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!


Team effort

Once gardens have been selected to be opened to the public for Open Gardens Constantia, each garden is assessed by the OGC committee. OGC feels it is important to give garden visitors the best experience possible, and if any small changes can be made to improve a garden, they are implemented, months in advance of the open days.

garden renovation

In Carol’s garden – where the Tea will be held – Elaine Conradie (looking at camera) solved a design problem in the lawn, tweaking the layout of the existing set of railway sleeper steps. Elaine has a formidable designer’s eye – her own lush garden on a steep slope in Tokai is an impressive testimony to her talent and engineer’s eye.

We thought it would be interesting to hear from her:

“The original steps were just a series of sleepers, graduating from narrow at the top to wide at the bottom of the bank with lawn all around and in between.  We decided to make a feature of them, firstly by taking out the strips of lawn between (which gardener Wiseman is doing, above) and replacing with Alyssum . We then positioned two large pots on each side of the top step. ”

steps in lawn

“I then took into consideration that the sides of the steps leading down from the veranda behind (on which these steps were centred) were at 90 degrees to the veranda (forming a square).  I felt that the triangular shape formed by the sleeper steps did not complement the situation, so I came up with the idea to “square off” the flight of sleeper steps by taking a line from the outside of the pots, straight down at 90 degrees, resulting in two triangles on each side. We planted those up with Alyssum to tie in with the risers between the sleepers. This had the overall effect of giving these steps a square form, too, as well as making them more of an unusual feature.”

Photos: Carol Watson, Saskia Taylor

Gardener Q&A – Carol

spring tree

Picture having an afternoon tea under this tree…

Here is the fourth in our series of five interviews with the owners of each of the five gardens that will be open to the public for Open Gardens Constantia on November 14th and 15th.

Advance tickets are R50: that works out to just R10 per garden. Hard to beat. Throw in the lovely tea that will be served in Carol’s garden on her sweeping lawns and flower-covered patios…book the dates!

Buying in advance also helps us with the very-important matter of knowing how many teas and coffees will be needed and…HOW MUCH CAKE (and how many sandwiches, but frankly, isn’t the cake more important?). For advance tickets please visit the link to our Ticket Page for a list of vendors, and our email address (members of the three garden clubs will have tickets available for purchase directly from them, too).

Tickets can also be bought on the day at a garden gate, for R60 (address to follow, please stay tuned to this blog and Facebook, for updates).

Here’s Carol:

Why do you garden?

I garden for pleasure, and for the results that I see. I enjoy vegetable gardening as it is so worthwhile eating what one has produced, and knowing that it is organic.

Where is your garden?


What size is your garden?

One acre.

When did you start to garden?

About 35 years ago.

Who or what inspired you to garden?

My parents and parents-in-law.

Has a plant ever disappointed you?

I love fuchsias, but am not very good at looking after them properly, and so they often die on me. My fault entirely!

What plant has made you happiest?

At the moment it has to be my Tree Fuchsia.

What do you love about your garden right now?

I love that it is looking better than it ever has before!

What do you feed your garden?

Mostly organic fertilizers like Talborne [one of OGC’s sponsors] and seaweed based solutions.

geranium maderense

How often do you garden?

At the moment, everyday!

What is the garden chore you look forward to?

I don’t look forward to any chore!

What is your least favourite garden chore?


Where would you like to garden, if you could garden anywhere?

In my new home, not yet found, which has a much smaller garden!

What would you like to grow, that you can’t?

More fuchsias.

open garrdens constantia

Food, flowers, native or ornamental?

All love them all. I find food gardening the most satisfying and relevant

Your favourite garden writer, or personality?

I don’t have one.

What plants do you dislike?

None, really. My least favourite plants are cacti [Julie doesn’t like them, either].

Would you like more sun or more shade?

I’m happy with what I have.

If you could visit just one garden, where would it be? 

I have just seen Monet’s garden in Giverny, which was one I’d always wanted to see, and it didn’t disappoint.

What would you like people to know about gardening?

I think that anyone who reads this blog will know MUCH more about gardening than I ever will!

Photos: Saskia Taylor