26 February, 2017

February in our False Bay garden

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

High summer, blue skies. Reisiger sculpture by Jaco Sieberhagen on the Hermanus beach prom Fynarts.

Reisiger by Jaco Sieberhagen

We have a family of hadeda ibis who call this garden home. The bane of the Ungardener's life as he clears their cowpats from the steppingstones. They do eat snails. Mama glaring at me from the trellis, while junior is ON the table.

Hadeda ibis

For Through the Garden Gate start on the green verge and the Karoo Koppie which deal with sun and wind. A bit concerned about our view of Chapman's Peak. Inside the gate, the garden is greener - our view from the Adirondacks.

Top left a glimpse of Chapman's Peak
The verge and Karoo Koppie
Rose Courtyard

Walk down from Spring Promise to Summer Gold. As soon as the plant list is available I shall choose gap fillers from the Kirstenbosch Plant Fair on 18 and 19 March. Themed on Amazing Aromatics there will be indigenous pot pourri with dried Dombeya  flowers.

Summer Gold and Spring Promise
Dombeya leaves bottom right

We have a paved circle beside Froggy Pond. Today it is breezy, but on a still day it is a green corner far from suburbia. Hibiscus tiliaceus came from Porterville as two small cuttings and now looks me in the eye!

Froggy Pond

Wind along the Woodland Walk past the lemon tree. Up Cornish Stripe on the far side, where the edible banana and Strelitzia nicolai are The Jungle. Granadilla and Senecio are winding across the trellis outside the kitchen window. It is a small garden, but we have aimed to use every corner, and invite a walk around the garden.

Cornish Stripe
(I have trimmed the nasty elbow from the lemon. And got a centre gap)

I don't do seeds or annuals. I prefer the generous seasonal display from blooming trees and shrubs. In Summer Gold Calpurnia aurea is blooming for the first time. A heart leaf on Hibiscus tiliaceus. Potted lime tree is happy on its new diet of grey water. Plumbago, Abelia and Indigofera colour their patches.

Blooming trees and shrubs

For a small posy plenty of pelargoniums and autumn's Plectranthus.

Plectranthus bottom right

I <3 dandelions. The first Alstroemeria. Burnt orange Kalanchoe in a protected shady corner. California dreaming poppies.

Commonorgarden February colour

Cape Town's dams would hold enough water to supply us for two years. But for the last two years the winter rains failed. Theewaterskloof dam (beach) is our main source of water and emptying as you look. 62% of our water goes straight to agricultural irrigation - unfortunately still on a spray into the wind and sun mindset. Within the city 20 000 accounts are abusing two thirds of our water supply - they are being carrot and stick, warned then fined, supply throttled and to be named and shamed.

Each household gets 6 kilolitres free, and we are working back towards that level of usage. Harvesting grey water (bath water via a newly fitted grey water tap for the garden) (shower in a baby bath and use that to flush the loo) (60 litres from a load of washing still to sort)

Our water will last another 100 days, till the winter rain, if we can reduce the daily demand from the current 800 to 700 million litres. Each person to use 20 litres less a day - seems little enough to ask! Desalination would require an expensive plant, much energy, and then produce costly water. Tapping into the aquifer needs to be sustainable.

Sadly many gardeners still whine for a green lawn, using wellpoints and boreholes as if they 'produce their own water!!'


Waiting for petrichor, and autumn and winter rain.

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  1. Dear Diana,
    where does the Hadeda ibis nest in your garden? Do they nest in trees?
    I can't imagine having such a beautiful, large bird in the garden.

    1. They visit us every day. Linger for a while as the mulch layer is full of insects for them.
      Now I'm wondering where they do sleep at night??

  2. Your garden looks green and peaceful, but depressing to read how low your dams are, people take a long time to accept water restrictions, until it is too late! I hope you get winter rain.
    I remember the Hadedas, they make a racket when they settle down at night...but I'm glad they at least eat the snails!

    1. If I time it wrong and they scream just overhead, I jump. So loud it hurts my ears. At least junior mumbles softly to mum.

  3. I would love to have the Ibis too. Probably wouldn't be long before I regretted saying it, but they do look rather splendid.
    And Kirstenbosch Plant Fair! That must be pretty special.

    1. Especially the year it poured with rain, and the list melted in my hands!
      We should be so lucky this year ...

  4. The Ibis are handsome creatures even if they have poor sanitary practices! I sympathize with the frustration of knowing that some of those in your area don't take your drought and the related water restrictions as seriously as you do. Los Angeles County had one homeowner, referred to as the "Wet Prince of Bel Air," who used a staggering 11.8 million gallons of water a year - he (or she) was never publicly identified even though there were multiple attempts to investigate and to force identification.

    1. The L'Oreal 'cos I'm worth it attitude.
      Going to be interesting to see who our Wet Princes and Princesses are!

    2. http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-wet-prince-identity-20160920-snap-story.html

  5. Hello Diana

    Lovely to read your blog and hear from a gardener in another country.

    I realise that failure of winter rains two years running is serious, but do private citizens install rain water tanks on their lots in Cape Town? It has been quite a trend here in Sydney, New South Wales. At one stage, it was even compulsory for new developments. Of course, tanks can run out also if not replenished. During a long drought period here, our water authority ran a very successful campaign to encourage residents to reduce their water usage. Once our dams were full again, the authority ceased the campaign thereby squandering great social capital.

    Appropriate plant selection (revised for climate change) and mulch, mulch, mulch are important strategies as well. Desalination plants and aquifer tapping should definitely be avoided.

    1. We had 2 500L rain water tanks when we lived in Porterville.
      There is such demand for water tanks in Cape Town now that the suppliers are running out.

      Beyond our winter rainfall corner of the country, all water restrictions have been lifted as the dams are overflowing. Yes - squandering great social capital!

  6. The Ibis look very special wouldn't enjoy cleaning up after them either!
    Sorry to hear about your water shortage, your garden is looking very green in spite of it. I hope you get some rain soon.

    1. (I keep seeing social media comments - too sad to go into my brown dead garden - time to garden for global weirding and leave the Must Have Lawn behind)

  7. The garden looks lovely. Froggy Pond is my favorite.

  8. It was lovely wandering around your garden Diane. I wouldn't enjoy the ibis they look rather large! It sounds quite a challenge managing your water supply! Sarah x

    1. Large yes, but not aggressive. They retreat screaming in horror if you get too near. VERY LOUD birds.

  9. Does the Ibis family bathe in Froggy Pond?

    1. They do. There is a convenient shelf near the frog. Bathing is also very NOISY with them.

  10. I do hope your rain arrives soon. I'm very jealous of you being able to go to the Kirstenbosch Plant Fair...I can only dream of what might be for sale!

    1. will blog a bit from the catalogue ... when I get one.

  11. The paved circle beside Froggy Pond would be my favorite spot to take a break from gardening, though it looks like the ibis might resent my intrusion. Your sumer garden looks very lush; I hope your rain arrives soon!

    1. despite their size they are quite shy birds, retreating in a hurry or flying off!

  12. Love the blue of the sculpture against the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea. I hope you will get winter rains this year to renew your water resources. -Jean


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