About me

About me
🌿 I've been gardening ever since a child, when I spent time with my father in his vegetable garden. But my fascination with Echeverias started in the 1980's, when my father gave me a pot with five Echeverias, which turned out to be E. imbricata. At first I wasn't much interested in them and planted them in some obscure corner of the garden and completely forgot about them. How great was my surprise when, a couple of months later, I noticed that they had spread and made a beautiful display - I was hooked!
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Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Mother-in-Law's Tongue

Have you ever seen Mother-in-Law's Tongue flowering? Well, here it is! (Sansevieria trifasciata).

Also known as the Snake Plant, it this lovely feature plant is easy to propagate and looks great planted en masse in the garden or in pots on the patio or in your home. They thrive in in both bright and low light areas.

As a houseplant, it does best in bright light but handle low light levels indoors as well. Outdoors bright light to full sun. Handles dry and poor soil conditions but appreciates good well-drained soil inside or outside. Lightly fertilize with a liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer 1/2 strength. DO NOT over-water or over-pot. Temperatures below 4℃ may cause damage to leaves. Relatively pest free.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Firesticks - Euphorbia tirucalli

Firesticks - Euphorbia tirucalli in the Summer on the North Coast, Ballito, KZN - green with no yellow or pink (Sheffield Beach, Ballito)

 This is what Firesticks - Euphorbia tirucalli - looks like in winter on the North Coast, KwaZulu Natal - note the beautiful pink colour on the tips. And here they grow absolutely HUGE! (Sheffield Beach, Ballito)

It has been said that the pink and orange colours only come out when the plant is grown in the shade, but this specimen is in full sun year-round. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

I took a stroll

I took a little stroll 
along the pathway 
and observed the wild flowers blooming.
It was a very fine day.
(Photo taken on my stroll through Sheffield Beach Estate in Ballito, KwaZulu Natal - my new home for the past 7 months)


Aloe arborescens (Torch Aloe)


Family: Asphodelaceae
Common names: krantz aloe (English), kransaalwyn (Afrikaans), ikalene (Xhosa), inkalane or umhlabana (Zulu)

The krantz aloe is a valuable garden asset, it has large beautiful flowers, attractive foliage, decorative form, and it is easy to grow. It is also a 'must-have' for anyone wanting to stock their herb gardens with indigenous healing plants.

This species is distributed mainly over the eastern, summer rainfall areas of the country. It has the third widest distribution of any aloe, occurring from the Cape Peninsula along the eastern coast, through KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo province and further north into Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. It is one of the few aloes that can be found growing at sea level right up to the tops of mountains. The krantz aloe is adapted to many habitats, but is usually found in mountainous areas where it favours exposed ridges and rocky outcrops. It is also found in dense bush.

It enjoys full sun, well-drained, compost-enriched soil and can tolerate moderate frost but is sensitive to severe frost. It is fast-growing, and it will tolerate drought and neglect once established. It is grown mainly as an ornamental or as an accent plant, but is also an excellent and impenetrable hedge plant.
The krantz aloe is easily propagated from a branch or stem cut off, allowed to dry for a day or so until the wound has sealed, and then planted in well-drained soil or sand. They need not be rooted in any particular place and then transplanted, but can be placed directly into their permanent place in the garden. It is important to remember not to water the cuttings too heavily; overwatering may cause them to rot. This aloe can also be grown from seed, sown in spring. Seed should take three to four weeks to germinate, and the seedlings must be protected from frost.

Aloe arborescens hybridises readily with other aloes.


Saturday, 17 February 2018


It has been 8 weeks since we sold our smallholding in Gauteng and moved down to the North Coast of KwaZulu Natal (South Africa) (ONLY 6 weeks??!! feels like a life-time!) and it has taken me all this while to find my feet, gather my thoughts and feel as if I once again belong somewhere. The biggest thing about moving from a place where you have lived for 43 years is seemingly losing your 'identity' - an identity tied to the bird life you studied for so many years, an identity tied to the grass, trees and the very soil you were walking on, an identity tied to "your" plants and birds and insects and little animals nurtured in your garden for so long.

I open my eyes in the mornings and in stead of hearing the Cape Robin-chat singing on my patio, I hear the exotic sound of the Burchell's Coucal outside my window, the sound of the surf pounding on the beach in stead of traffic whizzing past my front gate, and when I rise and go for an early morning walk, I see tropical (and unknown!) vegetation in stead of veld grass and Bluegum trees. A big a change as you can ever imagine!

Yes, it has taken me 8 weeks to get into the swing of things in this new life we have chosen and although I was, and still am, mourning the loss of my pets (my chooks will forever be ingrained in my heart), I now look forward to discovering all that is new in this exotic coastal location; insects I have never seen in my life, the names of the trees and plants which thrive in these hot and humid conditions and finding out which succulents like to grow here!

A small, but brand-new beginning... Spekboom cuttings on the left, an unknown and as yet unidentified succulent on the right and a new Echeveria and some Sedum rubrotinctum (Jelly beans) in the small wooden box planter.]

Watch this space! Smile!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Epiphyllum (Litroos of bladroos)

Epiphyllum (Litroos of bladroos in Afrikaans) on my patio

Also known as climbing cacti, orchid cacti and leaf cacti.

The orchid cactus is a gorgeous group of tree-growing cacti. The Epiphyllum (the botanical name) has broad, flat, leaflike stems scalloped on the edge, strung together by a woody midvein.

These jewels are the proud owners of some of the largest, most unbelievable flowers in the whole plant world. Although the epiphyllum is called the “orchid cactus” it is not an orchid but a cactus.

These are the most majestic of hanging plants, easy to handle, and include a group of miniature or basket varieties. Like the summer-flowering tuberous begonia, these are “shade plants” in hot climates. Otherwise, they need sunlight in fall, winter, and spring, and shade only when summer sun becomes searing hot. They flower best when temperatures stay near 65 degrees, and when the air is humid.

The popular conception of cactus potting soil is not acceptable for this plant. At home in the tropics, these are tree-dwellers where their roots feed on decaying organic matter and are largely exposed to the air.

If your plant is badly pot-bound move it to the next size pot rather than to a much larger one. A light, porous, humus-rich mixture that will hold some moisture and yet will drain quickly. The soil should be coarse, not finely sifted; slightly acid; and for further aeration and purification, generously supplied with small bits of crushed charcoal.

Nitrogen-rich fertilizers are not recommended.

My Epiphyllum just starting to flower

These cactus should not be over-potted, but slightly root-bound. When re-potting is called for – with mature plants, no more often than every second year – have the plant, new pot and soil nearly dry. Transplanting is usually done a month after flowering but do not transplant unless necessary. Withhold water for three or four days after repotting, and water sparingly for the next three or four weeks. In winter, when they rest, they need just enough water to keep the stems from shriveling.
- This information from Plant Care Today

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Aloe striata

Aloe striata - pics taken in a garden in Ballito, KwaZulu Natal

Aloe striata is a stemless aloe with blue green leaves. Attractive coral red flowers are borne during the winter months on tall flat-topped inflorescences.

This species is comprised of three subspecies; the typical subsp. striata as well as the two less well-known subsp. karasbergensis and subsp. kommagasensis - which are both more difficult to cultivate than the subsp. striata and consequently seldom seen in gardens. The subsp. striata is widely distributed over the Eastern & South Western Cape province. It grows in stony soils on rocky hillsides in arid areas near the coast and the drier inland karoo areas.

As with most aloes, the plants provide nectar during winter which is an important source of food for the attractive sunbirds and many other nectivorous birds during the cooler period of the year when food is not readily available.

Aloe striata is a popular and most rewarding garden plant. It is relatively easy to cultivate under a wide variety of climatic conditions provided it is planted in a well-drained situation in full sun and given adequate water but not over-watered. It can withstand extreme frost and prolonged drought. This species is not only very showy when in flower but also during the rest of the year on account of its attractive foliage.

Propagation is from seed which germinates easily if sown in well drained soil and covered lightly with fine sand. Seedlings grow fast, reaching flowering size in three to four years. This species, as with most Aloe species, is subject to attack by snout weevil, white scale and aloe rust, although healthy specimens don't fall prey to pests and disease as easily as stressed plants do. These maladies are best treated symptomatically when they occur and your local nursery or garden centre should be able to advise on products suitable for your particular situation.

(All info from PlantZAfrica.com as I knew nothing about this particular Aloe)

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The garden whispered, "Spring is here!"

The weather has warmed up nicely and all the birds in the garden announced that winter is at an end! The Weavers started building nests and the Red-billed Wood Hoopoos lured their two babies out of their nest in my old Peach tree and took them off to greener pastures. I do hope they'll be back to spend more time in my garden...

Red-billed Wood Hoopoo (Phoeniculus purpureus)

I've been lax checking on my succulents (the few I have left in the garden after giving everything away, thinking that we were moving to the coast), firstly because I was really ill with pneumonia at the end of May and then with Chronic Bronchitis virtually the whole of June and July and secondly because of the cold, but now that I've recovered and with the warmer weather I ventured into the succulent garden to assess the winter damage. 

To my surprise I found that everything had survived and, in fact, the succulent area has been over-taken by the Crassula imperialis (or possibly muscosa...?) and are none the worse for wear after the cold. I now have thousands of little plants and could probably fill a thousand pots and still have plenty left! A new business opportunity, perhaps...? lol!

There are a few Echinopsis cacti somewhere under all that Crassula imperialis - need to get them out and transplanted before they make any flowers, which would have trouble showing up through all this!

With such an abundance of Crassula, I took the chance of filling a pot with some of it as well as some (rather leggy) Echeverias to put in a sunny spot on the patio.

Aloe ferox seeds randomly dispersed by birds or the wind ended up growing tightly together next to my garden path, making it impassable! This position is in dappled shade and gets quite a lot of water, I think that aided in the germination process. Need to transplant some of these babies now. And check out all the Crassula also covering the pathway!

Chores for the next couple of days will consist of transplanting some of the "unwanted" aloes to sunny spots and spreading some of that lovely Crassula to other parts of the garden so that I can have my pathway back!

I discovered a pot Echinopsis cactus (makes pink flowers) with new pups somewhere under some red Hot Pokers. Want to try and separate the pups today.... The other succulents in the pot (Crassula and Kalanchoe) were put in the pot either by birds or the wind!

For my friends in the Northern Hemisphere now heading into cold weather, I hope your winter is mild and that all your succulents thrive!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The beauty and ease of Echeverias

With their wonderful grey-green waxy colours and absolutely symmetrical appearance, Echeverias must certainly be one of the most beautiful succulents on our planet. Add to that the ease with which they propagate and the minimal care they need, and you have a winner!

Echeverias are native to semi-desert areas of Central America, Mexico and north-western South America and although they do thrive in hot, desert conditions, with a bit of extra water you will have the biggest and most gorgeous plants that reward with lots and lots of flowers.

Most will tolerate shade and some frost, although hybrids, like this E. imbricata (or glauca), tend to be less tolerant. I often bring my most prized plants which are in pots, indoors for winterizing.

 Echeveria imbricata planted in an old dog basket

 Large Echeveria imbricata (10" in dia), sharing a concrete pot with some waxy-green Aeoniums. A shade-loving Aloe zebrina took hold at the base of the pot, probably a seed spread by birds.

The beautiful flowers of E. imbricata

Once they start flowering, there's no stopping them!

This succulent propagates by making lots of pups which can be separated and planted out to form new clumps and in a few months you could have cultivated a beautiful collection! It is also easily propagated by taking a leaf and sticking it in some sandy soil, keeping it slightly moist until roots have formed, when a new little plant will emerge next to the leaf cutting. 

A few Echeverias planted in front of some Phormiums soon spread to cover the whole area in a matter of two seasons.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Winter succulents

The only thing flowering in the succulent garden now is Kalanchoe rotundifolia and some Erigeron...

Kalanchoe rotundifolia flower. It seems to like the cold, all the plants are flowering profusely! (June 2017)

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Rattail cactus (aporocactus flagelliformis)

Every Spring my Rattail cactus (aporocactus flagelliformis) rewards me with a mass of beautiful flowers. We’re heading for winter now here in South Africa, so I have a while to wait for these beauties again!

The lovely flowers can be up to 7 or 8cm long!

The bright pink flowers 1.5 inches long, 2.5 inches wide (4 by 6 cm), are produced along the long hanging stems, up to 4 feet long (120 cm) or more, in spring and summer and are sometimes followed by small red fruits. In the wild, they are pollinated by hummingbirds, but in cultivation, they generally need to be hand pollinated. They originate from the Highland plateaus of Mexico (Oaxaca, Hidalgo), but are cilutivated throughout the world.

Although all the info I’ve read says they don’t tolerate frost, they have survived many frosty winters outside in my garden, but I must say, since I’ve decided to bring them inside during winter, I do get a much longer and better flowering period. But they do need some cold to produce their flowers, so I keep them in a cool place in the house.

They need to be kept moist all the time so water abundantly in summer. Needs good drainage.

One of my Rattail Cacti over-wintering it in my flower room

I had two of these beauties but this one has gone to a good home, so I will now be lavishing all my attention on the one I have left (below)

The Rattail cactus is another succulent that actually prefers a hanging basket, as the trailing stems can get several feet long. Just prepare a hanging basket with some good succulent soil and lots of drainage. Cut of one of the long tails and plant in the centre of the basket. It will soon send out lots of shoots and before long they will be trailing over the edge.

Happy succulenting!

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