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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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Too much rain!

I never thought I would EVER utter those words - too much rain. For a gardener there can never be such a thing as too much rain!

But my garden has been flooded with rain over the past 3 weeks and yesterday I noticed that many of my Echinopsis cacti weren't doing too well because of all the water, some of them turning yellow and rotting from the inside. In a panic I lifted them, only to find that I had no pots to put them into! This calls for drastic action, so I scouted around my store room and found this fan cover from a fan that wasn't working any more (how come we don't throw those things away...?). A piece of plastic in the bottom with some holes punched in and bob's your uncle! I had a temporary place to plant the cacti (which might just become their permanent place!)

They are now under cover until all signs of rain is gone, when I'll move them back into full sun.

However, the rest of the garden is not complaining. In fact, my garden seems a bit confused - autumn was already really showing and the Marigolds are all but dead and on their last legs with seed heads everywhere. And now their are hundreds of new Marigold seedlings coming up everywhere which, of course, will not survive the winter.

The lawn is loving all the water and we can't keep up with mowing it. I actually would like to get rid of all the lawn for two reasons - one, it is an enormous water-sucking monster and in drought times looks really terrible and two, to cut out the hours spent mowing it. But unfortunately this area is part of our entrance and drive-way to the garages so if I took it all out, it would mean having to make a concrete drive-way, which could end up looking terrible.

Below : Thankful for all the rain...


Wednesday, 19 March 2014


I used to have stretches of this wonderful ground-cover in my last garden. This easy-to-grow succulent, native to South Africa, is a wonderful ground-cover, ideal for low-maintenance and water-wise gardens.

Leaves are eaten by tortoises. Puff-adders and other snakes such as the Cape Cobra are often found in Carpobrotus clumps where they ambush the small rodents that are attracted by the fruits. Flowers are pollinated by solitary bees, honey bees, carpenter bees and many beetle species. Flowers are eaten by antelopes and baboons. The clumps provide shelter for snails, lizards and skinks, so it’s a wonderful plant to have if you want to attract wildlife to your garden.

CARPOBROTUS C. acinaciformis (sour fig, elandsvy, goenavy, Hotnotsvy, strandvy, suurvy ) has purple flowers, robust, short, greyish green, sabre-shaped leaves and tasty edible fruits, used to make a delicious jam, and grows in coastal sands usually close to the sea, in the Western Cape, from Saldanha to Mossel Bay (South Africa).

Carpobrotus juice (from leaves) can be used as a mild astringent. When mixed with water the juice can be used to treat diarrhoea, dysentery and stomach cramps. It can also be used as a gargle for sore throat and laryngitis, and mild bacterial infections of the mouth. The leaf juice can also be used externally, much like Aloe Vera for burns, abrasions, open cuts, grazes, mosquito bites and sunburn. It is also used to treat ringworm, eczema, dermatitis, herpes, thrush, cold sores, cracked lips, chafing, skin conditions and allergies.
Info from Wikipedia

Carpobrotus edulis is not regarded as threatened in its native habitat, but it is invading natural areas in other parts of the world and threatening the survival of other species. In California, where it has been used since the early 1900s to stabilize the soil along railway tracks and roadsides and as a garden ornamental, it has naturalized and is invading coastal vegetation from north of Eureka to Rosarita Bay. It is known as the highway ice plant in the USA. It has naturalized along the west coast of Australia from Perth to Albany where it was also used for soil stabilization and is known as pigface. It has naturalized in parts of the Mediterranean and on the south coast of England.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Camera : Fuji FinePix 2800Zoom 
Taken in my garden – Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa 2005

According to Wikipedia, Barrel cacti are classified into the two genera Echinocactus and Ferocactus, both of which are found in the Southwest Desert of North America. Echinocactus grusonii, popularly known as the Golden Barrel Cactus, Golden Ball or, amusingly, Mother-in-Law’s Cushion, is a well known species of cactus, and is endemic to east-central Mexico. Ferocactus is a genus of large barrel-shaped cacti, mostly with large spines and small flowers. There are about 30 species included in this genus alone, so it is very diffucult to put an identification on a Barrel, but I think mine is Echinocactus Golden Barrel and he is about fourteen years old now.

One should approach a barrel cactus with extreme caution. A puncture to human skin from one of the spines is considered a ‘dirty wound’. If the puncture is deep enough to draw blood, antibiotics may be needed; and could take several months for the wound to heal properly.

The Barrel Cactus does not take very kindly to shade. When I originally planted my barrel in my new garden in 2005 (brought him with me when we moved from our previous property), he was in full sun and doing beautifully, but over the years the trees grew bigger and after a while he was in dappled shade. By 2010 he was grey on his crown and it looked like he was dying. In a panic I lifted him (with great difficulty!) and transplanted him to a sunny spot, just hoping for the best. The next year he was sporting new growth, which I thought was flowers, but it turned out that he was now producing new pups on his crown, to my utmost dismay. This means my barrel is never going to be one big, huge plant. Which I would never have seen anyway, a four year old barrel can be 3 inches high and 2.5 inches wide and they can live up to 130 years old, The barrel cactus easily reaches over a meter in height at maturity, and have been known to reach 10 feet in some regions.

 My Golden Barrel in 2013

Water is a very important component to caring for barrel cactus. The plants are native to arid desert regions and usually have only rainfall to supply their moisture needs. Water your barrel cactus once per week in summer. The barrel cactus doesn’t need much water in winter when it is dormant.


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Cactus splendour

All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Simply put, what separates cacti from succulents are the organs that produce the spines.

Cacti are native to the United States and usually, when one thinks of cacti, one thinks of hot deserts and high temperatures.

But many smaller cacti live in the shade of rocks and other bigger plants and receive very little direct sunlight until they are big enough to fend for themselves. So be careful not to place your potted cacti in a full day's sun or on heat-reflecting patios, this can put a lot of stress on your plants.

All cacti need a well-draining soil. It is always better to water well and thoroughly, letting water pour out of the drain in the pot. Never let cacti sit in standing water. Let them go thoroughly dry between waterings and water sparingly during winter months as cacti do very little growing when cold.

Echinocereus rayonesensis - Hedgehog Cactus. Thick, upright stems forming a mound. 

Typically, these are the Echinocereus, which have stems from two inches to 24 inches tall that grow from a single base. The first part of the genus name Echinocereus comes from the Greek word for 'hedgehog', while the second part 'cereus' comes from the Latin for 'large candle'.

Echinocereus is a genus that is much loved by cactus growers world-wide. There are several characteristics that collectively account for their popularity. All Echinocereus are small plants that are quite suitable for growing in pots and greenhouses. The stems of this genus are more often than not under a foot in height and perhaps 2 or 3 inches in diameter. Some are slightly bigger, some smaller.

Echinocereus rayonesensis 

 A small pot containing Echinocereus rayonesensis, two Haworthias and some Sedum (on the left)

Echinocereus scopulorum 

Echinocereus Scopulorum has single, cylindrical stems, 10 to 40 cm long, nearly hidden by the closely set spines that are devoid of wool. The species occurs in a small region of a south-eastern portion of the state of Arizona and in the Chihuahuan Desert, USA, mostly on foothills and rocky slopes.

They are unbranched (rarely branched), the stems are erect, short cylindric, with 13-19 ribs. It carries 5-8 × 7-10 cm flowers; the blooming time is Spring to summer Fruits: Dark green, brownish tinged, 15-23 mm, pulp white, fruiting 2 months after flowering.

Echinopsis cactus with new pups
Echinopsis is a large genus of cacti native to South America, also known as hedgehog cactus or  sea-urchin cactus. Echinopsis consists of over 100 species and plants range from very small, flattened-globose plants to quite large, treelike giants. As a result, there is a long list of synonymous names for many of the species. Some synonyms referring to other synonyms that refer to a subspecies of some seemingly distinct species. Sorting through these names often makes one feel like you're on a wild goose chase!

The main attraction for Echinopsis collectors is their very large, showy flowers. These flowers are all  funnel–shaped, with hairy/wooly scaled floral tubes which are normally much larger than the mother plant.

Old Man Cactus and Echeveria glauca

After years and years of being 'single', my Old Man Cactus (Cephalocereus senilis) has developed a friendship and branched out a second cactus. Native to Guanajuato and Hidalgo in eastern Mexico, it is threatened in the wild, but widespread propagation and popularity in cultivation have reduced the demand on wild populations.

The old man cactus takes its name from the long, white hair-like strands which grow out of the spiked column that makes up the plant. Like most cacti, the old man cactus is easy to care for. Give an old man cactus as much light as you can provide and allow it to have a dormant period in the winter. Old Man was getting a bit top-heavy in this narrow pot, so I have just recently transplanted him (them) into a larger pot and I am keeping a close eye on them.

This is Opuntia subulata cactus, a member of the most geographically widely-spread genus of Opuntia. Some folks call it Austrocylindropuntia, but you'll find all cacti have at least two if not six names! I haven't had one of these in the garden for years an this was given to me by a dear friend recently so I'm looking forward to seeing it grow. These get rather large, the true species is tree-sized and has four inch spines. But be careful where you plant this cactus - it spreads like wild fire by dropping branches and sending up shoots next to the mother plant and here in South Africa it has actually been put on the list of unwanted aliens.

One of my Rattail cacti (Aporocactus-flagelliformis) has spent the whole summer outside in the garden in stead of on the patio and has been gracefully reaching for the sun before getting too heavy and hanging down. Soon it will be time to take them inside and then, in spring, look forward to the myriad of gorgeous flowers.


Monday, 10 March 2014

Echeveria beauties

At the onset of Autumn, Echeveria imbricata does this wonderful thing of turning pink on the tips of its leaves. The flowering period is almost finished now and soon it will be time to move them to their over-wintering spot in my flower room. These lovely succulents, hailing from Mexico, cannot withstand the severe frost we get in our area.

Echeveria is a large genus of succulents in the Crassulaceae family, native from Mexico to North-western South America. Many of the species produce numerous offsets, and are commonly known as 'Hen and chicks', which can also refer to other genera such as Sempervivum that are significantly different from Echeveria.

Many Echeveria species are popular as garden plants. They are drought-resistant, although they do better with regular deep watering and fertilizing. Although they tolerate winter quite well, the winter frost here in Tarlton is quite severe and often I take them out of the garden, putting them into pots and bringing them into the house, especially those that have got long stems and are not compact and dense any more.

Profuse flowering and large rosettes after plenty of rain



Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Bulbine frutescence

Bulbine frutescence in my garden, Tarlton, South Africa

Commonly called Bulbinella, which is incorrect as Bulbinella is a completely different species, bulbine is effective in preventing skin infection, healing and soothing cuts, rashes, insect bites, burns, cold sores, pimples and other skin problems. Its clear and soothing gel forms an invisible 'seal' over the wound, protecting against bacteria and providing ongoing relief and healing throughout the day.

It is a very attractive succulent indigenous to South Africa which needs little attention, and thrives in most soil types and in most weather conditions. The juice from the leaves is used in creams, and can also be applied to eczema, burns, rashes, fever blisters and stings etc. I often use it on cuts and scrapes I might pick up while working in the garden.

Growth Characteristics:

Occurs naturally in the Free state, KwaZulu-Natal, and in parts of all the Cape Provinces
Perennial, Evergreen, Frost tolerant,
A rosette of fleshy, yellowish-green leaves,
Yelow or orange flowers borne on elongated clusters of long, thin flowering stems
Height: ±40m; Spread: ±30cm,
Very popular rockery plant. It is drought, heat and frost tolerant

Full sun; Well drained, composted soil
Pick fresh leaves throughout the year

Use in shampoo as a moisturiser

Medicinal use
Bulbinella leaf sap may be beneficial in the following cases:

Bulbine is ideal to grow if you have children as it is a first aid remedy for knocks and scrapes

Crash the leaf softly between your fingers and squeeze the clear leaf sap out
Place directly on the skin for wounds, burns, rashes, itches, ringworm, cracked lips, herpes, cuts, boils, eczema, insect bites, cold sores, acne

Preparation and dosage:
Crush the leaf softly between your fingers and squeeze the clear leaf sap out,
Apply topically as often as needed
This information from "HealthyLiving Herbs"

Some newly planted Bulbine frutescence in my herb garden

When planting this delightful herb, make sure you leave enough space between each plant as they tend to spread a meter or more

 Bulbine self-seeds and you will find new plants coming up all over the garden. These are easily removed from areas where they are not wanted and transplanted to a more appropriate location

There are more than 50 Bulbine species and several are used medicinally by our traditional healers. These include B. asphodeloides (wildekopiva), B. alooides (rooistorm), B. narcissifolia (geelslangkop), B. natalensis (rooiwortel), and B. latifolia. This native of South Africa occurs naturally in the Orange Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and parts of all the Cape Provinces.

Afrikaans: balsemkopieva, copaiba, geelkatstert, katstert


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Aloe ferox beauty

A wonderful succulent to have in the garden is Aloe ferox, they never fail to bring colour in winter, and provide much-needed nourishment to birds and insects during a time of scarcity.

Indigenous to South Africa’s Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, and Lesotho, it is one of several Aloe species used to make bitter aloes, a purgative medication, and also yields a non-bitter gel that can be used in cosmetics.

The bitter aloe will reach 2-3 metres in height with the leaves arranged in a rosette. The old leaves remain after they have dried, forming a "petticoat" on the stem. The leaves are a dull green, sometimes with a slightly blue look to them. They may also have a reddish tinge. The "A. candelabrum form" has an elegant shape with the leaf tips curving slightly downwards. The spines along the leaf edge are reddish in colour. Spines may also be present on upper and lower surfaces of the leaves as well. Young plants tend to be very spiny.

The flowers are carried in a large candelabra-like flower-head. There are usually between five and eight branches, each carrying a spike-like head of many flowers. Flower colour varies from yellowy-orange to bright red. "A. candelabrum" has six to twelve branches and the flowers have their inner petals tipped with white.

Aloe ferox is not a demanding species to cultivate, and has no special requirements. It can be grown in a cool/warm glasshouse and put outside for the summer. It is best grown in free-draining compost, which should be soaked and allowed to dry out between waterings. It should be given lighter watering in winter, still allowing the compost to dry out in between. This species can be propagated from seed.

Aloe ferox is listed on the plant list of endangered plants (CITES - Appendix II) along with other wild species of this genus

(Afrikaans : Bitteraalwyn)
Die Bitteraalwyn (Aloe ferox) is ’n struik wat deel is van die aalwynfamilie en is ‘n inheemse plant van Suider Afrika. Die plant blom vanaf Mei tot September. Die struik is ’n stadige groeier met ’n enkelstam en dik, doringrige, vlesige blare en buisvormige, oranjerooi blomme. Dit is ’n uitstekende struik vir die rotstuin en verkies vol son en matige water.

Die sap van die blare word vir medisyne en skoonheidsprodukte gebruik. Die blaar van die Aloe ferox plant bevat twee verskillende sappe, nl. geel bitter sap en wit aalwynjel. Albei die sappe is heilsaam vir die liggaam en word uitwendig sowel as inwendig gebruik. Die bitter sap is direk onder die groen skil geleรซ en is in werklikheid nog deel van die skil. Wanneer ‘n blaar van die plant afgesny word vloei hierdie geel bitter sap spontaan uit die blaar uit. Wanneer die bitter sap gekonsentreer word, word bitter kristalle of bitter poeier gevorm. Die binneste vlesige deel van die blaar is jellierig en bestaan uit ‘n wit slymerige sap wat aalwynjel genoem word. Aalwynjel is nie bitter nie.

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