Arbor Week

In South Africa we have a whole week dedicated to Arbor-ness. There is great stuff going on all over South Africa one hopes, although a Google search produces more events from previous years and to be honest I haven’t seen anything but then I don’t get out much.

I am celebrating Arbor week by planting some indigenous trees in my Bird Garden. I went out to Grow Wild Indigenous Nursery this afternoon to buy them. It’s a brilliant nursery, although not much to look at. Their website is a fantastic resource for finding a plant that matches your requirements, they responded within a few HOURS to my query AND they have 20% off trees for the whole of September in honour of Arbor week.

The trees of the year for 2014 are White Ironwood (Vepris lanceolata) , which conincidentally I had been eyeing in my book, and the Lavender Tree (Heteropyxis natelensis). I bought a small one of each and a Wild Pear which turns out to be the Pink Wild Pear (Dombeya burgessiae) instead of the Dombeya rotundifolia. Both have beautiful blossoms so I’m sure I will be just as happy with it, perhaps happier, but it just goes to show the importance of Latin names; or tree numbers.

I hope where ever you are in the world you are planting a tree for Arbor week, if you don’t have a place for one yourself there are great schemes for community planting.

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The Veg Garden

Spring has poked it’s nose in and retreated again, like a cat trying to decide whether or not it wants to come in; while it’s owner stands holding the door open and freezing. At any rate it won’t be long before it comes all the way in, promptly followed by summer. Time to get on with planning the veg garden.

There is no formal layout. I’m starting to wish I had put down straight rows of paths for the methodicalness and aesthetics of it if nothing else. Will do that next year.

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The Veg garden – taken 2nd June
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The Veg garden this evening – almost 3 months later.

Of course there is A LOT of garlic in already, some onions, possibly a couple of leeks and a few peas. I planted some more peas because most of them didn’t grow. Probably eaten by chickens. I planted out my brassica seedlings (now fenced because of chickens dust bathing) but I have a feeling we’re in the wrong season. Oops.

I’ve made a list of veggies I want to grow based on what we eat – lettuce, cucumber, celery, tomatoes, peas, beans, beetroot, carrots, sweetcorn, potatoes, peppers, squashes, melons – and I’ll probably add some others along the way.

I’ve already started planted some seeds in little paper pots but that’s another post.

Propagation.

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.

ippIf 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.

ippOf 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.

Gardening with puppies.

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1407782906293Just 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.

Pula!!! (it means rain)

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.

The Cottage Garden

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.

Cottage GardenThere 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.

Time to get moving

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.

Mindfulness

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!

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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.

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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).