Saturday, January 20, 2007

Rock wall garden

Usually a rock garden needs a lot of space, but this rock garden in the shape of a wall can be build in a very small area. There seems to be a shortage of planting space in any garden. Even if there is an open area then more often than not it will be in the wrong place.
If your hobby happens to be succulents then you can expand your hobby by building succulent plant walls in the relative small places like on a porch or patio against the wall or in the corner. In this situation it might be a good idea to use lightweight fake stones and a ready made small garden pond as base to catch the water and keep in the soil.

Rock garden against a wall

Hide an unsightly old wall by building a rock garden against the wall.

Or ----- build a rock wall

 in the backdoor garden mainly for the cliff hanging aloes. You might see a small portion of it in the left back corner on the last photo of the previous blog (thank you for water restrictions). It is behind the Aloe africana in bloom.
Here is how I built the wall. I have no doubt that most who do it will do it better but here is a rough idea to get you going.
Not counting hauling all those rocks - The rock garden wall was easy and relatively quick to build, while sitting on a folding chair. Rudi did not help (no need). I "use" him only when I must - and that is a lot.

The large heavy cement blocks do not need cement, just put them down. Use cement to keep the rocks in place on top of each other, unlike the normal rock garden where the rocks do not need cement as they are packed on and into a slope of ground. Leave a space between the building-blocks and the rock wall and leave some holes for the plants between the rocks. I found afterwards that if the wall was watered from the top, the soil spilled out of many of the planting holes. I stuffed the holes with paper which will decay in time and by that time the plants would have made enough roots to keep the soil from spilling out. Maybe if I had though of it I could have built the wall in "compartments" using paper as stoppers instead of the frustration afterwards to get the stoppers into the holes without damaging plants. It is also easier to fill the soil while building, than to try to force in soil into the small planting holes. blush... I should have thought of that while building.

The work scene. As you can see, it is easier with a little help and encouragement from a best friend. Watching between snoozes from the distance ( right side of photo).  Mix the size, colour and shape of the rocks. The wall must have a rough appearance, like a heap of rocks lying where they fell.

The succulent plants need to grow a lot more before the wall would be like I imagined it. It is nice to see the plants grow and find odd small succulents and small type aloes to stick in the holes.

The aloes on the top are Aloe hadyi. It is a cliff hanging aloe. Those leaves grow pointing down, they are not soft hanging down. If one of those aloes would be placed upright those leaves will stick out sideways. New leaves will change direction to grow down once more. I have seen that aloe grown from the watering hole underneath a hanging pot. It looks quite interesting. The flower inflorescens grows sideways for a short way, then it bends and grows upwards past the rest of the aloe plant still going downward.

This succulent rockwall garden is standing for 4-5 months. The cement is too clean and most plants must fill their space and some will be removed. I will keep you posted in another year.

It is not perfect yet, that is the ongoing challenge.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

thank you for the water restrictions2004 was another dry year where the dams that supply water to towns in the Western Cape were running very low. One of the dams that supply both Cape Town and Moorreesburg were at a 15% low. Water restrictions were vital.
It was then that it finally dawned on us that we did not need a lawn. Especially not this small block of grass 9 metres x 10 metres with bare patches and holes dug by the dogs. I did not even take a photo of the lawn (or rather grass patch) as there is no need for me to be reminded of the frustration that went with it.

This was the first part of the transformation after we were sure all traces of grass were dead. We had to dig in compost and dolomite gravel as the soil was in poor condition. I love digging, pity there are always weeding to be done in the garden, seldom any digging. The photo was taken some time in January 2005.

This photo was taken June 2005 which is in winter and that is our rain season. The green moss growth can be seen on the path, right front of the photo. So far only the triangle middle back has been planted, but the other plants were growing fine and ready to be transplanted.
 It is not wise to replant aloes in wet conditions. The thick sap filled roots are brittle and break easy where rot can set in. There are three options at any time if the roots break; let them dry out before planting; cut them off completely (good idea as the roots will rot away or dry up in any case); or in dry conditions plant the aloes but do not water the aloe for at least 6 weeks. It is best to plant aloes when the new roots (they are bright yellow) start to show, at this stage they are not easily damaged. The roots of an aloe can be seen as expendable. The plant absorb the roots in bad times and regrow them very quickly in good times.

The photo above, of our backdoor garden December 2006, which is our summer. Two years after we started with the garden on the photo at the top. It was summer with few aloes in bloom. The Aloe africana was blooming out of season due to it being disturbed by transplanting such a large plant. It was transplanted by Rudi using his trusted method described in his blog resurrecting an aloe
The plants on the photo far left are all immature, they should make a better show in a few months time. I will show more details of the plants in the winter (June-July 2007)  follow this link below.
For more information on how this garden developed.