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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Sunday, 8 May 2022

Waiting for the rain

I never thought I’d be saying, ‘waiting for the rain’ so soon after the massive floods we had here on the Dolphin Coast a mere three or four weeks ago (we had 244mm in less than 23 hours), but if I don’t bring out the hosepipe soon, I’m going to have a very grumpy succulent garden on my hands. Under the Tradescantia (above), the Callisia repens is dry and brittle and I have actually removed huge patches of it (they spread like a wild-fire anyway) to make way for new growth. Provided I water it. All the plants here at the coast are used to regular rain, at least twice a week, so no rain for the past month is not good.

My (new) rain gauge is also waiting patiently, he hasn’t seen a drop since I installed him 3 weeks ago.

The succulents I do have in pots, like the Graptoveria and Sedum above, are easier to water and to keep an eye on and they don’t need that much water anyway.

But I have been coddling my newly-sprouted Leatherleaf Fern (not a succulet, I know, but I have a soft spot for any type of fern, I never had much chance of growing them in Tarlton (Gauteng, South Africa), because of the dry weather and frost-bitten winters there), so if a fern of whatever lineage wants to sprout in my garden, she will have my full cooperation! 

Monday, 2 May 2022

Spekboom, loved by elephants and butterflies alike

Portulacaria afra (also known as elephant bush, dwarf jade plant, porkbush, purslane tree and Spekboom in Afrikaans) is a small-leaved succulent plant indigenous to South Africa. These succulents commonly have a reddish stem and leaves that are green, but a variegated cultivar is also often seen in cultivation. They are simple to care for and make easy houseplants for a sunny location. In frost-free regions they may be used in outdoor landscaping. 💚


Spekboom also make great container plants and already the birds enjoy roosting in the one above as it is near their favourite bathing place. Spekboom is totally edible and widely used in salads. I've often seen the birds taking bits of the leaves. The taste of spekboom leaves are pleasant but changes throughout as the sun rises and sets. During the day leaves have an acid flavour and they become less acidic towards the evening. The delicious greenery is heavily browsed by game and firm favourite of several wild animals, especially elephants! There the English name of Elephant Bush.

I have about 8 Spekboom throughout my garden and this one above ws planted about a year ago as a 12" cutting which I had rooted in a container with water first until it developed roots. But I have found that even just sticking pieces straight into the ground is a successful method of propagation.

The Spekboom is also host to the caterpillar of the Duadem butterfly who lays itsr eggs in a tree or other suitable plants nearby and the caterpillars always seem to head straight for the Spekboom or the White Spotted-leaf Calla Lilies. But no need to worry, they don't do much damage to the Spekboom and although the caterpillars can almost annihilate the Arum leaves, the plant comes back with a vengeance, fuller and bushier and more beautiful than before.

The leaves are used medicinally and in traditional home construction. Here are the most popular traditional and contemporary uses of spekboom leaves:

  • - Sucking a leaf to quench thirst, treat exhaustion, dehydration and heatstroke.
  • - Using crushed leaves to provide relief for blisters.
  • - Chewing leaves can treat a sore throat and mouth infections.
  • - Juiced leaves are used as an antiseptic and to soothe skin ailments such as pimples, rashes, - insect stings and sunburn.
  • - In certain areas, the stems are used to help build huts/homes. The stems are dried and used as thatch for rooves of the huts/homes.
  • - In Mozambique, breastfeeding mothers eat spekboom leaves to increase their milk supply.
  • - During famine, the Zulus eat the leaves raw.
  • (This information from Shamwari Game Reserve)

The spekboom flowers are nectar-rich and provide food for many insects – endangered bees love them! This, in turn, attract insectivorous birds. 

Spekboom can live up to 200 years and these trees can grow as tall as 5 metres.


Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Sansevieria, a feng shui favourite

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Sansevieria trifasciata is native to Asia and Africa. Snake plants (Sansevieria) have a number of health benefits. They filter indoor air, remove toxic pollutants, may help boost mental health, are easy to care for, are effective against allergies and may help enhance the “energy” of a space, according to feng shui, therefore they are ideal in the bedroom. 

In the garden they thrive in full sun as well as partial shade and quickly spread through rizomes. They are also great in pots indoors or on the patio.


Sunday, 27 March 2022

Easy-going Graptoveria


If you’re looking for a succulent that’s easy to care for and propagates readily, get hold of a Graptoveria fantome. By propagating leaves, you will never have to buy another one and will soon have enough plants to start a nursery! 

They are truly drought-tolerant, love full sun and will even grow in water!

Saturday, 31 July 2021

My new little patch of Sansevieria


Good morning!

My new little Sansevieria patch. You just gotta love Mother-in-Law’s Tongue!
This is Sansevieria trifasciata (also known as snake plant), native to South Africa, drought-resistent, tolerates low light but this one also just loves the sunlight!

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Just be patient...

Graptoveria 'Fantome'

Since our move from our smallholding in Gauteng (South Africa), I've been relegated to "shelf and pot plant gardening". And that's really not meant to be derogatory, I absolutely LOVE shelves and I LOVE pot plants, but nothing beats a spade and a pair of garden gloves.

But now we've at last settled into our new home and I was thrilled at the prospect of starting a brand new garden from scratch! So at last I'm able to plan and design a space for my succulents and other indigenous plants to my heart's content. I'm also learning about this birds (and the bees) of the area and although many of them are well-known to me, there are so many that I've just never had the chance of meeting. So here's to many hours of planting and learning about everything around me.

These are a few of the succulents I've been propagating over the last months - you just cannot keep a succulent-lover down! Right?

Graptoveria 'Fantome'

Flower of Graptoveria 'Fantome'

Graptoveria 'Fantome'

Callisia repens

I know Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus verticillatus) is not a succulent, but after losing my hanging basket the last winter, I am absolutely thrilled that I have been able to propagate a little piece into growing really well.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Winter splendour at the Coast


There are over ±155 Aloe species in our country (South Africa) ranging in size from the large Tree Aloes (Aloidendron) to the attractive little Grass Aloes with the Creeping Aloes (Aloiampelos) in between.

This is the time of year (Winter) when these striking flowers are at their best. Aloes attract a variety of insects and birds, particularly Sunbirds.

Take a moment to watch them.

(The above pics taken at The Quarter, Ballito, KZN)

Found this beautiful Aloe chabaudii on one of our morning walks along the promenade on the Beach (Ballito, KZN)

Found this beautiful Aloe chabaudii on one of our morning walks along the promenade on the Beach (Ballito, KZN)

Found this beautiful Aloe chabaudii on one of our morning walks along the promenade on the Beach (Ballito, KZN)

Aloe just outside Caledon Estate in Ballito, KZN, South Africa 

Aloes just outside Caledon Estate in Ballito, KZN, South Africa  

The flowers of Aloe marlothii attract a plethora of insects and birds, supplying much-needed sustenance in the cold winter months

Aloe arborescense - Ballito, KZN

Aloe arborescense - Ballito, KZN

One of my all-time facourites is Aloe ferox, a true gift from nature. It's not really found at the coast, but I just have to include it here. The world over, users revere aloe ferox for it’s numerous properties. The bitter sap contains powerful anti-oxidant properties – an ancient source of a modern cosmetic buzzword. Healing, detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, Anti Bacterial, Anti-Viral and Anti-Parasitic – and those are only a few ways in which Aloe Ferox helps in maintaining personal wellness. It is an important life-line for insects and birds in winter, supplying much-needed sustenance in the cold months.

For centuries indigenous healers have treated man and beast successfully with aloe preparations. In Xhosa culture here in South Africa, it is applied to fresh and inflamed wounds to encourage healing and is a known cure for ring-worm and tapeworm, boils and ulcers. Aloe is used to treat enteritis in calves and fowls, as well as roundworm in the Zulu culture, while the Pondo mix aloe juice and water for a refreshing body wash. An extract, bitters, is ingested to help with detoxification, as well as gout, rheumatism and arthritis, stomach and digestive ailments.

Other recorded uses include: insect bites and bluebottle stings, fungi, toothache, sunburn, as protection against the elements and to stimulate the immune system, to name a few.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Aristaloe aristata, prevously known as Aloe aristata

We have finally moved into our new home and, of course, one of the first things I did was to visit the nearest garden centre. One of my latest acquisitions is a pot of Aloe aristata - Aristaloe is a genus of evergreen flowering perennial plant in the family Asphodelaceae, indigenous to Southern Africa. Its sole species is Aristaloe aristata, known as guinea-fowl aloe or lace aloe.

This semi-hardy succulent (does not tolerate frost at all) forms dense rosettes of fleshy, triangular leaves. These offsets that can be removed from the mother plant. Allow a day or two so that the wounds on the plants can callus, this will help prevent rot from setting in.

It grows up to 8 inches (20 cm) tall and about the same in diameter. The leaves are dark green, with small white bumps, bristly margins, and tipped with a soft white spine.

I have found that this little aloe does better in semi-shade or indoors, so my two are enjoying pride of place on my indoor plant shelf in my lounge, where it gets some great late-afternoon sun.

It will tolerate slight over-watering and drought conditions.But I would go slow on that "over-watering"! Just make sure the pot is well-drained and remove any water that might end up in the catch-plate under the pot.

This little aloe, although not threatened, is extinct in certain locations. It is found in the Eastern and Western Cape, Orange Free State and Lesotho.

Plants are stemless and form clumps of up to twelve rosettes that are between 100mm and 150mm in diameter. Flowers are a dull-red or pinkish colour, tubular in shape and slightly curved down.

A well drained soil is required, I use the following type of mix for Aloes that I grow in pots :
  1. 2 parts coarse sand.
  2. 1 Part well-sieved compost.
  3. 2 parts washed sand (from the garden).
If you are lucky enough to have one of these amazing little aloes, enjoy it to the full, love it a lot and it will give you lots of flowers!

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Aloe thraskii (Dune Aloe)

Aloe thraskii (Dune Aloe)  

During one of our walks on the beach at Umdloti, not far from Ballito (KwaZulu Natal), I came across these large Aloes growing right on the beach. Fascinating! Not many plants can withstand the onslaught of wind and sea spray and yet, here was this beautiful specimen absolutely thriving in these conditions. Hence the name, Dune Aloe.

Indigenous to South Africa, it is a lovely plant for coastal gardens. This Aloe is a single-stemmed plant with giant, thorny-edged leaves that curve outwards and downwards, like fleshy arches. The sturdy inflorescence's with their racemes of bright yellow flowers appear in June and July and it is one of the few aloes that will withstand wet conditions

Pronunciation : AL-loh THRAS-kee-eye 
Afrikaans: Strandaalwyn
siXhosa: Ikhala
IsiZulu: Umhlaba 

The Dune aloe grows fast in cultivation and is especially suited for coastal situations as it tolerates wind and salt air. It can be grown in inland gardens with mild winters and not overly damp summers. 

It can grow up to 10 feet (3m) tall and is naturally found in dune vegetation along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It is a hardy plant but not completely frost resistant.

Aloe thraskii is classed as Near Threatened in its natural habitat, due to habitat loss from urban and coastal development and illegal collecting for the specialist succulent horticultural trade. Experts estimate that 20-30% of the habitat has been lost to urban and coastal development in the last three generations (generation length 20 years). Severe storms are also likely to become more frequent with climate change, and may impact more severely on dune systems in the future.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Candelabra Tree (Euphorbia ingens)

Something that has totally surprised me since we moved to the North Coast of KwaZulu Natal (South Africa) eighteen months ago, is the fact that succulents and cacti grow so beautifully here. I've never seen so many succulents as here in Ballito! I mean, a succulent and a cactus is a desert plant, and yet, here they are, thriving in a tropical, wet climate and being totally at home in an average rainfall of  828 mm (32.6in) per year. EVERY garden boasts dozens of succulents and probably never needs watering!

On my way to town one morning, I spotted these glorious flowers cglowing in the sunlight, so I stopped to take a picture. It was only then that I noticed the large Euphorbia hiding in the shade. At first glance it looked like the Euphorbia had these lovely flowers, but when I got closer, I noticed that the flowers belonged to the tree behind the Euphorbia, an Ant Tree (Triplaris americana), an alien invasive from, yeah, you guessed it, Central and South America. (You can read more about this tree HERE.

Afrikaans : Naboom

Native to South Africa, this tree prefers warm areas and can survive in areas that go through long periods of drought or are generally very dry. It usually grows on rocky outcrops or in deep sand within bush-veld vegetation. Distributed throughout KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Limpopo Province, Gauteng, North-West Province, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and further into tropical Africa. If you are looking for a low maintenance addition to a rock or succulent garden, this large cactus-like tree is ideal. It can grow up to 40 feet (12m) tall,

The flowers attract butterflies, bees and other insects, which collect pollen and nectar from them, pollinating the trees in the process. The seeds are a good source of food for many fruit and berry eating birds. Birds also like nesting in these trees; hole-nesting birds such as woodpeckers often use dead sections.

It is important to mention that Euphorbia ingens is a poisonous plant. If ingested, the latex can pose certain health threats. It can cause skin irritation and even blindness on contact. Since it is considered to be toxic, a lot of people avoid planting them in areas accessible to children and pets.

There is a bright side to the toxic nature of this plant – the poisonous latex makes sure that pests bring no damage to the plants.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Crassula multicava

Crassula multicava (pics taken in Sheffield, Ballito, KwaZulu Natal

For months I've been passing this Crassula on my walks and then, suddenly this week, a pink mist of blooms greeted me as I rounded a bend. I knew all along that it was a Crassula, but the flowers finally allowed me to do a full identification.

Pronunciation - KRASS-yoo-la mul-tee-KAH-vuh
English: Fairy crassula
Afrikaans: Skaduplakkie
IsiXhosa: intelezi; phewula
IsiZulu: umadinsane

    •    Canopy Shade
    •    Deep / Full Shade
    •    Dry Shade
    •    Light or Dappled Shade
    •    Partial Shade
    •    Sun
Crassula multicava is particularly useful for dry shade and to cover unsightly spots. It is tender to frost. There is a distinct difference in appearance depending on the position in which the fairy crassula is planted: in deep shade the leaves are larger and dark green and the plant has fewer flowers while in full sun the leaves are smaller and light green and flowering is profuse.
The flowers are tiny stars on thin stems held above the leaves

And just look at all the benefits of this gorgeous ground-cover!

    •    Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects
    •    Border
    •    Container
    •    Edging
    •    Filler
    •    Ground Cover
    •    Mass Planting
    •    Pioneer for new gardens
    •    Rock Garden
    •    Stabilize Banks
    •    Suitable for coastal gardens
    •    Wild Garden

Indigenous to South Africa, it is found from the southern part of the Western Cape, through the Eastern Cape to Natal and Mpumalanga, in thickets, along river and stream banks and in forest margins. Spreads easily, but it  responds well to pruning: use hedge cutters to remove as much of the foliage as you wish - recovery time is short and the reward is a dense carpet from which a pink mist of blooms will arise. Prune after flowering and seeding have taken place and again in early to mid- winter. Although very vigorous in well-composted, deep soils, this tough little crassula will thrive in clay or sandy soils. Give them a good start with some compost and mulch, and water until established. They propagate easily from seed, from stems and leaves that root and from tiny plants that grow on the tips of the flower stalks.

(Info from Khumbula Nursery)
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