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Saturday, 13 June 2020

Shade-loving Aloe zebrina

Family : Asphodelaceae
Common names : zebra leaf aloe, spotted aloe

As soon as I get some shade going in my ‘new’ garden, this will be one of the first Aloes I will be getting. Also on my list, but for full sun, is Aloe ferox, not often seen here on the coast, so I think the only solution would be to ‘import’ one from somebody in Gauteng. Hoor jy my, Rita Gouws Bester? ☺️
Aloe zebrina is a small, variable, stemless compact succulent. The succulent leaves of Aloe zebrina are densely clustered into a rosette and have a slightly channelled upper surface. The colour of the leaves varies greatly but they are usually green and marked with large oblong whitish spots; the margins are armed with stout, brown-tipped teeth and the leaf tips are dark red to brown. It has pale but striking coral-coloured tubular flowers that occur in rather sparse inflorescences. The fruit is a dehiscing capsule with many seeds. Seeds are dark-coloured and broadly winged, which assists in dispersal.

Aloe zebrina is widespread in northern South Africa and is also widely distributed in Namibia, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe and is not listed as threatened, mainly due to its wide distribution.

The habitat of Aloe zebrina is normally dry thickets and may include marshy meadows on river banks. It suckers freely and therefore forms dense groups. Blooms are mainly found from February to May, but also June to August. The pollination is performed by birds and this aloe does equally well in shade or full sun.

In north-western Botswana, the roots of Aloe zebrina are among the main dyes for the Hyphaene palm fibres, which are used in weaving baskets, to give them a golden-yellow colour. The method was adopted for wool dyeing by European settlers who modified it to create better colours with other metallic mordants. The roots can easily be collected on a sustainable basis because of the plant's ability to readily form new roots.

The people along the Kunene River in Angola prepare cakes from the pressed and boiled flowers. The powdered stem and leaf bases are taken medicinally by women after delivery to cleanse their system. The (bitter) juice of many Aloe species is used as a disinfectant for wounds, as worm expellant and also to treat skin problems.

Aloe zebrina has potential for cultivation in arid to semi-arid, frost-free locations.

Aloe zebrina flowers against a background of Marigolds.


Wednesday, 25 March 2020

This is my new garden 🌵

Hi ya all! Long time no see! I am not deceased (although it felt like it for a while. Well, 2 years...) and I haven't left the country. We've settled into our new home here in KwaZulu Natal after emigrating from Gauteng) and above is the garden I inherited - a fairly healthy-looking Scadoxus and some Sedge grass. I just love Sedge! Hope it seeds and spreads all over! And lots and lots of river pebbles. And paving stones. Lots of them... Will see where this leads...

There are no trees in my little patch, I will fix that soon, but for now it is totally a hot, sun garden. So, obviously, succulents are the answer, and lots of them!

Graptoveria fantome was some of the first succulents I planted, had been mothering them in pots for the last 2 years. Mother-in-law's Tongue (sansevieria trifasciata) is always welcome in my garden, I will try to get an en masse planting going, but will then have to remove a few of the paving slabs I also inherited.

And, of course, lots of Spekboom (Portulacaria Afra). This was a small cutting that I had mothered for the last few months and one can grow them in virtually any scenario - outside, of course, in the house, in the ground, in pots, and even propagate them in water in a bottle, as below.

Of course you know that Spekboom (evergreen and indigenous to South Africa) is an environmental miracle worker, with the potential to tackle carbon emissions like no other plant can. Hectare for hectare, Spekboom thicket is as effective as the Amazon rain forest at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – quite a feat for a plant endemic to semi-arid areas. One hectare of Spekboom can sequester between 4 and 10 tonnes of carbon per year. This makes it a powerful tool in the fight against climate change and the move towards a zero-carbon world. 
And Spekboom trees can grow as tall as 5 meters. Spekboom is edible, with a slightly lemony taste, Spekboom leaves are juicy and full of moisture, making them the perfect ‘pick-me-up’ during a long day’s hiking. It is also a favoured food of black rhinos, elephants and koedoes.


A little bit of rain does wonders!

My resident gecko keeping a watchful eye on the plants. No infestation of insects here!

I'm still not used to the humidity and heat of the coast, so my gardening is relegated to early-morning or late-afternoon or during the cooler winter days now looming. Watering the garden is always a joy and I hope to acquire a hosepipe one of these days, as soon as I can get the Municipality to install a water meter at the garden tap. Not an easy feat. But we're holding thumbs!

See ya!

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

There you will find me...

... … on my knees, in the garden, sprinkling handfuls of Marigold seeds in the moist soil.

It’s heading for summer and what could be more blissful than lovingly tending to your flock of flowers? Just like our children, they thrive on tender care and love.

Many of us have Marigold flowers (Tagetes) growing in our gardens, but did you know that marigold flowers have great healing abilities? These beautiful golden flowers will heal your body in many different ways. Marigold flower tea has great antioxidants that help to prevent cardiovascular disease, strokes, and cancer. And I say they heal the soul also.

To make tea or infuse the flowers, boil the water and then add 1 tablespoon of the flowers to the pot of tea and let it steep. Do not add the dried flowers to cold water and then let it boil. The tea purifies the blood, so drink this tea regularly.

Marigolds are also great insect repellents, mosquitoes hate them! By growing these flowers in your yard, you can be assured that mosquitoes will leave you alone and you’ll be helping out your local bees, too. Sprinkle them in the next boxes of your chickens - not only does it look pretty and smell good, it will get rid of all those pesky fleas and mites.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

This is the reason I garden...

... so that I may share my love of flowers with the world.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Black Karee (Rhus lancea)

Rhus lancea, or Black Karee as it is commonly known (and now called “Searsia lancea”), has the habit of growing in weird shapes if not pruned, the branches sometimes bending in upon itself, giving it an untidy look, but which the birds love! They criss-cross this highway of branches at an amazing speed in search of insects and feed on the clusters of small, yellow or red, berry-like fruits in Autumn.

The fruit in it's green form, highly prized by birds and primates

The flowering season is between June and September, and fruit begins to form from September to January. The leaves hang down, which are glossy and dark green. The flowers are yellow and fruit is small, round and slightly flattened. Several birds eat the fruit but the Bulbuls (Pycnonotus barbatus) were the most prolific eaters in my garden, and guinea fowl and pheasants eat the fruit waste on the ground.

Black Karee seeds ready to drop and populate the garden with hundreds of seedlings!

Be careful where you plant this tree. Although it doesn’t have an invasive root system and can be planted near buildings or walk-ways, it grows to a height of 20 to 30 ft, with a width of 20 to 30 ft, and is one of the messiest trees I have ever come across! It will clog up your pool filter in no time and we spend hours every week raking up the fallen leaves and berries. I don't think the leaves have much composting nutritional value as they seem to take ages to decompose.

A ten-year old Black Karee in my previous garden in Tarlton, Gauteng

A stray seedling sprung up next to the garden path...

The bark of this Karee is reddish-brown in young branches, but rough and dark brown in older branches and stems.
Can be used as fence posts because the wood is resistant to termites. Indigenous evergreen, it is wide-spread in South Africa and is only missing from Kwazulu Natal. It grows to 5-10 meters and makes a lovely evergreen shade tree, hedge, wind break and roadside tree. It is in the top 5 frost and drought-hardy trees.

 The leaves of the Black Karee (Searsia lancea) glistening brightly after a spring shower...

Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful.  Everything is simply happy.  Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance.

~ Osho

Monday, 18 March 2019

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise)

(Pic taken with my iPhone 6s Plus in Sheffield, Ballito, KwaZulu Natal)

Strelitzia reginae, the crane flower or bird of paradise, is indigenous to South Africa. An evergreen perennial, it is widely cultivated for its dramatic flowers. In temperate areas it is a popular houseplant.

(Pic taken with my iPhone 6s Plus in Sheffield, Ballito, KwaZulu Natal)
After many, many attempts of growing this beautiful plant in my previous garden in Tarlton, Gauteng (South Africa) and having it frosted down to the ground every year until it succumbed to the cold winters, I am now totally surrounded by masses of these plants here in Ballito. I just can not get enough of looking at the intricacies of the flower, it truly could be a bird of paradise and take to the skies any minute!

Strelitzia reginae is one the most popular horticultural perennials around the world. It flowers for long periods with its vivid orange and bright purple/blue inflorescence and is an ideal pot plant and cut flower subject. The inflorescence stalk is 700 mm tall with 4-6 flowers that emerge in succession in a boat-shaped spathe ± 200 mm long, producing a mucilaginous substance when in bloom. The flowers have orange sepals and blue/purple petals (May to December). 

It occurs naturally only in South Africa along the eastern coast from Humansdorp to northern KwaZulu-Natal in coastal bush and thicket. It grows along river banks in full sun, however sometimes it occurs and flowers on margins of forest in shade.

Bees are common visitors when the spathe is in flower. Sunbirds may be the pollinator, but this has still to be proven. The role of sunbirds in Strelitzia pollination needs to be investigated, as they have been observed "robbing" the flowers by taking nectar but by-passing the pollination mechanism. Birds eat and disperse the seed. In nature, where its distribution overlaps with that of  S. juncea, in the Humansdorp District, they hybridise easily.
(This info from SANBI)

It is regarded as a perennial herb by the abakwaMthethwa clan in KwaZulu-Natal, who use the strained concoctions from the inflorescence to treat inflamed glands and venereal diseases. The seeds are also used in the Cape to sour milk.

Read more about Growing Strelitzia reginae here.

Special Features of Strelitzia reginae :

Attracts birds
Drought resistant
Feature plant
Good pot plant
Medical plant
Useful plant
Feeds honeybees

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Invasive species - Pom-pom weed (Campuloclinium macrocephalum)

Following the tractor around on our smallholding in Tarlton, Gauteng (south Africa), I also get a chance to ‘rescue’ small wildlife and flowers, giving the driver strict instructions to ‘go around’ it. This Pompom weed was blowing around briskly in the breeze and I had to hold it still to get a shot. These wildflowers have been blooming on our smallholding the whole summer, making bright pink splashes against the blue-green grass all along our fence.

The Pompom weed (Campuloclinium macrocephalum) is an ornamental South American herb belonging to the daisy family, Asteraceae. It is rapidly becoming the most serious threat to the conservation of grasslands in South Africa. Infestations become conspicuous when the plants are in flower between December and March, transforming the veld from green to pink. The plant initially establishes itself in disturbed sites such as roadsides, but then invades natural grasslands, open savanna and wetlands. This weed displaces native species, reducing both the biological diversity and carrying capacity of vleis and veld.

The plant initially establishes itself in disturbed sites such as roadsides, but then invades natural grasslands, open savanna and wetlands. This weed displaces native species, reducing both the biological diversity and carrying capacity of wetlands and veld. During winter the plant is not visible above-ground.  

However, now there is good news! Bio-control scientists have released a tiny insect to wage war on the dreaded invasive Argentinian pompom weed and save our Highveld grasslands. Recently, bio-control scientists celebrated the release of a tiny insect known as the pompom thrips (Liothrips tractabilis) by releasing them  into fields of pink-flowering pompom weed at Rietvlei Nature Reserve, south east of Pretoria.    

Very difficult to remove (I tried pulling out a few of them and actually got nowhere - this weed breaks off just above the ground, leaving the large, tough roots underground.) Recruited from Argentina, where pompom weed is indigenous, the newly-released pompom Liothrips causes significant damage to the stems and leaf tissue at the growing tips. This causes deformities in plant growth, reducing the height, biomass and flower production of this unwanted weed. Scientists also warn that it will take several seasons for entomologists to build up large enough populations of Liothrips to halt the spread of pompom weed.

You can read more about this bio-control here

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