14 July, 2010

Roquefort garden or sourdough garden

(If you are a foodie, didn’t they tell you – this is a bring-your-own-sandwich-picnic. It’s not About The Food!)

Our neighbours almost all have Roquefort gardens. What the German language so efficiently calls Edelpilz. And English calls noble rot. Botrytis for Tokay wine. I don’t want to eat/drink rot, no matter how noble it is. Noble rot AKA lawn. No other plant is allowed to mar the sterile monotony of the lawn. No fairies may dance in inches of Oxalis, dressed by central casting in apricot, cream, peach, fuchsia and lemon yellow for the great ball scene. No caterpillars, bugs, bees, nor even earthworms (they leave those nasty little piles of soil!) One neighbour goes so far as to spray his patch with weed-killer twice a year. The It’s-green-it’s-nasty-make-it-go-away school.

We have a sourdough garden. With four open hands held out, we accept everything nature brings us. Except Paterson’s Curse, tho I’m glad to have seen caterpillars working on that plant too. And the mountain ash trees give us hundreds and hundreds of seedlings. If you don’t catch them while they are young, the battle becomes desperate. The Ungardener wages a POLITE war against anything green that comes up in his gravel paths.

The green you see as background and wallpaper is Oxalis pes-caprae. What the Californians love to hate as an invasive alien. It is At Home here, where the leaves fuel caterpillars and harvester termites. The yellow flowers support bees. And those insects in turn fuel the next layer. The yellow and red bokeh dots echoing the aloe colours are Euryops, and Big Red Tecomaria – planted to give nectar for the sunbirds. As the Aloe does, when they want a change.

Our garden this June

The brownish grey smudges are old grape vines. Removed by farmers because that variety is no longer fashionable … And used by our neighbours with enthusiasm as braai/BBQ wood, because it gives good coals. The Ungardener looked as those gnarled chunks of wood with their peeling bark, and built a boma. A ‘dry-stone-wall’ giving shelter and an escape route to lizards, slug-eater snakes and mice.

Old grape vines

The Ungardener’s picture captures the spirit and intention of our wildlife garden. The header of the mountain, is borrowed scenery, which anyone around here could claim.

Winter Aloe at Elephant's  Eye

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


  1. Your Oxalis pes-caprae looks much more at home there, than in our coastal gardens. I admit it's beautiful, but it tends to take over here. I love the Ungardener's use of the old grape vines. I find them beautiful as is, but to make a refuge for lizards and other garden creatures is a wonderful use for them. We have a lot of vineyards here that probably just burn the old vines. I wonder if I can convince them to give a few away. Our lizards would be thrilled to have them.

  2. We have a sourdough garden, too, and I'm proud of it. We don't have any lawn ... HH just mows the weeds so you can better see what I have planted. BBQ coals or boma? ... no contest.

  3. I love the wall made of grape vines! Beautiful and functional. I like the oxalis, too. My son thinks our lawn should be strictly clover...it's prettier and softer. I grow a few different ornamental varieties that I really enjoy. The aloe bloom is beautiful, as is your entire surrounding...very majestic!

    I like sourdough too, although I have a certain appreciate for Roquefort as well from time to time.

  4. My garden's a sourdough with a schmear of Roquefort. I'm trying to ease off on the Roquefort, though.

  5. This is a beautiful place. I love your winter aloe. I have grown my aloe vera plants for many years and it has still not flowered yet. :(

  6. The shot of the dry-stone wall with the daisies growing in front of it, ah, so beautiful.

    Diana, I like that you take a sourdough approach to your garden, and I'd love to see a world without lawns. You're doing your part, influencing one reader at a time with the beauty you've created here. I must say, this is my kind of gardening, too, although instead of sourdough, I'd define it as "wildish." ;)

  7. Hi Diana!
    I've not been around for ages - two weeks at Mapungubwe, a huge Rotary fund-raiser (half-marathon trail run from the village to the top of the highest mountain in Limpopo and back -the first one, my idea, happening this Saturday...)and a return to (part-time) teaching have kept me away from blogging much.

    I love your entry and how it is integrated into the theme. I think many are daunted by this month's theme, but the entries really do illustrate the depth and breadth of interests that exist in the gardening community.

  8. I was expecting a garden filled with sourdough bread ready for picking!!! J/K I have a sourdough attitude when it comes to lawns and green spaces. Forget the pesticide/insecticide, become an equal opportunity lawn, all flora and fauna welcome.

    Your winter aloe photos are stunning. Good luck with the photo competition at GGW.

  9. No Roquefort at The Havens! Even though when the japanese honeysuckle is taking over the temptation is to get out that toxic spray, so far we have managed to avoid it.

    We are definitely Sourdough here. Although I do tend to add ingredients to my mix and not just wait for what the birds and wind bring.

    I love your garden, and I think the oxalis is beautiful in its own environment where it has some natural predators to keep it under control. I was not so fond of it when I lived in CA, where it tended to take over entire beds and crowd out everything else. It was a lovely green, though. Hard to hate such a beautiful plant.

    Glad I stopped by, and good luck in the contest.

  10. I love your garden -- and I love the sourdough concept. It seems like a very peaceful place.

    I also love oxalis. My husband and I bought some, must be 20 years ago. We have dragged sprigs around wherever we go and it seems to do well no matter where it lands. It's the purple-leaf kind, and makes a nice low well-mannered groundcover, once you get over thinking it's a weed!
    Happy gardening,

  11. hi, excellent article, over here in england there is quite a move towards more casual gardens with more care given towards the natural life living within it...but the english and their lawns..for bowling, cricket and croquet...it is part of an old tradition and i guess there is room for all sorts of ways of gardening...ps i love oxalis too!

  12. I love the shot with the great perspective of the mountains in the background.

    Now let's see what hoops Blogger will make me jump through when I leave this comment.


  13. How lovely ... all stunning photos but the aloe grabbed me! Happy remains of July :)

  14. I think your garden is beautiful in winter! The shot of the aloe with the mountains in the background is stunning! Is that snow on those mountains?

  15. Deb - yes that's snow. More coming in Monday's post.

  16. What a fun picture! Your remark about the Germans made me laugh, maybe that's why I no longer live there ;->

    Good luck!


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

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