I was taking a photograph of a Wild Garlic (tulbaghia violacea or isihaqa) flower this morning and a bee flew into the shot as I took the photograph. Pretty cool.
When we first move into our house we inherited a gardener who was very old-school in his methods. His idea of a job well done was a cleanly-raked garden with all the leaves, twigs and plant matter bagged for the Municipality to collect. As a consequence of this, the soil was sandy, red in colour and pretty much lifeless (see the before shot).
Over the past few years we have weened him off this way of thinking and replaced it will the mantra that everything that falls off the trees and plants should end up in the soil. Each time I trim back the shrubs or thin out some plants, the off-cuts also end up on the ground. Slowly the soil has changed back to a brown, moist, earthy colour and has started to smell, well, like nature (see the after shot). I have started to notice loads more insects inhabiting the garden and I’m sure, just below the surface, are a million and one worms.
I’m reading Pitta Joffe’s Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants and she has section where she calls for the protection of our soil. She writes:
“Don’t sweep up and then proceed to throw away fallen leaves, dried and faded flowers, fruits, small twigs, etc. Apart from the fact that this is a totally misdirected use of energy, it is also the equivalent to throwing away bags of compost … Mulch is nature’s way of feeding plants, conserving moisture and protecting the soil surface and structure.”
I never knew this little guy was an aloe – although now that I think about it the red/orange flowers are very similar to the other, larger aloes I have.
Its official name is aloe aristata and they were first ‘discovered’ in the Drakensburg in KwaZulu-Natal, but their habitat stretches from the eastern Karoo to the Eastern Cape to Lesotho. They have thick, juicy leaves with small spines on them which form a rosette (the leaves, not the spines).
I’ve always grown these in pots which would explain why they have remained quite small. I think I will set one ‘free’ in my garden to see how big it gets.
A recent study in the Eastern Cape has highlighted the fact that the humble spekboom (or ‘elephant’s food’ as it is also known) has an amazing ability to soak up CO2, equivalent to that of sub-tropical forests. Findings suggest that up to four tons of carbon a year would be captured by each hectare. This is apparently making a lot of people excited about how much it could be worth on the carbon-trading market but I’m excited about how an indigenous South African plant could potentially be so valuable in turning back the tide of global warming. Also, it raises the issue of what uses our other indigenous plants could have, that we have yet to discover.
And I’ve got it in my garden. I currently have five plants, all grown from one cutting I took from my friend Em’s house in Salt Rock. So, if anyone wants some (and lives in Durban), let me know and you can come and break off a branch.
There is a swarm of dragonflies (I would estimate 20 to 30) currently living in my garden. They are most probably there because of an abundance of food – they eat other smaller insect such as aphids and flies, so I ain’t complaining. Plus, they are pretty cool to watch darting about the place and seem to have taken a liking to a jasmine vine I have growing in my courtyard.
Has anyone experienced something similar? Is it a common occurrence?
Dragonfly fact – they belong to an ancient insect group called the Odonata, one of the first flying creatures on earth.