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Monday, 31 March 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, 27 March 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, 26 March 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, 17 March 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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Thursday, 13 March 2014

Rain, rain, so much rain...

This month is ordinary magic. And rain...


Working in the garden brings so much peace...


So wet, so much rain...


Soaked to the core...


Holding on to every drop ...


Arums just love all the rain ...


Water brings new life...


Life-giving water...





blue sky at dawn, blue sky all day long, that's what I'm hoping for today...


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Friday, 7 March 2014

Autumn is on the way

Life without a garden would be empty 

Klisgras (Setaria verticillata)

As the weather pulses cold and warm and cold again, it is apparent that autumn is close here in Gauteng. For some time I have resisted cutting the grass so as to provide the natural flowering of Dandelions of different kinds, and the other smaller flowers that only grow with the grass. I do enjoy seeing what emerges when nature is left to itself, and that it provides for the tiny creatures that persist throughout the season.

A lot of the grass in my garden has already turned yellow or brown, I came upon this Klisgras (Setaria verticillata, a beautiful grass with spiky tussles) which had escaped the wrath of the lawnmower by growing close to the fence. It was glittering in the late afternoon sunlight with shades of yellow, green and brown.


Here in my garden I have planted a section purely with indigenous grasses in stead of Kikuyu, which uses enormous amounts of water and also needs to be cut very often. The indigenous grasses are also a good source of food for many birds and offers shelter to lizards, geckos, snakes and my tortoise, Torti.


The grasses also make great flower arrangements and I have picked quite a lot and placed them in vases throughout the house.



We've had non-stop rain for over two weeks now and the garden is light and bright. There is not much in the way of insects about although there are flowers still. The Marigolds have almost all gone to seed though they are still providing beautiful splashes of colour. They are still a haven for a few straggly bees, aren't seeing that many in the garden these days. It has been a tough season for the bees, with all the rain, and I really must plant more flowers this coming spring...







I've also picked the last of the Hydrangeas, placed some in vases and hung up a few for drying. Soon the main plants will be dying back and I'll be looking forward to their return in spring.




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