26 October, 2016

October in our False Bay garden

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Why do I garden? Half for a view from the window, a place to sit with tea and a good book. Half for biodiversity. 'Build it and they will come' If the leaves aren't nibbled, they aren't earning a place in my garden. I move caterpillars from the potted lime to the large lemon tree, leave snails for the hadeda ibis, plant nectar for sunbirds.

Pink Oxalis found in a False Bay pot then spread as a border

Our watering system is four legged. As Cape Town's level 3 water restrictions take force we will need to rethink grey water use here. I only water, new plants thru the first few summers till they are established, and pots. Choose summer dry mediterranean plants - with a few cherished exceptions that are worth the life support of watering.

Senecio, jasmine and granadilla
climbing up to the trellis

Lemon is fed monthly then watered for thanks. No poison ever. No chemical fertilisers, only Talborne certified organic.

Right plant right place. Such an enviable huge diversity from our fynbos. One of the world's six plant kingdoms tucked in our South Western Cape. Tokai's pine plantation is being rehabilitated for the endangered remnant of Cape Flats Sand Fynbos.

Californian poppies
from ivory to russet
thanks to a previous gardener

Our own pelargoniums or California's poppies give vibrant colour. My only deciduous choices are Japanese maple and Prunus nigra - both chosen for their dark leaves. An inherited fiddlewood turns orange now as a herald of summer. Choose some interesting texture, scale or colour to provide permanent focal interest. Grey fountains of Dusty Miller with lamb's ears. Deep purple and variegated white sparkle Cornish Stripe. Still looking for something golden that appeals quietly.

Grey, white, russet and orange leaves.
Rembering not to confuse INedible Plectranthus with potted mint

Always learning, especially from USA gardeners who are trained to climate zones and clearly aware when they are in climate zone denial. Sad brown lawns are blinkered zone denial. Fierce green lawns, despite water restrictions, appal me.

Senecio, Hibiscus
Bulbine, Hypoxis

Rain gardening. Porous hard 'scaping so winter rain can soak in to good purpose instead of flooding 'away' as storm water. In Porterville we had swales to retain winter downpours once the 2 rain tanks were full.

Purples in Cornish Stripe, the camera finds a gap beneath the lemon tree
Summer Gold is a bit confused, Spring Promise with Dusty Miller

Listen to your garden. Learn to love the plants that are happy there and spread them around. Repetition makes for a soothing and harmonious garden.

Pelargonium, Gilia, Oxford and Cambridge
Mackaya. Felicia, Scabiosa
Iceberg rose, Plectranthus, Mexican sage

Weed mindfully, looking for seedling volunteers of happy choices. What are the serious problem Weeds in your garden, the invasive aliens? My saplings from the neighbour's Australian brush cherry. The over exuberant that need thinning, bietou and Coprosma.

Mindful weeding
From such a bietou seedling
a screening shrub
was planted a year ago!

If it doesn't WANT to grow in your space - zone denial - either wimp out with a pot option - or embrace a happier choice. We are so privileged to have wild nature to inspire our gardens in South Africa! Sort out your microclimates and make good use of shady corners - ferns, Mackaya, peppermint pelargonium, even roses. Sun all day exposed to the Southeaster out front suits the poppies and muishondblaar with bietou bushes.

Maltese Cross, Lavender Star
Pelargonium, poppy (also inherited)

Plant those trees. It is impressive how much they can grow in just two years here.
Enjoy cutting flowers. Mine are often harvested from pruning paths free, from rescuing fragile flowers that have been smothered by thugs. Take cuttings and concentrate on planting in March, April and May when our weather turns to autumn coolth and rain.

Halleria was planted in December 2014
Psychotria planted in the shade June 2015

For Gail at Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday. South Africans with foreign poppies, Hibiscus, Gilia, Iceberg rose, Mexican sage and Maltese cross.
And for Through the Garden Gate @ Down by the Sea

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Pictures by Diana Studer
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  1. Wise words Diana. It does make a lot of sense to stick to the plants that really want to thrive. And saves an inordinate amount of time. I am buying more shrubs these days. They do better in my shady garden, are less likely to be destroyed by pests and need little effort to maintain. Win, win, win.

    1. and when a shrub bursts into bloom!

  2. I agree on every point, Diana. Your garden is beautiful and, with your stewardship, I know it will remain so throughout this new round of water restrictions. I can emphasize entirely with that challenge. Although our own restrictions were reduced recently, tighter controls will almost certainly be imposed again soon, especially if the forecasts regarding our winter rain levels prove accurate.

    1. and in other news, a burst water main means we currently have NO water!

  3. The vagaries of changing weather patterns make it increasingly challenging but, Yes...right plant, right place is a motto to live by. Your photos are proof that it can be done without sacrificing beauty and diversity.

  4. Yes, in times of drought I learnt to treasure anything that survived a hot summer. Plants with grey foliage is not only tough, but cool and pleasant in the garden in summer.

    1. but the Lamb's Ears is deceptive. In Porterville our neighbour had sheep ... but my plant shrizzled away, it needs a little afternoon shade and is now flourishing.

  5. Such a wealth of material in your region! Ours is amazingly rich also (the Sonoran Desert has the largest number of species among the North American deserts), but much of it has not yet been brought into cultivation, making it more difficult to bring into the garden. And there are the surprises - drought-tolerant tropicals vs. sun-sensitive cacti, and so on. It means a lot of trial and error, but much learning too...

    1. I also learnt from the Karoo garden in Worcester (drier but with its rain in winter like us) that the little succulents prefer to grow tucked in the shade of the bigger ones.

  6. Hi Diana, I love what you said about wanting the leaves to be munched on. Our gardens are not just for humans to enjoy! Our water situation is not as dire as yours, but we do need to be careful.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I do love the Illinois bundleflowers.

    1. I owe the munched leaves concept to another garden blogger, but who was it?

  7. Very good advice. And these words wring true: "Listen to your garden. Learn to love the plants that are happy there and spread them around."

  8. Very wise words Diana,we have followed these principles ever since we started gardening 50 odd years ago. The only watering gets done from water butts, these never run out with all the rain we have!

    1. I had to carefully ration our rain water in Porterville. It would tide us over the beginning of summer, but then we would have to fall back on grey water.

  9. Listen to your garden, I like that. In fact we did just that in Aberdeen, we finally mastered it after forty years, (to a certain extent) Just getting to grips with plant growth here in Cheshire where more rain, a bit warmer and plants outgrow there allotted space in no time at all. Well of course its back to Scotland for us very soon, not quite so far North as Aberdeen, but its an area with more sunshine and less rain than Cheshire, a bit cooler though.
    As for weeds, (bindweed) has been hard to keep under control these last three years.

    1. I'm going to enjoy watching your third garden develop.

  10. I fully agree with you Diana.

  11. Your October garden is lush and full of color. Obviously, you have a lot of right plants planted in right places. Hard to believe this is a garden with level three water restrictions. Because of our drought we are using a lot of gray water on our garden, though we fortunately have good water reserves in our city and have not yet been hit with mandatory water restrictions.

    1. Our garden is still at the kind stage, with winter rain behind us. Not enough to fill the dams, but the garden is OK now.

  12. Those are such good tips for gardening.I share your views on gardening even if I do occasionally get enticed by a plant that may not have the right conditions! We do have problems with wood sorrel, it is so hard to remove. Thank you for joining me again this month, it is always such a pleasure to see your garden. Sarah x

  13. I moan about problems in my garden but it sounds like I have it very easy compared to you. I agree with repeating plants that work well. We have the same plants in quite a few places. We do use a lot of pots but find they are great for filling bare spaces in the garden as they are easily moved about. Barbara

    1. What I miss here is an out of sight corner for the pots of bulbs that are ... resting.

  14. Excellent reasons for gardening, Diana. Your October garden is amazing. P. x