Saying Hello to the new garden
To dig in one's own earth, with one's own spade,
does life hold anything better?
- Beverly Nichols
Hi, after saying goodbye to my old garden, which I lovingly tended for almost 23 years, it is time to start a new chapter in my gardening history, one which comes a long way from my childhood, when I used to help my dad in his vegetable patch that he kept on the banks of the Vals River in Umtata, Transkei, South Africa.
I remember his rows of beans, neatly on X-posts made of bamboo and string, allowing the beans to climb to their hearts' content and deliver the most luscious green beans I'd ever seen. I was fascinated; the same with the plump, red tomatoes and green peppers, all dangling invitingly. The rows of lettuce, cabbage, potatoes and strawberries were equally fascinating and I would sit for hours helping him de-weed and moving the water pipe for flood irrigation... We used to get home towards dusk with baskets full of veggies, impossible for one family to consume, with the result that the whole neighbourhood had a supply of free vegetables all year long. I didn't understand then why my father never sold the vegetables - it could have been quite a thriving little business - but later in life I realised that his passion for the ground and all things growing went further than any money could ever satisfy.
When we moved up to our new smallholding, all that there was there, besides the old house, was a long concrete drive-way leading through some very neglected peach trees - pity that they had to go, but they were not really conducive to the grand entrance I envisaged for the new house.
Removing the old peach trees was the first job that had to be tackled - the concrete driveway was also broken up and removed and then started the serious business of digging up the whole area, composting it well and then leveling it. The area was measured and I then drew a plan to scale of where to put path-ways, the major trees and working out what other plants to buy, keeping in mind that some day the trees will be big and offer a lot of shade. We also found a source of some beautiful rocks, some quite large (I would have liked bigger, but carrying and moving solid rock is always a problem) and I had them delivered to a corner of the garden from where we carted them, one by one, and placed them in strategic groups.
Trying to follow the 'plan' as close as closely as possible, I planted various indigenous trees - White Karee (Rhus Viminalis),
Black Karee (Rhus Lancea)
Various Acacias Ac. Karoo, Ac. Tortillis
Olea (Wild Olive)
Design stage - laid out the first rocks and small plants
Once the lay-out became a bit more obvious, we added some borders and pathways - I used some plants I had available like Sword Ferns and Echevarias to fill in some spaces between the rocks and put the ferns under the trees where I knew they would have plenty of shade on the hot summer days.
September 2004 - pathway taking shape
I planted my favourite Barrel Cactus which I had up-rooted from the old garden and made sure that he wasn't close to any big trees to give him enough sunlight.
November 2004 - The White and Black Karees taking shape after wonderful rains in September and October - felt like it was specially ordered for me!
It's the end of December and still raining - and the new saplings absolutely love it!
The new lawn is also taking shape and actually had to be mowed! The trees are still supported by some up-rights and it was time to get to the nursery for some serious filler planting.
My list consisted of :
Cape Reed Grass (I love the stripy effect they give),
Zebra Grass (Mescanthus Zebrinus - light green and yellow stripes) - lovely contrast against the Phormiums (Phorum Rubra) and dark logs I had placed in some areas,
Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia - the Sunbirds love them),
Buddlaya (for the butterflies)
Bullrush, Pontederia and waterlily for the pond
Aloe Marlottii for the full-sun areas
Next month I'll be up-dating on the progress from January 2005 to about March.