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.
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Earthworm interests


Collectively earthworms build the soil This makes them essential to all soil types used by man and animals. Very simply—no earthworms, no living environment. In nature, they will be found wherever there is decaying organic matter and uncontaminated soil.



How can we ensure that these valuable invertebrates continue to flourish?

Providing conditions in which they will do well.
Constantly feed our soils with humus.
Practice mulching with organic materials which will break down and enrich the soil.
Create our own natural fertilisers by starting to practice vermiculture :

• Set up own wormeries
• Practice trenching with worms and vermicompost
• Stop digging over the beds—rather add compost or mulch
• Make use of organic waste rather than sending it to landfills
• Join organisation like the EIGSA, to learn and to teach vermiculture

Did you know that there is an Earthworm Interest group in South Africa?

EIGSA was founded in November 2004 by Carmen Nottingham, Ken Reid and Allison Barkhuizen. EIGSA’s aims are to promote interest, knowledge and research on earthworms both in South Africa and worldwide. It is a volunteer organization, and membership is free.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

White Stinkwood (Celtis africana)


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A perfect tree for suburban gardens. This tree is very popular in South Africa and it quickly and easily tolerates wind and drought. Evergreen, graceful habit & neat crown – won’t get too big or untidy.
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If you need a medium, fast growing shade tree you can't go wrong with this tree that will give shade in about four years. It naturally has a low branching habit but can be pruned into a single stemmed tree. The trunk of Celtis africana is easy to distinguish by its smooth, pale grey to white bark. It may be loosely peeling in old trees and sometimes has horizontal ridges.
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A few Celtis africana sharing space with Acacia karroo in a forest-like setting at my pond in my garden
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This beautiful deciduous tree grows up to 25m tall in a forest habitat, but in a garden it can be treated as a medium-sized tree, expected to reach a height of up to 12m.
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In spring Celtis africana is very lovely, with its light green, tender, new leaves that contrast beautifully with the pale bark. The leaves are simple, alternate, triangular in shape with three distinct veins from the base, and the margin is toothed for the upper two-thirds. The new leaves are bright, fresh green and hairy, and they turn darker green and become smoother as they mature.
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In autumn the leaves turn a lovely yellow. Celtis africana leaves are browsed by cattle and goats, and are food for the larvae of the long-nosed butterfly.
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Tiny inconspicuous green flowers are borne in spring and summer. The flowers are followed by small yellow edible fruits that ripen to a reddish colour in autumn. Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants, and only the female plants bear fruit. 
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This tree does not have an aggressive root system and thrives if grown next to a water garden, dam or river. It is an excellent shade tree for small gardens, and in larger gardens it looks lovely if planted in groups.
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Because of its dense growth habit it makes a most effective windbreak or barrier for large properties.  The fruit is relished by many fruit eating birds, including ground birds like guinea fowl. The leaves serve as an important food source for game, especially in times of drought.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Spring garden ornaments



Mirrors and CDs' reflective surfaces attract birds and are fun in the sunlight. Make mobiles and hang from tree limbs!

This year I've decided to add some interesting elements to my garden, and besides little features on the ground, using the trees to display garden ornaments is a great way to add interest to some dark corners.





Night-time brilliance - A metal mobile with glass jewels makes a lovely tinkling sound as it sways in the wind



Painting with glass stain on pieces of glass look very colourful as they sway in the breeze. You can, of course, also make real stained glass mobiles to hang from a tree.







Stained glass and wire mobile hanging from a tree



Broken mirrors can be found in the trash and snatched for use in your garden. Glue with mirror adhesive to fences, garden sheds, and anywhere you want to make a space look larger. Use the pieces in a loose mosaic form and you have a one of a kind piece of art! Here I have glued some broken pieces to a piece of string and they make little pools of light in the shade as the wind blows them to and fro.



Any broken lamps, light fittings and candle holders look great hanging from the trees or standing on old logs.

Old paraffin lamp - I light it when we sit outside on lovely warm summer evenings


Twisters look great at they swirl in the wind, creating flowing light patterns in darker corners


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Sunday, September 28, 2014

The garden in winter

Succulents in a pot - my Aeoniums turned bright red all along their edges


Artemis - the chickens enjoy a good scratch in all the open spots



Some of the Echeverias were still flowering...

Echeverias in a sheltered spot on the patio

A bare pathway - no Marigolds, no Nasturtiums...

The Hydrangeas suffering the onslaught of winter

Frost-bitten Sword ferns

This winter all but annihilated my Sword ferns...

Old Weavers' nests - relics from a busy summer

Zebra grass - luckily, after being cut down at the end of winter, they spring back in their full glory


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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Coffee, Mollie and frugality


It's a sunny summer's day but there is an icy wind blowing. And yet I'm sitting outside in the garden having coffee. Braving the cold. And the reason, you might ask?

Well, I spotted Mollie, my resident Mole Snake, just as she made her way down a hole against the wall. I haven't seen her for months as she was probably hibernating and I'm very keen to get a couple of photographs and also to see whether she has grown at all. The skin she shed last summer panned out at almost two meters (which means she's about 1.3m-1.5m in length as the shed skin is always longer) and the length that disappeared down the hole looked considerably longer. Maybe it's somebody else, so I'm waiting to see. But I don't think I've got much hope of that, she's probably settled in there for the day now.

While I was waiting, I did a couple of chores - filled the seed house with a new block of seeds, filled the nectar bottle with sugar water and watered a few plants, all the while keeping an eye on the hole in case Mollie surfaced.


I purchased this feeder from a lovely garden shop in Ballito, called "Sage" and they have the most exquisite plants, pots and bird paraphernalia. All I need to do now is buy the blocks of replacements seeds which I can do on-line, no need to drive 600km to the coast!

Replacements seeds ordered on-line

Next on my list - a Nectar feeder


I also filled up my pine cones with fresh peanut butter sprinkled with some wild bird seed. This is a delicacy that the birds really love.


I saw a really cool idea at the nursery the other day - a raffia bag filled with feathers from which your garden birds can easily pluck some ready-made nesting material. I've made one out of an empty orange bag but have not yet managed to collect enough soft feathers from the garden to fill it with. Moulting season for the chickens is finished for the moment. And I really don't know of anywhere where one can buy feathers from. Maybe a hobby shop...? (I'm also just thinking, why didn't I just buy it from the nursery while I was there! But that leaves no space for creativity and frugality, does it? he he!)

My new Seed cage feeder with new block of seeds

I also bought a pottery suet feeder, the birds absolutely love it!

Well, after a couple of hours and several cups of coffee, Mollie still hadn't surfaced so I gave up waiting, will see if I can spot her tomorrow. But at least all the birds feeders are full and all the bird baths clean and fresh...

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Carpobrotus


I used to have stretches of this wonderful ground-cover in my last garden. This easy-to-grow succulent, native to South Africa, is a wonderful ground-cover, ideal for low-maintenance and water-wise gardens.

There are seven species and two subspecies of the genus Carpobrotus (family Membryanthemum), also known as Sour Fig, in South Africa and another five in the rest of the world. Leaves are eaten by tortoises. Puff-adders and other snakes such as the Cape Cobra are often found in Carpobrotus clumps where they ambush the small rodents that are attracted by the fruits. Flowers are pollinated by solitary bees, honey bees, carpenter bees and many beetle species. Flowers are eaten by antelopes and baboons. The clumps provide shelter for snails, lizards and skinks, so it’s a wonderful plant to have if you want to attract wildlife to your garden.


CARPOBROTUS
C. acinaciformis (sour fig, elandsvy, goenavy, Hotnotsvy, strandvy, suurvy ) has purple flowers, robust, short, greyish green, sabre-shaped leaves and tasty edible fruits, used to make a delicious jam, and grows in coastal sands usually close to the sea, in the Western Cape, from Saldanha to Mossel Bay (South Africa).

Carpobrotus juice (from leaves) can be used as a mild astringent. When mixed with water the juice can be used to treat diarrhoea, dysentery and stomach cramps. It can also be used as a gargle for sore throat and laryngitis, and mild bacterial infections of the mouth. The leaf juice can also be used externally, much like Aloe Vera for burns, abrasions, open cuts, grazes, mosquito bites and sunburn. It is also used to treat ringworm, eczema, dermatitis, herpes, thrush, cold sores, cracked lips, chafing, skin conditions and allergies.
Info from Wikipedia

CONSERVATION STATUS
Carpobrotus edulis is not regarded as threatened in its native habitat, but it is invading natural areas in other parts of the world and threatening the survival of other species. In California, where it has been used since the early 1900s to stabilize the soil along railway tracks and roadsides and as a garden ornamental, it has naturalized and is invading coastal vegetation from north of Eureka to Rosarita Bay. It is known as the highway ice plant in the USA. It has naturalized along the west coast of Australia from Perth to Albany where it was also used for soil stabilization and is known as pigface. It has naturalized in parts of the Mediterranean and on the south coast of England.


The fruit of Carpobrutus acinaciformis, C. deliciosus and C. edulis is tasty and sought after by humans and I found this jam recipe on the internet :

SOUR FIG WHOLE FRUIT JAM
1.5kg of desicated fruit of C.acinaciformis
1.5kg sugar
2L water
45ml lemon juice
A few pieces of cinnamon

Remove floral parts and loose particles. Ends hould be cut off flush, not too deep so that the seeds don't boil out. Soak fruit over-night in a weak brine solution until soft. Rinse fruit and peel skin.

Bring fruit quickly to the boil in fresh water. Boil other ingredients together until mixture reaches syrup consistency. Add fruit to syrup. Boil mixture until fruit becomes soft but not pulpy.

The jam should have an attractive dark colour. Seal hot jam in sterilised bottles.

To make a smooth jam or jelly, use above recipe, mince fruit and cook until soft and gelatinous.

Enjoy!

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

The garden is a doorway

An entry and sketch in my Daily Garden Journal

To me, the garden is a doorway to other worlds; one of them, of course, is the world of birds. The garden is their dinner table, bursting with bugs and worms and succulent berries.

I started putting up bird feeders here in my new garden about seven years ago, a tradition I carried forward from when we left our other smallholding where we had lived for twenty-seven years.  Putting up bird feeders has taught me one thing - it's a life-long commitment because the birds soon become dependant on this source of food, especially in winter.

Olive Thrush enjoying some apple on one of the bird feeders

For me going on holiday means major organisation - I have to leave someone in charge of feeding all the animals - the hedgehogs, the tortoise, the ducks and geese, the chickens and, last but not least, the garden birds.

The Olive thrush joined by its mate


Water is an integral part of the garden, for residents as well as weary travellers. I have some shallow containers for bathing, which is a daily routine for residents, and some deeper bird baths for drinking, where I often see non-residents having a long drink before continuing on their journey.


Of course, planting indigenous is a great way to offer natural food to the birds and insects and is a great life-saver for birds and insects. The Kniphofia above (Red Hot Poker) offers sustenance to nectar feeders like Sunbirds as well as many insects.



Indigenous trees like the Black Karee (Rhus lancea) offers hiding place for many insects, a great snack for all the birds, and carries lovely berries which all the birds seem to love. A warning though, the berries/seeds drop in their thousands and it's not long before you have enough seedlings to stock a nursery!


Leaving an area in you garden for natural, indigenous grasses to grow provides seeds and shelter for an array of wildlife - this area is home to many insects, spiders, lizards, small snakes, scorpions and many others that find a safe haven here.


Utilising cut-down trees and placing the logs in your garden also provides cover and safety for many insects. Making a log pile in an undisturbed corner away from normal garden traffic is also a great way of encouraging wildlife to your garden.

Photo by Claire Butler

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