Gardening needs a combination of time and money. The less time you have the more money you need and the less money you have the more time you need. You can buy almost instant gardens that take as much time as it does to swipe your credit card and plant everything out. Even hedges can be bought ready grown in rectangular blocks that can be put in the ground and watered in. But all this comes with a pretty hefty price tag.
If you lean more towards the no money end of the spectrum your cheapest option is to grow plants yourself. Drunk with success from my lavender and geraniums I’ve set up a propagation unit, in essence a mini greenhouse, to try and propagate on a larger scale. It’s very amateur, I made it out of the polystyrene casing of my fridge (I knew it would come in handy one day) and some polythene bags. I’ve covered it with a layer of shade netting; otherwise I think everything would get scorched.
Of course no sooner had I set it up than my cat decided to jump on it and broke one of the arms. I’m trying not to think he did it because he’s angry with me about the dog. I had just stuck another lot of rose cuttings in too and they all got knocked out.
I put them back and re-assembled, replacing the broken arm with a long stick which actually gives me better access. Hopefully he got enough of a fright not to do it again.
Just over a week ago I became a puppy raiser for the South African Guide Dog Association. It is a brilliant organisation whose work I greatly admire and a lot more goes into producing a successful service dog than I had thought. I will be raising this adorable bundle of cuteness for a year before he goes on to guide dog school and then, hopefully, into a life of service.
Of course the hardest thing will be saying goodbye at the end of the year but in the meantime there are other difficulties, like learning how to garden with a puppy and teaching him gardening time is not play time. This afternoon we managed a row of seedlings in the veg garden. He looks deceptively well behaved in both these photo’s.
Today we’ve had the first rains of the season!!! apart from last Saturday which doesn’t count because I was on a boat and it made everything cold and miserable and it didn’t even rain much in Sandton.
My sisters and I, growing up in Botswana where water is precious and rain is a blessing, would always go outside and dance in the first rains. This evening I ran around filling containers with the water coming down the drain pipes which is a kind of dance.
Some gardens are meant to evolve over time, dependent on the whims of people and nature. I am talking about cottage gardens of course. I love them and having been suffering through my ongoing addiction to British gardening programmes I have decided to make one in the top garden and the herb garden.
The herb garden is a little alcove bit off the top garden which one of the kitchen windows look out on that a previous gardener planetd up with herbs; it’s not really suitable though because it gets hardly any sun. The top garden is a terraced piece at the back of the house. The terrace wall curves inwards which gives it a strange shape. Formerly I implemented a yellow and purple scheme, yellow on one side with a purple creeper covering the wall behind and purple the other, with a yellow creeper dripping off the mulberry tree above. It never truly worked and it has ended up being a bit of garden hardly ever used. It also has my disaster of a pond in which, I am sorry to say, sits directly underneath a mulberry tree.
There is a tiled green half oval patio (all the patios are tiled in an awful green tile) outside the door of a small room which opens out onto the garden. The part along the house is in full shade all day apart from a few wisps of dying sunlight. There are a few established shrubs and the fruit trees are creating a fence along the edge of the terrace with arches over the paths down to the vegetable garden. I’ve decided to keep a circular lawn off the patio and dig up the rest of the grass and plant STUFF. Anything and everything can go in here, lots of herbs and flowers and perennial vegetables. I tend to stick to restricted palettes and I’m thinking of a slightly formal, structured design in the front so it will be great to have an free area where anything goes. If I see something I like I’m going to put it in. Also of course I’m going to try and fix the pond.
We’ve had a couple of warm springish days and the scent is starting to brew in the breeze as it drifts past. All this reminds me that time is ticking and there’s not much left before the real work must begin. I’ve been drifting about, umming and ahing but there are still jobs to do before spring gets here and, more importantly, plans to be made.
Last week felt depressing, everything dry and dusty and dead-looking. I got into one of those moods where I couldn’t see any sign of things changing; somehow I settled into the feeling that the witch had taken over Narnia and we’d be left in an eternal winter. Of course it’s never true and in the last few days I’ve started noticing the signs of spring coming.
Flowers opening on the jasmine. Oh the scent!
Strawberry blossom, just when I was thinking that they ought to be getting a move on.
This lovely Spanish lavender I honestly thought I’d killed.
I think we spend a lot of time not seeing the world around us yet being unhappy with it. We get so wrapped up in our lives that we stop noticing how marvelous the world is, what a completely fascinating, improbably thing life is. One of the great things about a garden is that it brings us back to the essence of life. Every shrub, flower, tree that grows from a tiny seed is a miracle. It is all insanely fantastical and yet it happens, again and again, and we should honour that by taking notice.
Mindfulness is a practice rooted in Buddhist philosophy. There is research ongoing into the positive effects of mindfulness on health and well being and it is defined by the Mindfulness Institute of South Africa as
“[referring] to awareness of present experience with acceptance, which arises when we pay attention, on purpose, without judgment, to what is occurring in the present moment.”
When visiting a garden you wander through in this state of mindfulness, perhaps this is why gardens are being used more and more widely for recuperation and rehabilitation programmes, but often in our own gardens we are so focused on the jobs to be done we forget to visit it. How crazy to put so much effort into our gardens and not enjoy them, like baking a cake and letting it sit there uneaten. Is this just me?
I used to start my mornings with a walk around the garden, a habit I am determined to get back into. When my kittens were little they would follow me; added to my own daily discoveries were their discoveries of the world around them. I remember the first time they stepped on wet grass and saw a dry leaf scuttling past.
Can there be an easier or more pleasant way to improve your health than with a daily walk around your garden, not for the purpose of getting anywhere or doing anything but just to be in it at that moment? Even better, it’s free (or at least you’ve already paid for it).
This week LIFE outside my walls led me astray and ruined my rhythm. As for work in the garden, that has luckily continued even if I showed no signs of it on the blog.
I’ve stopped taking the seedlings in at night, I forgot one evening and they seemed entirely unchanged in the morning so I gave it up. In fact they seem to not have changed for the whole of this past month, except for one pansy seedling which has put out a third leaf. Since only 20 of the pansies germinated this seems like a meagre victory. It is NOT worth planting seeds out of season. I am quite sure I will feel differently when they finally start growing and bloom.
As for the compost heaps, they are going well. The first I’ve stopped turning. I’ll probably turn it
again in a few days and then leave it for the next month. The second is still being turned every second day. They are both quite dry, like everything else, so I’m adding water. Turning, I’m happy to say, get’s easier.
I’ve pruned all of the hybrid teas and taken cuttings. I’ve put them into pots filled with a mix of coir, grit and germinating mix and covered them with coke bottle cloches. Some of the ones I took a few weeks ago are definitely showing signs of growth.
I’ve dug up some of my shrubs that have been almost completely destroyed by frost, put them in pots and are keeping them under frost blanket. I should have done it earlier, honestly didn’t realise how frost tender they’d be. I would probably have left them alone to see if they’d survive the winter if I wasn’t planning to redo the whole bed.
My rose geraniums and lavender ‘Margaret Roberts’ (my absolute favourite lavender) cuttings have rooted. I transplanted them into pots this morning. These are the first (non succulent) cuttings I’ve successfully rooted other than a rosemary I did once pretty much by accident so that doesn’t count and a lavender that died just after It started putting on new growth. It was a particularly nice grey leafed one and I’m still a little miffed about it.
On another happy note, I don’t thing I’ve ever seen my lavender such a vibrant deep purple. And this lavender arrangement I did three weeks ago still looks fantastic.
A few weeks ago I turned a little older and quite fantastically I got book vouchers. For some reason I usually only get them at Christmas. For those of us who love wandering through shelves of books, running our fingers along spines and opening up books to smell that new book smell (different but just as nice as old book smell), book vouchers are even better than books because a trip to the bookshop is included in the present. Book vouchers are also a liberation because you can’t spend them on other things. So even if you have a towering pile next to your bed you have to buy more books.
There are many ways to buy books, you can set out to buy a particular book, go into a bookshop with a set of criteria and find one that fits it, or just pop into a shop and see if something buys you. Sometimes the latter happens even if you have intentions of the first. Today I had all three. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, was planned, I’ve been waiting for a moment to buy it, then I wanted a book on orchids, so I don’t kill my fantastic unplanned plant buy, finally, browsing through the gardening section, I came across this. Completely serendipitous, Making the most of Indigenous Trees is unsurprisingly all about indigenous trees (of Southern Africa). It’s packed full of information about habitats, uses, especially with regards to wildlife, and cultivation. It has multiple photographs of each plant, it’s bark, flowers and seeds. It’s one of the best plant books I’ve ever come across and the fact that it’s on a subject not easily available elsewhere is a bonus.
The only way it might be improved is by adding a section at the back suggesting trees for specific garden uses for those too lazy to read every single entry. That’s not me though as I’ve already started book marking trees for use in the Bird Garden.