is about 2cm tall, you will be able to identify the yellow seedlings by looking at the stem. The stems that are green and show no colouring will produce yellow flowers. Mark these seedlings at this stage. This also applies to genuine peach seedlings.

On the other hand, if the stem has a purplish colour, you know the plant will not produce yellow or peach seedlings, but will be pastel, orange or red flowers. This purplish colour disappears when the seedlings are about two to three years old.

Remember that Clivia do not like direct sun, so they MUST be planted in full shade or dappled sunlight. They flower better in lighter shade. A little early morning sun is acceptable.
Keep your “collector’s quality” plants in pots, which will allow you to move them around easily, they could be brought indoors for display or to show off when in full flower or displayed at a show.

This is what I'd like to aim for eventually, a large bed of just Clivias!


(Some of the growing from seed information from CliviaPE)


Saturday, September 5, 2015

It’s never too late to plant a tree

Celtis africana (White Stiinkwood) planted in my garden in 2005

It’s Spring. The trees herald the change of season by bursting forth with their new foliage, many preceding the soft greens with breathtaking shows of delicate blossoms that produce the fruits and seeds which will be welcomed by man and beast alike in the summer that lies ahead. It's time to plant a tree.

But how many will last long enough to provide homes for birds and animals in their lofty boughs, or provide us with much sought after protection from the elements all year round? How many will bear fruit?

Around the world, over thousands of years, man has impacted on the great forests by felling huge swathes for living space, fuel, building materials and cropland. Mankind is continuing ‘the old, old story’ of what happens when forests are cut down - rivers silt up, the land turns into desert or scrubland; civilisations succumb to environmental degradation.

Somebody once said “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” So how can we do our bit? Here are a few creative, low-cost ideas on how to get tree planting going :

• Plant a tree on your birthday.
• Plant one over the festive season, instead of spending your time and money in shopping malls.
• Give trees as gifts to show how much you care.
• Teach other people how to plant and take care of them.
• Save seeds; take cuttings. It will reduce the cost of planting trees. It may take a bit longer, but your patience will be rewarded.
• Plant a tree from a truncheon (small branch) taken from another tree. It takes a shorter time to grow a tree.

by Pat Featherstone, Soil for Life

You can find some info on how to plant a tree here.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

The promise of spring

Some Daffodils I had in my garden a few years ago

As the days of winter grow longer and lighter, we instinctively yearn for assurance that spring will come again. Like the Victorians before us, we strive to brighten our homes and our daily lives.

Searching for ways to fill their rooms with the blooms and fragrances of spring, the Victorians began experimenting with forcing bulbs. This skill became an important addition to the Victorian housewife's list of domestic accomplishments. Bulbs were sold by door-to-door salesmen and through mail-order catalogues as early as the 1830's.

Not only did bulbs provide instant gratification, but they offered possibilities of prolonging the pleasure of floral company throughout the long, dark winter.

The Victorians were particularly partial to single Hyacinths, which are easy to grow and wonderfully fragrant. Growing other Holland bulbs (Dutch imports) - such as crocus, snowdrops, narcissus and tulips - also created drama and excitement in the Victorian home. As technology improve, allowing interiors to be warmer and brighter, more exotic bulbs (such as Calla and Bermuda lilies), were able to be grown.

Bright yellow Narcissus formed from hardy garden bulbs flourish in a natural straw setting

Today, the available range of both Holland and Cape Bulbs (originating from the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa) is vastly greater than our Victorian grandmothers could ever have imagined. We can obtain both tender bulbs (planted in the spring to form summer flowers, such as gladioli) hardy bulbs (planted in the fall, requiring a cold winter treatment, such as tulips) as well as Holland and Cape bulbs, pre-potted and pre-chilled varieties. And we can use our modern refrigerators to trick our bulbs into believing that Old Man Winter has come - and gone!

What has not changed - and never will - is our sense of wonder at seeing a lowly, unpromising bulb sprout first roots, then leaves and finally, a burst of fragrant flowers - each one keeping its promise of spring.

Perfect for the novice, Paperwhites are easy to grow and wonderfully fragrant


Friday, July 24, 2015

Mid-winter rain in Gauteng

Mid-winter, July 2015, and it's raining, it's pouring!! Unusual for Gauteng... I'm really grateful for the rain, everything has been so dry and dusty, but at the same time I'm worried about all my succulents - it has been freezing cold and together with the wet I'm not sure if they will all survive...

Here in Gauteng we're not used to cold AND wet, that's Cape weather. When I lived in Cape Town, that was one of the most disturbing phenomena for me - cold, rain and wind, all together! Here in Gauteng, the weather is organised - rain in summer, cold in winter and winds in August! I don't know if Mother Nature is confused or whether she knows exactly what she is doing... Maybe this is our first Spring rains? Yesterday I noticed tiny little green leaves on the Acacias (thorn trees), and I thought that was rather odd, right in the middle of winter.

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