Monday, July 06, 2015

Rock gardens

Four different  rock gardens 

Build a rock garden against a wall

Rock garden wall built standing alone

Flat rock garden

a  full garden size rock garden

The wall standing alone is the only rock garden that might need some instructions.  It was build using large building blocks in the centre row.  Smaller flat stones cemented on top of each other, leaving pockets for soil and plants,  were then added in front to hide the large blocks.  The building blocks are hollow which is convenient to plant the top row. 

Windhoek Namibia.

Meet Kambi the kudu doe with her innocent eyes and long eye-lashes.  The feral cats on the farms form bonds with the cattle and horses in the stables.  They catch rodents and live with their adopted 4-leg families much like the cats living with humans in cities.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The aloe garden looking back over time and different seasons.

The aloe succulent water saving garden all rolled into one effort,  the first year after we planted it. That was a busy time.

A few years later
The garden in the winter rain season.   
The aloes are in bloom and unlike the dry 
summer, it is green with flowers all over.

 This photo was taken to the right side of the photo above after the daisies and mesembs started their flowering.

Summer time in the Western Cape province is hot and dry, but winter time makes up for it with rain and a mild cold weather.  The world change into green with natural flowers and also easy gardening for people who like  more exotic gardens.

This is one of the "back roads" into Sutherland.  If you take a close look - you will spot the daisies.
Sutherland is the small town near the well known  SALT observatory.  The climate temperature is of the lowest in the RSA in winter, but more important for SALT is the dry air. Yet the daisies ads some colour even in this harsh climate.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Aloe barberae tree aloe

Aloe barberae tree aloe

 Aloe barberae below is not from a harsh habitat
and an easy tree aloe to grow in a garden.

The range of this aloe is a broad coastal zone from East
London in South Africa northwards up to Mozambique. 

Above:-  This is a group of trees planted together.
Here it is growing very well  in the winter rainfall  frost free climate.  Aloe barberae does not like frost but even there you will find them in gardens in Namaqualand or in the Karoo botanical garden where there is frost.  The secret is that it is dry frost and the trees were protected by other plants or against a house. Wet and cold kills most aloes. 

This tree grows high.  

Here is Aloe barberae as a single tree planted next to
Aloe marlothii to the left and Aloe ferox to the right - Both species are also described as tree aloes and are about 3 metres on the photo but the aloes grow larger than that.  They seem shorter because of their width, but they are large and heavy!
The photo was taken in the botanical garden near
Worcester.  The Aloe barberae tree grows on a hill where the cold air will move downhill quickly.  This climate is very dry compared to the habitat of Aloe barberae which proves again that this is an easy aloe to grow.

Photo above is a group of trees planted together.  Here the trees are growing in winter rainfall and still going strong.  This is a very adaptable aloe.

tree aloe Aloe littoralis

 Aloe littoralis  tree aloe   growing in our aloe and succulent water saving garden Aloe litorallis is a tree aloe that may grow at least to 3 meter high.  It is special in that it blooms very young and small for a tree aloe.  

The aloe in centre front is an Aloe aculeata x Aloe zebrina hybrid.  It grows without problem but I would have liked it to bloom more often than skipping a year ever so often. 
It is a pity that the aloe and messemb do not bloom together for the photos. 
The messembs should be beautiful this year.

Below Aloe littoralis in habitat that is near Windhoek Namibia .

The inflorescence of Aloe litorallis is impressive as is the whole plant.

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.