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Monday, 21 April 2014

You just gotta love garden tools!

I just absolutely love garden tools and garden sheds and watering cans! I have about 17 watering cans and I just cannot by-pass a set of hand tools in the garden shops! I do have my favourites that I use, the rest are displayed on shelves and corners in my house together with baskets and garden gloves, another favourite of mine. Not that I use them often, who can use the hose pipe or dig in a piece of earth with gloves on?!

"Where, but in a garden, do summer hours pass so quickly?"

Some of my favourite garden tools are my Lasher spade and fork (above) - petite and light-weight, they are ideal for the woman-gardener. I have had mine for many years now, and they're certainly showing wear, but they're still as sturdy as ever, taking pride of place in my garden shed. Nobody, not even Chrissie, my garden manager, is allowed to use them, she has her own set. Between the two of us, we make a mean team in the garden!

I prefer hand trowels with a wooden handle, they seem to have a better grip, especially when one's hands are wet. Besides the normal size, I have some very small forks and trowels for easily getting in between potted flowers for removing weeds or lifting a plant to transplant into the garden.

Some of my favourite tools ready for use on a potting table on my patio 

Some of the chores awaiting me this week are moving some of my tender succulents into the house for over-wintering, removing the last of the summer weeds and transplanting some potted plants into the garden, like this little Acacia karroo tree (above) that took root in this pot all on its own. I've been pampering it for a couple of months now, and soon it will be ready for its own space in the garden.

Geranium cuttings ready to go into the garden 

A weed growing from a rock on my patio - I'll leave it just where it is!

A watering can sharing space with some terracotta pots on a shelf in my potting shed 


These Echeverias (E. glauca) should be coming inside for the winter, just wondering where in my flower room I'm going to find space for them...? 

 Cleaning out the chicken coop 

The Nasturtiums are coming to an end and I will be removing dead stalks and creeping vines, but last winter a lot of them saw it fit to flower all winter long, maybe I'm lucky again this year!

Some of my girls helping with bug control...


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Aloe marlothii

One of the most stunning plants in Africa is the Aloe marlothii. It is found from sea level to high hills in South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique. The plant usually grows to a height ranging from 5-12 feet. (As it grows more tree-like, dead leaves remain on the trunk in habitat as a defense against animal munching.) They put out a flower that is a branched candelabra-shaped with yellow to orange flowers. The mountain aloe is undoubtablty one of Southern Africa ’s most rewarding aloes to grow and adds an interesting slant to aloe culture.

Given to me by a dear RedBubble friend, Antionette, who brought it all the way from Mpumalanga to Tarlton, I was absolutely thrilled to have it! After a recommended period of a few days of letting the roots dry out a bit, I planted it in my wildlife pond area, which receives full sun most of the day.

 8th February 2012

I prepared an area by loosening the soil to a depth of 40cm, leveling it and placing the aloe on top of that, covering the roots lightly with soil and used rocks at the base for support, plus two sticks for extra measure. it has now survived two Tarlton winters and heavy frost and I am absolutely thrilled that it is now established and I’m hoping for some flowers soon!

My Aloe marlothii showing signs of White Scale - Dec 2012 

Like most garden plants, aloes are susceptible to a number of pests and my aloe certainly did not escape an onslaught. A white scale often appears on aloe leaves, starting with what looks like a coin sized spot of white dust. It will gradually covers more and more of the leaf upper and lower surface until large parts of the leaf are affected. The insect involved is enveloped in a hard skin which protects it against predators (and treatment!) while it is sucking sap from the plant. Not only does this make the plant unattractive, but over a long period the plant can be killed slowly. Normally pesticides like Malathion are recommended, but I don't use any commercial pesticides in my garden at all, so my treatment for this pesky insect was to rub the infected parts with my thumb, removing most of the insects, but I wish I had a longer thumb! Marlothii even has spines in the centre of the leaves, which made the job rather torturous! I then wiped the infected leaves with a cloth soaked with dishwashing liquid and after an hour or so I wash away the residue with a strong squirt from a hose pipe. The treatment should be repeated until all signs of the scale disappear. Sometimes the dead scale insects might remain on the leaves, making the plants unattractive, the dead scale may be brushed off with a soft brush.

A mineral oil like Oleum can also be used. The oil in fact smothers the insect. When the problem is spotted early, the scale can even be treated by painting it with used cooking oil.

My aloe marlothii - February 2014, looking good and well to face the coming winter

Common names : mountain aloe (Eng.); bergalwyn (Afr.); inhlaba or umhlaba (Zulu)


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

April in the garden

It seems the rains have gone now and we're settling into the gorgeous Autumn days I thought was never going to come. We've had some really cold spells, as if Mother Nature was going to skip autumn and go straight into Winter.

The Marigolds are still putting up a brave show, but for the most part they are on their last. I've removed patches of dead plants and discovered lots of new seedlings underneath because of all the rain, which I doubt will see it through the winter.

Against all advice stating Echeverias don't like a rich soil, I planted this lot in an old dog basket in a rich potting soil with some added compost, and they have rewarded me with beautiful, huge rosettes and lots of pups. I think it might just be this specific variety, E. glauca, that thrives on rich soil and lots of water but they are very frost-tender, so I will have to move them under some cover at the first signs of real winter.

My Cycad - Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm) - sprouted a full circle of new leaves during summer and seems to be doing really well despite the fact that I discovered the trunk covered with termites one morning. I hosed them off with a strong jet of water and am keeping a close eye to see if they return. I've also had the trunk of my Wild Olive tree covered with the thick mud with termites inside and they've eaten off huge patches of the bark. Now I don't know if that's a natural phenomena and whether it harms the plant or not, but I am not a termite fan at all and I hosed them off as well and tried to drown as many as possible!

Take some Echeverias (glauca), plant too many in one terracotta pot, have lots of rain and you have a scene of each plant doing its best to be the biggest!

Many Aloes are already flowering - this is Aloe ellebeckii sporting its long stalk of pinky-orange flowers.

My chooks are enjoying the sunny, rain-free days of Autumn

This little feature is a spot that needs my attention and now is the perfect time to plan something to do here

This was the Kniphofias' first season after I transplanted them from shady patches and hopefully, next summer, they'll once again be in full flower

The Nasturtiums don't seem to know that winter is heading our way - they're merrily flowering and producing lots of seedlings, but maybe they'll stay for winter, they did last year...


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