This is the third in our series of five Gardener Q&A’s, where we look behind the scenes of the open gardens and introduce you to the owners, to find out what makes them tick, horticulturally.
Julie belongs to the Flourish Garden Club, one of the three garden clubs that collaborate to produce Open Gardens Constantia every two years, where five private gardens are opened for two days to the public (November 14th and 15th, this year). Funds raised are donated to Abalimi Bezekhaya and Soil for Life.
Julie’s career requires a lot of travel, and when she is not working, she is a wife and mom. She is helped in the garden by her gardener, Olofati (who prefers that his last name not be used).
Why do you garden?
Gardening gives me the opportunity to express my creativity, which is something not easily afforded in my daily job as a Finance professional. Gardening is also my time to relax, re-energise and bring thoughtful perspective to a busy life.
Where is your garden?
In Bergvliet, in Cape Town’s southern suburbs.
What size is your garden?
Average suburban garden – about 1200 square metres.
When did you start to garden?
I started gardening when I moved into my first home in 2004. Although this was a small properly, it had the challenges of strong winds, sandy soil and a sloping site to contend with.
Who or what inspired you to garden?
I grew up experiencing both my parents working in the garden most weekends and seeing our various gardens being transformed from bare landscapes into beautiful and tranquil spaces to relax. The more recent interior design emphasis of bringing the garden into the home has also inspired me to create a garden space that is an extension of our home where the family can spend time together.
Do you remember the first plant you grew?
This would have been a hyacinth bulb grown in a vase when I was a child.
Has a plant ever disappointed you?
It is probably more a case of how have I disappointed a plant? I love orchids, but have just not managed to find the right conditions in my home for them to thrive – I persevere though!
What plant has made you happiest?
Freesias have always been my favourite flower, not only because of their scent but as they are always to first flower to signify spring and that my birthday is only a week away.
What do you love about your garden right now?
I love that the garden is just bursting with new growth after all the rain we have had this spring. It is full of the promise of beautiful summer ahead.
What do you feed your garden?
I alternate between mushroom and Reliance compost twice a year and feed in between with liquid fertilizers Seagrow and Kelpak .
[Reliance is also one of OGC’s sponsors.]
How often do you garden?
A few hours on the weekend.
What is the garden chore you look forward to?
I love giving the garden a good trim as this helps me to appreciate each plant individually, keeps the garden neat and gives a good platform for new growth the following season
What is your least favourite garden chore?
Having to spray my roses or weed the lawn.
Where would you like to garden, if you could garden anywhere?
As we are really spoilt with our climate in South Africa I would love to move into the countryside with the backdrop of a beautiful mountain and lots of trees.
What would you like to grow, that you can’t?
I find Azaleas really striking, but have such sandy soil making it difficult to grow them. I would also love to grow Hostas as I love the look of their broad lush leaves and Hellebores which I appreciate for their unusual range of colours.
Food, flowers, native or ornamental?
Food and ornamental
[Photo: Paul Bangay]
Your favourite garden writer, or personality?
Paul Bangay for the simplicity, structure and symmetry in his garden design to which I aspire to and my mother of course who’s passion for gardening and plants is inspirational, and for all the wonderful surprise plants she leaves on my doorstep.
[Julie’s mom is garden writer Marianne Alexander, who belongs to the Constantia Valley Garden Club]
What plants do you dislike?
Nothing comes to mind, mmm, perhaps a cactus.
Would you like more sun or more shade? More of both as that would mean I have a bigger garden.
If you could visit just one garden, where would it be?
Kew gardens of which I have heard so much. This would be my first stop after my visit to Chelsea Flower Show.
What would you like people to know about gardening?
Gardening provides a wonderful gift of connecting with the earth and oneself at the same time. It gives one the space to be creative, teaches one patience, respect for nature and brings reward in the most surprising ways.
“To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, and plant seeds, and watch their renewal of life – this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do” – Charles Dudley Warner
Visit our previous gardener interviews:
Photo credits: Julie Alexander and Craig Lillie