Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Indigenous Beauties : Helichrysum kraussii


Helichrysum kraussii
Straw Everlasting

Helichrysum kraussii is often found growing in colonies in grasslands. It loves a sunny spot, and doesn't need very much water to thrive.

It can grow up to 1 metre if left to its own devices, and does become woody at its base. The foliage is a wonderful downy grey, and releases a pungent aroma when touched - especially in warm weather. The flowers dry superbly.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Behind The Scenes - Raised Culinary Garden



I've just finished a raised herb and vegetable garden for a garden care client with a beautiful predominantly indigenous garden. We've been discussing the options for this area for a while - she wanted an area that she could grow some herbs and veggies.
The area planned for the vegetable garden was an area that hasn't been very successful as an ordinary garden bed. Sweet potatoes seemed to flourish though, so it seemed like the right spot.
We would both liked to have used a willow weave edging for the raised beds, but couldn't find a supplier that had stock and would be priced reasonably. We settled on log edging, as this would have a great rustic, yet neat look to it.



We moved the existing plants into pots, or other areas of the garden. The uprights were cemented into the ground and then the logs were cut to length, and placed in position. We used Bidim to keep the soil from leaking through any gaps between the poles. We kept the large Melaleuca tree in the corner, as it does a great job of softening the high wall behind.



I'm quite happy with the final result. My client wasted no time populating it with tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, coriander, beans, sage, lemon grass and some sweet peas for colour. This was a relatively simple solution to a problem flower bed, that took just 2 days from start to finish.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Hug Your Gardener...

In South Africa gardening as a vocation is something that is not esteemed highly enough and is generally done by people with little or no training.



Unfortunately the result of this, is that gardening as a skill is not valued. There is even a stigma associated with gardening as menial. This becomes a catch 22 in that little investment is made into development of skills, which results in a continuation of the mis-perception. This in turn means that people look for jobs in other industries with better financial benefits instead of making careers in gardening.

There are also an abundance of people with no real skills offering landscaping and garden maintenance services which is giving the industry as a whole a negative image. Often these businesses pay their staff a pittance, plant gardens that don't last, and have no idea how to look after and nurture a garden properly.

There is a definite need to change peoples perceptions about gardening as an industry. Landscaping is an art-form that should be the equal of the more traditional arts. And the skill of not only maintaining a garden but nurturing and guiding it into something of incredible beauty should be valued and respected.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Behind The Scenes

Recently, I went back to visit a garden that I completed about 9 months ago. This garden was a little tricky, in that it was a smallish garden with multiple uses. There were 3 main areas to the garden - a front garden with a pool and high walls, an old concrete driveway, and a grassy back garden with a patio area.


Before Photos

There were a couple of good points, that I felt we could use. There were some existing Eugenia hedges that would do a great job of breaking the height of the walls, but they were being cut too short to really make any impact. A medium-sized Leopard tree stood in the corner, which looked great, but possibly gave too much shade for the amount of traffic that the grass was subjected to. Also, there were some beautiful Icebergs growing around the edges of the grass.

The brief revolved mainly around updating the driveway, and improving the garden in general. The limiting factors were the need for parking and keeping an area for turning vehicles that come out of the garage.

I did some initial sketches with a couple of options to choose from, but my client was justifiably worried about losing too much space for parking and turning the cars. We settled on a comfortable balance between parking and aesthetics.

I kept the planting simple, using at the most 3-4 types of plants to an area, and removing the unwanted plants. I decided to keep the Eugenia hedge as a backdrop, with Duranta "Sheena's Gold" as a lower hedge in front, and then either Felicia, Agapanthus, or Plectranthus in the front.



We replaced the concrete on the driveway with Huguenot cobbles from Smartstone, and then planted Dietes grandiflora with Erigeron in between.

On the blank wall to the side, we attached wire to the wall and planted Trachelospermum (Star Jasmine) to climb up to form diamond shapes. This will make the wall seem less stark, and at the same time, spread the scent of Jasmine into the garden.




The triangle bed between the driveway and patio, was previously a blank grass area. This left the patio area exposed. We moved some of the roses from the shadier north part of the garden into this bed, and then planted Lavender at the back, with Erigeron in front. The wire that can be seen in front of the bed, was to keep Bella the boisterous rottweiler out of the new flower beds. It gives a minor shock when you touch it (I've tested it!). After a couple of times of being shocked, the animals stay out of the bed. At this point you can turn it off, and even remove it, and the animals still won't go back into the beds.

We installed an irrigation system throughout the garden. In the main grassy area, we used pop-ups. In the rest of the beds and along the driveway, because of their awkward shape, we used drip irrigation pipes. This would also keep evaporation to a minimum, and therefore save water. The drawback with these pipes seems to have been their tendency to come apart at the joins, unless the hose clamps are extremely tight.




Nearly a year after planting, I am very happy with the growth. Unfortunately, a caterpillar seems to have gotten into some of the Agapanthus, and eaten them. The hedges still need to fill out a bit, but are looking quite healthy. The drip pipe gives the odd bit of trouble, when the pressure is high. I'm looking forward to visiting this garden 2 years from now, when everything is more fully grown.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

How To Grow The Best Lawn Grass 4



Once you've prepared your earth, the next question to consider is - how do I begin growing/laying my grass? There are several methods to beginning a new lawn:
  1. Grass Sods (Instant Lawn)
  2. Plugs
  3. Seed

1. Instant Lawn

Laying instant turf is the quickest and easiest method to getting a brand new lawn.

Give the area to be planted a good soaking the day before. This will make sure that the sods don't get dried out by the soil that they are being planted on, but will still be dry enough to work on.

If there is going to be any delay between the grass being supplied to you and being planted, then its best to leave it in a cool place for the maximum of a day. Don't water the rolled up sods, as the absence of light/air and presence of water will begin the decomposition process.

Once you are ready for planting, lay a border of grass around the edges. This gives a neater overall look to your new lawn.
Then begin laying your grass in a direction parallel to where it will mainly be viewed from. This will look better in the short term until the grass knits together and the lines between the sods are less evident.
When you are finished, give the lawn a light roll, and a light sprinkling of water to help ensure that the turf has bonded with surface of your soil.

For the next 2 weeks, water the grass every day, giving it just a light sprinkling - it doesn't have deep roots yet, so too much water and it will drop below the roots and be wasted. Thereafter, water every 2-3 days depending on the weather.

Once the grass has established you can give it a light topdressing to even out any unevenness.

2. Plugs

Plugs are a good option when cost is an issue. The plugs can be planted as far apart as necessary. The ideal spacing is 15-20cm.

As for instant grass above, give the area a good soaking the day before. Start from the furthest point and work backwards. Stand on a plank to distribute your weight evenly and keep from compacting the soil. Use a dibber, or small pointy stick to make the holes in the ground.
Place the plug into the hole, making sure that there is no air pocket below the roots. Carefully press the soil down and towards the newly positioned plug to make sure that it is firmly in place.

When you are finished, you can give the surface a light roll, and a light sprinkling of water.

As for instant turf above, for the next 2 weeks, water the grass every day. Thereafter, water every 2-3 days depending on the weather.

Once the grass has established you can give it a light topdressing to even out any unevenness.



3. Seeds

Planting grass by seed can be the trickiest method, but the satisfaction of watching thousands of little seedlings germinating is sometimes worth it.

The main thing to keep in mind is the fragility of these baby plants in their first few days of life.
Seed suppliers will often give specific directions for planting. Their instructions should be followed as much as is possible.

For best results, spread the seeds evenly by hand for small areas or with a fertiliser spreader for larger areas.
Spread a very thin, fine layer of soil over the top, or give a careful light raking to allow the seeds to be covered by about 5-8mm of soil.

Water once a day, giving the seeds/grass a very fine sprinkling, until the grass reaches about 50mm in height.
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