Indigenous

Lowveld Botanical Gardens

Water Lilies on a Pond at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens

Water Lilies on a Pond at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens

The Lowveld Botanical Gardens, located at the confluence of the Nel and Crocodile Rivers in Mbombela (previously Nelspruit) Mpumalanga, has a special place in my heart. I grew up in Nelspruit and the indigenous trees and shrubs of the bushveld evokes a comforting nostalgia. When I think of the Lowveld images of Paperbarks, Euphorbias, Aloes, Kiaat and Lowveld Chestnut trees (to name a few) come to mind. My love for nature and indigenous plants has grown as a direct result of the influence of growing up surrounded by the natural beauty the Lowveld. I guess this was one of the reasons I chose to have my wedding photographs taken in the Botanical Gardens and fondly remember walking along the draw bridge to the restaurant where the reception was held.

Nelspruit Waterfall / Cascades

Nelspruit Waterfall / Cascades

Nelspruit Cascades
Nelspruit Cascades

The Lowveld Botanical Gardens boasts a beautiful display of inviting green spaces, impressive trees and amazing cycads. The Garden hosts concerts, wild flower shows, art shows, and plant sales while weddings, baby showers and other events can be celebrated at the Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden. A children’s playground provides opportunities for families to relax and the kids to have fun with an added educational element.

Playground at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens, near the Tea Garden

Playground at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens, near the Tea Garden

Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden

Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden

The Garden is home to the largest man-made African Rainforest in an area of approximately 5 hectares along the Crocodile River. It is said to have the largest collection of South African cycads (and fig trees), more than 700 tree species and more than 3000 plant species in cultivation.

Large areas of Lawn with Cycads and Trees

Large areas of Lawn with Cycads and Trees

 “Genesis of a Garden, Lowveld Botanical Garden 1969-1981” is a book written by Elise Buitendag who was involved from the inception of the gardens and worked there during it’s first twelve years of establishment. The beautiful coffee table book includes historical information, photographs, personal memoirs and stunning botanical artworks by the author.

Elise Buitendag is a qualified botanist and acknowledged as one of South Africa’s professional botanical artists having authored and illustrated several publications. Her paintings are mainly inspired by the wonder of plants, as encountered daily in the Lowveld bush and in her garden.

“The area donated by both the town council and HL Hall & Sons had a dramatic beauty, with its roaring cascades and rugged landscape, but was considered by many as unsuitable, primarily because of the Y-shaped junction of the Crocodile and Nels River which would divide the garden into three distinct sections. To create a garden in such a diverse and fragmented terrain seemed a very ambitious undertaking.” (Page 9)

“Another tree, the huge fever-tree at the lapa has gained monumental stature and has become an icon in the garden. This tree was grown from seed sown in 1973. I remember how the lanky little seedling grew so rapidly that it couldn’t support itself and had to be tied to a pole to keep it upright. Today everyone who loves the Garden takes pleasure in this beautiful lemon-yellow to lime-green giant.” (Page 161)

Fever Tree

Buitendag’s book is a wonderful depiction of the Garden’s history and looks at the Place, the Plants and the People. The beautiful artworks create a visual experience for the reader that strongly evokes the sense of place that this special garden holds.

Elise Buitendag Artwork in her Book “Genesis of a Garden”

Elise Buitendag Artwork in her Book “Genesis of a Garden”

For more information please visit: https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/lowveld/

Why you deserve a beautiful garden:

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Life is hectic, chaotic even. People live fast-paced, stressful lives balancing work, family, traffic, deadlines and commitments. You often just need a place to stop. And Breathe. An outdoor space provides the opportunity to listen to the birds chirping; feel dappled sunlight or a soft breeze on your face; and a place to experience that sense of peace that only nature can bring.

 

A landscape or garden is any outdoor space that can provide this solace. It can be the backyard at your office, the neighbourhood park, the hospital courtyard, or your garden at home. Humans crave a connection with nature and a well-designed garden can bring a feeling of balance and calm to the soul.

 

Spending time in a beautiful garden can be rewarding and delightful:

 

Improvements at work

-          Increased employee satisfaction and productivity

-          Positive health benefits

-          Cooler micro-climate

-          Increased property value

 

Making family memories at home

-          Playing ball games on the lawn

-          Letting them water with the hosepipe and the water fun that follows

-          Treasure hunts and hide and seek

-          Climbing trees and tree houses

 

Meeting with Nature

-          Discovering earthworms as you dig in the soil to plant new plants

-          Growing plants from seed and watching them grow

-          Discovering insects and birds you’ve never seen before

 

A Sense of accomplishment

-          Growing a vegetable garden and providing food for your table

-          Picking flowers to put in a vase at the front door

-          Contributing positively to the environment by planting indigenous plants

 

Planning is the first step to a beautiful outdoor space. Let’s start today. Contact Sprout to schedule a site visit. Everyone deserves a beautiful garden #loveYOURGARDEN

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House E Indigenous Planting

Indigenous Grasses with Cycads and Aloes. Trees screening neighbouring house.

Indigenous Grasses with Cycads and Aloes. Trees screening neighbouring house.

House E is a stunning example of the beauty that South African flora holds and makes use of indigenous grasses with several focal plants in between.

A grass mix including Aristida junciformis and Melinis nerviglumis was interplanted with several bulbs such as Ornithogalum thyrsoides, Dierama spp, Eucomis autumnalis and Eucomis comosa, which formed the main planting theme.

Several feature plants grow out of the grass mix including Aloes, Proteas, Cabbage Trees and Cycads.

Trees: Large Olive trees were used as the primary screening elements which were interplanted with Loxostylis alata, Dombeya rotundifolia, Heteropyxis natalensis and Nuxia floribunda. Dais cotinifolia were also added as feature trees.

Shrubs: a screening hedge of Dodonea angustifolia created a green boundary and smaller shrubs such as Polygala myrtifolia, Coleonema alba and Euryops virgineus were added.

Before and During Construction

After Implementation and then the greener images are taken 4 months after installation.

The Herb Farm at Doonholm Nursery

Fennel flowering - beautiful combination with purple of Lavender

Fennel flowering - beautiful combination with purple of Lavender

I attended a seminar at a venue called The Herb Farm at Doonholm nursery a few weeks ago and was delighted to discover this piece of gardening paradise! The gardens consist of a South African indigenous medicinal herb garden, a reflection pond, a spiral labyrinth herb garden, a scented rose garden and an educational garden. All the plants in this garden (trees, shrubs, groundcovers, climbers, annuals, succulents) are herb plants and this garden has been created to showcase the incredible range of herbal plants at our disposal.

A plant lovers delight! Amazing plant combinations, variety of colour and texture

A plant lovers delight! Amazing plant combinations, variety of colour and texture

The gardens began in 2006 and evolved over the years (the owner described it as a “lappieskombers” or “patchwork quilt”) so that each year a new section was added. It is estimated that it now contains over 450 types of herb plants.

Educational Garden with terraces of herb planting

Educational Garden with terraces of herb planting

There are numerous signboards throughout the garden indicating plant names and their uses. In the Educational Garden you will find: Herbs for Pets, Scented Herbs, Healing Herbs, Insect Repellent Herbs (On a side note I have heard that certain herbs deter pigeons, I really need to find out which ones!) Companion Herbs for Veggie Gardening, Flavour Herbs for Cooking and Herbs for Teas. Herbal plants have numerous beneficial properties and it is widely accepted that our knowledge of the potential that plants hold is under utilised. Look at https://healthyliving-herbs.co.za/medicinal-herbs/ to see specific herbs and their health benefits.

Sprout visits Herb Farm

The Scented Rose Garden: Planted entirely with scented roses ranging from strong to subtle scents and light to dark coloured blooms. Rose petals are edible, used to flavour rose water for food and cosmetics, and used to make confetti and potpourri.

Rose Garden with Steel Gazebo

Rose Garden with Steel Gazebo

Beautiful Rosemary

Beautiful Rosemary

Refreshments are available at The Herb Cafe. Conference Facilities for smaller groups available. Please contact them before visiting as access is by appointment only. 264 Summit Road (R562), Midrand (Olifantsfontein Offramp) Tel: 0861 244 837 or info@herbfarm.co.za

Design with FOLIAGE

Combination of leaf shapes, sizes and textures

Combination of leaf shapes, sizes and textures

I always try put more emphasis on choosing plants according to their foliage for a landscape rather than choosing plants based on their flowers. Flowers only last a short season, but foliage lasts all year round. Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers and always add flowering plants to my designs but they are not the skeleton of the design. It is the texture - size and shape of leaves - that add variety and interest.

Aristida junciformis - Three Awn Grass - Soft Texture

Aristida junciformis - Three Awn Grass - Soft Texture

Grasses are wonderful at adding texture with their long flowing shapes that move in the wind. So are Kniphofias, Aloes and various succulents with different leaf shapes and colours. Bulbs (Eucomis, Crinum, Crocosmia) interplanted between grasses add interest and seasonal variety. Every year that my bulbs come up I am unexpectedly delighted!

Eucomis zambeziaca - Pineapple Lily. There are several Eucomis species, such a rewarding Bulb!

Eucomis zambeziaca - Pineapple Lily. There are several Eucomis species, such a rewarding Bulb!

I love combining plants that have large leaves with ones that have small, fine leaves. Succulents are a great choice as they are waterwise and require little water. They also withstand harsh weather conditions and will not die easily. Certain deciduous plants (Eg: Tree - Combretum krausii) turn gold, yellow and red before losing their leaves. This also adds seasonal interest and shows the changing of time and seasons.

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora - White Lady. This succulent turns a brighter red the more sun it gets

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora - White Lady. This succulent turns a brighter red the more sun it gets

So next time you choose a plant for your garden, don’t think about the colour of the flower but rather the leaf shape, size and colour and how this will complement the other plants. Here are a few lovely plants for adding texture to your garden:

A Client's beautiful indigenous garden - combining Aloes with Fynbos plants like Leucodendron

A Client's beautiful indigenous garden - combining Aloes with Fynbos plants like Leucodendron

Euryops pectinatus - Golden Daisy Bush. Grey-Green Foliage

Euryops pectinatus - Golden Daisy Bush. Grey-Green Foliage

Rhus burchellii - don't you love that curved leaf?

Rhus burchellii - don't you love that curved leaf?

Rhigozum obovatum - tiny grey leaves

Rhigozum obovatum - tiny grey leaves

Scabiosa africana - those flower heads are like pincushions once the flowers die down

Scabiosa africana - those flower heads are like pincushions once the flowers die down

Sunbird Aloes Open Day

Aloes

Every garden needs a selection of Aloes, not only for their sculptural quality but more importantly for the splash of colour they bring in Winter when everything else looks dull and drab. Aloes are indigenous and waterwise and they really need very little attention (unless they get diseases... see far below). There is a wide variety of species available in different sizes as well as different growth forms - from larger clump forming Aloe arborescens and free-standing Aloe marlothii to smaller Aloe cryptopoda, Aloe striata (no thorns) and even the Tree Aloe Barberae.

These species get used in landscaping repeatedly so it is always exciting to find new species in the forms of Hybrids to use; these add interest and variety to a design. Leo Thamm from Sunbird Aloe Nursery specialises in growing hybrid Aloes that he has bred to produce the best flowering plants, something he has been doing for over forty years.

"Wherever different Aloe species flower together in the wild one is likely to find natural hybrids. Hybridisation happens when a bird or an insect accidentally deposits pollen from one species on the flower(s) of another. The seeds that form as a result of this so-called cross-pollination hold the genetic key to plants that are different from both the parent plants. The resulting seedling(s) grow up to be hybrids showing a combination of characteristics of the parent plants. Normally the pollen ‘donor’ is called the father, and the seed bearing parent the mother plant.

In theory any 2 aloes can be “crossed” to create a new hybrid. Some do not make good parents – their offspring can be very disappointing. Still others may be incompatible, and it takes many years to discover the best and most viable combinations. Consequently the pedigree of most of our cultivars is a closely guarded secret." (http://www.sunbirdaloes.co.za/)

Aloe garden at Vine Street Nursery in Ferndale

Aloe garden at Vine Street Nursery in Ferndale

Form, Texture and Colour

Form, Texture and Colour

On Saturday 17 June 2017 Sunbird Aloes held an Open Day where the public could buy directly from them (it is not normally possible to buy directly from a wholesale nursery, especially when only purchasing a few plants). It was wonderful to the see the plants growing so happily in the greenhouses and to see the beautiful flowering cultivars on display. I purchased Aloe 'Green Gold', Aloe 'Snowkiss', Aloe 'Campari' and Aloe 'Andrea's Orange' and am excited to plant them in my garden. But first I need to deal with a small problem...

With great dismay I admit that the existing Aloes in my garden are diseased and although I have been in denial about it for a while, hoping that nature would take it's course and that the plants would fight their own battles, I have realised that some intervention from my part is required. I was grateful for the information about Aloe Care posted on the Sunbird Aloe Website and specifically the guidance given when your Aloes have Gall Mite (Aloe Cancer)  or Aphids and Mealie Bugs. Since my Aloes have both (see images below) I am implementing the advice given (using Blue Death Powder and Systemic Insecticide) and hope that this will help to save my existing plants as well as prevent the new Aloes I bought at the Open Day from also getting the diseases!

Deformed Inflorescence - flowers look cancerous 

Deformed Inflorescence - flowers look cancerous 

Deformed Inflorescence with Aphids

Deformed Inflorescence with Aphids

Inspired by South African Indigenous Flora

I have been fortunate to listen to two presentations by Elsa Pooley: one hosted at Random Harvest Indigneous Nursery in 2015 and the other at the ILASA Conference held in September 2015 (See Previous Blog written on ILASA Conference). I also recently attended a course at The Cavern in the Drakensberg where I was able to view some examples of beautiful indigenous plants  and see examples of these plants growing in the wild.

Turrea floribunda flowering at Random Harvest Nursery

Turrea floribunda flowering at Random Harvest Nursery

To see more about the tree in the above image visit: http://www.randomharvest.co.za/South-African-Indigenous-Plants/Show-Plant/PlantId/112?Plant=Turraea%20floribunda  

Elsa Pooley is an advocate for using indigenous plants in public and civic spaces and strongly believes that any form of rehabilitation should exclusively make use of locally indigenous species. She has spent many years studying the indigenous flora of South Africa, particularly in Kwa-Zulu Natal and knows the great potential that South African plants have, but are unfortunately not commercially grown and therefore not well known by landscapers and home owners. Fortunately for us Random Harvest is one of only a handful of nurseries in the country growing indigenous plants, many of which have until now been unavailable.

An indigenous garden can have colour all year round and although this may not always be bright flowers it can come from foliage and the variety of colour and texture from different plants. Elsa mentions how South African plants are used throughout the world but we do not necessarily appreciate their true value as we prefer to make use of exotic plants in our designs. The temptation for landscapers is to use the same old plants they always use because they are easy and work well but there are so many other plants that we could be using.

Some plants I saw in the Drakensberg that I hope to use in the future in my landscape designs:

Pelargonium reniforme   (photographed at Engen Garage in Harrismith, all other images taken at The Cavern in the Drakensberg)

Pelargonium reniforme  (photographed at Engen Garage in Harrismith, all other images taken at The Cavern in the Drakensberg)

Helichrysum sutherlandii  - look at this wonderful grey foliage

Helichrysum sutherlandii - look at this wonderful grey foliage

Kniphofia northiae  - large Poker highly rated by Elsa, impressive flowers

Kniphofia northiae - large Poker highly rated by Elsa, impressive flowers

Hesperantha coccinea  - Pink Variety, normally Red Flowers

Hesperantha coccinea - Pink Variety, normally Red Flowers

Monopsis decipiens

Monopsis decipiens

Inulanthera calva

Inulanthera calva

Helichrysum hypoleucum  - likes a bit of shade

Helichrysum hypoleucum - likes a bit of shade

Merxmuellera macowanii  - beautiful ornamental grass ( Gomphostigma  on Right)

Merxmuellera macowanii - beautiful ornamental grass (Gomphostigma on Right)

Syncolostemon macratnhus  - tall purple pink flowering shrub

Syncolostemon macratnhus - tall purple pink flowering shrub

Helichrysum acutatum

Helichrysum acutatum

Metalasia densa

Metalasia densa

Gladiolus crassifolius

Gladiolus crassifolius

Wahlenbergia

Wahlenbergia

Lotononis pulchella

Lotononis pulchella

Thalictrum rhynchocarpum -  soft and delicate foliage for shady areas

Thalictrum rhynchocarpum - soft and delicate foliage for shady areas

Seriphium plumosum  (Bankrotbos) also known as  Stoebe plumosa

Seriphium plumosum (Bankrotbos) also known as Stoebe plumosa

Polygala virgata  (Purple Broom)

Polygala virgata (Purple Broom)

Clematis bracteata  (Travellers Joy) - beautifully scented dainty white flowers make this an ideal creeper 

Clematis bracteata (Travellers Joy) - beautifully scented dainty white flowers make this an ideal creeper 

I hope that you will also be inspired by these beautiful plants and experiment with indigenous plants in your garden!

Random Harvest Details: 

For directions please go to our website www.randomharvest.co.za : or call 082-553-0598

Hours of business 8:00 to 17:00 Monday to Sundays

I highly recommend subscribing to Random Harvest Newsletter on their website

The Cavern - Nature Journaling Course

The Cavern hosts a variety of activities on its events calendar throughout the year including: bird weekends, yoga retreats, photography workshops and mountain bike races amoungst others. I joined the course called ‘Sketching and journaling – creating a nature journal’ hosted by two well-known figures in the botanical field: Elsa Pooley and Gillian Condy.

The Cavern

The course was run from Wednesday 1 March – Sunday 5 March 2017 and we were blessed with wonderful weather over this time. A few late afternoon showers were well timed as this was when we were indoors drawing in the studio.

Beautiful scenery on our morning walks

Beautiful scenery on our morning walks

View of the Hotel from a vantage point on a morning hike

View of the Hotel from a vantage point on a morning hike

Wonderful hikes in the mountains

Wonderful hikes in the mountains

If you have ever been to The Cavern you will already be well aware of its reputation to fill your belly with the most wonderful and delicious meals as well as provide a relaxing atmosphere that makes you feel as if you have entered into a beautiful warm bubble where all you can think is “Life is Good”.

Always fun choosing what to have for dinner from the menu!

Always fun choosing what to have for dinner from the menu!

Our programme roughly involved breakfast at 8am followed by a morning hike into the beautiful surroundings where we would stop to draw whatever caught our eye (a dam, a tree, the bridge, moss, flowers, a bubbling stream) and then tea was brought to us at our location in the bush. We would head back to camp for lunch and then in the afternoon spend time in the studio drawing the plants we brought back with us from the morning walk. Some people drew flowers, others fungi, leaves, insects or seeds.

Working in the Studio

Working in the Studio

Elsa Pooley has the most incredible plant knowledge (which comes from her love of the area and having written several books on the subject) but it is her passion for plants that is completely contagious. She generously shares her knowledge of each plant we stop to admire, points out its special features and patiently answers all our questions (most often, “How do you spell that again?”)

Elsa showing us a beautiful locust

Elsa showing us a beautiful locust

Heading out for the morning walk and drawing session in the forest

Heading out for the morning walk and drawing session in the forest

Inspecting some flowers

Inspecting some flowers

While Elsa is the person to go to for any plant question Gill Condy is a trained botanical artist and gives tips and direction on how to improve your drawing skills. Both ladies are talented at water colour painting and it was a treat to learn some tips on how to use this medium for the first time.

Absorbed in our drawings

Absorbed in our drawings

Our nature journals were all very different and we had the freedom to make them into whatever we liked. It was interesting to see how each person took a slightly different angle and approach to the same subject and how everyone was drawn to different plant types.

Bridge in the Forest

Bridge in the Forest

Drawing in the Forest

Drawing in the Forest

We arrived on Wednesday afternoon not quite sure what to expect, and left on Sunday feeling inspired and rejuvenated. The fresh air combined with soul-inspiring walks through unspoilt nature, not to mention being fed and pampered (some even went for massages at the onsite Spa) made for a most amazing and memorable trip. Thanks to everyone for making it so special!

Such a treat to share this time with my dearest Mom!

Such a treat to share this time with my dearest Mom!