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Sunday, 1 February 2009

My New Garden - Saying Hello - Aug - Dec '04

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.

August 2004

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),
some Hen-and-Chickens,
Buddlaya (for the butterflies)
Kei Apple
African Sage
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.


My Old Garden - Saying Goodbye

In August 2004 we were in the throes of moving from our one smallholding to the other - moving from a garden of 2 acres of green splendour and flowers and borders and Koi and duck pond to NOTHING! No garden, half a house, no fencing and no infrastructure to speak of.

After the initial set-up of the old garden in 1985, I spent every spare moment in the garden - planting, moving plants, changing beds, making pathways, removing pathways, building retaining walls, carting rocks, logs and ornaments.

With my trusty and knowledgeable helper, Ben, we managed to build a wildlife pond to house the Koi, ducks and geese (and every other stray animal that would constantly pitch up for help, like the Reed Cormorant whose wing got broken by power lines and a Hedgehog that had been mauled by dogs) and after the initial digging, lining, building of the filter, planting and laying of rocks, it was filled with fresh, clean water. The ducks were in their element after having spent weeks in a make-shift pen, waiting for the pond to be finished.

Getting the ducks and gees from the old enclosure to the new pond was quite an exercise - the gate was opened and they were slowly herded towards the gate of the new pond, with all sorts of detours happening on the way, but eventually they were all inside, stretching their necks and checking out the new environment. Mama duck was the first to venture into the water, quickly followed by the rest of the crowd and great splashing and bathing ensued!

The next venture was catching all the Koi, putting them in buckets and hauling them over to the new pond. They were all fairly small, but within a couple of weeks they turned into real whoppers!

Over the years the garden evolved, got over-grown, some plants obviously not suitable to the environment died of frost, and there was always something that needed tending and fixing up. The indigenous trees like the Celtis Africana, White Karee (Rhus Viminalis), Black Karee and 'Vaderslandwilg' grew to huge proportions, attracting birds of all sizes and shapes.

The Fiscal Shrike got to know when the bird table would be filled with mince and suet, the Cape Robin nested in the ivy outside the kitchen window and the Wagtails explored every nook and cranny. The Ground Scraper Thrush would investigate the leaf litter for tasty bugs and the Olive Thrush would wake us every morning with its sweet song.

Saying goodbye to a gardening passion of almost 30 years is always difficult, but I trust and believe that the new owners will enjoy the garden as much as I did.

Driveway Entrance to 8,5ha smallholding

The driveway in full Winter splendour

The Philodendron (delicious monster) actually survived the severe Tarlton frost

My Agave Attenuata - also survived several winters of frost

I'm really going to be missing the birds - they gave hours of pleasure at the bird feeders

Stretching green lawns and borders

My favourite parking space


Every winter the Red Hot Pokers amazed with their prolific flowering

Walkway to cottage

Bridge across pond

The Carolina Ducks seeking shelter

East side of pond

The Agapanthus enjoying some mid-day shade

Hedgie the Hedgehog's playing area


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