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, January 20, 2015

Building a Wildlife pond

Having water in a garden is one of the most soothing aspects of owning a garden. The sound of a fountain or water gushing gently over a waterfall is one of the most calming sounds to the senses.

Water in the garden is a great attraction for birds, insects and other wildlife. I can't think of anything better than the sound of frogs croaking me to sleep at night!

Placing the pond

1.   Place the pond near a tree or fairly dense shrub where the birds can seek refuge. If you will be planting some shrubs or a tree, try and choose something evergreen, as falling leaves and seeds can play havoc with a pond.
2.   Position it so that you can relax and watch the comings and goings of the wildlife
3.   Check in which direction the water would naturally flow and place the pond accordingly so that it looks as natural as possible.
4.   Check for tree roots or other underground obstacles such as water pipes and electricity cables before using a pick.
5.   If you have children make sure you will be able to secure the pond.
6.   To attract wildlife place the pond in a quiet corner of the garden.
7.   Make sure the pond has at least some strong direct sunlight.
8.   Small ponds and water features need some form of circulation and filtration. You would therefore need an electrical point for your system.  

Digging the pond

Mark out your pond – this can be done with flour or a hosepipe.

Remember the bare hole looks a lot bigger than when the pond is finished so add about 25% to the size of the hole

Make sure that about one third of the edge is very shallow and gently slopes in towards the middle of pond.  This is vitally important as it is the area the birds and insects will use and feel safe. They will not use a pond with steeply sloping sides as they will not feel safe.

If you are creating a little waterfall (recommended as this helps aerate the water) make a ledge, I built mine up by about 1m, which will be covered by the liner or cement and onto which you can place the base rocks of the waterfall.

If you are using a plastic liner, place a thin layer (about 5cm) of river sand on the bottom of the pond, the ledges and edges.  This gives you a little leeway to seat the rock properly.

You could use a plastic liner like Firestone Pondgard EPDM Liner. Not only is it flexible and easy to lay and fold but is also 100% safe for aquatic life.

Remember to measure the hole accurately and allow ample liner to go over the edges. If you buy only just enough liner to cover the hole, even the slightest movement could cause leaking over the edge.

Take particular note of the waterfall or “pot” area as these are the areas where the liner may move or the cement might get worn out as the water cascades over the rocks. The water could leak behind the liner or under the rocks placed in the cement. This is very difficult to see and would mean breaking down the whole waterfall to fix it.

I, however, opted to cement out my pond and when that was completely dry, we sealed it with a pond cement sealer, which you can see here as black in colour. I also planted a thatch umbrella for a seating area from which to survey the surrounds.

While cementing out the pond, we also cemented in big rocks around the edge and in strategic places in the shallow parts. After about a week the sealer was dry and we could fill the pond.

On the shallow edges, place gravel to a level that some of the stones actually go over the edge and stick out of the water a little. This will make it easy for insects and other small wildlife to use the water.

If you wish to have a clean healthy pond, it is important both to keep the water moving and to possibly have a bio-filter. This need not be an expensive exercise although I do recommend that you buy the best quality pump you can afford. 

Because my pond is fairly large, I bought a ,75kW swimming pool pump to circulate the water over the waterfall and through a pipe to the fountain. The inlet or suction pipe, right at the bottom and deepest end of the pond, was built in before cementing out the pond, coming out on top of the ground where the pump was to be situated. On the outlet side I have a pipe, slightly under-ground, leading to over the waterfall, with a T-piece taking some of the water to a pipe into the pond for the fountain.

The grass soon started growing in the dug over area and within a couple of weeks the water lilies started flowering.

It's also wise to install a pipe from a nearby tap for filling the pond. Before I installed mine (which can be seen on the left at the back of the pond) I was using a hosepipe, which can take absolute hours!

A couple of ducks and geese enjoying their new home.

Some Egyptian Geese soon discovered the pond!

 Housing for the ducks

Winter at the pond - Next on the list was planting shrubs and trees in the pond area. I chose some indigenous Acacias and Celtis africana.

  Some new shrubs at the back of the pond (Butterfly bush, Buddleia salvifolia - a bit messy for this area...)

 Within 2 or 3 seasons, the trees were becoming really well-established.

Many insects soon started moving in, amongst others this water scorpion. He has a long "tail" which is actually his breathing pipe. I often see him hanging just under the surface of the water with his little pipe just touching the surface.

  The Water scorpion snacking on an insect in the pond

The grass has grown well and the shrubs are also coming along nicely. I'm thrilled that frogs have found their way into the pond area, as have dragonflies, water beetles, pond skaters and even a few harmless snakes, like the Mole Snake and Brown House Snake. They are indeed welcome as rats can be quite a problem with chicken and duck food around. I can honestly say that I will never, ever again be without water in my garden, not matter where I might find myself!

 I started my pond in 2004 and this is what it looks like now 10 years later.

 A Wild Olive in the corner and the Butterfly bushes behind the pond. In the foreground are some Kniphofias (Red Hot Pokers) that just love water and benefit from the pond's over-flow.

Frogs and insects benefits from some plants on the edge of the pond and a log for safety.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Crawling among the Cosmos

Crawling among the cosmos next to the side of the road to try and get a good shot of these annual flowers was quite an experience. I almost fell in a rabbit hole, got black jacks all over my pants, walked straight through a huge Orb Web Spider’s web before I realised it and even disturbed a family of Partridges, who scared the daylights out of me as they all raucously took to the air!

Nature puts up this grand show every year in November and again in March, and tourists travel from the Cape Province to Mpumalanga to witness this spectacular event (South Africa).

This is what the road in front of our property looked like last week before the graders came and annihilated the lot!

Cosmos are originally native to scrub and meadow areas in Mexico (where the bulk of the species occur), and occur in the southern United States (Arizona, Florida), Central America, South America south to Paraguay and South Africa.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Using old chairs in the garden

Some inspirational ideas for the new year. Recycling old, broken or useless things and junk is a green way to get rid of clutter and an opportunity to beautify and add interest to any garden.

Pics from Pinterest.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year 2015!

The CAPE GLOSSY STARLING (Lamprotornis nitens) had a wonderful festive season with his friend Tweetie in my garden!

Here's wishing you a wonderful 2015 filled with LOVE, JOY and INSPIRATION!


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas morning in the garden 2014

Christmas day dawned with lots of sunshine and not a cloud in sight, the first time in many years that we've had no rain on Christmas Day. I was drawn out early by the bird songs and bright sunshine, and my garden seemed to agree that it was a glorious day!

An early-morning visit from the Indian Ringneck Parrot that has been visiting my garden for the past week. With the peach tree full of fruit and the bird feeders that I supplement with apples and other fruit, I think he might just decide to stay!

May you have a wonderful festive season and the force of gardening be with you!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Angel wing

Angel wing 
you inspire 

You faded away... 

A few years ago I was heavily into Begonias and a favourite was the "Angel Wing", a beautiful plant with exquisitely coloured leaves and beautiful pink flowers. I also had a couple of the more usual Begonia cultivars, but seeing as there are more that 1,500 species, I rarely even knew the names of those I bought. (Information from some nurseries regarding the plants they sell is sometimes pitiful, leaving you up to your own devices of trying to identify something.)

Begonia "Angel Wing" (Begonia aconitifolia × B. coccinea) is a hybrid Begonia which resulted from a cross between Begonia aconitifolia and B. coccinea. The hybridization was made by California plant breeder Eva Kenworthy Gray in 1926.

The plant gets its name from the shape and colors of its leaves. Usually, 'Angel Wing' grow upward on one stem. They flower and produce blooms that range in colors from red to white. The leaves grow with a wide range of colors also. The top of the leaf is often a dark green with metallic silver specks. The underside is a deep red.

Often, these plants are used as year-round houseplants. They are fairly easy to grow for a gardener that understands begonias. Since they are native to the tropics, the ideal growing conditions include high humidity, good circulation of the air around the plant, a lot of water, and a lot of light. The more light, the more brilliant the color of the leaves.

Angel Wing Begonias will grow well under shade cloth, lattice or in early morning/late afternoon sun. They will burn if grown in direct mid-day sun. The flowers are edible, with a sweet tart taste. 

Sadly I gave my Begonias away when we moved and maybe, just maybe (because I found they take a LOT of care!) I might consider getting another one.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lost in summer

Summer is the season of simple and timeless joys. She frolics like a happy child between innocent spring and melancholy autumn waiting for us to embrace her unbridled delight with life. It's a time to engage in the simplest of tasks: weeding, watering, harvesting. And watching the garden dress herself in summer's glorious colours. The secret is in slowing down long enough to notice the simple miracles that surround us.

The Hydrangeas started blooming early this year and already the plants are full of large flower heads.
There are two flower arrangements in hydrangeas. Mophead flowers are large round flowerheads resembling pom-poms or, as the name implies, the head of a mop. In contrast, lacecap flowers bear round, flat flowerheads with a center core of subdued, fertile flowers surrounded by outer rings of showy, sterile flowers.
Hydrangea flowers are produced from early spring to late autumn; they grow in flowerheads (corymbs or panicles) at the ends of the stems. In many species, the flowerheads contain two types of flowers, small fertile flowers in the middle of the flowerhead, and large, sterile bract-like flowers in a ring around the edge of each flower-head.

 In this photo, the beautiful lilac, star-like, fertile little flowers are clearly seen in the centre of the flower. They start off as small three or 4-lobed little bubbles, opening up as the lovely little centre, star-shaped flowers.
Hydranges are native to southern and eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas, and Indonesia) and the Americas.

Last summer I was devastated when I noticed that just about all of my Agapanthus praecox Blue had succumbed to rot due to too much rain and being in too much shade. I took them all out, saved what I could and moved them to a sunny spot. My efforts have been rewarded and some of them have just started flowering and it’s early days yet, but soon this flower will be thick with these lovely, lily-like flower spikes.
Some species of Agapanthus are commonly known as lily of the Nile (or African lily in the UK), although they are not lilies at all. All of the species are native to Southern Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique) though some have become naturalized in scattered places around the world (Australia, Great Britain, Mexico, Ethiopia, Jamaica, etc.)

My first White Agapanthus ever! (Agapanthus africanus ‘Albus’)  It is bloomming where I only had blues last year. I doubt that there is a South African gardener alive that has not come across an agapanthus somewhere! They line our roads, and are in most gardens and parks, from the tall globular-headed ones to the ever-shrinking dwarf cultivars now available at garden centres. Most of the agapanthus that are grown are cultivars or hybrids of Agapanthus praecox.
This evergreen species is indigenous to South Africa and comes from the winter rainfall Western Cape and all-year rainfall Eastern Cape and shed a few of their old outer leaves every year and replace them with new leaves from the apex of the growing shoot.

Also known as “White Lily of the Nile” or “African Lily”, Agapanthus africanus ‘Albus’ are evergreen perennial with narrow, erect leaves and long-stemmed umbels of white, trumpet-shaped flowers in late summer. It makes a good container plant in colder areas or perennial color accent in outdoor beds where winters are more mild.
Agapanthus africanus (African lily) is a native of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. A. africanus is more difficult to grow in gardens than A. praecox, as they should be protected from severe frost.

One of my Geraniums has started acting weirdly, like she wants to be a Bonsai, so I've decided to accommodate her. I pruned off all excess branches, leaving just the three above and transplanted her into a shallow dish. From here on I will keep pruning, keeping to this desired shape and then transplant her into a nice Bonsai dish. She has the most gorgeous flowers, as you can see from the close-up below.


Yesterday I spotted the first flowers of the Acacia karroo high up in the utmost top branches of the tree. Soon all my Acacias will be covered in these beautiful little yellow pom-poms.

 Acacia karroo or Vachellia karroo, also known as the Sweet Thorn, is a species of Vachellia, native to southern Africa from southern Angola east to Mozambique, and south to South Africa. This beautiful indigenous tree grows to its greatest size when rainfall of 800-900mm is received but can grow and even thrive in very dry conditions such as the Karoo region of western South Africa. The requirement here is for deep soils that allow its roots to spread. Everywhere in its range, however, the tree is easily recognised by its distinctive long white paired thorns and coffee coloured bark, both of which are very attractive.

Summer is finally here! Take a deep breath. Summer is a simple reminder not to allow your leisurely summer visions to turn into frenzied schedules with no time for family connection. Create open-ended free time in your summer schedule, for gardening, spending time with friends and family in the garden and reap the fruits of your long hours of (enjoyable!) time tending to your garden.

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