Carol’s vegetable garden

basil border open gardens constantia

Carol’s garden was a natural draw at Open Gardens Constantia 2014.

Why? Tea was served there! Also a lot of cake, and sandwiches.

But the surprise waiting for everyone at the garden gate was the beautiful herb and vegetable garden, which was very popular with visitors. Above, Thai basil and an Alpine strawberry collection formed a luxurious border at the entrance.

garden seating open gardens constantia

Carol told us, “I enjoy vegetable gardening as it is so worthwhile eating what one has produced, and knowing that it is organic.”

Knowing what you are eating, how it was grown, is one of the great pleasures of the home gardener, regardless of scale.

giant mustard ogc

Giant mustard is flanked by companion marigolds, natural pest controllers. They have long been used by organic gardeners as pest traps. In the background is the indigenous and familiar Tulbaghia, or wild garlic. Both edible and useful, it also has a reputation for driving away harmful pests.

ruby chard ogc

Picture-perfect ruby chard (the stems are delicious cooked in their own right as a side dish).

rustic tuteurThe centre of the vegetable garden has a rustic wooden tuteur as its focal point, drawing the eye and supporting tomatoes.

Now that the guests have left, Carol can get back to eating her vegetables again!


Arum lilies and frogs

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A pair of arum lily frogs (Hyperolius horstockii) nestle comfortably together in an arum lily flower  – taken in Betty’s Bay, in the swampy area of Jill Attwell’s indigenous garden.

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Above, sheltering on (of all plants) an aloe is another type of frog – thought to be a painted reed frog – which was found in a Constantia garden.

Wondering whether it’s wise, or legal,  to buy arum lilies from street corner vendors?

Read on…

A recent joint press release issued by the City of Cape Town, CapeNature and SANBI (August 2010)

“There has been inaccurate information circulating about the sale of arum lilies, and the protection of two of the Cape’s amphibians, the arum lily frog and micro frog. A campaign urging residents not to purchase arum lilies from vendors at the side of the road seems to be gaining momentum whilst spreading inaccurate information about arum lilies and frogs. This misleading information has also gone viral, and is being spread via e-mail and social networking tools. It is important that the public understand the facts about these frogs, before making a decision on whether or not to purchase the flowers.

Correct information about arum lily frog

“The Environmental Management (ERM) Department, in conjunction with CapeNature and the South African National Biodiversity Institute would therefore like to highlight the facts.

“The information being circulated refers to the ‘arum lily micro frog’ which does not exist. There are, however, two different species of frog, namely the micro frog (Microbatrachella capensis) and the arum lily frog (Hyperolius horstockii). The micro frog is smaller than a fingernail, while the arum lily frog is somewhat larger, growing to about 40 mm in length. It has been reported that the ‘arum lily micro frog’ is in danger because of the sale of arum lilies, but this is not at all correct for either of the frog species.

“The supposed threat to these frogs’ habitat has been cited as one of the main reasons why the public should not buy arum lilies. However, no frog species breeds in the flowers of arum lilies. While the arum lily frog occasionally uses the flowers for shelter, it is not dependant on them. Arum lily frogs breed in wetlands and not in the flowers of the arums. The micro frog is ground-dwelling, breeding in temporary pools, and it does not climb into any flowers.

“Arum lily frogs are very pale and they hide their bright orange feet and legs under their bodies during the day. In this way, the frog is able to use a white background as camouflage against predators and this background is sometimes the white arum flower. They do not use the pollen of the flowers to camouflage themselves, as has been suggested.

“While arum lily frogs are only found in the Western Cape (and a small area of the Eastern Cape), they are not classified as threatened in the 2004 Red Data book. However, it is true that the species is becoming increasingly rare as their habitat is lost to urban development.

Only buy from traders in demarcated areas – not roving hawkers

“While the illegal harvesting of arum lilies will not lead to the extinction of arum lily frogs, the sale of illegally harvested flora at traffic lights is cause for concern. If left unchecked, other illegally harvested plants such as proteas, ericas, and various bulb species may be seen at traffic lights in the future.

“The City does not wish to deter the public from purchasing flowers from hawkers – as long as they are legal retailers. All roving vendors and intersection traders selling flowers are illegal. However, traders selling flowers in demarcated trading bays are legal, and regulated by the City. The City encourages the public to report illegal trading on 021 596 1400/1424.

“The ERM Department is always grateful when residents spread its messages because the need for awareness is so great. Unfortunately, this message has become lost in translation, and we hope that the correct information, as it appears above, will spread in the same manner,” said the City’s Biodiversity Co-ordinator, Clifford Dorse.

“The ERM Department is currently updating its pamphlets on frogs and lilies, and will distribute them widely in an attempt to ensure that the public receives the correct information.”

Photos: Marianne Alexander

Colleen’s flowers

open gardens constantia colleen

Visitors to Colleen’s corner garden in Bergvliet were entranced by the flowers they found.

open gardens constantia roses

They spilled from baskets…

open gardens constantia visitors

…grew up trellises…

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…tumbled from urns…

just joey

…made focal points in beds…

red rose

…floated in a fountain,

floating roses

…and provided pretty backdrops for friendly cats.

open gardens constantia 2014 colleen

Here’s a trick question:

What is Colleen’s favourite flower?

We did it!

tea treats

It’s over. What a wonderful two days.

We’ll post many more garden pictures over the next days, weeks and months. There are dozens of gorgeous views and interesting gardening details we have not yet shared, so we hope you keep visiting.

We will keep up with local garden news on this blog and on the Facebook, too.

THANK YOU to everyone who supported Open Gardens Constantia. Your ticket and raffle money went to a very good cause (when everything has been sorted out we will report on the takings). We loved meeting you, and we look forward to seeing you again in 2016.

THANK YOU to all garden club members and their families, friends and staff who organized, volunteered, baked, poured, cleaned, washed, guided, directed traffic, drove golf carts, carried plants, planted, deadheaded, propagated, watered and fertilized, labeled, sketched, scanned, counted, sold plants, fetched, carried, photographed, wrote, and supported.

THANK YOU to the five garden owners – Carol, Colleen, Julie, Nicholas and Rosemarie – who looked after the volunteers in their gardens (we mean people, not weeds), gave them cups of tea and treats to keep them going, and who were generous enough to allow thousands of visitors through their garden gates.

THANK you to the OGC committee, chaired by Maureen Viljoen, who pulled off a very successful 10th Open Gardens Constantia, in the face of wild November weather.

(About the photo above: Nicholas’s wife Zanette a Cordon Bleu-trained cook, produced these wonderful treats in her kitchen, for all the fortunate volunteers and workers at their garden. This blogger can attest to their deliciousness).

Photo: Marie Viljoen

Author visit

marijke honig book open gardens

Beautiful Marijke Honig at Rosemarie’s garden, photographed with her new book, Indigenous Plant Palettes, which is the first prize in our OGC raffle.

You still have till 5pm to enter to win! Proceeds to Abalimi Bezekhaya and Soil for Life.