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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Top 6 Aliens To Watch Out For

You didn't expect to see little green men did you? This is a blog about Landscape Design - albeit from a South African perspective...but still...

I've recently joined Sprig as a guest blogger, and have written a post about an extremely important subject for us here in South Africa - Alien Invasive Plants. You may have noticed a few posts about the subject here before. I wrote about the efforts to control them through biological agents, and the differences between exotic and alien plants

Its important to be able to recognise them, so that you can eradicate them as quickly as possible. So here are some pictures of the most dangerous aliens to be on the lookout for where I live - in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa:

1. Chromolaena odorata - Triffid Weed - This plant spreads like wild-fire, because it seeds itself when it is still young, but it is easy to pull out when its still small.

2. Litsea glutinosa - Indian Laurel - I think this is our biggest threat here in KZN. Under a single tree, thousands of saplings shoot up. They grow at a rapid pace, and are difficult to pull out, even when small.

 3. Cardiospermum grandiflorum - Balloon Vine - Grows up into the tops of trees extremely quickly, and spreads its seeds out of sight. Easy to spot and pull out when its still small.

4. Lantana camara - Don't confuse this with the hybrid, which is safe to plant. Easy to uproot when its still small.

5. Melia azederach - Syringa - Like Litsea, it grows quickly and is hard to remove even when small.

6. Schinus terebinthifolius - Brazilian Pepper - It used to be planted as a fast-growing hedge, because of its pretty berries, but soon became a pest.

Now that you know how to recognise them, take a walk through your garden, and pull them out as quickly as possible...

You can also download a pdf list of all the Invasive Alien Plants of South Africa.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

My Darwin Awards Attempt

Everybody wants to be famous, unfortunately for some of us, the only route to fame is infamy. I had decided to keep this embarrassing episode quiet, but infamy calls...

Things have been a little crazy around here the last couple of months - as you may have noticed by the lack of regular posts! I've had lots of ideas for posts rolling around inside my head, but have been seriously short on time because of the weather.

Like my plants, I am happiest when I see storm-clouds gathering, and I relish the prospect of getting drenched in a downpour. You'd probably have to be outside during a Durban summer to truly appreciate the satisfaction of being soaked in a rain shower.
But this year, its been an unreasonably-rainy and warm Summer, which has made it tough trying to fit in all the gardens that we had planned to finish by the Christmas deadline.

Rushing around in the rain and mud, its easy for accidents to happen, and my thoughts kept going back to last Christmas, when I attempted to add weight to Darwin's theory of evolution.

Christmas-eve 2008 was one of those days that just don't seem to have enough hours in it to get everything done. Deadlines, a lack of sleep, add to that a promise to lend a friend my 800 pound roller, and you've got the setup for the perfect Darwin Awards attempt.

I managed to get everything done by early evening, with just enough time to drop off my heavy roller (which takes about 6 strong men to load onto the back of my truck) at my friend's place before rushing to our traditional Christmas-Eve dinner with family.

By this time, all my staff were on their way home, so there was no-one to help me take the roller off the back of the truck. I reversed back up to a pile of sand, to help cushion the fall of the roller as I planned to get it off on my own.
What I didn't notice was the slight incline I had parked the vehicle on, so when I began to pull the roller towards the back, it began to gather momentum.
I stupidly thought that the best way to stop it was by putting my big steel-toe-capped shoes in the way. But the roller had other plans.
It proceeded to roll over my foot, and knock me off the back, onto the sand. At which point I realised too late, that it was still coming.
Before I could move, it fell off the back of the truck, crushing my legs before rolling away.

I lay in agony, before someone called the neighbour (an orthopaedic specialist) who told me that I had surprisingly not broken any bones.

I learned many valuable lessons that day, the most important of which was that no matter how big you think your feet are, never try to stop an 800 pound roller by standing in front of it! Also, don't try and fit too much in before a holiday.

To look on the positive side though - at least I got to truly put my feet up for the entire holidays, and not feel guilty about it. (It took about 4 weeks before I felt normal)
And I suppose I'll always feel a certain embarrassed camaraderie with the actual Darwin Award Winners...well, at least I'm not on my own...

Home Made Pest Control Solution(s)

I'm really not a big fan of pesticides or chemicals. Actually, that's putting it mildly...I hate pesticides. They are almost always ...