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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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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

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Dry bed vs water feature

New water featureIt looks like my dry river bed has become an instant water feature! It rained heavily the night before so the following morning the garden looked surprizingly clean and fresh and to my surprise I had an instant water feature. The frogs were going nuts and it made me smile! So it looks like the summer dry bed will be a winter water feature. I’m not complaining – and neither are the frogs! It was a suggestion in the designing phase to add a water feature here, but as I was trying to create a waterwise grass garden bed, I did not want to spend oodles of money on pumps and electricity and water and filters…. so my dry river bed was the ideal solution. And – hey! Presto! Nature brought me a water feature. I am so enjoying my new addition to my garden. It is such a hit with the neighbours! I do detect a bit of jealousy though! 🙂

Hope you have a great gardening week ahead!


[one_half_last]Water feature 2[/one_half_last]

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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]