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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

5 more Great Gifts for Gardeners

This is Part 2 of my list to Santa - this selection is tending towards my love for gadgets. I hope you're checking my list Santa!
  1. Tree Trainer For Bent Trees
    • I've often been irritated to have plants delivered to site, and finding that some of the trees that have been supplied are slightly bent. I didn't even know that a tool like this even existed, but I have to have one...
  2. Droplet Mower
    • How cool is this lawn mower! Not only does it look like something you'd use in outer space, but its also electric. So no more dependence on fossil fuels... I think if we kit our garden service out with these, my staff will have to wear space suits to fit in with what they're using to cut the grass.

  3. Nature Zap Electric Weed Killer
    • I'm always looking for environmentally friendly ways of doing what I do, and I hate using chemicals to deal with the problems in my gardens, so if this works, it will be a great tool to add to the garden shed.

  4. Electronic Soil Analyzer
    • This is a tool which every gardener should have - It not only measures the fertility and pH of the soil, but it also shows the moisture content and gives a light reading too! Gone are the days of using those irritating, cumbersome pH kits.

  5. High-Tech Plant Glasses
    • These glasses seem too good to be true. They've apparently been developed by NASA, and will help you spot stressed plants just by looking at them. This really does seem like a scam, but if they work, I'll be first in line to buy a pair.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Sex, Politics, Religion and...Budget

Sex, Politics and Religion. Three topics guaranteed to cause awkward subject changes, but I'd have to add the topic of budget to those classics...
I loved designing this penthouse garden - but a clear budget is essential when preparing any design
I've written about this subject before in 'How much does landscaping cost', but it still amazes me how uncomfortable people are about providing a budget for their landscaping. I know very often the problem comes more from clients not knowing how much is a realistic figure to set aside, but without at least a rough budget to work within, there is so much place for time-wasting.

I recently had two clients with two completely different approaches to the subject. The first fidgeted when the subject came up, and wouldn't give any guidelines. I worked on some ideas and presented the concept along with an estimate only to find that it was not within their budget. I went back to the drawing board to try to find a way of adapting the design to the budget, before eventually having to come up with a completely different design that would fit within the parameters. It seemed to me that the issue wasn't that they didn't know how much they could spend, because it turned out that they had a very clear budget - it seemed that they felt that disclosing how much they could spend would somehow disadvantage them.

My second client gave relatively clear guidelines. Knowing what the budget was, gave me a clear overall picture of what we could work with. When I presented the concept, which they loved, I was able to keep the costs within their budget so that they had enough left over for some garden furniture and some additional accessories.

The first project was fraught with frustrations from the start, while the second was a pleasure from start to finish.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

10 Great Gifts for Gardeners Part 1

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought I'd make a list for Santa - I hope she's reading...but if you're looking for gifts for the gardener in your life, or need some inspiration as to what to add to your list for Santa, I've got just the thing(s) for you...
  1. Bird Feeder
    • I first saw these Bird Feeders at the I Heart Market in Durban. They come as a do-it-yourself kit, with everything you need to make your feeder right in the box. The feeder stands 18cm high by 16cm across, and can be hung from a tree or pegged on a broom handle. The kit includes a stack of little signs to bling your feeder once it's assembled.

  2. Leafsnap App
    • Well this is not quite as helpful for us South Africans (being developed for American users), but I'm putting it on the list anyway. More in the hope that something gets developed for South African budding botanists. The name says it all - take a picture of the leaf of an unidentified tree, and using images and algorithms, the app will identify the tree for you. How amazing is that! Or maybe I'm doing myself out of a job?
  3. Ornate Spades by Master Artist Cal Lane
    • These spades are not very practical, but I think Form used these to bury Function in a shallow grave. As is the case with so many beautiful things - I love the contrast she creates with her work.

  4. Sasol eBirds of Southern Africa iPhone App
    • Yes, another app, but you'll love this if you're a big, nothing to do with coffee...If you enjoy the classic bird book, then you'll love this app. Its a perfect gift for avid birders or even just for casual spotting in your garden. With images, distribution maps and text descriptions for over 950 bird species found in the Southern African region, its a perfect tool to use with your iPhone, Blackberry or Android.

  5. A Pile of Compost
    • A slightly eccentric gift to be sure, but no gardener would look a gift horse in maker. A load of manure or well-rotted, weed-free compost is like gold to a gardener. If you're in Durban, you can order truckloads from Allgrow or Gromor.

  6. Deluxe Weather Station
    • Ok, this is a bit of a pricey gift, but look what it can do. If you're a climatophile and a gadgetophile (yes, I made both those words up) then this is perfect for you.
  7. Scarecrow Sprinkler
    • This would have come in very handy in so many of the gardens that I've done. Its a motion sensor attached to a sprinkler head, which shoots a jet of water out every time something moves near it. Its perfect for gardens with pesky animals that love to dig in your newly planted flower beds. Just make sure that its off before doing your chores...

  8. Hammock
    • With this gift, you're not going to get a lot of those gardening chores done, but it will be time well spent. No garden is complete without one of these.
    Photo via Stairropes
  9. Garden Hose Water Usage Meter
    • If you're worried about the amount of water disappearing through your hose nozzle, or want to measure how much water is being used on your very thirsty lawn, then clip this meter between your tap and hose. Definitely on my list for Santa...
  10. Potting Bench
    • A potting bench is an indispensable piece of equipment for gardeners - if you've got the space, it's definitely something even the occasional gardener would make use of. Even if its just used to display your nursery-bought potted plants, to fool people into thinking you've been hard at work.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

COP17 - Things Fall Apart

Its funny how we tend to leave the tidying of the house to the last minute before our visitors arrive - I tend to do a quick superficial clean-up about half an hour before hand. Durban municipality it seems is no different - I always look forward to the big events (COP17 being the most recent) that get hosted here in Durban from time to time because things get cleaned and planted up properly. Its really just window dressing, but I'm torn between embracing the effort that gets put in because at least things are being done, and feeling frustrated that things are being done in such a slap-dash, hurried way.

What's left after the last major Durban landscaping effort. Photo via Dying in Paradise
During the 2010 Soccer World Cup, thousands of palm trees were planted throughout Durban in an effort to spruce up the tourist areas, and lend a tropical aesthetic to Durban's sup-tropical climate. They looked beautiful for a couple of months before a large portion of them began dying off, leaving their cut-off stumps exposed above ground. The reason for the wholesale 'biting of the dust', was that the trees were obviously not correctly prepared before being dug out, they were often transported huge distances and then re-planted days later. All in a superficial effort to get things done at the last minute.

COP17 has now entered its second week here in Durban, and it seems a similar mindset pervades. At this stage, the talks appear to be nothing more than empty rhetoric - talks about talks, backtracking, greed and lack of commitment. The US, China and India together make up more than half of the world's carbon emissions - essentially the 3 biggest polluters of our world.
You have to wonder, what is the point of flying half way across the globe and making such a half hearted attempt at addressing the concerns of us ordinary citizens. Why did delegates from these and some of the other stiff-necked self-serving countries even bother showing up?

At the same time, I have noticed an increase in the general awareness on the issues of climate change and the environment. Its effect may well be further reaching than the fat cat politicians with their bloated expense accounts, with school children and the general public becoming for the most part, better educated. Hopefully some of the momentum that has been created by the hype around COP17 will be sustained in the long term.

Or maybe it'll be too late by then, and our children will be digging up the dead root balls of the fragile ecosystems that hold our beautiful planet together?

Home Made Pest Control Solution(s)

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