Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tree aloes

                  Tree aloes 

Few gardens have the space or very strict conditions to grow these extraordinary "tree aloes", but it is worth the space and trouble.  These plants never fail to attract attention to a garden.  The tree aloes are under discussion and it seems that a change of classification might be done in the near future.  It should be available on the www .
 Aloe pilansii  the top of the range of  "must have" for the serious and experienced aloe gardeners.  It is also the most difficult of the tree aloes to grow - if you are able to get one! 
That is me very honoured to stand next to this tree aloe in habitat. Take a look at that habitat.  Near to impossible  to create and even if you live in semi-desert the chemical make-up of the soil plays a role too.
 below:- Aloes of this group known as tree aloes growing in the Vanrhynsdorp nursery.  The nursery is situated in habitat of these aloes which makes it much easier to cultivate them.  Tree aloes from this Vanrhynsdorp nursery has been transported by air at great cost to quite a few gardens public and private world wide.
This photo was taken inside the nursery near the office. In the centre of this aloe group  is a very well grown Aloe ramosissima - it seldom reaches that hight. It is the smallest of this tree aloe group forming a bush growth not single stem tree growth.  It is more difficult than Aloe dichotoma when grown out of habitat.
  On the photo above;  Aloe dichotoma, is on the left.   Aloe dichotoma x Aloe ramosissima hybrid growing to the right is easier to cultivate and grows faster than either one of the two species.
above:  Aloe dichotoma in habitat.  Richtersveld RSA.  That is a natural group of trees.  Trees can be seen on the hill in the background.  The trees grow in rocky areas where the seeds are blown under the rocks and the seedlings are protected against the harsh sun.

Lovely photo taken in the southern part of Namibia after a good rain season.  The Aloe dichotoma servived the difficult first stage and may have enough strength to become a  tree with branches.

Aloe dichotoma has no problem to grow in a public garden in  Windhoek.  The green grass grows in the top soil layer which is watered.  A few centimetres down the ground is dry.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A new book, on Limestone Fynbos, published  by the Duiwenshok Conservancy.
(not a profit organisation!)

Limestone Fynbos is an intriguing flora that occurs on our southern coast, wherever there are limestone hills or cliffs. Most of the plants occur in a broad sweep from Gansbaai to the Gouritz River, including pockets at Cape Point and Macassar. This flora can be divided into three natural units, Agulhas Limestone, De Hope Limestone and Canca Limestone. In December 2007 Veld and Flora published an article on the Agulhas Limestone. The Duiwenhoks Conservancy has added a new aspect to the literature available on this rather unknown flora by publishing a book that describes the Limestone Fynbos of the Vermaaklikheid area, near Heildelberg, which falls in the Canca Limestone unit.

Limestone Fynbos is floristically very different from other vegetation. The reason for this is that these plants thrive on a soil type that would be toxic to most fynbos plants, which are normally found on acidic or neutral soils.  They grow on limestone soils, which are so alkaline that if you squeeze lemon juice on them they will fizz. It is this alkalinity in the soil that is toxic to most fynbos plants. In a remarkable adaptation to a hostile soil environment, Limestone Fynbos has evolved as a unique flora that shares only a few species in common with sandstone fynbos and sand fynbos. As one would expect from a flora that is confined to such specific soils, many plants are endemic, meaning that they grow only on such soils or even at only one locality.

At first glance, this little-known flora appears as dry woody scrub. On closer inspection a fascinating array of intriguing and sometimes tiny flowers emerge. Over the past ten years, the author Louisa Oberholzer began collecting, describing and photographing the plants in the Vermaaklikheid area of the Western Cape ( Near Stillbaai). The Duiwenhoks Conservancy provided financial support for the identification of the species and finally for the publication of the book, Limestone Fynbos of the Vermaaklikheid Area. It presents a photographic record and description of 124 species. Of particular interest are the intriguing Fabaceae, or pea-like flowers and the pungent buchus, which belong to the Rutacea or citrus family.

The aim of the publication is to inform the public and particularly landowners about the value of Limestone Fynbos and the importance controlling alien vegetation, which is a major threat to all the fynbos plant communities.

The book is priced at R130.00 available from the Duiwenhoks Conservancy, ( and also from the author, (

Friday, October 08, 2010

Kalanchoe beharensis 

is a tree size succulent plant from Madagascar. 
It keeps up the Kalanchoe legacy that is:   hardy and it
grows very easy from leaves or pieces of stem.

Photo above is one plant.  This could have been an
even bigger bush if it was not that the branches are often blown off by the wind.  The stems are not strong enough for the heavy leaves full of  water.
Showing size of leaf. The bullterrier posed for size.  One leaf will easy cover her head.

The pattern where the leaves were attached on the stem is
pretty.  There is a hollow as if it was scooped out. Smooth and shiny. With points like thorns on the rim but these 
 "thorns"  where the leaves were attached are blunt and do not cut or scratch.
The inflorescence is very large and heavy.

It is a pity that the flowers are so very small but beautiful seen close-up striped in pale red pink and green.

The Kalanchoe genus 

vary from odd to interesting and beautiful succulent plants.  For the most part popular.  However there are a few species that are very hardy and grow  easy from leaves or any piece of vegetation so that they are seen as weeds.
Kalanchoe bossveldiana,  could be the most popular
species cultivated for beautiful flowers here in the Republic of South Africa.  The plants are 
mostly sold in pots but they do best hanging.
Here on my rock garden wall the pink flowering one is 
so pretty I bought the yellow flowering one this year. 
There is a bright red one growing wild in the Kavango area. I must add an update photo some time

I am looking forward to the yellow flowering Kalanchoe
blooming as nice as the pink one next year.

The hanging aloes on the wall are a small species one from Madagascar to the left of the pink blooms.  Then to the right three Aloe pendens from Yemen followed by a few Aloe hardii from South Africa.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

feed me

Feed me

The theme in our garden is aloes with other water saving plants to keep it interesting. 
Maybe "water wise gardening" fits the theme better. Any succulent and drought resistant plants which do not harm my aloes are welcome.
Strolling through the garden a few days ago, this scene triggered a memory.
Take a second look.
That was very long ago I know -  but does "feed me !!!!" ring a bell ?
The weird plant in "Little shop of horrors" ...   A very old rock musical (but the kids still enjoy to see it.)
This plant is so realistic to the plant in the musical that I could hear it say - "Feed me !!"
While taking this photo I had a strange feeling it might snap at my finger.
Now serious.    This is a very easy water-wise plant that can grow well over a meter high.  The hairy leaves are soft with a velvet touch.
It was cultivated from Kalanchoe beharensis  from Madagascar.!
  aha ... I knew it.  I would expect something like that from Madagascar.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Euphorbia species

It is extraordinary how many Euphorbia there are and how much they differ from each other.  The only way to know they are related is by the  flowers.
Here is a photo of the tiny ground cover.  The leaves are very small  in dry weather.  I added my finger tip for scale.

It was only recently that I found out that this old favorite ground cover  was in fact an Euphorbia!

Never forget that the milky sap or latex of  the Euphorbia plant is highly toxic.  Especially in the eyes.  There is one very fierce large tree size Euphorbia in the northern parts of South Africa where it is dangerous  in habitat where those large plants grow to walk downwind when they are in bloom.  Your eyes will start burning and you better cover the eyes and nose with a  piece of  cloth quickly.
Surprisingly the bees and butterflies love the flowers !
There are animals - even domestic cattle - that eat some of the Euphorbia species.  This is life saving for the animals in Namaqualand and the Karoo.
I would like an assortment Euphorbia  between the aloe 
plants but most of the pretty or odd ones are rather difficult plants out of their habitat.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Orange slime for Gisela.
If you have some info on this then we can add it here. 
Let me know if you want the larger photos and I will email it to you.

I saw it only once - early morning.  By midday the
bubbles have all "melted" into a thin  layer of orange liquid.

If I had a scientific mind I would not have picked it up
but I wanted to have a closer look and did not realize it was so very fragile.

There was no sign that the slime damaged the plant in any way.  This was large enough to fill my hand -   "fist size".

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Ever changing scenes in the garden.  After I took the photo I realized how much the scene changed. Seeing it every day it seems to be the same. The aloes are Aloe gerstneri in front and you need to look close to see Aloe speciosa behind.
 Photo above was taken January 2007
 Photo below was taken January 2010
Aloe gerstneri blooms in summer  and Aloe speciosa in winter. The photo bellow is to show Aloe speciosa in bloom,  winter July 2009.

The angle of this photo is slightly different. There are still two Aloe gerstneri  plants the second one is behind the first one.  The toppled plum tree can be seen in the background  with only a few yellow leaves on it. The winter growing mesemb on the left is now bright green.  This photo below of Aloe speciosa  was taken 1 Aug. 2010.  In fact I went and took this photo a few minutes ago. Those flower racemes are at least 50 cm high and there are three! Below, this aloe from the side showing clearly the rosette facing north which is the rule for this aloe species.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This rock garden is excellent for a veranda, balcony or indoor.

The plants are in pots hidden by the stones. To reduce the weight on a balcony -  place polysterine foam around the pots which then need only a single layer stones to cover it.
Scatter small pebbles between the stones to fill gaps and holes.
Bright lights are needed to grow the succulent plants in this eye-catching indoor rock garden.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Trusting you are enjoying the festive season  and wishing you a healthy joyful new year.

Take a look what I found in the garden for xmas.


It is a member of the Dandelion family. 
The seeds are large, about the size of a tennis ball.

A little glitter added to the festive season, but the
natural glitter above is also pretty.. 

I picked them the beginning of December and they are
still exactly the same.

That must be because I keep them out of a draft 
and nobody touches them.