About me

About me
๐ŸŒฟ 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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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)

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Succulent addiction

(A warning: If you have any propensity towards cactus love to begin with, moving to the desert will increase it exponentially!) 

The funny thing about succulents is, once the bug has bitten you, it lasts forever. When we left Gauteng a year ago, I gave all my babies away to a good home, often thinking about them, missing them and visualizing starting a new family as soon as I could.

My new (temporary) home didn't allow for much gardening, but the minute I could, I found a space, called it my 'propagation station', and lovingly cultivated a few cuttings. Most were cuttings or leaves given to me by friends and other succulent-lovers and some were collected the old-fashioned way, picking up shed leaves and broken pieces off garden pavements.

Next month we are moving to our permanent coastal home (yes, we decided to stay in KwaZulu Natal!) and now my little collection is ready for re-location to their new home. Soon I'll be able to dig into some soil again and feel the earth move beneath my feet! ๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’š

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Crassula perfoliata - the first flower!

Dedicated to all you succulent-lovers!

The first flower! Now for the long wait, as I hear this can take quite some time before it opens!

Crassula perfoliata is an attractive summer-flowering succulent with greyish-green sickle-shaped leaves and red flowers. It is easily grown from cuttings or seed. This indigenous South African plant is confined to quartzitic sandstone outcrops (rarely shale), from the Groot Winterhoek Mountains and Port Elizabeth in the south to Umtata in the north-east. The plants grow solitary or in small clusters on north-, east- and west-facing cliffs along dry river valleys. It likes temperatures of about 25°C and the average daily minimum about 10°C and somehow I don’t think this plant is frost-hardy, so I will be bringing it inside for the winter.

Family : Crassulaceae
Common names : Propeller plant, Sekelblaarplakkie (Afrikaans)

Camera : Canon EOS 550D
Taken in my previous garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa)

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Thursday, 27 December 2018

A new beginning...

After giving all my succulents away when I left Gauteng last December 2017, I have now acquired a brand new little piece of Crassula tetragona - a new beginning! Pronounced KRASS-yoo-la tet-ra-GON-uh subsp. row-BUS-tah.

Afrikaans: Karkai (Ken enigiemand hierdie Afrikaanse naam...?

Tetragona is a unique variety of evergreen succulent that is native to South Africa and also known as the Miniature Pine Tree due to its foliage resembling a pine tree. Often used as a popular bonsai specimen, grows well in pots or in the ground and grows to a height of 1 meter, this plant grows well in full-sun to partial sun, needs a good water when the soil has dried out.

Native to Southern Africa, it is widely distributed from the Orange River boundary of Namaqualand to beyond the Kei River in the Eastern Cape. Wikipedia says "Tetragona" comes from the phyllotaxy of the leaves. It is popularly named the "miniature pine tree" among ornamental plant enthusiasts, for its popular use as a "pine tree" in Bonsai.

(Pic taken in my bedroom in Sheffield Beach, Ballito, KwaZulu Natal)

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Haworthia cooperi

I've never had much success with growing Haworthia Cooperi. This one of mine started deteriorating soon after I acquired it until it was completely dead!

Haworthia cooperi is a diverse and varied species of the genus Haworthia in the family Asphodelaceae, endemic to the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa. It is a fast growing, clustering species with soft, fleshy foliage (the leaves have the feel of tiny, plump grapes). While it clusters, it adds additional offsets slowly, gradually increasing its size to fill a 3 to 4 inch pot.

This plant thrives in dappled shade and I think the mistake I made was to let it get too much direct sunlight. Another factor is that the haworthias show evidence of stress when temperatures become very high (above the mid 90°F - 32°C), which was often the case in my garden, even when the plant was in the shade.
Fat juicy leaves and translucent flesh are the hallmarks of Haworthia window plant. Not all Haworthia have the see-through leaves, but those that do are spectacular specimens of the genus

Read more at Gardening Know How: How To Grow Haworthia: Information On Caring For Window Plants https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/cacti-succulents/haworthia-cacti-succulents/haworthia-window-plants.htm

Fat juicy leaves and translucent flesh are the hallmarks of Haworthia window plant. Not all Haworthia have the see-through leaves, but those that do are spectacular specimens of the genus.

Read more at Gardening Know How: How To Grow Haworthia: Information On Caring For Window Plants https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/cacti-succulents/haworthia-cacti-succulents/haworthia-window-plants.htm

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

The happiest Season of all!

Christmas, and summer time. Everything is in full flower (Echeveria imbricata). Surely it must be the happiest season of all! 
Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas and a festive season filled with LOVE, JOY and INSPIRATION!

Monday, 24 December 2018

Festive Greetings 2018

Wishing you and your succulents a magical and blissful holiday! May this Christmas season bring you nothing but fond gardening memories, happiness and laughter!

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Canned gardening

Use empty food tins as pots for your succulents. Just remember to punch a few holes in the bottom to enable good drainage.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Hoya kerrii ‘Variegata’

My Mother's Day gift this year (May 2018), Hoya kerrii ‘Variegata’ (Sweetheart Hoya) is a climbing plant that can grow up to 13 feet (4 m) tall. The stems are up to 0.3 inch (7 mm) in diameter. The leaves ะฐrะต thick, variegated, heart-shaped, are up to 2.4 inches (6cm) wide. Adult plants show inflorescences of up to 2 inches (5cm) diameter and up to 25 small, star-shaped flowers, creamy-white with pink to rose-purple centers. Also called Wax Plant.

Hoya plants don’t ask for much, beyond the well-draining soil and the warm humid conditions that many tropical flowers crave. They don’t like wet feet or heavy soil, and as many grow as epiphytes in nature (similar to bromeliads and orchids). Give them at least a half day of sunshine, and bring them indoors when temperatures drop below 50°F (10°C).

When your Hoya finishes blooming, leave the flower stalk, as it may produce new flowers. Removing the stalk forces the plant to produce a new stalk, which delays blooming and wastes the plant’s energy. They are light feeders, and a monthly drink of compost tea or dilute fish emulsion provides all the nutrition these tropicals need. Hoyas like the security of a snug pot, and plants that are a bit root bound will flower more prolifically than those that are swimming around in a giant pot. Hoya is native to the south-east of Asia.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Crassula muscosa (Rattail crassula)

Crassula muscosa

Crassula muscosa (also known as Rattail crassula) - is a succulent plant native to South Africa and Namibia, belonging to the family of Crassulaceae and to the genus Crassula. It has very small, light green leaves that are densely packed around a thin stem, and the arrangement of the leaves around the stems gives them a square shape. It grows as an intricate bush with very small yellow-green flowers, with a maximum height of 15–20 cm. It loves environments with a moderate degree of humidity, in which the soil is well drained and composed of fertile soil and sand.

As the plant gets older, it drops many of those small little leaves and can spread to an area covering meters, which is ideal for any open sunny spots in the garden. (I have found that it actually also grows quite well in the shade.)

In bright sunlight

In a shady spot

Also known as the Watch Chain Plant, if planting it indoors, place in a room that gets a lot of sunlight, such as near a north-facing window. Best color maintained with a little shade, even on the coast.

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. 

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