Thursday, April 21, 2016

Is there something wrong with my cycad?

Cycad - Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm)

I'm a bit worried. More than a bit actually. My Cycad (C. revoluta) is not looking so well. Above is a picture taken last winter, July 2015, and he was growing in leaps and bounds for the past year.

Over the past couple of weeks, however, I've noticed the branches flattening more and more, totally exposing the centre, which is usually hidden by all the leaves. Could it be dying? Maybe too much shade? It has been under this Celtis africana for 10 years now. The tree has obviously grown much bigger over the years, giving much more shade.

Or could it be a female getting ready to flower? Or maybe a male ready to produce a cone? But Sagos are like people... reproduction takes two - a male and a female. In late spring, a mature male Sago produces a golden cone, shaped like a giant pine cone which may grow over 2' tall.  A female produces a huge golden flower which slowly opens when it is fertile, then closes, and begins to produce viable seed if pollination from a male sago was successful.

I read somewhere that most Sagos must be at least 15-20 years old before they are mature enough to bloom, and they also must be well established in the garden or landscape. Usually they will have a 10" - 14" (30cm) diameter trunk and a leaf spread of 5' - 6' (2m).  My Sago is now 10 years old and still has no trunk.

I've been considering digging him up and moving him to full sun or planting him in a big pot, but apparently they do not bloom in a pot. And disturbing him by transplanting him means it will take a long time for him to get "established" again.

One website says, "Sagos grow in full sun, but adapt to outdoor shade or an indoor area which receives bright light or a few hours of morning or afternoon sun." And mine does get afternoon sun, more so in winter.

Every spring, my Cycad would produce new leaves, but this past spring (Sept 2015) there was nothing.

Can anybody help? If you have an explanation, I'd love to hear from you.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

16 Signs You’re Dating A Gardener

  1. He can’t stay over because he has to get up early. No really. He wants to be up at sunrise to start planting.
  2. He wears overalls in a non-ironic way.
  3. Her motto is “no truck, no luck.”
  4. It looks like he’s growing a garden under his fingernails.
  5. He gets a serious case of plant envy when he sees your plot.
  6. She’d rather share her toothbrush than her hand trowel.
  7. He only makes plans with you on rainy days.
  8. Weekend road trips require stops at every native plant nursery along the way.
  9. She blew you off to claim her spot at the community garden.
  10. Compost and manure are considered appropriate dinner table conversation.
  11. Her Instagram feed is just a bunch of blooms.
  12. Dates before sunset are out of the question.
  13. Attending lectures together at the horticultural society is her idea of quality time.
  14. He thinks a romantic gift is one that he’s found in the garden section of Lowes.
  15. “Your bed or mine?” does not mean he’s trying to get you between the sheets.
  16. When you bring up the subject of kids, he says he’s only interested in raising seedlings.

    From OrganicLife

Monday, April 18, 2016

To bless this kind earth... and yourself

Now that we're over the worst of summer (and it really was the pits, with extreme heat-waves, temps in the 40℃'s and drought) and had some lovely rain to break the heat and drought, I'm enjoying time outside in my garden again. I just get absolutely cranky, and listless, when it gets that hot, and can't seem to get around to doing anything outside. But as we all know, we NEED to get outside, we need to spend time in nature, otherwise life becomes unbearable. Well, for me anyway. My plants and the birds in my garden are part of my family, and I feel as though I've lost track of what's going on in their lives. I just did the bare necessities during that heat, filling the water bowls and feed tables and the rest, like watering the garden, was left up to my trusty garden manger, Chrissie. I even thought of telling her to chat to the birds, because I wasn't getting round to it!

But my garden doesn't seem to have minded my absence. It's like a jungle out there after all the rain. Nature's revenge to neglect is that, when left undisturbed and given time, she will reclaim anything built by humanity. So basically, no need to feel guilty here, life winds a way.

 There's a pathway somewhere in there, totally covered now by Bulbine and Sword ferns.

Even the birds don't seem to have noticed my absence. No excitement or fluttering or welcoming twittering when I started spending time in the garden again. Maybe they were even pleased about not being constantly stalked by my camera. Eating and bathing and nesting carried on as usual, making me feel a bit unwanted...


Saturday, March 26, 2016

It's finally happened - and a strange phenomena

The dead White Karee in my garden that I've been threatening to cut down, has finally happened. The hold-up was that the birds absolutely loved it. They would catch the early-morning sun from the top branches and the Fiscal Shrike used it as her look-out for prey. But I think it started becoming a bit of a danger lately. Many a morning I would find broken branches on the lawn and all I needed was for it to fall over and cause a lot of damage.

So at the end of January we tackled the job. Solly started by first removing the lower branches and then he tackled the main trunk. We calculated that the distance to the pond fence was far enough for the very top branches not to damage it when it fell.


Here it looks like Solly is bowing his head in a moment of silence for the fallen lady. I too sent up a silent little prayer, saying I'm sorry that she died but that we will remember her for ever.

As the tree came down, it hit a branch of the Acacia karroo next door. As I was checking for damage on the Acacia's branch and while we were removing the dead branches, I noticed something really peculiar. All the leaves on the Acacia branch were busy closing, and within minutes the whole branch up to the trunk had closed leaves.

Now I know Acacia trees pass on an ‘alarm signal’ to other trees when antelope browse on their leaves. When nibbled by antelope, the tree produces leaf tannin in quantities lethal to the browsers, and emit ethylene into the air which can travel up to 50 yards. The ethylene warns other trees of the impending danger, which then step up their own production of leaf tannin within just five to ten minutes. This is a defence mechanism against predators stripping them of all their foliage, causing them to die. So my tree obviously thought it was under attack from something and the defence mechanism immediately sprung into action. I checked some of my other Karoo's and noticed the same reaction on one of the trees about 10m away in the pond area. Amazing phenomena!

Then started the big job of reducing the branches to firewood and cleaning up the area.

It's amazing how hard the dead wood can be!

Almost finished, just the last part of the straight-up trunk and it's kudo's to a job well done! I decided to keep the stump for use as a feature somewhere in the garden.

And since the tree has gone, the Aloe zebrina at the base have doubled in size and are flowering profusely.

Change in a garden is inevitable. I often look back at previous seasons and marvel at the changes that take place from year to year. Some good, some not so good, like a tree dying, but life carries on and something dead makes place for new life.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Connecting with your bliss

The above pic is my 'Money plant' (as I know it, possibly Plectranthus verticilatus), intertwined with some ivy, hanging from a patio beam. The story goes that, if it dies, so does all your wealth. It's hanging outside on my patio and every winter I panic as I slowly see it die down but then, each spring, I rejoice as it springs back to life, thick and abundant, needing to be trimmed back every now and then. This winter I brought it inside, just in case.... (smile!)

Deepak Chopra said, "Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss. Nothing is as rich. Nothing is more real." For me connecting with my bliss means pottering in the garden, feeling the rich soil between my fingers and nothing beats the feeling of actually holding the garden hose and watering the plants in stead of relying on an automated sprinkler system.
It's while you're watering that you notice all sorts of things - a dead plant, a mound of topsoil indicating the the mole is back in the garden again, aphids on the roses or red spider on the aloes. It also delights my senses to be "washing" the garden, removing dust from the leaves and giving the foliage a thorough cleansing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


 It’s not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it! 
 From the television show ‘The Golden Girls’

Another one of Solly’s hen’s (she’s four months old now), has made herself at home in my garden and started laying eggs – against a wall, totally in the open with no protection over-head. I can’t actually provide her with any protection, I’m so scared she’ll leave the nest if I fiddle around too much.

The beginning of new life

However, I am preparing a warm place for them to live once she hatches her new brood, and hopefully Kingston, the Dad-to-Be will join them for good once they’re settled. Such exciting times! I just can’t wait to hold the little bundles once they’ve hatched!

Day 3

So far there are four eggs and she’ll probably lay 9 or 10 before starting with the serious stuff of sitting on them. I’ll be doing an up-date when the babies hatch, if all should go well – life on a smallholding for chickens is a risky business!

The proud Father-to-Be, “Kingston”, one of Solly’s youngest roosters – he’s also just 4 months old now.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The garden of your mind

Your mind is like a garden:
Whatever you plant will grow.
Your thoughts are seeds you're planting:
They produce, each after its kind.

And you, just like a gardener,
Can choose which seeds you'll plant.
And by the choice of seeds you sow,
You choose the harvest you will reap.

So don't plant seeds of lack or fear,
Disease, discord, or doubt.
Plant, instead, the seeds you want;
Then things you want will sprout.

This gift of choice is given to all,
And not to just a few.
The harvest, friend, is in your hands:
The crop depends on you.

So take this power which you've been given,
 And use it every day,
 To gain from life the good you want,
 For you have found the way.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

What is a garden without Vygies?

Lampranthus roseus – Red vygie, Mesembryanthemum

Mesembryanthemum (meaning “midday flowering”) is a genus of flowering plants native to Southern Africa. This easy-to-grow and hardy evergreen succulent is very easy to maintain and thrives under conditions few other will tolerate. On its thin branches it carries succulent leaves, and during spring masses of daisy-like, rich pink flowers.

It requires full sun and is suitable for all regions without severe frost or hot, humid conditions with lots of rainfall. This is a newby to my garden, planted in a basket, so I will have to bring it inside in winter to protect against frost.

I was given a few cuttings by a friend and it started flowering within days of me planting it.

This is a frequently cultivated and a rewarding floriferous plant. It is easily propagated from seed or cuttings and needs a sunny position. Seed can be sown at any time of the year in shallow trays in a sandy mixture and germination is within 3 weeks. Cuttings are best planted during the summer months. The plants are short-lived and are best replaced every 3 years. Lampranthus roseus prefers a sunny, well-drained slope. The plants thrive in rockeries or containers in a sunny position. Plants are subject to downy mildew and should be sprayed with Ridomil from midwinter to just before flowering. The species is particularly impressive when massively planted on large areas to cover the soil.

There are over a hundred varieties of Lampranthus and many of them are valued as garden plants. Usually relegated to the rockery or succulent garden, these plants are far more versatile and can be incorporated in most areas of the garden, where their lustrous blossoms will enhance their surroundings. Lampranthus species have smooth, three-angled leaves, and the group varies from an upright, bushy growth habit to lax, cascading or creeping ground covers. Some bushes extend to a meter across.

The mother plant from which my cuttings were taken

Common Names include:

ENGLISH: Red vygie, Many-petalled Lampranthus, Rosy dewplant, Rosy Dew Plant, Oxenbould daisy, Mini Ice Plant

AFRIKAANS: Roosvygie


Friday, February 12, 2016

Aloe striatula

Family: Aloaceae
Genus: Aloe (AL-oh)
Species: striatula (stree-AT-yew-luh)

From the wilds of South Africa comes this amazing species with upright stalks of 1" wide, dark green foliage. In warmer climates, the stalks can reach in excess of 3' tall. The larger stalks tend to arch outward with age due to excess do we(he he!). In early summer, the clumps are topped with amazing scapes of orange-yellow bells. This is one for the plant nut who likes to push the limits of hardiness.

Aloe striatula is a strong-growing climbing aloe whose native habitat is in mountain tops south of the Karoo region of South Africa. A tough and hardy plant, Aloe striatula is popular in gardens throughout the world. It can grow to a 6 feet tall shrub.

Aloe striatula gets its name from its distinguishing markings -- dark green stripes on its stems and leaf sheathes, in Latin "striatula" means "striped". Also known as the “Coral Aloe”, Aloe striatula is quite cold and heat tolerant. Its leaves are thin, dark green and strongly recurved, with small white teeth on their margins.

Aloe striatula is one of the hardiest aloes, and will tolerate much colder temperatures than most Aloes, including frost and even some snow, but it prefers full sun and well-drained soil. In the Eastern Cape it is often planted along the boundaries of kraals, as it naturally forms a well-shaped and hardy hedge. Like other climbing aloes, it can easily be propagated by cuttings (truncheons) as well as by seed.

The brilliant yellow inflorescence emerges in late fall through winter and rises above the foliage.

When planting in the garden you will need to provide Aloe striatula with a free-draining soil as it can be prone to attack from fungal infections if the roots become too wet. Dig in plenty of horticultural grit and sand to the soil of required but avoid planting in heavy soils or soils that are prone to water logging.

If suitable ground does not exist then consider planting into a pre-formed mound of free-draining soil, a raised bed or even a suitably sized container. For the container, use a good quality compost but with a 50:50 mix of horticultural grit and sand.

Although closest to the rare and unique Aloe commixta of Table Mountain, Aloe striatula is part of a whole group of related climbing aloes that grow throughout Southern Africa, the "Macrifoliae" Aloes. Other species in this group are: Aloe ciliaris, Aloe tenuior, Aloe gracilis, Aloe juddii, Aloe decumbens, and of course commixta and striatula itself.

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