20 March, 2017

Cape Town's drought and spekboom

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

As we count down the days to empty dams, Dozen for Diana in March is tough enough to survive elephants. Spekboom or porkbush. Portulacaria afra. The elephants are right, the tiny leaves are edible. Lemony flavour in salad.

Spekboom in Porterville

Completing my False Bay choice in Dozen for Diana

Water restrictions encourage us to use grey water in the garden. I miss the grey water system we installed in Porterville when we built the house.

Grey water system
November 2009 Porterville

The spekboom in this False Bay garden comes from cuttings of the Porterville plants. There summer temperatures reach 40C. In desperation we built a shade 'house' for our poor compost bins. Those spekboom reached about 3 metres high.

At the back spekboom hedge to shade compost bins
2013 Porterville 

Grey water harvesting. The Ungardener tweaked the drainpipe from the bath so we can leave the bathwater in overnight. The washing machine drains into basins (pictured is two loads, about 100 litres). We have a grey water sign in the window, as our neighbours mostly have borehole signs. In the distance smoke from a fire at Hout Bay.

Know Your Water (Thundafund) - 3 Stellenbosch students are currently circling the country taking samples from boreholes. Analysing tritium will tell them how old (in which year did it fall as rain) each underground sample is. Then we will know something about recharge rates for the offended borehole users who when challenged whine - but I'm a good guy, saving the drinking water in the dam!

Grey water in False Bay

Spekboom in the wild at Addo builds thickets dense and tall enough to hide herds of elephants. It is a good plant for carbon capture, able to grow in a challenging environment. Its fallen leaves build up better soil.

Elephants eating spekboom
Addo in March 2010

Hedgelet below the kitchen window prevents the Ungardener shortcutting off the steep side of the steps. Another screens the compost bin and our plastic watering cans for the four-legged grey water system.

Spekboom hedgelets

The fresh growth coming thru as we head into autumn coolth is a golden apple green. The older leaves a deep jade green, with hints of blue. For Pam @ Digging in Austin, Texas and Her Foliage Followup.

Portulacaria afra leaves
young and old

Our tallest spekboom hedge is this view from the kitchen window, which we watch as it makes its way up to the trellis. Bookended by granadilla and Senecio climber.

Spekboom from the kitchen

Spekboom hedge on the East Patio
with Septemberbossie left

On Facebook is Watershedding Western Cape. False Bay's tap water comes from Theewaterskloof dam which is down to 25% with the last 10% not accessible.

(I am too guilty to bath, unless extreme gardening leaves me creaking). We shower standing in a baby bath to catch the water. That supplies the toilet cistern (which we have also adjusted to use half the volume of water). I am disappointed that my Bosch washing machine only has a 15 minute programme to avoid the second rinse.

The city has a target aiming to reduce consumption from 800 to 700, but we stick at 750 Ml/d. Mains pressure is being reduced and we turned down the pressure to our house. Harvest rainwater; recycle used water, water catchment in landscape and NIMBY.

Marijke Honig designed the Biodiversity Garden at the Green Point Urban Park.

'Water-wise gardening - it is predicted that as a consequence of climate change, rainfall will be more erratic and less sharply seasonal. This summer in Cape Town seems to be a case in point: we received a big rainfall event in December and another downpour a month later – very unusual for January'

Despite the drought our garden got 39mm in December 2016 (2015 17mm, 2014 11?mm) and 17mm in January 2017 (2016 07mm, 2015 06mm). A rain water tank in our future??

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10 March, 2017

Zurich holiday - Lauterbrunnen, Biel and the Botanical Garden

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Zürich's colours are blue and white (on VBZ trams and buses) with their flags flying alongside the red and white Swiss cross. Our hotel was off Bahnhofstrasse, for our train from Frankfurt and our Swiss wish list shopping. First room was traffic noisy and a hot as hell attic. Moved down a floor to a balcony! Bowl of cherries for supper. Delighted to be in the home of London's Tibits parent Hiltl. We ate and ate.

Zürich lake, hotel
Jelmoli, station

We travelled on trains, boats and buses with our Swiss Travel Pass. The Gugelmann Museum we visited last time in Schönenwerd, the village where the Ungardener grew up. First of August is the Swiss National Day with flags everywhere! I admired the costumes as people headed to the Zürich parade. We celebrated last year with a fondue at dear friends (remembered in our glass Advent wreath)

Train, cheese fondue and Schönenwerd church

The waterfall reminds him of visiting his aunt at her Hotel Jungfrau for skiing holidays as a boy. Over Brünig Pass to Lauterbrunnen, on a gloomy day.

Wengneralpbahn, Staubbach Lauterbrunnen
Hotel Jungfrau now serving Chinese Food

Crossing from Swiss-German to French. In the lovely old town Solothurn - I found an English book in a free street library. Our boat passed the storks at Altreu, then crossed from Aare River to Lake Biel thru the lock.

Solothurn, storks in Altreu
Büren an der Aare, passing thru the lock

To Zürich Botanical Garden. We passed a crocodile of small children, visiting the garden, all talking English.

Zürich Botanischer Garten

The steps leading up into the garden, skilfully and invitingly planted. Real estate in Zürich is top dollar so the insect homes are upmarket with a spectrum of choices for Sir and Madam. It is only when distance lends enchantment to the view, that I learn to look at South African plants as gems. Port St Johns creeper (related to Jacaranda trees and lianas) is usually a jungly unkempt sprawling shrub - this standard is cherished and tucked away in winter.

Mediterranean plants, rest in winter cold and summer heat and drought, growing in spring and autumn gaps. Plant diversity is marginalised by agriculture (wheat, vineyards and timber plantations in South Africa)

Podranea ricasoliana
Insect homes in Zurich

Sensitive plant, Mimosa (pea family), I can't resist gently stroking the leaves, and watching them steadily fold shut! This protects the plant from being eaten by insects or dried out by wind. Aloe mcloughlinii is from Ethiopia at the other end of Africa. A teasel. Two mysteries (Brugmansia?) Beautiful but poisonous (Euphorbia family) castor oil plant.

Plants in the Zurich Botanical Garden

Plants that grow on a cliff face, challenged by a lack of soil, water, and support for their roots - lichen, moss and ferns ... or Ernst van Jaarsveld mountaineering for our succulents and bulbs. Inside the hothouse domes is a tropical jungle. Amazon water lilies. Rainbow leaves on Croton (which my mother battled to grow in our Southeaster)

Cliff and tropical plants.
Amazon lily and Croton

Nothing as blue as a gentian. Alpine plants need fierce colours to attract the rare pollinators that can endure the cold mountains.

Unusual gentian

It was only as we walked out, and I got close to the posters ... that I realised that each of those flowers and leaves were constructed as an intricate collage!

Detail of the poster for
the Gesneriaceae exhibition
(cannot find the artist to credit)

Gesneriaceae with 3000 species distributed across the Tropics, a few in Europe, and many across the Southern Hemisphere. The family includes our Streptocarpus. Your plantain, foxgloves, Penstemon, Hebe and Veronica. Mint. Now I know why African violets, become Usambara Veilchen in German, the Usambara Mountains are in Northeast Tanzania where these familiar windowsill plants are threatened endemics.

I invite you to join us at Elephant's Eye on False Bay. Please subscribe as you prefer
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Pictures by Jürg and Diana Studer
(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red.
Those are my links.
To read or leave comments, either click the word Comments below,
or click this post's title. If you are in email or a Reader, first click thru to the blog)