11 January, 2013

First plant your trees

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

EDITED January 2014

Dozen for Diana 1

If you have been in your present garden for years, look back.  What you tried to plant, then you met that nice lady on the corner, with the beautiful garden ... Imagine a courtyard with a tree to sit under and a little wildlife pond. 
For Diana's Dozen my chosen plant is happy with our mediterranean climate, wet winter, and LONG HOT summer. I prefer indigenous/native South African fynbos. They must have something special, wild life friendly, flowers to pick, fragrance or interesting foliage.

My first Dozen was plants I loved, before I understood the Porterville garden.

Dozen for Diana 2009-2010


The second Dozen earned their place, good and happy in Porterville’s climate and soil.

Dozen for Diana 2012

Jurg, my Ungardener, has pencil and paper in hand as he sketches ideas for the new wildlife pond. The stepping stone path in place of the lawn gone. The water feature off the patio, to muffle the odd passing car, and the town close, not country far, neighbours. 

Olifantskop (elephant's head) from Paradise and Roses
with the Swiss flag flying

Plant trees when you move in, not hindsight we should have … While he does paint touch-ups, I am choosing the new plants. I have found nearby Good Hope Nursery online. Trawling for old favourites and forgotten memories growing in our Camps Bay garden.

Rest and be Thankful
across Ungardening Pond

Aragon enjoying the sunset

If we would have asked the estate agent to find us a lush green garden, protected from the prevailing Southeaster … That first impression, curb appeal - waving above the fence are lush green trees! Step thru the gate, and the wind is hushed. Two star jasmine grow either side of the patio. I'm torn between exploring the garden with a bank of ferns and two flourishing potted hydrangeas, and the house.

Searsia sp.

We saw so many gardens with a neglected unloved swathe of ‘lawn’. A grim – It’s greenish and we mow it! 

Witkaree and Olifantskop

The main focal point from the living room, off the patio where we’ll put our Adirondacks – looks at two elderly bottlebrush trees. We see trunks, with a few ratty bits of green on top. Also the immediate neighbour’s kitchen window. First off, I want to remove those trees. In their place I want indigenous, for the birds. We’ll miss that seamless view from our trees to ‘our’ mountain.

Searsia crenata at Plum Creek

My first choice is Searsia which we once knew as Rhus. A diverse group of shrubs and trees, with trifoliate leaves. The Anacardiaceae family – with mango, cashew, American sumac and poison ivy, South Africa’s marula and Harpephyllum which bears TINY mangoes, your Rhus and our Searsia. The most appealing is the bergkaree corky bark and a graceful arching willow habit. But the dune crow-berry Searsia/Rhus crenata will be a dense shrub, which has tiny leaves - a more filigree lacy effect - giving the little birds somewhere to shelter from our Chocolat. 

Searsia crenata detail

Said I wanted fruit for birds. Reading the Western i.e. dry edition, of Bring Nature back to Your Garden by Charles and Julia Botha, I look back to realise I first fell in love with the ‘Rhus family’ because it makes fruit for birds. After carefully reading that bit again, went out with the camera, and found fruit. Looks delectable, no? Sadly it is only the size of a lentil!

Searsia lancea fruit

First choice – bergkaree Searsia leptodictya – delicate lime green leaves. Fragrant when crushed. Graceful arching habit, like a willow tree. Corky bark. Rest at peace, against a tree which has grown strong enough, to be a shoulder to lean on. At one with the universe, accepting the gift of the present, that moment of joy, being in the here and now.

Searsia leptodictya

Second choice the witkaree  Searsia lancea, karee meaning Karoo - or mead in the Khoi language, as Native Americans in turn used sumac berries. This is very like the first tree, but it tends to grow enthusiastically UP. We were planning on using three trees at  Rest and Be Thankful to make a green and shady growing bower. A place to rest and enjoy the balm of shade on a hot sunny day, while looking out across the pond. ‘Cool water for a thirsty land’.

Searsia lancea

Searsia lucida is a vigorous shrub with glossy leaves, this claimed half of our Camps Bay garden.

Searsia lucida large shrub

Searsia refracta has softer crumpled leaves. Looks more like a fruit bearing bush.

Searsia refracta shrub

We always knew these plants with their trifoliate leaves as Rhus. But they have been moved to Searsia. The books and websites say this is still being sorted out. The South African plants hybridise freely, and the leaf shape of any ‘given species’ varies, making it difficult for me to identify all of these accurately. But the true Rhus will ultimately include the  American Sumac and poison ivy ...

(PS all photos taken in our Porterville garden)


~~0~~

First to join us is Alistair from snowy Aberdeen with his silver and gold hollies.
Second is Beth @ PlantPostings in Wisconsin with False rue anemone and its frilly leaves.
Third in we return to the Western Cape where My Cape Garden relishes her climbing Cape sweet pea.

Pictures by Jurg and Diana
text by Diana Studer
(also on Google Plus)
AKA Diana of Elephant's Eye (on False Bay)
- wildlife gardening in Porterville,
near Cape Town in South Africa

(If you mouse over teal blue text,
it turns seaweed red.
Those are my links.)

40 comments:

  1. Love the header -- just want to stroll along that beach! P. x

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    1. that - is his reason for moving to False Bay ;~)

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  2. I will direct my posts to this blog as I start my next 12. This year I will be focusing on herbs: culinary, medicinal, mostly natives and many are wildflowers. I have a current herb obsession and plan to make that my focus for the coming year as I fix one garden and plan another. It will meld the idea of natives, wildflowers and uses for plants. Loving the new blog and dream for your new garden!

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    1. I welcome your fresh Dozen of useful plants. Will you still call yours Simply the Best?

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  3. How fun to be planning your new garden virtually! I will join in as much as possible, Diana. Thanks for sharing your garden plans and inviting us to share ours.

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    1. I have time to pass, ideas to develop, and the weeks WHIZZ by. Do I see a second Dozen from your garden?

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    2. Hi Diana: Yes, I added my January "plant of the month" today. Thanks, again, for hosting! ~Beth

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  4. I was worried about missing the mountains, but now we've got the ocean so that's OK. So now Dozen for Diana becomes a reality for you, can't wait to see your new garden. This year I'm going to focus on one rather sad flower(less) bed, I promise to plant something new in it each month.

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    1. You will be the second to RL plant a garden bed for this meme. Christine at http://www.thegardeningblog.co.za/gardening/the-second-of-my-twelve/ chose her tree last February.

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  5. I'm in mourning for Elephant's Eye - such a good name for a blog and a familiar site to visit. I know you'll be leaving your original mountainous eye but . . . oh well, here you are so, of course . . . Best wishes for your new venture (blogwise, locationwise, gardenwise and domesticwise).

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    1. We are still here for now. I didn't want to leave already, but, life happens.

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  6. Your new home area looks wonderful, that beach......! I'll join you with a dozen for Diana; you'll need to remind me which day you usually do it. I'll get my thinking cap on straight away. Christina

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    1. Leave a link when your post is up, and you'll be the first on January's Dozen.

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  7. so beautiful, so exciting, love this, I will enjoy coming to visit often, its a treat to my bored with the snow eyes!

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  8. I like the idea that others are actually planting their chosen plants in real life. I might have to think about that myself as, even after 3 years, I'm still in the process of planting, building and growing my garden.

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    1. (a garden that is finished, is dead. I'm still planning with a critical 'Elephant's' eye)

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  9. You have been busy. Love the new site and that we can still access the old. I often search your site when I am looking at new plants for my garden. Can't wait to see what you choose for the new garden.

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  10. Diana, This is an exciting move -- trading the mountains for the sea (even if it's bittersweet and you don't quite feel ready to go yet). I'm adding the new blog to my Google reader. (BTW, I like your new photo and that you are publishing under your RL name and face :-)). Will you stay in Porterville until the house is sold? -Jean

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    1. no one will love this garden quite like we do - so yes, we stay here until it is sold.

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  11. Fabulous pics and very interesting........I have just started up my blog so please visit.

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    1. I would ... I always visit new commenters. But your blog is not on your G+ link.

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  12. I think the thing you'll miss most is the mountain view. This is going to be such an exciting time for you as far as gardening.

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  13. Just added EE at FB to my blogroll. I'm looking forward to more great posts.

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  14. Diana you are doing the reversal of us last year...we moved from the ocean to the mountains, and you will move to the ocean. Best of luck moving into your new house...how wonderful to have a new garden, although I know you will miss the old.

    Jen

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  15. Perth has a public garden that celebrates South African Plants... the climate here is conducive to growing many of the beautiful plants I grew up with on the East Rand. Love it.♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

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    1. then you might enjoy Jack's blog
      http://sequoiagardens.wordpress.com/
      from Hanenertsburg

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  16. I am excited to virtually experience the making of your new garden. So much to do! I admire your forward looking attitude. The beach sounds wonderful! No doubt all the wisdom and knowledge you gained from Elephants Eye will help to create an even better garden in your new home. Also, best wishes for your new blog!

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  17. It is so exciting to see you move to a new place and write your blog from there, Diana. What new adventures and experiences you have ahead of you. I look forward to reading more about it, and I hope to share in your Dozen for Diana now and then. A belated Happy New Year!

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  18. I would be useless at creating a proper garden because I like all the wrong things and would plant all the wrong things in my garden.

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  19. I am looking forward to see your new garden on False Bay grow. I just read your post of the construction and growth on your Elephant's Bay blog. Was nice to see it change over the years. But now you make a new start and I hope to follow you here. In our country we have a garden-stop, we have frost and snow and all my pots with bulbs are in the conservatory, where we just can sit between to enjoy the sun and the clearblue sky.

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  20. How very exciting, new house, new garden and new blog. This was to be my very first entry to the world of memes. Dozen for Diana. My plant for January. Holly Golden King. http://www.aberdeengardening.co.uk/diary/2013/01/19/holly-golden-king/.

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  21. I hadn't realised you were moving! I've no idea your reasons for doing so but whilst it is heart wrenching to leave a garden that you have developed so lovingly yourselves, it's also really exciting to start afresh with a new one. Good luck.

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  22. Diana, I have just reached you from Pams English Garden and seen the simplicity of A dozen for Diana which I will get around to soon duh!!.

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  23. It's always a bit melancholy to leave a garden behind, but always a joy to begin anew. It's nice that you have time to gather ideas and draw sketches of what is to be. We have always enjoyed sketching our Master Plan, then working our plan... and you are so right... the trees go in first. Then I give them healthy doses of fertilizer to help them to grow faster and faster because to me, trees are the soul of the landscape as well protection from the elements. BTW, my son and his wife are enjoying their trip to your beautiful country. Started at Capetown and on to Johannesburg and now further northeast. They've had a happy reunion with family who live there. We've had the pleasure of their little ones here. Enjoy your journey!

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  24. Hi Diana

    Have just made it to post the first of hopefully the full dozen. http://mycapegarden.blogspot.com/2013/01/cape-sweet-pea.html

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  25. When we moved into our house, we brought three small trees with us - a golden bay and two cordylines. We added an apple which we grew along the wall. I then planted fast growing things. The trees are now tall. The fast growing things took over so I took them out . . . And now I have trees and a mess. I'm back at a sort of new beginning, trees in place but having to re-decide what to grow beneath them. I wish I had the kind of imagination and fore-thought that you are putting into your prospective garden, Diana. I've always enjoyed hit and miss. At present, the 'miss' is winning!

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    1. I remember doing that. Why does the Grows Fast in a New Garden, turn in the blink of an eye to - Oh dear, I do wish I hadn't planted THAT!!

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  26. Had to pop over and see the new place Diana. Hope your virtual garden will become a reality real soon :)

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  27. What a beautiful garden, I love your blog the Elephant's Eye. So exquisite. Keep us updated on your wonderful gardening activity!

    -Samudaworth Tree Service

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