10 May, 2010

Ash tree planters

In the very beginning, there were two ash trees. Our trees are about thirty years old. A good reason for us to chose This plot. We call them Dolf and Anna, for the gardeners who left us these trees, fruit trees, bulbs and Anna’s Red rose. Also lots of spinach, which just comes up, like that, of its own accord.


I have learnt my lesson in the meantime. I thought, trees, shade, I’ll plant a woodland garden. Clivia. Plectranthus. A hardy fern. We didn’t want to upset the trees by digging into their roots or banking soil up against the trunk. We built planters, away from the trunk.
No (cheap) untreated hardwood available in South Africa, so we used ordinary concrete building blocks. Backfilled with a mixture of builder’s sand, compost, and horse manure. Sand for drainage against the heavy clay soil beneath.

February 2008 

Sorted out the shady plants from the pots that travelled from the old garden. This is where the Veltheimia capensis  is planted. Also lots of Clivia, which is NOT happy. He says more water, I say better soil. A variety of Plectranthus, all but one have departed.

May 2008 

A year later it was greening up, but I am not seeing what I imagined. It is not shade. The branches are too high to keep out low HOT summer afternoon sun. Then the summer breeze, which picks up in the afternoon, blows across there. Just to help along the Not Cool, Not Shady effect.

May 2009 

We work slowly. All but the heaviest work is done by our four hands. Within a tight budget. Brick edged gravel paths eventually happened. No more skidding on gloopy mud, courtesy of the winter rain.

October 2009 

And so we come to today. Raining. And in this Mediterranean climate, after a long hot summer, it feels more like ‘spring’ than spring does, end of July, going into August and September.

May 2010 

Those spotted leaves are our indigenous/native Lachenalia in many colours, which I grew from seed thirty-something years ago. Tiny little bulbs, and we have hundreds. Pots full of them. I tucked the small ones in, along that central path between the two trees. Later we will have ‘knee high’ delicate flowers.

May 2010 

Just last week, the Watsonia bulbs, waiting not so patiently in storage, were sprouting. I planted about a hundred here. We have the leaves, hoping for lots of tall stalks of pink flowers. Some with a graceful swan/heron neck curving down.

We really don’t have any true shade in this garden. Trying to learn to spread around what is happy. Two sorts of Scabiosa. Five colours of Dimorphotheca jucunda (formerly Osteospermum). Many different scented Pelargoniums, with interesting leaves, even when they are not flowering. Two tough Plectranthus which will survive anything, even our summer.

Photos by Jurg and Diana, words by Diana of Elephant's Eye


  1. How lovely Diana, I really like the shape of the raised beds. I know exactly what you mean about a 'shady' spot being not quite as shady is expected. Your beds look wonderful, and the gravel path is a nice finishing touch.

  2. Lovely raised beds Diana, and a lot of work too! I know just how heavy those blocks are, having hauled a few around in gardens past. Glad the gravel is keeping the mud in check. That's one think our raised bed garden is still in desperate need of.

  3. Sounds like your patience (and hard work) is paying off. I realize how spoilt I am, getting some decent wood is so easy when you're in suburbia, near two cities of a few million. But then, we have no elephants...

  4. I'm glad your ash trees are thriving. Ours are being attacked by the pretty but deadly (to ash trees) emerald ash borer. The beds look nicely settled in under there.

  5. I LOVE Lachenalia--is it viridiflora? Turquoise flowers always give me the chills.

  6. Susan - click on 'Lachenalia' and there is a picture of viridiflora.

  7. Your raised beds are lovely, Diana. Interesting that you can plant Clivia, a beloved houseplant here that likes to vacation outside in summer (mine is mad at me for transplanting last fall and did not bloom). Bless your ash trees ... like Helen, many here in Michigan have been hard hit with the Emerald Ash Borer.


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.