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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.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Summer's end

Autumn struck with a vengeance this year. I say 'with a vengeance', because it's more like winter! We're having extremely cold days, like 20℃, where are the balmy 24℃ and 25℃ temperatures? This will probably be the last cutting of the lawn that Chrissie does this season, already the grass is turning yellow in patches. We were lucky to have good rains this past summer, so all the plants are strong and healthy and ready for the winter.

It was a good flowering season for the Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia), attracting lots of bees, butterflies and sunbirds.

A Geranium sharing a pot with some Senecio Blue chalk succulents

The Hydrangea blooms were also exceptional this summer

After all that rain, the Sword Ferns spread like wild fire 

The last of the succulents left in my garden. All those in pots went to a good home (more about that later)

I always love it when these Leafy Foliose Lichens appear after good rains

The weather patterns are really peculiar lately and I just hope this coming winter won't be too severe, I feel heavy frost looming deep in my bones. But here's the thing - I might not experience winter in my garden this year as we are in the process of selling our smallholding. There is an offer in place and if that goes through, we will be moving down to Ballito on the North Coast (KwaZulu Natal). And of course I will keep you up-to-date on the progress of the (possible) big move.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

My Marigold kitchen

Just outside my dining room I have this wonderful clump of Marigolds (Tagetes). The flowers are tasty, fresh and couldn’t be more local: straight from the garden! There are some cookbooks out now which show how edible flowers on food are more than just pretty. The use of fresh herbs has come back into fashion and has proven to be more than a passing fad: edible flowers are all the rage.

Many of us have Marigold flowers growing in our gardens, but did you know that marigold flowers have great healing abilities? It’s true, 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.

To make tea or infuse the flowers, make sure that you 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.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Water-wise gardening

If you are into conservation and in particular water conservation, I have found this great article on water-wise gardening on the Indigenous Gardener's website. The article states that, "While some indigenous and water-wise species are indeed adapted to drought, the way that we water (too frequently, not deeply) prevents them from developing strong, deep root systems. Instead of ‘making rain’ with our irrigation systems – giving a long deep watering - we wet the leaves, mist the atmosphere and moisten the top few centimeters of soil – only to have most of it evaporate soon after. Crazy, isn’t it? When one considers that most gardeners are using treated potable water on their gardens, it becomes even more incomprehensible. Imagine emptying 500 bottles of mineral water in one area of your garden – this is the typical water-use of ONE station of shrub sprayers.

Clearly, it is time for a major rethink.

The article answers questions like "What is a water-wise garden?", what to plant, our relationship with water, saving and storing water and tips on planting, watering and maintenance of a water-wise garden.

A key aspect of water-wise gardening is changing our expectations and embracing a more natural style of gardening. Instead of aspiring to artificial lushness and green lawns all year round, we can embrace the seasonal changes of colour and texture that are typical of the landscape we live in.

There is a misconception that indigenous plants (i.e. South African plants) are water-wise. Nothing could be further from the truth! Summer rainfall species such as Plectranthus require regular water in summer to flower. However local plants (i.e. those indigenous to your specific area) are likely to survive and thrive on natural rainfall. These are prime water-wise candidates, and you would do well to choose from this palette. Making a garden that doesn’t need watering is both rewarding and extremely satisfying.

Us gardeners are part of the conservation fraternity of the world. We are very aware of and spread the word about the importance of saving our vanishing fauna and flora. A garden of native plants not facing risk of extinction can be a beautiful way to celebrate local natural heritage.

Water conservation plays a big part in all of this, so head on over to the article for the full story!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Nature's simple pleasures

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; 
 solitude will not be solitude, 
poverty will not be poverty, 
 nor weakness weakness.” 
~Henry David Thoreau 

And beauty will become apparent in all things.
 Taking a walk down our smallholding towards the bluegum bush at the bottom of our property. Imagine if I decided to turn all this into a garden!
Sprinkle simple pleasures throughout your day. Knowing what your simple pleasures are, and putting a few of them in each day, can go a long way to making life more enjoyable.
One of my pleasures is gardening. Gardening allows me to enjoy the simple pleasures of Nature, who never complicates things. Plants either grow or they don't. And my one simple rule is never to complicate gardening by planting something that does not naturally occur in this area, no matter how beautiful.

Another simple pleasure is taking a walk on our smallholding. Just walking for the sake of walking and not with a destination in mind. No camera, no sketch-book, no iPod disturbing the peace. Just walking. And watching the crew busy with their daily activities.

There's always something interesting to see, and I stop, and look. Laughing Doves in a tree. A lost sunflower. Take it in. Listen to the birds singing, the wind rustling in the trees, the insects buzzing around the wild flowers and grasses. What an honour.

There are more simple pleasures in my day. Reading, listening to music, washing dishes, doing laundry, watering pot plants, enjoying a cup of coffee, preparing a salad. But one thing at a time. Multitasking detracts from fully enjoying each of these activities. Actually hearing the music, the feeling of your hands in the hot, soapy water, feeling the fabric as you fold the laundry and actually tasting the coffee as you drink it. Enjoy doing each task on its own and you will discover the simple joy of living.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Up-date on the Dustbin Chicks

How time flies! The days, weeks and years just blur into one another and since I posted about the Dustbin chicks last year, I was asked about them and realised that I had not done an up-date on their progress.

I'm glad to report that all of them survived the ordeal of being rescued out of a dustbin! and the little chick (above) that I took out of the egg has turned into a beautiful young lady. I called her Snoodles. She spent many weeks with me in my studio before joining the other girls in the chicken coop.

Snoodles standing on my computer speaker in my studio, taking a peek at what's going on outside

Snoodles, a chick with attitude!

As soon as Snoodles was big enough, we’d go on field trips through the garden and my wildlife pond area, where she would investigate every nook and cranny, delighting in catching the odd insect. Here she hopped on a rock, chasing after a Dragonfly. Good luck with that Snoodles!

Now where did that Dragonfly go...?

Snoodles taking some time out on the edge of Jacko's chair, much to his disgust!

Snoodles still visits me in the studio every opportunity she gets, hopping on top of all her old haunts (desks, counter top, chairs) and doing a good investigation of what's new. She's got this peculiar habit of opening her mouth big, like she's going to start singing any minute, every time the phone rings!

This is Mr. Brown, one of the dustbin chicks that took to following me around the garden ever since he stayed in my house for a couple of days after the rescue and then was put back with his mother. He’s turned into a beautiful rooster, obviously of mixed blood as his feathers are like those of a Silkie. But what makes him adorable is the fact that he talks to me – whenever he sees me, he utters this whole repertoire of cackles and croaks all the while staring me straight in the eye. He’s also very tame, sitting down when I put my hand on his back and then allowing me to pick him up for a cuddle. Normally all Solly’s chicks that turn out to be roosters are destined for the pot, but I’ve asked him nicely to spare Mr. Chook. (Solly is our mechanic/handyman and he has all these chickens that wander all over our smallholding and usually end up breeding somewhere in my garden.)


Monday, 9 January 2017

Gettin' caught in the rain

After months of drought, few experiences can match the sound and smell of falling rain – unless it is the exhilaration of being caught in it during a mid-morning walk on our smallholding. The past couple of weeks we've been blessed with lots of rain and all the plants are just totally jubilant!

My rain gauge has been constantly over-flowing and its maximum ark is 100mm. My chooks are the only ones complaining, they've been stuck in the chicken run with access to the coop for days on end.

Yesterday the Marigolds whispered how thankful they are for the rain. It's mid-summer and their display has been a bit stunted due to lack of water. No matter how much I water the garden, there is no comparison to just a few millimeters of rain.

Peering out of the front door yesterday morning

As soon as it cleared up slightly, I even ventured out with the camera for a quick photographic session

... and lose the umbrella!

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