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Thursday, 31 December 2009

My New Garden: Progress 11 - Oct to Dec 2009

Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets.
To plant a pine, one need only own a shovel.
- Aldo Leopold

2009 is coming to an end, and so soon will summer. We still have 3 or 4 months of blissful sunshine and birds frolicking in the garden to enjoy and I always revel in the thought of Autumn with its beautiful colours and then Winter with it's stark contrasts of bare branches and blue skies.

But for the moment my garden is at its peak and the Silky thread grass below will soon start releasing its thousands and thousands of salt-and-pepper-like seeds to the surrounding soil, ready to be transplanted as soon as they get big enough.

My little place in the African soil is providing me with endless hours of pleasure, not only gardening, but watching the daily animal life going on between the plants and it is more and more becoming home to a great variety of animals, insects, reptiles and bird life.

Everything and everybody is welcome here - the termites, Mollie, the resident Mole snake, Mrs. Brown, the resident Brown House Snake, Rinkhals and Adders (only for passing through, otherwise they are relocated to the Blue gum bush across the road!), the resident Black Velvet spider (read more about Mrs. Black HERE), the frogs and the lizards, who often make their homes in our shoes in the house, the Scorpions, who are encouraged to stay outside!, Solly's chickens, the snails, which the Thrushes enjoy immensely, even the rats (the reason Mollie and Mrs. Brown are here).

Our term here on Mother Earth is short compared the insects and animals that have inhabited her for millions of years - doesn't it make sense to enjoy their presence and co-habit this planet with joy and peace?

October 2009 - Silky thread grass (Nassella tenuissima) also known as Mexican feather grass

The Kiss of Sun -
- for pardon -
the Song of the Birds -
- for Mirth -
One is Nearer God's Heart in a Garden
than Anywhere Else on Earth.

Nov 2009 - Sword Ferns at the base of the Acacia karroo and a bird bath, favourite spot of the Fiscal Shrike for her early morning bathing sessions.

Nov 2009 - The Echeveria planted in an old piece of concrete is just starting to flower

November 2009 - The Phormiums made a spectacular show this year

November 2009 - the indigenous trees I planted about 5 years ago now reaching heights of over 8 meters. On the left of the picture is the Acacia karroo with its spectacular thorns and home to all the weavers' nests, in the centre are a couple of Black Karees (Rhus lancea), which attract a vast array of birds and butterflies, and on the right a White Karee (Rhus viminalis). On the left right at the back, the White Stinkwoods (Celtis africana) provide shade in summer and sun for the Cycad in the winter.

I did have a set-back though - termites (which I said were welcome!) attacked my Restio grasses and this is all that is left over! I sat watching these hard-working little creatures for almost an hour as they steadily chomped off the stalks at the bottom, then cutting each stalk up into 2" long pieces and carrying them down their holes.

The remedy? I'm too scared to use termite poison, and I don't really want to kill the little fellas off, so I poured some diesel around the base of each plant, hoping this would encourage them to leave the area and move to somewhere on the other side of my garden wall.

December 2009 - The Restios did start recovering and the termites seem to be gone.

New Restio growth

The termites DID move! They are now in an old log next to the garden path across the way from the Restios.

December 2009 - Progress on the new Rain Garden : Haven't done much in the rain garden yet, but the Echeverias I planted have taken well and a stray Marigold decided to make it's home among them.


Saturday, 10 October 2009

My New Garden - Progress 10 - Sept 2009

"If you're still hanging onto a dead dream of yesterday, laying flowers on its grave by the hour, you cannot be planting the seeds for a new dream to grow today."
- Joyce Chapman

Spring is such a magical time in the garden! When the days are still cool and the nights cold, plants already sense the lengthening of the days and below the soil growth is taking place. A close look at twigs and branches will reveal the thickenings that will become leaves and blossoms. All of a sudden flowers burst forth and trees are clothed in the palest of green leaves.

1st September 2009 - The peach tree blossoms - the green buds are already replacing the lovely pink flowers.

1st September 2009 - The Celtis africana (White Stinkwood) dressed in splendid green buds.

These three Trees of the Year, Acacia galpinii (Monkey Thorn), Halleria lucida (Tree Fuchsia) and Pterocarpus rotundifolius (Round-leaved Teak) can all be planted in Gauteng, depending on the micro-climate of the area where you live. I already have two of them, but won't be getting the Round Leaved Teak, as it grows mostly in KwaZulu-Natal in the south, through Swaziland, Mpumalanga, Limpopo (Northern Province) to the northern parts of North-West Province. It is also indigenous to Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. It grows in open bushveld and on rocky hillsides, often forming a colony. Too much frost for it here in Tarlton.

Acacia galpinii (Monkey thorn)

Halleria lucida (Tree fuchsia) - this is the size they can grow to.

Pterocarpus rotundifolius (Round-leaved Teak)

On the 1st September we had a veld fire rage through our property, ignoring all fire breaks - this is an annual winter occurrence and I thought we were done with that now.

The neighbour's property on the other side of the fence where I think the fire originated.

The veld recovers very quickly - this was taken exactly a week after the fire. Soon it will be standing waist high and have to be cut again. As soon as it has been cut, the Plover (standing in the middle of the pic) will be making her nest again.

10th September 2009 - Looks like our rains are on the way.

Cape Reed Grass - getting huge and covering half the walk-way

My favourite winter spot for sitting in the sun and watching the birds

September 2009 - The Aloes after the winter

Seeds on Aloe ferox (Bitter Aloe) - I've never noticed these before - it's amazing what the viewfinder of the camera can reveal!

Seeds on Aloe ferox

The Cape Reed Grass is taller than ever and seeding very well.

I'll only be doing my next garden up-date at the end of the year.


Monday, 31 August 2009

My New Garden - Progress 9 - August 2009

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
-- Marcel Proust

August has arrived, with all the winds it brings, and hopefully Spring is already peeping through. We've just had our first spring rains on the 1st August and within a week all the peach trees were dressed in their beautiful pink blossoms, but within 2 weeks, the August winds had all but blown all of them off.

August 2009: The Acacias at the pond are still splendidly dressed in their white Winter thorns and provide a safe haven for many a bird trying to get out of the Fiscal Shrike's way, but also serves as her larder, where she spikes many insects on the thorns for later consumption.

The aloes putting on a beautiful show, as usual, throughout the Winter.

Beginning-August : These Butterfly bushes (Buddleia Salvifolia) will shortly be covered in dense white flowers, inviting all the butterflies in the area for a snack and safe egg hosting.

The pond still devoid of any greenery apart from the Eugenia on the left and the Butterfly bushes on the right.

Torti (my Leopard tortoise) spent most of the winter hibernating in her home-made nest at the pond.

The Tiger Grass hit by the frost, but luckily it springs back to life with the first rains although it does need to be cut back.

A new little water feature I added next to the pathway

My faithful gardener, Chrissie, who tends to it all

I planted these Black Karees and Celtises about 2 seasons ago in an empty corner next to the pond and they're starting to take shape. Need to start trimming and forming them into shape soon.

More of the Aloes - As with every winter, the Aloes were not a disappointment this year. I've never actually seen them so full of flowers.

Bees flitting around the Aloes caught my attention, and just before taking the close-up of these bees making full use of collecting the available nectar, I missed the Black Sunbird taking his fill. I've been waiting for them to enjoy this luscious smorgasbord.

I placed some logs next to the pathway in various spots.

The Cycad made it through the winter - Cycas revoluta (Sago palm)

The beautiful Feather grass turns big and bushy every winter

My Secretary birds standing proud under the Black Karees - maybe they need a coat of varnish?

End-August : The Butterfly Bushes in full flower (Buddleia salvifolia) - all the grass around the pond is still yellow and dead

Butterfly bush flowers

The aloes are still lingering in their last glory

The patio desperately needs new varnish! Next on my list...

The area for the new rain garden now in progress. Lawn removed and will be adding compost, rocks, pebbles and water-loving plants.

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