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My Gardenias and insect repellent

GardeniaI thought I was finished for today, but then I had some more I wanted to say … remember that discussion we had about the insect repellents and how toxic they smelt (and felt)?

Today I had to do some major spraying because I found aphids on quite a few of my Gardenias – also on the Camellias in the garden. So I got hold of Ludwig’s Insect Spray to try. It was easy to mix up, and was quite okay to use. It smells of garlic – for people who don’t like garlic that might be an issue but I didn’t feel like I was “poisoning” anything in my garden.

According to the blurb … “Ludwig’s Insect Spray is Authorised for use in organic agriculture by ECOCERT SA F-32600. Ludwig’s Insect Spray +Broad spectrum organic insecticide for the control of insects on edible crops, roses, herbs and ornamentals. Contains: garlic juice extract, canola oil, natural pyrethrum (pyrethrins). It works on ants, aphids, red spider mite, white fly, astylus beetle, chafer beetle, CMR beetle, Flower beetle, American bollworm, thrips, wood-eating termites”.

I felt okay using it Dexter and his “doggy-nose” stayed way clear of me whilst I was busy with it! Quite unusual for him because he does like to interfere and sniff everything when I’m gardening, so he obviously doesn’t like the garlic smell either 🙂

I’m still very under-whelmed by the performance of my Gardenias. Only one of them really does well and gives me beautiful flowers. I think the others in the front are probably getting too much sun? (the performer is in more shade). I will have to find out what is wrong with them because I do like these plants, a lot.

Christine's garden Gardening

My “back garden” make-over

I’ve been going through hundreds of old photographs to find before pics to show you of how the back area of my garden looked when we first bought this house. It really was not attractive – it was already overgrown and was dominated by ivy, ferns and the trees! The only thing I regret is that the “gardener” I got to mow the lawn and “tidy up” the garden destroyed a huge, beautiful lavender bush we had in the back garden. Everything else was … well IVY and the delicious monster which Kathryn decided to keep in the garden. I’m still not mad about it, I may remove it one day, but for now I defer to her better judgement.

After our magical day spent in Philadelphia yesterday with the kids and their families, I spent the best part of today working on this part of the garden – As I mentioned to you, I have a bit of an “ant problem” back there and aphids are attacking the Camellias, so armed with my organic pest repellent I’ve been spraying and then weeding, removing dead leaves, learning to prune … lots of work!

Here is a current comparison in photographs. The way it looked before Kathryn worked her magic and a photo I took today.


Before – July 2010

Back Garden July 2010[/one_half]


6 Months later – January 2011

Back Garden January 2011[/one_half_last]

I do still hate seeing the house next door but the rate at which the trees are growing (especially the Viburnum that was planted), I’m confident that within a year I should have my privacy back. Not that they can see over their wall into my garden, but I just don’t like looking at neighbour houses from my garden.

I uploaded a set of photos of the “progress” the plants have made to in case you are interested in seeing how its progressed. There is one that I took just after the new plants and lawn were planted, then one in October, one in December and then two photos I took today. Here is the link: My Back Garden progress in photos. I’ll add more to the set as time goes by.

That’s all for today!

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features Trees

The Willow Tree – then and now

I have a huge Willow tree in my garden – as you open the front entrance to the property it is in fact the first thing you see. I have no idea how old it is – I’m assuming it’s pretty old because it is really large. I love willow trees – I think they are quite gorgeous, but this one does throw a lot of shade onto the front garden.

Before – December 2007:

Willow Tree Before - December 2007I managed to find this old photograph of the willow tree and its surrounds so you can see the “before and after” pics of this little area in the garden. (my photography skills are zero, so excuse the photo quality!). I have no idea what those bushes are on either side of it – they grew totally out of control and were removed, as were the messy “hen & chicks” plants around the base. We cleaned up the area, fixed up the broken brick work and it looks neater now as you can see on the “after” photo …[/one_half]


After – January 2011:

Willow Tree after - January 2011Here it is now after it was pruned somewhat to let some light into the garden and with the new plants that were planted in August. Coming along nicely. To the left we planted 2 x Nandina domestica (Sacred Bamboo) on either side of a Cammellia, at the base we have Hypoestes aristata ‘Purple’ – Ribbon Bush, Nandina pygmaea – Dwarf Sacred Bamboo, which are also on the right of the tree, another Sacred Bamboo on the right and then Cape Thatching Reed with Plectranthus madagascariensis.[/one_half_last]

I think it will look great once the plants have had a chance to really establish themselves. (You can view large versions of the photos by clicking on them – no comments about by crappy photographic skells please!!).

Barbie's garden

Barbie’s Garden

The first pic of the house when we bought it

When we decided to move to the country in 2005, it was quite an adventure. From a flat in a real urban environment where your next-door neighbour was within arms reach, to a house with a garden, surrounded by wheat fields and your neighbours are cows, sheep and horses. You can’t believe what a change that was. From traffic noises at night to complete stillness! We could not sleep those first few weeks.

Country living is the best! Being a true spirit of the earth, my garden is all about vegetables and fruit trees and herbs and chickens roaming free. I was keen to really start gardening when we moved to Philadelphia in 2005, but not your typical suburban-type garden – sterile and bug-free! I wanted an edible garden.

But first I had to start removing what was there. My pet hate plants are geraniums and my hubby’s are wild garlic. Needless to say, this garden was full of them AND snails!! The oom and tannie who lived in the house before us had a chicken coop and an overgrown veggie garden in the back – I was so excited!! “Babes! Look – chickens!” But the more we looked at the state it was in, the more I wanted to rip it all down. Start fresh!

The house itself was incomplete, so we had to use our handyman skills to fix the place up – Hannes is so good at this! The kitchen, the bathrooms, the front and back stoeps, the driveway…… let’s just say we are still not finished with it!! I can also show you how we renovated the place. But this might be a blog all of its own!

Ok, so my first obstacle was if I wanted a garden, I had to do it all by myself. Hubby made it quite clear up front that he is not into gardening. I totally understood and all the heavy-duty work I will have to get used to! He bought me a stunning electric lawnmower that was easy to use and did not need arm socket ripping actions to get it started – just press the button and it started to hummm. That was for the small lawn I was going to have in the front and the back. Ok, so that’s sorted. But first we needed privacy, so we built a picket fence around the front of the house. Check out the pics of our first major DIY.


Here is the front of the house with the poles in the ground.
The start of the fence
The fence is complete - privacy!
Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

Christine’s Garden – as it was

Baby Dexter, December 2007Where do I start … well, when I bought my house 3 years ago, the existing garden was nice enough – except that it was basically full of overgrown trees that blocked out all the sun and all that would grow (and grow they did!!) was Ivy and ferns and some nasty ground cover. You couldn’t see anything for Ivy, it was everywhere … in fact it was trying to get into the house through the windows. No joke!

Then, one amateur “gardener” (not me) and a puppy later … and the garden was destroyed.

I then had the very dumb idea of allowing someone who claimed to be a horticulturist talk me into redoing our garden. Well … lesson learned – ALWAYS ask for references! And then ask to see their work. And then make 100% sure you like their style and the plants they are proposing to plant. Because … he planted all the wrong things in a garden that got no sun because he never had any trees pruned or topped and he planted shade loving plants in full sun and sun loving plants in shade – one year later and much money down the drain … still no garden. I was really fed up at that stage as I’d spent a lot on the plants.

I then spent about 2 months researching landscape companies and finally found a wonderful girl who not only came highly recommended but I had seen her boards up in some of the most gorgeous gardens in the Southern Suburbs. I got hold of her … and … yes, many many more dollars and 4 months later, I finally have a garden! It is still in its infancy but the plants are HAPPY! (this is Kathrine’s website:

The first thing Katherine did was insist on getting a tree feller in. She refused to plant a thing unless we got some light into the garden. I’ll admit, I cried the day they “felled” my trees. I love trees and hate disturbing even a single leaf on a tree but the result is that we now see the sun and we have our view of the mountain back! And the plants are growing and thriving. I am loving this new experience of watching the plants grow. And I am itching to buy more plants and grow different things. Katherine insisted on leaving some spaces for me to “get creative” in my garden and to put my own stamp on it so to speak. So now I’ve been reading up about plants, (lots of research) and as I had exhausted the one gardening book I’ve had lying around for years I’ve bought myself a few new ones.

Overgrown gardenThe book I enjoy the most is “Gardening with Keith Kirsten”, the second edition. First of all there is lots of practical advice (which of course one expects from this type of book) and then there is a Plant Directory with details of plants suited to South African gardens. Easy to understand (for a novice like me) it features simple icons showing at a glance what requirements the plants have (sun / shade / water etc. etc). I would have appreciated more plant photographs – there are lots and lots of photos, but my eye is drawn to the photographs and not every plant in the directory has an accommpanying photo. But it is a great book and the one I refer to the most.

So armed with all my newly learnt knowledge about plants I’ve been running back and forth to the nursery getting annuals to fill in some spaces with instant colour and the odd shrub to plant in other spaces.

I’ll be asking Katherine to send me some of the “before” photos she took which I’ll post together with recent photos. Should be fun to “watch the garden grow” in photographs over time.

Photographs – (click to view the enlargements):
Top – Dexter as a puppy in a mass of overgrown plants, three years ago (i.e. November 2007).
Bottom – Dexter again, same day, December 2007. You can see just how overgrown everything was.

Gardening Miscellaneous

Setting up a gardening blog

LavenderSetting up a new blog is indeed quite a challenge for me. First you have to decide what you want to do with your blog, then there is the choice of blogging software, then you need a theme (design) and then you need to set it all up and add some blog posts to get it going.

For this blog I chose to use wordpress (only because I know it faily well, but it is still a challenge for a techno-phobe like myself to set it all up, not to forget that I am quite a dinosaur in age compared to those that do this well and quickly!). The installation and set up is all fairly simple, it’s the more intricate details that get to me.

But I have it set up now and hope this will give us many hours of blogging satisfation in the future …

PS: This serves as a test post – we will delete it eventually once we have a few more posts going.

Barbie's garden Christine's garden Gardening

The Gardening Blog begins

SunflowersA life-time of friendship is indeed very, very special. Anyone who has one will agree – there is nothing quite like having a very best friend that really knows you through and through, has been witness to all your life’s successes and failures, been with you through the ups and downs and remains … your best friend! I consider myself very fortunate to have such a friend in Barbie.

We’ve been friends since as long as I can remember, but we’ve only recently become “gardeners”. The idea for this blog came to me after a conversation we had on New Years Day (2011). Barbie and I have always had the ability to spend hour upon hour with each other, talking non-stop. We never seem to run out of things to talk about. But back to my inspiration … Barbie told me that after one of our recent marathon “talk sessions”, her hubby Hannes asked her “what do you talk about for so long …” and she realised that we now spend a lot of time discussing our gardens. So the idea for this blog developed from that conversation.

We both live in the Western Cape – I live in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town and Barbie lives in the village of Philadelphia near the Cape West Coast (just before Malmesbury). It’s about a 45 – 50 minute drive from here and as we are both busy with our businesses and families I don’t get to see her garden as often as I would like. We thought this blog would be a great way to share our gardening experiences with each other by uploading photographs and posting our latest “gardening news”. It will be fun to see how our gardens develop and progress over time!

PS: I chose the “sunflowers” photograph for this first post as a symbolic photo – two sunflowers – that’s me and Barbs (I’m the one of the left, she’s on the right, that’s because she’s taller than me!)