Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

Seasonal Celebrations

We’ve been celebrating Spring for the past week and enjoying lovely sunny days and the effect it has in the garden. My favourite tree the Cherry Blossom (type: unknown) is in full bloom and dropping the lovely petals to the ground which creates a magical snow-like look in the beds below. I can stare at this tree for hours, knowing that in two to three short weeks she will be covered in bright green leaves and the blossoms will be gone, until next year. So while I can, I enjoy the wonderful spectacle of this tree.

Lets take a look at some of the things I’m loving in my garden right now … (click to enlarge the photos)

[one_half]The Cherry blossom in all her gloryThe Cherry blossom in all her glory[/one_half]

[one_half_last]All the Blossoms falling to the groundAll the Blossoms falling to the ground[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Sherry has joined us on our walkaboutSherry has joined us on our walkabout[/one_half]

[one_half_last]I’m loving the Azaleas and foliage here I'm loving the Azaleas and foliage here [/one_half_last]

[one_half]I love this combo of grasses and bulbsI love this combo of grasses and bulbs[/one_half]

[one_half_last]A celebratory Spring purchase: ClematisA celebratory Spring purchase: Clematis[/one_half_last]

Who me? No Mom! I promise I never trample on your plants …
Who me? No Mom! I didn't trample your plants

It all looks very pretty and organised doesn’t it? Well … this is only a very small portion of my garden. The rest needs lots and lots and lots of work. So much so that I feel quite intimidated by it all. And with rain predicted for the coming weekend, I’m not sure I’ll make much progress.

I’m joining our good gardening friend Donna of Garden’s Eye View for her Seasonal Celebration. Pop over to see how our friends in the northern hemisphere are celebrating Fall (Autumn).

Happy Gardening

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features Perenniels

Azalea love

I was asked in the comments section on a previous post for some advice on how to grow and care for Azaleas. I am definitely not an expert, far from it, but I admit that my Azaleas are probably the most reliable and prolific of all the flowering plants I have in my garden. Every spring they surprise me when they start flowering and continue to do so for what seems like weeks on end.

[one_half]I ♥ the Azaleas in my gardenLove Azaleas[/one_half]

[one_half_last]What’s not to love about them?I ♥ the Azaleas in my garden[/one_half_last]

[one_half]A wonderful mass of colourA wonderful pop of colour[/one_half]

[one_half_last]They really pop in this bedThey really pop in this bed[/one_half_last]

In my experience, they are fairly easy to grow and trouble-free. That is, provided they are planted in the right position and not unnecessarily disturbed. They like shade (dappled shade seems to work better than full shade – the ones in dappled shade flower earlier and longer than the ones in deeper shade) although I have two which are in a sunny location (more sun than shade). They do well but they can get a bit scorched if the weather gets really hot. In full sun delicate flower colors bleach quickly even though the plants grow well.

In my garden they are used as background evergreen shrubs, the spring flowers are an amazing bonus on a plant that remains green and lively throughout the year and is rarely attacked by anything ((in my experience that is – I’ve yet to see any insects on them). According to everything I have read, they prefer acidic soil and the same growing conditions as Camellias.

[one_half]Mostly, I have them in this pinkMostly, I have them in this pink[/one_half]

[one_half_last]I added three white ones this yearI added three white ones this year[/one_half_last]

[one_half]I have a few in this soft pinkI have a few in this soft pink[/one_half]

[one_half_last]… and just one like this[/one_half_last]

My experience with Azaleas and what they require:

Grow well with: Camellias, Lilies (Asiatic), Carex evergold

They like it: Under tress, amongst lots of other plants, in shade. I’ve read that they need wind protection – that has not been my experience. My Azaleas have survived wind storms better than most plants in my garden, but then they are not massive plants yet.

Time commitment: About an hour or so each a year. I spend a fair amount of time dead heading them and pinch-pruning or dead-heading them as they finish flowering. Some people (books) say it is not necessary, that they will flower again next year anyway, but I’ve tested it – the ones I do do it to, flower earlier and longer and a whole lot more profusely. So it seems worth doing, to me! But it is important to remove the flower stems on as soon as flowering is complete. Failure to do this will reduce flowering the following year. I break off only the dead flower cluster, not the young buds clustered at its base.

On the subject of actual pruning – There is little need for hard pruning azaleas. If growth becomes uneven or even excessive, I control the size with very light pruning and I do it quite regularly. Azaleas sometimes branch poorly and form a loose, open shrub. When this happens, the plants’ shape can be improved by pinching out the soft, new shoots of vigorous growing plants. It makes for a stronger, bushier plants if you do this from time to time.

They get a dressing of compost once or twice a year and are mulched quite well.That is all I do – I told you they are easy plants!

Fertilising: I use a combination of fertiliser in my garden. Every six months or so I apply a 4-5 month slow release version of Osmocote and sporadically, maybe three times a year I use Neutrog’s Bounce Back – both are organic and don’t contain harsh chemicals so there is no danger of fertiliser burn. They seem to thrive on this treatment.

[one_half]I pinch the spent buds outLovely in my garden[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Regular dead-heading = more flowersRegular dead-heading cause more flowers[/one_half_last]

[one_half]The shrubs grow quite tallThe shrubs grow quite tall[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Every flower is beautiful …Every flower is beautiful ...[/one_half_last]

Great as: Investment and backbone plants. As evergreen shrubs they will give you years of flowering pleasure, growing each year to fill in a little more space.

Negatives: At a certain time of year they do not look very attractive. My solution to this was growing Asiatic lilies in and amongst the Azaleas in one of the beds. This works well for me. As the Azaleas stop blooming so the Lilies start and seem to hide the “tired” looking foliage for a few weeks. (When the lilies start to decline … well I only have one bed with this combination and admittedly, for about 4 weeks it looks absolutely awful because I let the lilies die back naturally so that they come back the following year. That is four weeks of dyeing lilies and tired looking Azaleas at the end of summer). But in my opinion it is a small price to pay for a garden bed that looks fabulous for the other 48 weeks of the year).

Soil preparation: Azaleas must have soil that is prepared carefully and thoroughly. I find the roots of azaleas are very delicate and do not like to be disturbed (they may not flower for the next season if I “dig around” the roots too much and when I have transplanted them they don’t flower as well for a season. But thereafter they make up for it by growing well and flowering profusely the next Spring. Because the delicate roots of azaleas are easily destroyed, excellent drainage is important.

Mulch: Azaleas are shallow rooted and need heavy mulch to conserve moisture around the roots, to minimize winter injury, and to prevent injury from cultivation.

So that is my (novice) experience with Azaleas. Have I left anything out?

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

The second Spring day

Welcome Spring! At last some lovely weather, we’ve had two cold but sunny days. Wonderful sunshine and the plants have perked up by the end of the second day. Welcome Spring!

[one_third]The Azalea AlleyThe Azalea Alley[/one_third]

[one_third]Irises and LiriopeIrises and Liriope[/one_third]

[one_third_last]The lovely AzaleasThe lovely Azaleas[/one_third_last]

[one_third]Delphiniums still in potsDelphiniums still in pots[/one_third]

[one_third]Acanthis mollis budAcanthis Mollis bud[/one_third]

[one_third_last]The sweet HelleboresThe sweet Hellebores[/one_third_last]

[one_third]Salvia are bloomingSalvia are blooming[/one_third]

[one_third]New growth on AzaleasNew growth on Azaleas[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Aren’t they lovely?Aren't they lovely?[/one_third_last]

The Azaleas are the star in my early spring garden. I love all the pink and cerise blooms and after the rains they are all showing lovely fresh growth and beautiful blooms.

The first Ipheon flower has shown its face. I didn’t realise they were such small flowers, quite pretty. The Acanthis mollis has sprouted tons of huge buds. I’ve read (and observed) that allowing them to flower destroys the plant. I have three plants and they have covered a rather unattractive corner with their wonderfully large leaves. I’d like to keep them looking good, so I might remove the buds in a day or two.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend
Happy Gardening

Annuals Barbie's garden Gardening Home page features Perenniels

Something stirring in my garden

I have not been getting the “spring is a coming” feeling! I have been so preoccupied with work and family birthdays and just feeling cold these past weeks in August that my poor garden has been so neglected. I have to admit that the “feeling has not been there”. I gave my favourite hobby a break. But the blooms are happily awaiting spring, regardless of the absent gardener. I have seen new colour and flowers and new shoots and buds today…… something is stirring in my garden…. wow, look!!!

[one_half]Azaleas are taking[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Love the flowers[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Lavender is blooming-Yipee![/one_half]

[one_half_last]Purple and raspberry colour[/one_half_last]








[one_half]Broad bean flowers in my veggie patch[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Borage blossom buds[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Lobelia, lavender, dietes & borage[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Gerbera still blooming[/one_half_last]






[one_half]Blueberry bush starting to bloom[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Meadow still a good show[/one_half_last]

[one_third]Mint bush[/one_third]

[one_third]Lemon tree in the meadow[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Veggie patch looking bushy[/one_third_last]

I am so excited to see that the garden is about to explode with colour!!! Bring on Spring!!! I’m definitely going in the garden this weekend!

Happy Gardening xxxxx

Barbie's garden Design Gardening Home page features Perenniels

New patch plantings

Hi Chris – I know I mentioned this to you last week already, but I had little time to get the photo’s done and up for you to see. I know I keep telling you how I love your Nandina, well I have now bought some as well as azaleas to go in my shade patch in the back garden. Everything else I have planted here has died; either ripped out by chickens, or rotted away or just simply faded into nothing. It is such a focal position next to my back deck. In summer it is the only real shady area in the back garden and all the birds flock here for warmth in winter and to cool off in the summer. It is a watering hole and it’s also where the chameleons and bees hang out. I have created a rock pile for my frogs and lizards and the bucket just for fun! There is a yearly arum lily that comes up in winter… look you can see it popping out of the new stone path. I’m going to keep it because it has been there ever since we moved into the house. I remember putting the big tree stump on that area one year and it still managed to push through, so I love plants that love to be here, no matter what the circumstance!



Here are the white azaleas and the nandina pygmaea-Dwarf Bamboo – planted behind the Tea Tree and the Pineapple Sage. These shrubs will give shade in the intense afternoon sun in summer. I also have a few Irises I cannot wait to see flower in spring. I have a few Lilium bulbs too. The Arum Lily that comes up every year is Zantedeschia, a genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Araceae, native to southern Africa from South Africa north to Malawi.

[one_half]Nandina Pygmaea[/one_half]

[one_half_last]White Azaleas[/one_half_last]

[one_half]A thatching plant but not Cape Thatch[/one_half]

[one_half_last]I have pruned the Pineapple Sage[/one_half_last]

[one_half]The yearly arum lily plant[/one_half]

[one_half_last]The Shady Patch corner at sunset[/one_half_last]

I really hope that this will be the winning combo. I am looking at a more perennial garden patch here with lots of flowers and little work. A bushy, flowery area with nice colourful foliage. I love the Nandina now – the reds are so beautiful. I selected white azaleas because I wanted something neutral as perennial and I can add colour with bulbs and other annual flowers here and there.  I am now going to sit back, water and wait!

The weatherman says storms ahead, so I guess the weekend will be spent in front of the fire with a good book!

Happy reading….I mean gardening xxxx


Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

An Autumn garden

My garden is in a sorry state … three days of continuous rain over the long weekend that interrupted my garden clean-up has left it looking untidy and ever so sad-looking. As I was busy with laying newly purchased compost and mulch the heavens opened up and it rained for three days solid. But in typical Cape Town fashion, as we got out our winter woolies and put extra blankets on beds, so the weather changed right back and the last two days have been too hot to do much gardening.

Today is looking good – not too hot, no wind, no rain (yet), but before I head out to continue my clean up, I took a few photos to show you what’s going on. And as I was taking these photos, I noticed something else – it’s not all white anymore! I have lots of pinks and blues and violets …


[one_half]Camellias have started their displayThe Camellias are starting their display[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Promise of lots to comePromise of lots to come[/one_half_last]

[one_half]A sweet pink daisyA sweet pink daisy[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Looking washed out after rainLooking washed out after rain[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Mexican Petunia keeps on givingMexican Petunia keeps on giving[/one_half]

[one_half_last]More pretty – Brachycombe daisiesBrachycombe daisies[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Barleria obtusa – Bush VioletBarleria obtusa - Bush Violet[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Lots of blue and purpleLots of blue and purple[/one_half_last]

[one_half]First Azalea showing its faceFirst Azalea showing its face[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Lots of lovely, fragrant LavenderLots of lovely, fragrant Lavender[/one_half_last]

Then there were a few surprises that popped up after the rains. The fading Hydrangea blooms are amazing to me. Spent but still beautiful I think I’ll leave these on the plants rather than cutting them off. I think they are lovely, I think I prefer them at this stage. Even the ones turning brown are lovely, it’s just a different type of lovely.

Tucked away in a very dark, hidden corner, we planted a few extra Clivias around this time last year (I already had quite a few and added to my collection). As I was cleaning, composting and mulching I noticed that the new additions have not just established themselves well, they are thriving and rewarding me with seeds.

And finally, I wrote about my intention to plant Crocosmia in the shade last year which I also did and forgot about. I planted them from bulbs and have been extremely underwhelmed by them – compared to the success I had with all the exotic bulbs I planted I fully expected this indigeneous bulb to do well. It has not really …. but it is still early days. Right now there are a few raggedy looking stalks and one single bloom – I’m not even sure I’m that mad about it anymore, but I will be patient. All the photographs of mass plantings of these can’t be wrong, they obviously just need more time to look impressive. But seeing the first bloom was exciting …

[one_half]Hydrangea bloomsHydrangea[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Clivia seedsClivia seeds[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Clivias have grown very wellClivias have grown very well[/one_half]

[one_half_last]First Crocosmia bloomsCrocosmia aurea[/one_half_last]

Oh, and the photos don’t really support my statement of a “sad looking garden”. Trust me, its sad. The lawn is in a bad way, there are lots of weeds (thanks rain!) and shrubs looking worse for wear after a three day downpour. Lots to do … a busy gardening weekend ahead.

Happy Gardening!

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

The Ugly Post

After yesterdays post in which I gave a brief update on my summer garden, I received such complimentary comments and praise that I started to feel like a bit of a fraud. The reality is that it is still a young, developing garden with quite a number of unsightly corners and patches that need work. I seem to have become quite good at taking photos at angles that show my garden as a lush flowering little haven, and truth be told, I also tend to only show those areas in the garden that I am reasonably happy with.

So to keep things real, just for today I’ve decided to “show and tell” some (not all) of the less attractive spots in my garden (including an ailing plant). Only today. Just this once. We’ll call it “The Ugly Post”, ok?

Empty patches

[one_half]The still bare “Garden of Twelve“…The still bare "Garden of 12"[/one_half]

[one_half_last]I’ve not been inspired to work on itI've been uninspired to work on it[/one_half_last]

[one_half]An ailing Azalea (I don’t know why)An ailing Azalea (I don't know why)[/one_half]

[one_half_last]and the gorgeous one next to itand the gorgeous one next to it[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Crowded in front, bare at the backCrowded in front, bare at the back[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Lots of bare patches in the backLots of bare patches in the back[/one_half_last]

[one_half]We’re slowly filling up here …We're slowly filling up here ...[/one_half]

[one_half_last]and here and there …and here and there ...[/one_half_last]

[one_half]and waiting for things to growand waiting for things to grow[/one_half]

[one_half_last]and waiting for things to fill outand waiting for things to fill out[/one_half_last]

Oh dear, where did all the pretty go? Most of these photos are from my unfinished, work-in-progress back garden, which seems to be a bottomless pit that sucks up and devours plants. I’ve been buying plants on an almost weekly basis for a year now and I STILL have huge bare patches back there. I’m starting to wonder if it will ever look like those gorgeous flower-filled beds I see on all the blogs and in magazines … surely one day it will have enough plants to wow my socks off? I’m optimistic. Maybe NEXT spring!

If nothing else, gardening has taught me to be patient.

Happy Gardening

30 Day Challenge Christine's garden Gardening

The 30 Day Challenge – Day 18

Today I am grateful for my Gardening Companions! My beloved pets are so sweet when I am in the garden. Dexter needs to be involved in whatever I am doing, digging, sniffing, and following me from one task to the next. Sherrie likes to observe from a sunny spot and sweet little Hercules loves it when the dogs are locked up inside and he gets to spend time with me, alone, in the garden. He rolls around in the grass, sniffs at all the plants and flowers, brushes up against them and “talks” to me in “cat”, seemingly approving (and sometimes not). Gardening would be much less fun without my delightful companions, and for that I am grateful!


Photo: Azaleas – I have plenty of Azaleas in my garden, all of them this bright pink / cerise colour. I don’t enjoy the plant much during the summer months as it can look a bit tired, even dull, but when summer ends and Autumn rolls on and the Azalea shrubs sprout new growth they look fantastic. And the real WOW moments start when they start to bloom and continue to do so for what feels like months, from winter through to end Spring the garden is full of splashes of these blooms.They are ideal shrubs for my garden because they prefer a shaded environment and do very well under all my trees.

Azaleas: Azaleas are flowering shrubs comprising two of the eight subgenera of the genus Rhododendron, Pentanthera (deciduous) and Tsutsuji (evergreen). Azaleas bloom in spring, their flowers often lasting several weeks. Shade tolerant, they prefer living near or under trees. (Azaleas differ from rhododendrons in being generally smaller and having one blossom per stem rather than blossom clusters).

About the 30 Day Challenge

Cat of The Whimsical Gardener, has invited Garden Bloggers the world over to join her in the 30 day challenge of posting a photograph and sentiment that you are thankful for – every day for 30 days. Find something you are thankful for every day, for 30 days, can’t be too difficult, can it? See all Barbie’s and my posts filed under “30 Day Challenge“.

Christine's garden Design Gardening Home page features Perenniels

All about Change – the Azalea bed, then and now

If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.  ~ Author Unknown

I’ve long hung on to the overgrown trees I inherited in my garden, believing that excessive cutting back or pruning would change things radically. I was wary of changing things too much. Mostly, I was wary of losing my fiercely guarded privacy. You see, I’m a very private person, reclusive some will tell you. And mostly, I liked it that way.

And then I started this blog, and suddenly, things were a bit less private. Strangers were “looking” over my walls and into my garden. It actually felt quite nice. Some of those strangers have become gardening buddies and I look forward to their virtual visits to my garden and mine to theirs. Then it dawned on me … perhaps cutting back a tree or two to let in some more light was not such a bad thing after all. Maybe just prune back a little … and so we did. And guess what? Nothing terrible happened. In fact, the sun peeped through and it made both the plants and me smile a bit. Perhaps time to prune back a bit more? Let more light in? Why not?

Get the tree feller in, see what he says. He said two trees HAD to go or they would cause problems with the foundations of my house within the next two years. Oh dear … more loss of privacy? He chopped them down. Then he cut back the others. Hard. Quite a shock to my system. It’s taken quite a while for me to get used to all the light (and seeing some neighbour roofs). But I’m still here, nothing bad happened and … now I like it! I can see the mountain – I have a view! And I see the sun and the sun sees my plants and they seem to be smiling back with their lovely blooms.

Today I’d like to share with you the jungle I was hiding in and how I have transformed this area which I call the “Azalea Bed” over the last three years …

Before – no light, no sun, just overgrown trees

After – Now in September 2011

After - September 2011

More “Before and Afters”

[one_half]Before – Dexter as a puppyDecember 2007 - Dexter as a puppy[/one_half]

[one_half_last]The same area (and Dexter) todayThe same area 4 years later[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Another “before” with baby Dex[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Today Lilies & Azaleas grow hereToday Lilies grow here[/one_half_last]

My “brag book”  – the way it looks today

(click to enlarge)
[one_half]The way it looks todayThe way it looks today[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Can you see the Mountain?Can you see the Mountain?[/one_half_last]

[one_third]Azaleas and LiliesAzaleas and Lilies[/one_third]

[one_third]Looking to the mountainLooking to the mountain[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Looking from the other viewAnd from the other side[/one_third_last]

The last photograph shows the bed from the other side (with the mountain behind me). There is of course still work to be done in the front of the bed and once the Tulips have died down in the bed opposite the Lilies & Azaleas I will be planting perennials in there (not doing the Tulips again next year).

I should probably have waited to show this when all the Lilies are blooming and when the Prunus is covered in blossoms … but I’ll just have to show you how it looks then again … it will be another whole new look. I can’t wait!

Happy Gardening

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

Autumn Day loveliness

It’s hard to find lots of new things to blog about when there is not much happening in the garden. Correction, when most of what’s happening in the garden is leaves blowing and gathering everywhere and all we seem to be doing is trying to keep things tidy. Not an easy task when the wind picks up just after we’ve swept. I’m not actually sure why we bother. I like this look …

Autumn Leaves

Are these Azaleas supposed to bloom now? I thought they bloomed in Spring, but here are the first ones in my Azalea bed blooming right now. Very happy this particular one is blooming because its the one I pulled out of one bed and added to what I now call my “Azalea Bed”. Pretty, no?

Azalea Bloom

And just in case you don’t remember, I have lots of Camellias in bloom right now. They brighten up the winter garden for me with their pretty white and pink flowers …


And I love this look – All different shades of green and bright red berries on the Nandinas – very “Autumny” …


Happy Gardening