A fresh start

When we moved into our house years ago, the garden was still at its peak. It had the right balance between there being plenty of plant cover, but not being too overgrown. A long severe drought during 2009/2010  helped keep the undergrowth in check. Then at the end of 2010 the rains returned and the garden blossomed and grew and grew. At first it was quite exciting, but later it just became difficult to deal with. Our gardener was increasingly absent (partly due to health issues), and when he was around, he was fighting a losing battle. I was beginning to feel like the princess in Sleeping Beauty. As Wikipedia describes the story: “A forest of trees, bushes and brambles sprang up around the castle, shielding it from the outside world: no one could try to penetrate it without facing certain death in the thorns“. From the house we couldn’t see out onto the road, and from the road, you couldn’t see the house. Which I suppose had some advantages . . .

Recently, we decided drastic action was necessary and we employed the services of Bruce (a local landscape designer) and his crew. He promised to de-jungle our front garden within two days. Working with only a small crew on what were two of the hottest and most humid days this summer, they got started. With Bruce cheerfully uttering the words “Don’t be alarmed if you see piles of vegetation on your lawn . . . it’s all part of the process“. Good thing he said that. Panic set in as I watched from the windows while trees and shrubs were severely pruned, and ground covers were ripped out. Bruce worked just as energetically as his men, taking on the task of climbing palm trees to prune off the dead fronds. And getting up onto the roof to prune the Bougainvillea which covered much of a wall and part of a window, and was threatening to take over the roof too. At the end of the first day, one of the ladies living in our neighbourhood was walking her dogs past our yard. She stopped to say how much better the garden was looking already! Our very overgrown garden obviously wasn’t fitting in, in a neighbourhood where most people have beautiful and well-tendered gardens. As Willie later said, she’s probably relieved that we are at last “getting with the programme”!

As promised, within two days our garden looked very different. I do think it’s an improvement – some beautiful plants were being completely overwhelmed and hidden, and the trees and shrubs look much better for having been pruned. But I do miss the ground covers that were there. Not only did they keep the dust as bay, they also have such pretty little flowers. Bruce told me he dislikes ground covers because after a couple of years they form dense mats which are impossible to prune. One basically has to rip them out and start again.

Now we have a garden that is much emptier, with large areas of bare ground for which we need to find suitable plants. A fresh start.

Below are some photographs to illustrate the transformation. The “after” shots were taken at the end of Day 1, when most of the huge piles of vegetation had already been removed from the lawn.

BEFORE: Getting invaded by the groundcover plants as they steadily grow towards the front door. LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

AFTER: Lots of bare soil to replant. Any suggestions? LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

BEFORE: Ground covers with the tiniest little flowers surrounding a big palm tree. LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

BEFORE: A close-up of the area above. LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

AFTER: The dead palm fronds had not been removed yet, but the flower bed had been cleaned out. LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

AFTER: In the centre, the Bougainvillea plant which cover the wall all the way onto the roof has been tamed. LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

BEFORE: A Strelitzia (Crane flower) plant which had become totally overwhelmed by the tree next to and plants around it. LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

A close-up of a Strelitzia flower. LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

AFTER: With the area cleaned up, the Strelitzia will have room to grow. LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

What I will miss though is the pretty little flowers which the various groundcovers produced. Like the ones below . . .





Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)


Subscribe to the Notes from Africa RSS and Twitter feeds to receive updates.

25 Comments on “A fresh start”

  1. January 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    oohoh – nnow you get to decide what to plant in the bare soil. Exciting! Sadly I have no suggestions as I struggle with house plants 😉

    • January 31, 2012 at 6:55 am #

      I find all the bare soil quite intimidating. Got some ideas for what I’d like to plant though. Thanks for reading my post and leaving a comment! 🙂

  2. Esteie
    January 30, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Look for indigenous and water wise. We have great daisy bushes to choose from and they have great flowers. Good luck. This is an adventure! Enjoy.

    • January 31, 2012 at 6:57 am #

      That’s a great idea! Think we need some aloes and succulents in our garden. Maybe even a rock garden? And then some daisies too in different colours.

  3. January 30, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    I love those little ground cover flowers too. Good luck with the new garden!

    • January 31, 2012 at 7:09 am #

      Thanks, I’m still trying to get used to the openess of the garden. For me a garden like your father’s is my ultimate. I am missing those little flowers!

  4. January 30, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    Ripping the whole garden out can be shocking. But it will look sooo much better.

    • January 31, 2012 at 7:10 am #

      Yes, it has been a shock! Need to find something to fill the gaps soon.

  5. January 30, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    Like you, I would miss the old ground cover. Wish I had garden ideas, but I don’t, I’m afraid. Sorry, my friend. I’m a bore when it comes to soil.

    • January 31, 2012 at 7:10 am #

      I am not a natural gardener either, but it looks like I’ll have to learn quickly!

  6. Jackie Cangro
    January 31, 2012 at 6:08 am #

    The difference is night and day! Now you’ll have room for lots of color.
    I thought the Strelitzia flower was called Bird of Paradise. Have you heard that name for it?Maybe I’m thinking of another flower.

    • January 31, 2012 at 7:26 am #

      You’re right about the Strelitzia also being called the “Bird of Paradise” plant. “Crane flower” is the common name people often use in South Africa.

  7. Sarita Botha
    February 1, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    Wow! It looks so empty now. The flowers are beautiful, though.

    • February 1, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      Unfortunately, the flowers were from the groundcovers which are all gone now. 😦 We are busy deciding on and planning what we want to plant. Are going to go for more indigenous plants, with some general garden flowering plants as well. Basically things that are lower maintenance, and need less watering.

  8. February 2, 2012 at 12:39 am #

    Did you know that Birds of Paradise are my absolute favorite flowers in the world? You are so lucky to have them in your backyard!!!!

    • February 2, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

      They are such interesting looking flowers, aren’t they? Yes, we’re very lucky to have them (and a whole lot of other interesting plants) in our garden.

  9. February 2, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    This made me smile, I’m at the bare earth stage as well and have been planting your little daisy ground cover everywhere! I love the close ups above. They’re a good strong starter but I’ll be keeping them in check with lots of bigger things inbetween. Have you looked at books like Roy Trendler’s ATTRACTING WILDLIFE TO YOUR GARDEN? I found that to be more inspiring than proper garden design books, and even a single clump of bright red watsonias (or something like it, I’m not even sure!) has had the sunbirds in a state. It’s so good watching them eat from my humble plant through the kitchen window while I wash up.

    • February 2, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

      I love taking photographs of flowers! Saw on your blog you also do.

      Thanks for the book recommendation – it does sound more inspiring than the usual gardening books. There are a lot of birds in our neighbourhood gardens. I’ve noticed that the sunbirds are attracted to the hibiscus plants and also to the New Zealand Flax plants that are in a lot of the local gardens. See this post for photos of the flax plant: http://wp.me/YuZP I want to look at getting our garden more indigenous and hardy. Maybe a rock garden with some aloes and succulents and grasses.

  10. February 3, 2012 at 3:51 am #

    Sorry-I`m the black thumb. But the process reminds me of a good haircut. Painful at first but worth it in the end!

    • February 3, 2012 at 11:51 am #

      I hope that the garden does re-grow quite quickly. It was very overgrown, but looked quite pretty before.

  11. February 6, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    Sorry, I’m pretty useless in the garden. But I’m glad your crane plant (we call them birds-of-paradise here) is happier.

    • February 7, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

      I’m not that great when it comes to gardening either – which is why we have to employ a gardener or somebody like Bruce! 😉

  12. Lu
    February 21, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    I’m a bit late for this post and I’m afraid I can’t offer any useful suggestions. I like Estie’s re: going for a water-wise garden and magrietb’s idea of attracting wildlife (I shall also be taking a note of that book title!). How’s it progressing? I’m sure a lot has happened in the past 3 weeks??

    • February 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

      Actually you’re not late . . . nothing much has happened re: replanting. I’ve had constant migraines, and Willie has been away a lot, so we haven’t got to the nursery yet. Bruce, our helpful landscaper, has been making suggestions as well. Think he’s also wondering when we’re going to get going! 😉

      • Lu
        February 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

        I’m sorry to hear about the constant migraines 😦 You’ll be looking forward to the end of the season and the coming winter, no doubt.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: