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Saturday, 17 February 2018

Today ...

It has been 6 weeks since we sold our smallholding in Gauteng and moved down to the North Coast of KwaZulu Natal (South Africa) (ONLY 6 weeks??!! feels like a life-time!) and it has taken me all this while to find my feet, gather my thoughts and feel as if I once again belong somewhere. The biggest thing about moving from a place where you have lived for 43 years is seemingly losing your 'identity' - an identity tied to the bird life you studied for so many years, an identity tied to the grass, trees and the very soil you were walking on, an identity tied to "your" plants and birds and insects and little animals nurtured in your garden for so long.

I open my eyes in the mornings and in stead of hearing the Cape Robin-chat singing on my patio, I hear the exotic sound of the Burchell's Coucal outside my window, the sound of the surf pounding on the beach in stead of traffic whizzing past my front gate, and when I rise and go for an early morning walk, I see tropical (and unknown!) vegetation in stead of veld grass and Bluegum trees. A big a change as you can ever imagine!

Yes, it has taken me 8 weeks to get into the swing of things in this new life we have chosen and although I was, and still am, mourning the loss of my pets (my chooks will forever be ingrained in my heart), I now look forward to discovering all that is new in this exotic coastal location; insects I have never seen in my life, the names of the trees and plants which thrive in these hot and humid conditions and finding out which succulents like to grow here!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

I've waited 13 years for this!

Male cone of Cycas revoluta

My Cycad - Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm), which now proves to be a male, has produced a cone! OMG! For 13 years I've been waiting for this event and it happens now that I'm a week or two away from moving and leaving my garden behind! As with other cycads, the Sago Palm is dioecious, with the males bearing pollen cones (strobilus) and the females bearing groups of megasporophylls. Pollination can be done naturally by insects or artificially.

The white leaves you see on the fronds is the result of the terrible hail storm we had on the 9th October which all but annihilated my garden. It seems these hail storms are quite beneficial to gardens (despite the havoc they wreak) as I believe my Cycad responded to that pounding by producing this cone.

The Water lilies at my wildlife pond were also smashed to smithereens by the hail, some as big as tennis balls!, but within a week new leaves emerged above the left-over leaves and a proliferation of yellow flowers appeared. Also a first for me, I normally only have one or two flowers at a time.

However, I suffered a major loss with my Aloes - three of my 15-year old Aloe ferox were almost completely destroyed by the hail storm and it will take years and years for them to recover from this tragedy. Only once all die damaged and broken leaves are dead and brown and new growth has sprouted on the top will the Aloe be back to its former beauty. So unfortunately I won't be here to tend to them and help them over-come this damage and I sincerely believe the new owners are also nature lovers and will help these aloes through their difficult period.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Please don't go away!

I know I've been awfully quiet over the past few weeks, but there's a very good reason for that. As you may (or may not!) know, our smallholding has been up for sale for the past year and twice we've had a buyer, and twice the sale has fallen through. We now have an offer in place and it seems that THIS IS IT! I'll be moving to the coast in a few weeks!

Although I'm looking forward to the change, there's a lot of sadness ... saying goodbye to a garden that has been part of my life for the past thirteen years is not easy, and even more devastating is saying goodbye to my girls. I've had to find a new home for my chooks as it is impossible for me to take them with me.

Lots has happened since our last summer rains, like a tornado and a mega-storm with hail as big as tennis balls hitting the area. My garden is pretty much annihilated, but nature is wonderful - already the trees and plants are bouncing back and will probably look much better for the wear!

This picture was taken the next morning, the day after the storm, and none of the hail in the garden had melted yet.

So please don't go away, as soon as I have more news, I'll be back. See you later!

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Our summer rains are here!

05:00h - Oh, how joyous! Our summer rains are here! Had 10mm yesterday and the garden is smiling! Listening to the sound of the rain on our roof at the moment - applauding every drop - nothing better than being inside on a rainy day watching raindrops run down the window. A high of 17℃ for Gauteng today. Will be cuddling under the duvet watching Law & Order!

Like me, my garden will be  enjoyng our first seasonal rains and I wil visit her as soon as it clears up.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Clivias, and Bronchitis

My Clivias flowered right through winter (weird, right?) and some of the flowers show a bit of frost damage.The later flowers, like the ones below that started flowering last week, are a gorgeous colour and large and healthy.

Now, of course, I'm looking forward to the "rose hips" seeds, which also make the most beautiful display post-flowering. Two years ago I gathered some seeds and tried to grow my own plants, but it was a dismal failure. So now I know why these gorgeous plants are so expensive!

I have not  been around blogging for some time now (well, it feels like AGES!) At the end of May I went down with Pneumonia and just as I thought I was getting better 3 or 4 weeks later, I developed Chronic Bronchitis and ended up in bed, deadly ill, for three weeks and after surviving that, it took me another two weeks before I could get out of bed and function properly. Not something I would wish on my worst enemy.

But now I'm better, finally able to get round to my favourite past-times, gardening and blogging! At one stage I thought I was going to die and it has given me a new appreciation for life and being able to breathe in particular. I hope you have all been well and looking forward to connecting with you again.

Monday, 19 June 2017

First Aloe ferox flowers for the season!

I am so excited! Early already this winter has been freezing and I've been afraid that I won't have any Aloes flowering this season. And yet, here it is! My first flowers for the season! This fairly young Aloe (about 4 years old) is just outside my garden gate and is in full sun, maybe that's the secret. This area also gets very little water as it consists mostly of Aloes and the Coco splumosa trees are big enough to not need all that much water, rain only suffices.

I'm holding thumbs that my other older and bigger Aloes will follow suit with their lovely display of oranges.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Planning a garden

Ink sketch and colour wash - A corner in my garden

How do you go about planning a new garden or adding something new to your existing garden?

When I started my garden way back in 2004, the first thing I did was to measure the area I intended to plant and then drew up a scale plan of the area. I included intended pathways, trees, rocks and indigenous plants. I rigorously stuck to the map and the completed lay-out was (almost) perfect. Of course the garden has changed plenty over the years with new pathways added, trees that were too close to one another have been removed and new areas like a succulent garden added.

Now, when planning something new in my garden, I often do some quick sketches with notes in my Moleskine Gardening Journal, adding colour just to see what it will look like.

Put large terracotta pot lying on its side under Tree Fuchsia (Haleria lucida), Plant Echeverias in front, add stepping stones and pebbles.

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