Christine's garden Gardening Home page features Perenniels Reviews

Ferns of Southern Africa – a Book Review

Ferns of Southern Africa – A Comprehensive Guide, is a newly published book I was invited to review. With some trepidation I started to read the 776 page guide even though I removed every single fern from my garden just a year ago. I wondered whether the book could convince to try ferns again – after all, I’ve heard ferns thrive in shade and I’m always looking for good shade plants …

Ferns of Southern Africa starts off with a foreword that hooked me – Did you know that there are over 300 species of ferns that are native to southern Africa? I had no idea. Considering that half of the subcontinent is semidesert or desert this is a really high number as I’ve always though of ferns as requiring shade and thriving in forest type areas. Turns out that there are quite a number of local species that have evolved to tolerate extreme drought and heat, as well as full sunlight and bush fires. And did you know that ferns were flourishing about two hundred million years before flowering plants made their first appearance? The introductory chapter will introduce you to these and many other interesting facts about ferns you probably knew nothing about if you are not a fern fanatic.

Ferns of Southern Africa features a full double-page spread per species with multiple photographs including close-ups (the photography is superb), informative line drawings where necessary and very detailed and comprehensive descriptions. Other features of the book include tables that highlight differences between similar-looking fern species, distribution maps and identification keys to families, genera and species.

It’s a beautiful book, no doubt about that. If you are seriously interested in ferns then this book is an essential for your library. I haven’t seen another book quite like it in our local bookstores, so consider adding it to your collection if you are a “Fern-atic”. But its not a quick, Saturday afternoon read – It is a beautiful guide and reference book I am proud to own, and I’m sure I will page through and refer to it often in the years to come.

[one_half]A favourite reading spotA favourite reading spot[/one_half]

[one_half_last]A beautiful bookA beautiful book[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Its about plants! My favourite book type!Its about plants! My favourite book type![/one_half]

[one_half_last]Well written, beautifully illustratedWell written, beautifully illustrated[/one_half_last]

Has this book convinced me to dash off to the nursery to buy a bunch of ferns to plant in my garden? I’d have to say no, but … I am considering a few carefully selected and purposely placed ferns. And I will be using this book to research exactly which type to plant and where.

From the publisher – Random House Struik:

This comprehensive, colourful and lavish guide to the ferns of southern Africa (covering South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia) throws new light on a category of plants that’s little-described or featured. Its careful and accessible design enables quick, sure identification of all 321 ferns known to occur in the region. In compiling this unique and beautiful volume, the authors travelled extensively, even finding several new species of ferns along the way. They are all treated in this guide – some described here for the first time. Ferns of Southern Africa will become the standard reference book on local ferns, and will be a treasured resource for many years to come.

About the Authors

Neil Crouch is an ethnobotanist with SANBI. He recently co-authored Guide to Succulents of Southern Africa.
Ronell Klopper is curator of the fern collection at the National Herbarium, SANBI.
John Burrows is a nature conservationist. He authored Ferns and Fern Allies of South and South-central Africa.
Sandra Burrows is an acclaimed botanical illustrator and natural history author who has collaborated on several works, including Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies.

Where to purchase the book:

Ferns of Southern Africa – a Comprehensive Guide is available at:

Christine's garden Gardening Miscellaneous

How much I’ve learnt in ten short months

It is no secret that less than a year ago I knew pretty much nothing about gardening and plants. OK, perhaps I’m exaggerating a little … I knew the names of a few plants, bougainvillea, roses and lilies spring to mind. I think I also knew about Marigolds, daisies and ferns. Oh and of course I knew all about Ivy, because Ivy was the most prolific plant in my overgrown jungle of a garden. Ivy and a few ferns.

Fast forward ten short months and during a visit to a nursery today I amazed myself by how much I have learnt. Stopping at plants and knowing the proper names, recognising textures and shapes, knowing what would work where … and of course stumbling on a few new-to-me plants, looking at the names and recognising having seen them before on a blog or in a book. It was a most pleasurable (and again educational) two hours spent amongst the plants.

The gardening course I have been busy with promised me in the opening notes that I would no longer go to nurseries and come back with “impulse buy” plants. The course entitled “Planting Design” promised that I would make plans before buying and that I would more often than not leave a nursery without buying anything, if what I had gone there for was not available. Well that was put to the test today … for the first time I discovered Hellebores at a nursery here in Cape Town. Eleven little Hellebores all lined up in a row and I so badly wanted to buy them. But my new ‘plant philosophy’ is that if I don’t have a plan, I can’t buy, so I left without them. A first for me! That’s not to say I won’t go back for them … as soon as I have a plan for them.

But then a detour to Exclusive Books and I succumbed to impulse buying and left with two new books. Pocket books actually, both by the Royal Hortucultural Society (RHS). The first book is RHS Plants for PlacesWith full colour photographs and information for over 1,000 tried and tested plants, this is the pocket-sized guide for trips to the garden centre and nursery.

The second is RHS Good Plant GuideWhether you want to cultivate the classic English rose or grow a crop of climbing French beans, choose plants with confidence with the RHS Good Plant Guide. Recommends over 3,000 trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs, bedding plants, fruits and vegetables for every garden situation and with more than 1,500 colourful photos and illustrations.

These are two lovely little books to assist in my continued gardening education 🙂

[one_half]RHS Plants for PlacesPlants for places[/one_half]

[one_half_last]RHS Good Plant GuideRHS Good Plant Guide[/one_half_last]

I love these little books as they are great reference books as well as being useful to pick up and page through for a few minutes every now again, just to familiarise myself with new plants or to look up known plants for more info. Small and compact they are also easy to pop into a bag in case I do want to take one on a nursery visit – easily hidden in a bag so I don’t go there looking too much like a gardening-nerd!

Off to read about plants
Happy Gardening

Barbie's garden Christine's garden Gardening Home page features Miscellaneous Products

The new Gardening Journal

We have to show you all our new addition to the Gardening Blog. Because we are still new to this gardening phenomena, we really needed somewhere to write all the stuff we had to remember and all the chores we need to do.  All the bits of paper we scribble on wasn’t practical because now you need a folder of sorts. So that doesn’t really work – you need something portable and compact.  Like a paperback book!  We could not find a  gardening journal ANYWHERE that we could say was easy-to-use and practical. We hunted around and decided – hey, why don’t we create our OWN gardening  journal. So, through New Voices Publishing, we have published our own book – THE GARDENING JOURNAL and here we share it with you!

[one_half]The Garen Journal[/one_half]

[one_half_last]The Garden Journal 2[/one_half_last]

It is full of places to draw, make notes, create shopping lists, add gardening chores, write reviews and nursery contact  information and also write down your research on what plants you like and what to plant in your garden – all on a monthy basis.  It is with me all the time!! Everything that I want to jot down or refer to is right here, in my journal!!

Title: The Gardening Journal
ISBN: 978-1-920411-58-9
Authors: Christine Searle and Barbara Mueller of The Gardening Blog
Cover design: Kristen Barrett of ScarlettDesign
Price: TBA

It is such a useful tool for any gardener who is serious about gardening! It is beautiful and compact and a must have!

We are going to make it available soon!