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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Best gardening wishes for 2014

Last night a fairy strayed our way
And played upon the lawn.
She danced and skipped from end to end -
Then suddenly was gone.

What frightened her, I do not know,
She dropped her purse and ran,
Leaving a wealth of golden coins
To shine when day began!

- by Hazel Cedarborg

2013 was an amazing year in the garden, with lots of lessons learned and, best of all, happy hours spent digging in the earth. May your New Year be filled with fairies, sunshine and gardening pleasures!

Happy New Year!


Monday, 30 December 2013

My garden residents

You've got to get out and pray to the sky to appreciate the sunshine!

African striped skink - Mabuya striata punctatissim

I have a couple of Lizards living in my bathroom court-yard garden and I often find them sunning themselves on the walls or the rocks and tree stumps. These cold-blooded reptiles eat insects such as ants, beetles, larvae and flies, so the ones we get around the house or game lodges are actually very welcome! They also often enter my bathroom, decorating my walls just the way I like it! 

Two wooden lizards decorating my bathroom walls, and invitation for the garden variety to come and visit!

A sunny position on the wall is greatly prized. 

This lizard gives birth to live young, but other reptiles lay eggs. The lifespan of lizards is between 1 – 3 years. Being cold-blooded means that they don’t have a control mechanism keeping their body temperature constant irrespective of their surroundings. They need the sun to warm their blood and provide them with energy to move and will remain mostly inactive on cold days and may hibernate in winter. There are no poisonous Lizards in southern Africa and South Africa is home to more than 200 lizard species, making it the richest country for lizard diversity in continental Africa. 

A sketch I did of one of my lizards last year. 
I didn’t know they would be so difficult to sketch! Never again will I say, “How difficult can this be?!” lol! 

This little lady (I think!) looks decidedly pregnant!

Looking out into the court-yard from the bathroom

My bathroom as seen from the court-yard with easy access for all the wildlife. The Cape Robin sometimes uses this entrance to take a stroll through the house.

 Getting together almost certainly means confrontation! Shortly after I took this photo, the top lizard jumped onto the bottom lizard, sending him (her) scurrying back into the ferns.

 All four my resident lizards catching up on some early-morning sunbathing. They are actually also keeping an eye on the hosepipe on the ground, where I'm watering the plants, and as soon as I remove the hosepipe they will all be down for a drink. I do have several water bowls in the garden for them and the birds, but they seem to revel in the running water, preferring to drink directly from the ground.

The sun rising over the bathroom court-yard wall.

The court-yard provides lots of cover and a safe haven for them and is also warm enough so that I caught glimpses of them throughout winter.

They are actually very inquisitive and will come real close to have a look at me


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas in the garden

A sure sign that it's Christmas in Africa - when the Hydrangeas and Agapanthus are flowering. Merry Christmas to all!


Saturday, 21 December 2013

Season's greetings from my garden to yours!

Here's wishing you a warm and happy festive season with family and friends and next year, may your garden bloom like never before!


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

My garden is smiling!

We’ve had absolutely beautiful rain over the past couple of weeks and my garden is smiling! Nobody shows gratitude like Marigolds do!

My kind-hearted gardener, Chrissie, once strew a couple of seeds somewhere in the garden and since then I’ve had them come up in the most unexpected places! If you grow a vegetable garden, plant Marigolds amongst the vegetables. Marigolds are easy to grow and they help keep away aphids. The relationship between plants and insects is known as ‘companion planting’ and it’s by far the safest, natural way to garden organically.

Tagetes is a genus of 56 species of annual and perennial, mostly herbaceous, plants in the sunflower family (Asteraceae or Compositae). The genus is native to North and South America, but some species have become naturalized around the world.

Marigolds are the sunshine of the garden. They react thankfully to rain and sunshine and tender loving care and yet do not seem to mind if you neglect them either. Very independent flowers indeed!

Many of us have Marigolds in our gardens. From the small, miniature variety to the large Tagetas erecta, they are well-known for their habit of spreading all over the garden as their prolific seeds are blown by the wind, spread by birds and inadvertently by the gardener herself as they are cleared out once they die off as winter approaches. I myself am a great Marigold-lover as they are so useful to fill empty spots in the garden, growing in just about any type of soil.

But did you know that Marigolds or, the official name Tagetes, makes a great cup of tea?

By drinking marigold (calendula officinalis) tea you can treat gastric ulcer and infections of mouth and throat and improve digestion by stimulation of bile production and also helps to cure menstrual cramps, liver disease and constipation. Marigold has also anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. Marigold is mainly used externally to treat bruises, wounds, eczema, skin disorders, haemorrhoids and burns.
- Resource

Marigold Tea Recipe:
To prepare Marigold Tea, boil 1 liter of water. Then, put 1 or 2 teaspoons of the plant and allow it to infuse for 10 minutes. Against bile disorders, drink at moderate temperature 2 to 3 cups a day, and it can also used in dressings, bandages and compresses.

Drink Calendula tea nearly 3 times a day works as a body cleanser. It acts as a detox, protects your liver, gall bladder and other internal organs from long-term failure or damage. It is also noted for reducing sore throat and fever associated with common cold and other infections. Also, it aids the body in absorbing food, particularly fatty food items. Calendula tea, if consumed after you eat, can prevent symptoms of heartburn as well.

The specific species Tagetes erecta has been used for 100′s of years for traditional and herbal medicine. In Modern times, this plant is used for the yellow dye you can create from it.

Some of the ailments Tagetes erecta helps with are apparently kidney issues, muscular pain, ulcers and wounds but can also help with earache. For external purposes the leaves are used on boils and carbuncles.

The most important part of the plant is what it does for your eyes. Lutein is the main ingredient of the plant and that is very good for your eyes. The lutein acts as an antioxidant and protects the eyes against cell damage. Lutein filters some of the sun’s damaging rays.

Lutein can be found in your eye’s macular region but you only get lutein from the food you consume. - Lutein info from Wikipedia

Evolution Magazine proclaims the health benefits of Marigolds as such:

Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
The major advantage of consuming Calendula tea is basically the nutritional elements present in it. Marigold contains lots of beta carotene, a nutrient present in carrots. Beta-carotene can boost the body’s defense mechanism, cut down the risks of some forms of cancer, and helps prevent rheumatoid arthritis as well as other bone-joint inflammations. In short, you’ll get almost the equivalent beta-carotene from drinking this tea that you can from consuming carrots, in addition to a rich dosage of vitamin-A to boot. Calendula tea also consists of other sugars and oils that, along with beta-carotene, can help improve your immune system greatly.

Prevents gastrointestinal problems
Calendula tea is usually beneficial to those struggling with gastrointestinal problems. Calendula can shield the linings of the intestines and stomach by suppressing the prostaglandin-E1 (PGE). Also, it can help limit the negative impacts related to gastritis, stomach cancer and peptic ulcer.

Promotes healthy skin
As mentioned above, Calendula contains carotenoids, which serve as antioxidants that enhance healthier skin. This tea could be applied externally by using a piece of cloth to alleviate several skin problems like bug bites, rashes, scrapes and minor cuts. This tea can be utilized to give your skin a healthier look and many people state that it can help reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

Women’s health
Another fantastic benefit to consuming Calendula tea is the fact that it controls menstrual periods in females. During these periods, drinking Calendula tea can relieve pains related to abdominal cramps also it can lessen the incidence of menopausal flashes, headaches, and nausea or vomiting. For people who’re struggling with menstrual problems, Calendula tea can help alleviate and reduce the pain and other uncomfortable symptoms.

(Disclaimer: It should not be used if there is hypersensitivity or allergy to Calendula. It should not be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding because its effects are unknown. It is not used in open skin and eye irritations. Interactions with other drugs have not been described, although due to the presence of mucilage, there could be a potential risk of delay or decreasing the oral absorption of other active principles.)

They say the Marigold is a good rain doctor also! If the flowers are closed in the early morning, it will rain that day. When picking the flowers, you should only pick in the bright sunshine and in the middle of the day.

Kiep frolicking in the Marigolds

"I begged my garden for forgiveness and she gave me Marigolds."


Saturday, 14 December 2013

Along the garden path

I walked along the garden path
singing a song to myself
the jolly nasturtiums
the wispy willows
the trees singing a low song as I passed

as they sang to me I walked along
marvelling the beauty of the garden
the small path of rocks
leading to the pond in the middle of the maze of hedges

the birds and bees
praising the Sunday morning’s light
I sat and stayed a while
with my toes floating on the surface of the pond
with small fish cleaning my feet
I looked at the baby ducks crowding their mothers for protection
and looked at the big graceful fish in the pond
their shimmering scales sparkling as they caught the sun rays on their backs

I got up startling the turtle doves from their sunning
I walked around a little more marveling on how the soft grass tickled my toes
I sighed as I turned around to go back inside
as I walked along the garden path.
~ unknown

I just love garden paths and I have quite a few in my garden. They can be gravel, bricks, bark chips paving stones, it doesn't matter. They are also constantly changing, sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of inspiration.

Many times a path appears where nothing wants to grow in the shade or when I need some way of getting deeper into the garden without trampling everything in my way. Sometimes a path appears around plants where the chickens wreak havoc, so also serving as a deterrent for them and their constant sand bathing!

But many times a path is planned, with all the necessary ground-work being done first. First I choose where I want the path, then everything is cleared away, the ground levelled and bricks carefully chosen for their shape and colour. After laying and packing all the bricks tightly together, the edges are secured with rocks and pebbles. Then comes the tedious job of carting wheelbarrows full of sand (I use building sand) and filling in all the gaps between the bricks. Sweeping it in with a broom works well. This normally needs another filling about a month later as the sand tends to settle and drop a bit below brick level.

Not all of these paths you see here are different pathways. Some are views of the same path but from a different angle or a different time of the year. My garden is quite over-grown now, so it's impossible to get a complete picture through the camera's viewfinder.

 Artemis strolling up the garden path

A pathway meanders past a bird bath

A path leading to the cottage in my previous garden

After a lovely shower

A pathway flanked by indigenous grasses

This part of the path is fast disappearing!

Nasturtiums and Bulbinella overtaking another part of the path



A fork in the road - which way shall I go?

Hope you enjoyed your walk with me, maybe we can do it again someday!

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