Saturday, May 27, 2006

The winter is here with rain and aloe flowers. I can not remember ever looking forward to winter before I had an aloe garden.
We have more than 100 different aloes, mostly species, but a few hybrids too. The aloe in bloom is a hybrid with Aloe framesii (on the left next to it) and Aloe krapohliana which is a smaller aloe. Aloe krapohliana grows in the very arid Namaqualand and Aloe framesii grows along the west coast. Their habitat overlap, but there are very few natural hybrids. We saw one only once.
The climate in Namaqualand is very harsh in the summer, but in winter when it rains Namaqualand changes into a flower garden. Mostly succulents, mesembs and daisies, but also lilies and even ground orchards. The Western Cape where we live border on Namaqualand and our rain season is also in the winter - our rainfall is quite a bit higher, but strictly speaking we are very near to Namaqualand and many of the plants can grow in our garden.
By the way the garden above is part of Rudi's garden. The aloes in front are left to right. Aloe comptonii, Aloe framesii (two plants ), Aloe hybrid mentioned above and Aloe thraskii.

photo left is roughly what my side of the garden looks like in bloom.

Something special. My favourite little patch

The cone shaped plants in the centre are ground orchards Satyrium odorum.  Very pretty bright green and easy growing,  in our winter rainfall climate.  The flowers are very small and green with a pleasant soft smell but it is easy to overlook them.  Not even the comment that they are  ugly (like the flowers of some orchards), as they are so small and easy to miss.
The lily at the back has just two very large leaves Haemanthus coccineus - the paintbrush lily. The two leaves span close to a meter.

Paintbrush lily the name fits perfectly.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

An aloe is not just a succulent plant with orange flowers and teeth around the edges of the leaves - Aloes differ in the shape of the rosette and the shape of the racemes with the flowers being anything in white, yellow, orange, red, green, and any combination of these colors or shades of these colors. More than slightly different to the idea that an aloe has orange flowers.

The aloe species bloom at different times so that it is possible to have an aloe in bloom in the garden throughout the year. They will grow in rocky ground or under trees where most other plants suffer.

Aloes are associated with health. Enjoy the flowers and use the gel. Enjoy the flowers and use the gel to make your own fresh skin cream. Cut the leaf like you would slice a carrot. Peel off the dark green outer skin. Keep the clear very slippery gel. The gel has no taste, the bitter taste associated with aloes comes from the green outside layer which excrete a greenish very bitter sap.  Rub the gel through a sieve and use the fresh gel on your face and neck. It has a cool refreshing feeling and dries quickly to form a silky layer that will protect the skin. The gel can also be mixed into a cream lotion for a quality hand or body cream.  There are no preservatives in the gel. Cut a small ring from the leaf to use immediately and keep the lotion in the fridge. The gel lasts weeks when left in the leaf in a dry place

That is not all ..... Established plants can survive for months without water. No need to worry about going on holiday. It is better to leave the plants dry than to get somebody who do not love them, they are very sensitive to that.