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Front garden activity

This has been such a busy weekend in the garden for me – no longer could I stand the disheveled look and the hanging, overgrown bushes. I had the energy and the will-power to get it right! With my boots and gloves on, I got out the lawn mower,  edge trimer, wheelbarrow, sheers and spade! The neighbour was thunderstruck! She could not believe that I did it all single-handedly! I even had time to fetch more apricot pips and a new (old) bench that was given to me by my best buddy! Thanks for the new addition to my front garden – it stands proudly and awaits friends to come and rest awhile!





I absolutely love it – it fits perfect into my style of garden. Thank you again and we both wait for your next visit!

The front garden is looking good – the one Leopard Tree had a burst of growth this summer – the other always seems to be 6 months behind!

[one_half]My Leopard Tree in the Grass feature[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Grass feature looking dried out![/one_half_last]

[one_half]Barrow of flowers managed through summer[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Grass mowed and edges cleaned[/one_half_last]

[one_third]Leopard Tree One[/one_third]

[one_third]Leopard Tree Two[/one_third]

[one_third_last]New Bench[/one_third_last]

I am exhausted but pleased with the clean up! Now I need to feed the garden. I have placed an order for Neutrog (organic fertilizer). I have found it the best and gives my garden a burst of new vooma! Can’t wait!

Happy gardening xxx

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Painting the pond

About two weeks ago we had a minor episode with electrical boards tripping and the problem was traced to the pond. Our wonderful friend and electrician Gavin was here in minutes and pronounced the wiring to the pond had deteriorated so badly it needed to be rewired. This required draining the pond so I decided it was an opportune time to repaint the interior of the pond which has been annoying me for quite some time as it was looking much worse for wear. (You can see how awful it looked before in this post — click on the panorama links).

In the process, we discovered one of my fish has two different colour eyes. Isn’t he cute? (He, she?)

Special Gold fish

It’s been a two-week process of draining the pond, creating a temporary home for the fish, getting the electrical works repaired and then painting the interior and refilling and adding the plants. A special non-toxic paint had to be used and then left to dry for four days before the pond could be refilled. This was complicated by rain … it’s all been quite eventful.

Most eventful was my choice of paint. I had a choice of black (which we had before) or blue. Well anyone who knows me well will know I would choose the blue. Its my absolute favourite colour and I felt like a change from the black. But oh my goodness, it really is very very blue. Fortunately, once we put the baths / fountains back into the pond and had filled it with water it wasn’t as “in your face blue” as it was whilst it was drying.

My fish were homed in temporary basins and I’m thrilled that all survived and seem very happy in their freshly cleaned and filled home. Its been two days and all the fish are still doing well and I’m happy to have most things back in place. Now I still need to re-pot and clean up all the plants and we’ve added a filter that still needs to be connected properly and there is lots of cleaning up to do.

Here are some photos of the pond repainting and one of the fish that has two different colour eyes.

[one_half]Waiting for paint to dry …Waiting for paint to dry ...[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Not sure about my choice. It’s very very blueIt's very very blue, no?[/one_half_last]

[one_half]temporary home for the plantsTemporarty home for the plants[/one_half]

[one_half_last]And a temporary home for the fishAnd a temporary home for the fish[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Reintroducing the fish slowlyReintroducing the fish slowly[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Getting acclimatised to the new water hereGetting aclimatised to the new water[/one_half_last]

[one_half]A few plants added for the fishA few plants added for the fish[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Newly settled, lots still to doNewly settled, lots still to do[/one_half_last]

Some holes on the side need filling, plastering and painting and unfortunately I could not find the right size and type of trellises I want to add to the wall behind the pond, so that has not been done yet. I might have to get them specially made as the size needs to be just right. I also want to get a few new plants for the pond – that is on the agenda as soon as we have nice weather again.

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Surprises in the pond

At the end of February I wrote about my plans for giving my pond a bit of a make-over. I got as far as adding a few new plants to the pond and then … well Autumn came, it got cold, with that my enthusiasm waned somewhat and I decided to wait for Spring before I continue. But the plants have started to grow …

Pond Update

[one_half]Some of the new pond plantsPond plants[/one_half]

[one_half_last]My favourite, the Cyperus PapyrusMy favourite[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Cyperus Papyrus reflected on AlocasiaCyperus Papyrus reflected on Alocasia[/one_half]

[one_half_last]The Cannas are growing fast …The Cannas are growing fast ...[/one_half_last]

[one_half]This has trebled in size alreadyThis has trebled in size already[/one_half]

[one_half_last]The bubbling water featuresThe bubbling water features[/one_half_last]

So waiting for Spring was not on Mother Nature’s agenda as far as my pond goes. For the first time in nearly five years, my three little goldfish have multiplied … they must be enjoying all the extra greenery in the pond. And it looks like all the babies are going to make it. They’re growing larger by the day, becoming very confident and darting around and putting on a show for me instead of hiding under rocks when I approach. Such fun to watch! I’ve counted about 9 new ones so far. I will try to get some photographs of them soon.

I added a few Waterblommetjies (Aponogeton distachyos) bulbs to the pond in May. Also known as ‘Cape Pond Weed’, for those of you that are unfamiliar with this South African native, I’ve added some notes and a link below. These bulbs were the easiest thing to plant ever … just throw the bulbs in the pond and wait about two weeks and …

Ta Da! The first Waterblommetjie gets a flower


[one_half]The little plant after 2 weeksThe little plant after 2 weeks[/one_half]

[one_half_last]A closer view of the bulbA closer view of the bulb[/one_half_last]

[one_half]The first Waterblommetjie flowerThe first Waterblommetjie flower[/one_half]

[one_half_last]The flower opens more on day twoThe flower opens more on day two[/one_half_last]

So I realise they are not as showy or magnificent as Lotus Blossoms or Water Lilies, but here in my pond, they GROW!

Waterblommetjies (Aponogeton distachyos) – The long, oval shaped leaves float on the water, but it is usually the flowers standing up out of the water above the leaves, that attract attention. Waterblommetjies flower in profusion during winter and spring. Large areas of water in the western, southern and eastern Cape are covered with their sweetly scented, white flowers. The flower is interesting in that it is really a forked inflorescence bearing tiny, white, one-petalled flowers with brown anthers. The flowers are also the edible part. Bees are very attracted to the flowers and may be one of the main pollinators.  Aponogeton distachyos occurs naturally in the winter rainfall areas of the Cape. It is adapted to growing in ponds and vleis which dry up in summer. The dormant tubers sprout again as soon as the pools fill in autumn. (Information courtesy of PlatzAfrika).

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A few new plants for the pond

I’ve been trying to source some good plants for my pond. All my “pond research” has taught me, that my pond needs a lot more plants than I currently have in order to get the correct balance in the pond to prevent algae from taking over. The few existing plants urgently need re-potting – something that’s never be done in four years (blushing in embarrassment here). Poor things have been living in the same cramped baggies for the last four years – and it shows. Neglected, sad plants. Hopefully I can save a few of them. The Yellow flag irises were a gift about a year ago, and I potted them up at the time. Those are growing beautifully – perhaps too beautifully as they are getting crowded in their pots.

Armed with a shopping list of things I need to get in order to get this task done I discovered that pond gardening is not as commercially popular as I thought. Getting together everything on the list is impossible. Although I finally managed to uncover a few large aquatic baskets (I cannot stand the black bags in my pond), I was told that there is such a small demand for them that they don’t bother importing a large selection or even very many. Aquatic plant fertiliser can’t be found at all and so I am looking for a specialist aquatic nursery … I’ve found one, but it’s an hours drive away (an and hour back). *Sigh*.

So imagine my joy when I found a  small selection of the above-mentioned Aquatics Nurseries plants at the local nursery this past weekend. And the plants are lovely! In fine condition and although it is only a small selection, they were of plants I wasn’t expecting to find. What’s more, the plants are already potted and ready to put into the pond. Now I know it might actually be worth taking an afternoon off to visit that nursery out in Somerset West.

I also found a few Canna Lillies – the label says “Canna assorted” (that’s annoying – I like to know exactly what I am buying!), but I bought them anyway. At this stage I am buying plants and keeping them to one side. I plan to plant up two containers with a mix of plants that have been suggested to me by experienced gardeners. The Cannas and Alocasia/Colocasia are intended for this purpose.

New pond plants and grasses

[one_half]A new water lilyA new water lily[/one_half]

[one_half_last]A lovely Cyperus papyrusA lovely Cyperus paptrus[/one_half_last]

[one_third]My latest nursery haulMy latest nursery haul[/one_third]

[one_third]Leaf of the “Canna assorted”Leaf of the "Canna assorted"[/one_third]

[one_third_last]I really love this! Very whimsicalI really love this! Very whimsical[/one_third_last]

[one_third]Nice bountyNice bounty[/one_third]

[one_third]Berula erecta (water parsnip)Something new[/one_third]

[one_third_last]The new water lilyThe water lily[/one_third_last]

[one_half]Alocasia “Black Magic” and Colocasia esculentesAlocasia "Black Magic" and Colocasia esculentes[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Aren’t they stunning?Aren't they stunning?[/one_half_last]

[one_third]New growth on the ColocasiaNew growth on the Colocasia[/one_third]

[one_third]An old repotted water lilyAn old repotted water lily[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Big beautiful water lily leafBig beautiful water lily leaf[/one_third_last]

As with my back garden I’m finding out that my “little pond” actually needs a lot more plants than I realised.

Happy gardening


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The Problem with the Thatching Reed

We continue with the Big Pond Makeover – or “Project Pond“. The problem I’m focussing on in this post, is the “flop” of the Chondropetalum tectorum (Cape Thatching Reed) planted in the bed on the left of the pond. On each side of the pond is a planting bed. Landscapers told me whatever I plant in the one I need to mirror in the other – and I agree. But it is tricky, as the bed on the left of the pond is quite shaded and the one on the right is mostly full(ish) sun. So getting the same plant to thrive on either side is proving a challenge two landscapers have not succeeded at. Which makes me nervous. If the professionals can’t get it right, how will I?

It’s gorgeous on the right. I love these three plants – they are stunning and I would have loved it to work on both sides. But sadly, it is not. Let me show you what I mean …

In the first photo you see the Alleyway with the pond/water feature to the left and the Cape Thatching Reed growing tall and strong just beside it – the second photo is a closer shot. See how great that plant is? The tall strappy reed that looks fabulous, is water wise and trouble-free indigenous plant. I love it and the way it looks.

And then, the third photo shows what a flop it is in the bed on the other side of the pond.

[one_third]Love them next to the pondI love the Restios here, LOVE[/one_third]

[one_third]Beautiful, strong and tall.Beautiful, strong and tall.[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Here it all goes wrongAnd then here it is all wrong[/one_third_last]

Here are a few photographs with more detail of whats happening with those plants. On the right of the pond you see the Chondropetalum tectorum grows beautifully in a mostly sunny position (even here, the very large one gets the most sun). And then you see in the last two photos how poorly it does when it does not get adequate sunlight.

[one_half]Successful planting on the RIGHTSuccessful planting on the RIGHT[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Taken from the other angleTaken from the other angle[/one_half_last]

[one_half]UNsuccessful planting on LEFTUNsuccessful planting on LEFT[/one_half]

[one_half_last]They really need way more sun …They want the sun ...[/one_half_last]

I’m at a loss. First prize would be of course to get the plants on the left to perform. I can remove any more from the tree causing the shade – it is already looking a bit lop-sided, so that’s not an option. So what else can I do? Replant? It will be very sad to lose or remove the three gorgeous ones on the right.

So if I was to plant something different, what could work? I’m considering Panicum virgatum – any type I can find. They are not easy to come by here in the Cape it seems. I’ve never seen one at a regular nursery. What a shame, they are so amazingly beautiful and easy to grow. Miscanthus perhaps? Also not readily available. I’m still researching plants and will of course be very grateful if anyone has a winning suggestion for me!

Next in the series of Project Pond comes the first attempt at cleaning up. Does it work or fail? Does my pond guy get to keep increasing his rate whenever he feels like it? We shall soon see … 🙂

Happy Gardening

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The Big PRE-Makeover Pond Post

I keep repeating myself on this – my pond / water feature kinda sucks! Seeing to it and making it more attractive is one of the things on my 2012 Gardening To-Do List and up to now I’ve been thinking and doing a bit of pond research. So far, Project Pond has started slowly with the adding of some oxygenator plants to the pond, I’ve germinated some Lotus Blossom from seed (new flowering plants for the pond), I’ve been “window shopping” a bit for other plants and taken a few “before” photographs. Which is the point of todays’ post – the big “Pre” reveal of my slightly grotty pond /water feature, my current ideas of what I might do with it and then a call for opinions, advice and suggestions 🙂

Some background info about the pond. It came with the house. It came with four goldfish, we now have three. It has a few random, not very well cared for plants in it (yes I’m guilty as charged). I’m not loving the pond. At all. which is why I think I ignore it. Although it is right opposite the big double door to my office and I hear the water tinkling in it all day, I rarely look at it which seems a pity, so I need to make it look lovely and more of a feature. Look … when I sit at my desk and turn my head slightly to the left, this is what I see. Here, Hercules has taken over again, sitting on my keyboard and faces the pond …

Hercules looking at the pond from my desk

The pond is in the Alley on the left hand side of the house. (One of these days I will draw a map of the property!). It’s a long Alley that starts as a well shaded area and changes to lots of sun and heat (from the boundary wall) and then shaded again further down. On each side of the pond is a planting bed. The landscapers told me whatever I planted in the one I needed to mirror in the other and I agree. That is one of the things I need to work on to improve the overall look of the pond area… but more about those two beds in my next pond update.

Then the pond itself … there is nothing actually wrong with it, it’s just not very inspiring. I don’t ever look at it and say “Wow! that’s lovely”. Isn’t that what one should feel? As I said, the plants in it have been neglected so we will get that sorted in the next weeks as soon as the weather is slightly cooler. Then what? I really don’t know what more to do or to plant to make it all better. But I do have a few ideas which I will share.

Lets look at the photos and see if I can show what I am talking about.


I am showing two panoramas of the Alley – it was difficult to do a good panorama because the alley is narrow and long. If you click the images below you will see the full view – these are cropped versions:

Alley Way Panorama

Alley Way Pano

Some normal photographs of the alley and pond

[one_half]Pond and Alley view taken from the frontPond and Alley view[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Pond and Alley view taken from the other sidePond and Alley view taken from the other side[/one_half_last]

[one_third]Alley Way seen from the frontThe Alley Way as seen from the front garden[/one_third]

[one_third]Closer view of pondCloser view of pond and GOOD Restios[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Alley as seen from the backThe Alley as seen from the other end[/one_third_last]

Project Pond is not a one day project. There are a few things I want to do to improve it. So far these are the steps I have set myself to do:

Project Pond To Do List

  • Tackle the beds on either side of the water feature to get the planting right.
  • Repot into larger pots and fresh medium all the plants that are currently in the pond.
  • Clean up the pond. Seriously.
  • Decide whether the pond needs more plants – if yes, try to buy. (Japanese Irises which I love are apparently rarely available).
  • Decide whether to paint or mosaic the inner which is currently painted black and looking a bit worse for wear. Leave it and enjoy the “oldness” or renew? I need to decide.
  • Find a way to incorporate more plant material into this space, perhaps a trellis or two above the 3 bird baths? I can picture Star Jasmine making a beautiful wall covering here, the scent filling the evening air in spring. I’m very tempted. But how?

I have a lot of decisions to make about this area and being nervous about messing it up and slightly daunted by the task means I’ve had all these things on my “To Do” list for nearly two years. I’m hoping that breaking it down into these bite-sized individual tasks means I might actually get something done. And I feel a bit more committed to doing it all now that I’ve written about it!

Here are a few more visuals and ideas I have …

[one_half]The birds love the three bird bathsThe birds love the three bird baths[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Starlings are here every dayStarlings are here every day[/one_half_last]

[one_half]One of my goldfish in the pondOne of my goldfish in the pond[/one_half]

[one_half_last]I am considering blue mosaic for the insideI am considering blue mosaic for the inside[/one_half_last]

The birds and fishy are just to show you why I want to keep the water feature going and not just fill it with soil and plants.

Tomorrow I will show you the plant beds on either side of the pond and why they are not working (see post here).

Happy Gardening

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Growing Lotus Blossom from Seed

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to start working on the plants in my pond. I read up a bit about plants for ponds, what works, what doesn’t. First thing I learnt is that Water Lilies don’t do very well in a pond with moving water. Ok, that explains a lot. The ones I inherited with the pond have never done well. I’ve had one bloom in 3 years.

I can’t do too much to the pond whilst it is still really hot here, so I will tackle the whole “pond planting” improvement probably in April.  But there are a few things I am able to do straight away including adding the Oxygenators to the pond and getting some Lotus Blossom seeds going. I ordered some Lotus Blossom (Nelumbo nucifera) seeds online and started to read up about how to get them to germinate. You can’t just throw them in water …

The Vision … a pond full of these

Lotus Blossom

To get the seeds to germinate you first need to prepare the seeds for germination (good thing I read up about this or I would have thought the seeds were rubbish when they didn’t germinate). “The inherent characteristic of the Nelumbo seed is to remain dormant for many years even if the environment is perfect for them. This resistance to germination is caused by the seedcoat which is almost impermeable to water penetration. The secret for speeding up the germination process is to remove this protective cover without harming the internal seed”.

So the trick is to pierce the seed without damaging the inner core, and this is best done using a metal file or sandpaper. This process is very well documented on this web page: Nelumbo (Lotus) Germination & Seedling Growth by Walter Pagels – whose instructions I followed to the tee. Two of the three seeds I started with are now almost ready for planting! (I kept 5 seeds in reserve – apparantly each seed will grow very large – even a single Lotus seedling is enough to fill a normal backyard pond in a year).

I filed my three seeds very carefully and put them in a glass jar with water. Within three days the first one germinated, the second followed about two days later. During this time I had to keep changing the water as it got very murky (the cloudy color is caused by bacteria feeding on the exudation from the seed). Once the first shoot and roots started to appear the water stayed clear and I put each of the two viable seedlings into its own glass jar. They have now been growing for two and a half weeks and are looking pretty good. As soon as the three leaves have formed they need to be potted up.

[one_half]The seedlings in their jarsThe seedlings in their jars[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Showing the size of the swollen seedShowing the size of the swollen seed[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Full sized single seedlingFull sized single seedling[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Almost ready for plantingAlmost ready for planting[/one_half_last]

I found Walter Pagels‘ trial and documentation incredibly easy to follow and interesting to read. It felt like I was doing a school science project and was quite fun following his notes and watching my seedlings develop exactly as he said they would. (That doesn’t always happen for me! I’m not good with seeds). I’m looking forward to potting them and then getting them into my pond. With a bit of luck they should flower at the end of the year.

Notes about the Lotus Blossom (Nelumbo nucifera)

Nelumbo nucifera is a perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 1 m (3ft 3in). Flowering for only 2 months of the year according to what I have read, it should flower in high summer here. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects and beetles. The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and it cannot grow in the shade.


Nelumbo (Lotus) Germination & Seedling Growth by Walter Pagels – In 2001, water gardening legend Walter Pagels, San Diego, California, offered Nelumbo seed from his personal collection to members of the IWGS email discussion list who were interested in participating in a germination experiment. The following is the journal/newsletter that Walter provided as the experiment progressed. It also contains excellent descriptions of and tips on germination of seeds and early growth of seedlings.

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Oxygenators for the pond

One of the things on my “List of Things to Do in 2012” is to sort out my pond / water feature. That was pushed to the top of the list when my pond guy upped his rate by another 30% (30% every year for the last three years) which means he is now very expensive for the twenty minutes it takes him to clean the pond. I haven’t fired him yet because I like him, but it’s very extravagant. So I’m now learning to take care of the pond myself.

The first thing I did was do a bit of research and one of the first websites I got info from via a google search was from Pam at Diggings in her post entitled “How to make a stock tank pond“. It’s an extremely informative post where I learnt this: “You’ll want to choose at least three types of plants for your new pond: oxygenators (submerged plants), marginals (water’s edge plants), and deep-water aquatics (plants that sit on the bottom and have leaves on the surface, like water lilies). Water lilies may be sexy, but the hard-working oxygenators are very important in maintaining a natural balance in the water, keeping algae at bay, and producing oxygen for fish“.

So there was my “Aha!” moment. There are NO oxygenators in my pond! Not a one. You’d think that the pond maintenance guy would (or should) tell me that? Perhaps? Seeing as he was tasked with the original planting in the pond 3 years ago? Obviously not.

So I’ve been looking for oxygenators at the local nurseries and at last I found some in the Aquarium supplies section. I purchased ten, brought them home and planted them – Best planting experience ever! Just throw in the pond. Finis.

Oxygenator in the baggie …

Oxygenator plant getting “planted” …
Oxygenator getting planted

And now we wait to see how it works on this …
Algae in the pond

Happy Gardening