Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

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.

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

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


Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

Autumn Bird-capades

My garden is a hive of bird activity at the moment. The Starlings are loving the berries on the massive Willow-like Shinus that stands in the front garden and at any given time during the day there seem to be about thirty to forty of them there at a time, eating the red berries and swooping down to my pond for a drink from the bird baths and a swim. They chatter non-stop and we love hearing their continuous chirping as we work. (The Pepper and Pond are directly outside the office).

But it can also be quite distracting. I’ve shown the location of the pond with the bird baths before in this post. If I turn my head 45 degrees to the left I see two of the three baths and the starlings have been taking turns playing and drinking here for the last few days. At any given time there are at least two birds on each bath with a few others on the ledges or darting back up into the tree to grab a few more of the red berries they seem to love.

A short, 35 second video of the Starlings this afternoon:

And a couple of shots of the Starlings …

[one_half]Starling on the Pond ledgeStarlings at the Pond[/one_half]

[one_half_last]At the bird bathAt the bird bath[/one_half_last]

[one_half]The berries they loveThe berries they love[/one_half]

[one_half_last]More fun at the bathsMore fun at the baths[/one_half_last]

[one_half]In the massive Pepper treeIn the massive Pepper tree[/one_half]

[one_half_last]With the favoured red berriesWith the favoured red berries[/one_half_last]

And in other Birdie News …

[one_half]Cape Bulbul (Pycnonotus capensis).Cape Bulbul (Pycnonotus capensis)[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Even the big birds drink hereEven the bigger birds drink here[/one_half_last]

[one_half]My favourite, the SunbirdMy favourite, the Sunbird[/one_half]

[one_half_last]And two little WitoogiesAnd two little Witoogies[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Coming in to land …Coming in to land ...[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Cute little witoogie (white-eye)Cute little witoogie (white-eye)[/one_half_last]

Those are my Autum Bird-capades! The Starlings have taken over the front garden and in exchange for their delightful company all day, they leave quite a mess behind!

Birds in other Gardens …

I’ve been enjoying all the birds I’ve been seeing on other gardening blogs lately too. Some of my favourite “Bird” posts include …

Bird Rescue Board from It’s Not Work, It’s Gardening; The Niagra Falls Garden Magazine from Garden Walk, Garden Talk; Brush Piles are for the Birds by The Sage Butterfly; The Malachite Sunbird Babies by Barbie of The Gardening Blog; BlogSpot for the Birds by Elephant’s Eye; Hawkweed for Weavers at Beautiful Wildlife Gardens; Sweet little birds, outside my window by This Grandmothers Garden; Bird Counting by Gardens Eye View; A Bit of Bird Watching by A Rose is A Rose; The Bluejays by Crafty Gardener; Time to count Birds by Pam’s English Cottage Garden; We Have Owls! by The Whimsical Gardener, What a Hoot! by Las Aventuras … and there really are at least a hundred more.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve shared your birds on your blog and leave a link to your post! Would love to share your birds …

Happy Gardening

[note_box]PS: Please join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter – we’ll be so happy if you do![/note_box]

Christine's garden Do it yourself Gardening Home page features

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

Christine's garden Do it yourself Gardening Home page features

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

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

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

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

Water Hyacinth

I’m on a mission to get my pond sorted out this year. As you know, we inherited the fish pond when we bought the house – it had four gold fish and one Koi in it – no plants whatsoever and it’s not a great looking pond. There were hedges growing on either side of the pond that were so overgrown they were sort of growing into the pond and all in all – it was not my favourite thing in the garden. But I love the sound of the water trickling – the ponds is situated right outside my office – if I turn around I see it through my glass doors – in summer the doors are always open while I’m working and I hear the water trickling all day whilst I work. Its lovely – and this year I plan to make it beautiful.

The first think I did three years ago was to got a few pond plants. I got them from a guy who comes once a month tohelp me clean the pond. I never asked what they were and I still have no idea, but a few weeks back when I was at Ferndale (yes, again!), I found some water hyacinths. I bought two. They have a pond full of them and I actually had no idea what I was buying, they were not flowering, just green and looked attractive so I bought them.  When I was there last week I walked past the pond and saw two of their Hyacinths in flower! They are really pretty flowers and now I am hoping mine will flower too. The flowers are upright, pale blue, as in this photograph. How lovely if I had flowers floating around in my pond …

A good friend of mine gave me Irises from the pond in his garden which I am busy potting and adding to my pond (I LOVE Irises) and Im busy re-potting the plants I have in there into fresh/bigger containers. I’ve been researching how to lay mosaic tiling … at the moment its just plain cement and the sides are blackened which looks very unattractive – so I want to lay blue mosaic tiles on the inside of the pond. So far I’ve researched and measured … thats as far as I’ve got. The research and planning continues … but first to sort out all the plants.

[one_half]Water Hyacinth[/one_half]