29 December, 2009

Waiting ... for Lunch OR Murder Most Foul!

A Victorian melodrama in three acts

(This was such fun to write!
 First posted on 24th August.)

Act 1. Waiting …

Meet the Assassin – a flower/crab spider Thomisus sp., dressed in his sombre business suit. Company policy allows only three colours - yellow, pink, or white (takes the spider only 2 days to change his suit, for the next “client”).

16 December, 2009

Little black dress at Peace

It is the festive season, what to wear? Amongst all the little black dresses and the flamboyant colours? A heavy silk, shimmering with a subtle sense of its quality, and with an understated slub. And what better to stand out in a sea of little blacks – than a few distinguished white polka dots. Think of Cecil Beaton’s costumes for Ascot in My Fair Lady!

04 December, 2009

Rothschild or Red Shield bugs

When I looked at our (Melianthushoney flower the other day, the leaves looked strange. Come a little closer. MASSES of beetles. Each one delicately marked, like a medieval knight in shining armour. Bearing the crest of their company enamelled on the back plate of their armour. Have seen one or two wander onto the roses, but they seem happy to devour the Melianthus. This is a plant which flourishes along streams, and benefits from me watering the rose garden. There is enough to share,  for the birds to have enjoyed the nectar, while the flowers were out. And for me to enjoy layers of wildlife gardening.

 My medieval knight in shining armour, with his Rothschild

01 December, 2009

Pink Promise

My pink roses have lots of leaves, coming, and buds for later. But there are just two flowers on minature Lavender Jade. I choose to mix my roses with lots of other plants. Indigenous/native as a first choice. I use blue/glaucous foliage to set off the variety of pink shades. Any colour, so long as it is pink. The planting  plan

A variegated Tulbaghia adds some vitality.

23 November, 2009

Mediterranean Sun Circle

The Ungardener likes the African sun. Despite warnings from the dermatologist. So he wants somewhere to sit and lie in the sun. This bit of garden still needed developing. The wall faces North which makes it a sun trap. From there you look onto the Karoo Koppie with our succulents. And across to Ungardening Pond. A wide view across the full length and width of the garden, but without the mountain view. Started in September, while the garden was still green.

27 October, 2009

Weaver bird building his home

We chose this plot because of the wall of giant/Spanish reed in the distant bottom corner. There are weavers living here, and the Ungardener dreamt of sharing our garden with them one fine day.

25 October, 2009


We have the same farmer to thank, who gave us Melianthus (honey flowers) and Zantedeschia (arum lilies) along his stream. Who has built open sided sheds to give his dairy cows shade from the brutal summer heat, and they really appreciate it. We see them tidily arranged in the rectangle of shade, with one or two having a nibble, or a drink of water, or stretching their legs. This plant will kill cattle, so now I understand why those cows are firmly fenced away from this flower display.

22 October, 2009

Tiny tigers, burning bright

(with apologies to William Blake's poem ...)

I saw a batch of minute eggs on my little L’Aimant rose. So I asked the Ungardener to take some of his superB Super macro photos. Imagine our wonder when we saw, not just the bugs newly hatched. But the unborn bugs waiting in their transparent eggshells. Now it is a few days later and they have all dispersed. Just a little bunch of empty shells hanging on the rose stem.

The tattooed carrot, is the tip of the Ungardener's finger, for scale

19 October, 2009

Karoo Koppie - Succulent garden

Our last garden was on a 45 degree slope, with lots of rocks, in Camps Bay. So the Ungardener found this square, flat, featureless, rockless, ex vegetable garden
a bit flat,
and featureless.
We built a pond (see 6th and 7th Oct) with Pani’s Falls to the North East of the house. But on the South side, apart from a row of inherited fruit trees near the wall, the garden railway, and Apple Creek, we still had a large open expanse. We also had a problem. This was a newly built house, why is there so much builder’s rubble? Because first they built it. Wrong. Then they built it right, leaving a mountain of used and broken bricks, and a million bits of concrete. We chipped off the dry mortar and used those bricks to edge the paths.

Clockwise - Cotyledon orbiculata (large green leaves), spekboom Portulacaria afra, lost this name??,
Lampranthus multiradiatus (shrubby vygie), Aloe plicatilis (fan aloe)

13 October, 2009

Paper wasps

Have you ever made paper? Went to a few lessons while we lived in Z├╝rich. Soak the raw/recycled plant fibre overnight. Whiz it thru a dedicated blender. Don’t want traces of printer’s ink or plant toxins in your next pot of soup? Then the fun bit. Sieving out sheets of paper.

06 October, 2009

On Ungardening Pond 2

Making our pond a home

Waiting for ...
Because we were renting for a year, we got 2 large baby baths for the papyrus, bull rushes, water lilies – and as many snails as I could rescue from the last pond. Water lilies were very happy in the baby baths and made flowers. Now they have whole pond, they are still sulking. May have to make a dedicated pond with STILL water for them. Would still like the “common or garden” true blue we (used to?) see on farm dams.

On Ungardening Pond 1

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity

May 2016
RIP Rasta Pani

Rasta Pani in 2006 before we built the Porterville house
Rasta Pani in 2007 building Pani's Falls
(Pani is Sanskrit for hand)

Construction and Pani's Falls

We began in November 2006 ...

Apart from, you can never have too many trees, the Ungardener’s other maxim is, your pond can never be too big. This is about half the size he was planning on. We once saw a garden in Switzerland, where they had basically turned the ENTIRE garden into a huge pond. And that is what he wanted.

05 October, 2009

The Light and the Dark

Freesia alba
Deeply rooted in me, twice over. The plant roots because I grew it from seed about 30 years ago. Seed from Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden – distributed free to members. The little bulbs live in pots, so I don’t lose them, and return, and multiply, and spread themselves further each year. When you walk past – the scent induces euphoria. Gone to glory now! You know how, when you take a deep sniff of one of those old, dark red roses – just for a moment the fragrance is so overwhelming, that you almost black out.

29 September, 2009

Zigzag Stabilimentum

When we first started gardening in Camps Bay, and everything was new, I was delighted to see a yellow spider web, with this zigzag. I was working in the Engineering and Science Library at the University of Cape Town. Synchronicity brought me that week’s Nature magazine with a cover article about cutting edge research.

Zigzag stabilimentum
The zigzag stitch is called a stabilimentum.

25 September, 2009

Rest and Be Thankful

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity

EDITED January 2014

Rest and Be Thankful, near Loch Lomond in Scotland

In the early nineties we travelled through Scotland. In a large figure eight, through the Highlands, all the way up to John O’ Groats. I had no idea Scotland was so large it would take days to travel through.

08 September, 2009

Young dragonfly, going to fly!

Dragonflies like to be around water because the kids are submariners. They can spend more than a year living in the mud at the bottom of your pond. They have voracious appetites, and will devour almost all the mosquito larvae. The larger nymphs will even eat tadpoles and (small) fish!

When he graduates, from the water to the air, to Flying School, he will climb up some convenient (you did plant some?) reeds. About a handspan up, into his place in the sun. There he will pop out of his baby clothes. His newly issued wings are folded up like a parachute. Now the terror of the skies is at his most vulnerable. Those fragile new wings must have body fluid pumped through the veins to unfold them. And when his wings are strong and able, he ... will ... fly!

02 September, 2009

(Very) young ladybird

Ladybirds are the good guys/girls in the garden. They eat aphids – up to 400 in a day.
If you don’t see ladybirds in your garden –remember, young and old, they are picky eaters. Like your child (was)? I only eat aphids. Aphids is all I eat. (Suspiciously) Is that an aphid? If it isn’t, I WON’T eat it! If you poison all the aphids, then the ladybirds will either starve to death, or go next door to your neighbour’s wildlife friendly garden. (Benign neglect will suit them too. A few aphid covered weeds?) Contain your soul in patience and put up with aphids, perhaps for a few weeks. They will only be on the roses while the stems are new and tender. As they harden up, the aphids will no longer be able to pierce them.

18 August, 2009

Argumentative Little Cuss!

Pintailed whydah
We have a little bird, 12 cm plus 22 cm tail! When he is not sitting in the karee surveying his territory for Other Birds, he is dive-bombing every bird in sight. First he clears the beach, where Jurg spreads the leftover bird seed. He has a harem, two wives so far, who enjoy dining in solitaryx2 splendour in a restaurant cleared of the rabble for their benefit.

14 August, 2009

Where the Proteas live

Today we went up the Piekenierskloof Pass. To Citrusdal. Then up through the mountains on the far side of the Elephant, to see how much snow there is. This part of our world is called the Koue Bokkeveld (where the weather man used to say – bring in your angora goats, there will be frost tonight!) Circle around through Ceres, where the orchards for fruit and juice, are just coming into a haze of flower.

13 August, 2009

Bees and proteas

Today we drove up the Dasklip pass.

We passed some bee-hives, mounted on poles, to protect them from badgers. They seek out the bee larvae as a protein source. Wild-life friendly consumers like us, can then buy honey labelled badger friendly!

02 August, 2009

Where the Disas live

We have just been to Hampton Court, where we too saw a spectacular display of Disas in colours ranging through red, pink and yellow, and all the subtle nuances in between. But I think of Maya Angelou’s book, I know why the caged bird sings.

29 June, 2009

Black stork IN garden

Yesterday, out walking, we saw a large black bird, with a red beak, across the field. No binoculars, no zoom lens, what is it?

This morning sitting in Paradise and Roses (in-Persian-garden) I’m peacefully eating my breakfast bowl of muesli, and chatting to the Ungardener, enjoying the morning sun. Out of the sky comes a great, dark, shape; scoops a frog out of our pond and climbs onto the island. It is a very little island, about the size of a bathtub. (The Ungardener says it is 3 x 3 metres.)

Black stork

Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

Midnight in Darkest Africa

Midnight in Darkest Africa
For real time, click on the map.