I sit and drink tea in the mornings, and come out at dusk to listen as the world tucks itself in for the night

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.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Aloe marlothii


One of the most stunning plants in Africa is the Aloe marlothii. It is found from sea level to high hills in South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique. The plant usually grows to a height ranging from 5-12 feet. (As it grows more tree-like, dead leaves remain on the trunk in habitat as a defense against animal munching.) They put out a flower that is a branched candelabra-shaped with yellow to orange flowers. The mountain aloe is undoubtablty one of Southern Africa ’s most rewarding aloes to grow and adds an interesting slant to aloe culture.


Given to me by a dear RedBubble friend, Antionette, who brought it all the way from Mpumalanga to Tarlton, I was absolutely thrilled to have it! After a recommended period of a few days of letting the roots dry out a bit, I planted it in my wildlife pond area, which receives full sun most of the day.

 8th February 2012

I prepared an area by loosening the soil to a depth of 40cm, leveling it and placing the aloe on top of that, covering the roots lightly with soil and used rocks at the base for support, plus two sticks for extra measure. it has now survived two Tarlton winters and heavy frost and I am absolutely thrilled that it is now established and I’m hoping for some flowers soon!

My Aloe marlothii showing signs of White Scale - Dec 2012 


Like most garden plants, aloes are susceptible to a number of pests and my aloe certainly did not escape an onslaught. A white scale often appears on aloe leaves, starting with what looks like a coin sized spot of white dust. It will gradually covers more and more of the leaf upper and lower surface until large parts of the leaf are affected. The insect involved is enveloped in a hard skin which protects it against predators (and treatment!) while it is sucking sap from the plant. Not only does this make the plant unattractive, but over a long period the plant can be killed slowly. Normally pesticides like Malathion are recommended, but I don't use any commercial pesticides in my garden at all, so my treatment for this pesky insect was to rub the infected parts with my thumb, removing most of the insects, but I wish I had a longer thumb! Marlothii even has spines in the centre of the leaves, which made the job rather torturous! I then wiped the infected leaves with a cloth soaked with dishwashing liquid and after an hour or so I wash away the residue with a strong squirt from a hose pipe. The treatment should be repeated until all signs of the scale disappear. Sometimes the dead scale insects might remain on the leaves, making the plants unattractive, the dead scale may be brushed off with a soft brush.

A mineral oil like Oleum can also be used. The oil in fact smothers the insect. When the problem is spotted early, the scale can even be treated by painting it with used cooking oil.

My aloe marlothii - February 2014, looking good and well to face the coming winter

Common names : mountain aloe (Eng.); bergalwyn (Afr.); inhlaba or umhlaba (Zulu)

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April in the garden


It seems the rains have gone now and we're settling into the gorgeous Autumn days I thought was never going to come. We've had some really cold spells, as if Mother Nature was going to skip autumn and go straight into Winter.

The Marigolds are still putting up a brave show, but for the most part they are on their last. I've removed patches of dead plants and discovered lots of new seedlings underneath because of all the rain, which I doubt will see it through the winter.



Against all advice stating Echeverias don't like a rich soil, I planted this lot in an old dog basket in a rich potting soil with some added compost, and they have rewarded me with beautiful, huge rosettes and lots of pups. I think it might just be this specific variety, E. glauca, that thrives on rich soil and lots of water but they are very frost-tender, so I will have to move them under some cover at the first signs of real winter.

My Cycad - Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm) - sprouted a full circle of new leaves during summer and seems to be doing really well despite the fact that I discovered the trunk covered with termites one morning. I hosed them off with a strong jet of water and am keeping a close eye to see if they return. I've also had the trunk of my Wild Olive tree covered with the thick mud with termites inside and they've eaten off huge patches of the bark. Now I don't know if that's a natural phenomena and whether it harms the plant or not, but I am not a termite fan at all and I hosed them off as well and tried to drown as many as possible!

Take some Echeverias (glauca), plant too many in one terracotta pot, have lots of rain and you have a scene of each plant doing its best to be the biggest!

Many Aloes are already flowering - this is Aloe ellebeckii sporting its long stalk of pinky-orange flowers.

My chooks are enjoying the sunny, rain-free days of Autumn

This little feature is a spot that needs my attention and now is the perfect time to plan something to do here


This was the Kniphofias' first season after I transplanted them from shady patches and hopefully, next summer, they'll once again be in full flower

The Nasturtiums don't seem to know that winter is heading our way - they're merrily flowering and producing lots of seedlings, but maybe they'll stay for winter, they did last year...




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Monday, March 31, 2014

Autumn setting in

Slowly the season is changing - leaves are colouring and dropping and our beautiful autumn temperatures of low-twenties celsius has started. Bright sunshine, gorgeous balmy days, my favourite season of the year!








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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Too much rain!

I never thought I would EVER utter those words - too much rain. For a gardener there can never be such a thing as too much rain!


But my garden has been flooded with rain over the past 3 weeks and yesterday I noticed that many of my Echinopsis cacti weren't doing too well because of all the water, some of them turning yellow and rotting from the inside. In a panic I lifted them, only to find that I had no pots to put them into! This calls for drastic action, so I scouted around my store room and found this fan cover from a fan that wasn't working any more (how come we don't throw those things away...?). A piece of plastic in the bottom with some holes punched in and bob's your uncle! I had a temporary place to plant the cacti (which might just become their permanent place!)


They are now under cover until all signs of rain is gone, when I'll move them back into full sun.


However, the rest of the garden is not complaining. In fact, my garden seems a bit confused - autumn was already really showing and the Marigolds are all but dead and on their last legs with seed heads everywhere. And now their are hundreds of new Marigold seedlings coming up everywhere which, of course, will not survive the winter.


The lawn is loving all the water and we can't keep up with mowing it. I actually would like to get rid of all the lawn for two reasons - one, it is an enormous water-sucking monster and in drought times looks really terrible and two, to cut out the hours spent mowing it. But unfortunately this area is part of our entrance and drive-way to the garages so if I took it all out, it would mean having to make a concrete drive-way, which could end up looking terrible.

Below : Thankful for all the rain...




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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lavender in your garden


Whether grown directly in the garden or in pots, Lavender is such a romantic flower that every gardener sooner or later succumbs to the urge to grow it. The fact that it is a native of the Mediterranean and a lover of dry, sunny, rocky habitats makes it a perfect specimen for our hot Highveld climate here in South Africa. It even manages our frosty winters quite well, probably because it is our dry season with not much rain. Lavender doesn’t like to be cold AND wet.


I have taken a couple of cuttings from a plant growing in my garden to try it in a pot, which I can put in a full sun position. I did the sketch above from my imagination to try and “see” what it will look like and I’ve convinced myself!

My lavender plant, given to me by a dear friend, in October 2012

 My lavender plant at the end of 2013

My first Lavender blossom of the season early 2014

 Image from Pinterest

Lavender from your garden offers so much in the line of gifts to give a special friend or just hand out at dinner parties. Dry the flowers and fill little sachets tied with a pretty bow, or fill a pretty bottle with these gorgeous lilac blossoms, they have a calming effect floating in your bath water. Put a sprig of lavender with some flowers in a bottle of oil (Almond oil is perfect) for another lovely bath experience,

Lavender is healing and calming, bringing a sense of well being and harmony. It aids in sleep and can be used in massage oil for relief of muscle tension. A drop rubbed on hands and then wiped on pillow or sheets aids in relaxation, skin blemishes, allergies and asthma. It's a great insect repellent and I use the crushed leaves in my chicken coop to keep pesky mosquitos at bay.

Lavender is a lovely accent plant or, planted at the back of borders, gives height. In a rock garden, a single plant or just a few plants may be used to great effect as an accent. And, of course, lavender is a natural choice for any herb garden. The cool, grey-green foliage contrasts nicely with its own flowers, as well as dark green herbs and other plants.


Homemade Mosquito Repellent

For many, spring is looming and it's time to get ready for Mosquito invasions. Here's an easy and pleasant repellent recipe you can make at home:

Combine in a 16 oz bottle:
15 drops lavender oil
3-4 Tbsp of vanilla extract
1/4 Cup lemon juice.
Fill bottle with water.
Shake.
(Info from 'Surviving the Stores')

Now, here's my secret - I'm absolutely MAD about lavender and cannot resist using it in my home or bath, but I am totally allergic to it and my eyes get all red and swollen up if I dare use it on my pillow and bathing in it gives me a red rash all over my body. So for now it's reserved for the chicken coop and as gifts for friends!

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Monday, March 17, 2014

The gorgeous jewels of nature

After almost 3 weeks of solid rain, we had a weekend filled with sunshine - time to take stock of the garden! Three weeks ago the garden started looking wintry, but after all the rain my garden is a bit confused and it looks like spring again. However, autumn is evident in the fact that some aloes are starting to flower, like Aloe ellenbeckii below. Bees and lizards came out of their hiding place and the Kniphofia (Red Hot Pokers) started producing flowers again! The Nasturtiums have burst forth with new life (will the seedlings survive the cold that is sure to follow?) and moss and lichens are covering tree trunks like soft carpets.





















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