Gardens are per definition ARTificial; even if the gardener strives to let the garden look as natural as possible. We at The Green Cathedral of South Africa are very much aware of this and it is also one of the reasons we go beyond the general perception of a garden. Part of it is Art in the Garden. And it is easy to buy statues and other mass produced ornaments at the garden center. We rather challenge talented people to make something unique and preferable with material from the land or recycable material. An example of the last is the wooden cactus of 4 metres high made by local woodworker Marthinus Plaatjies from restpieces wood.
Recently land art artist Jody Joyner from Tucson, AZ, USA created is giant nest out of hibiscus twigs and a few years ago our own staff created the earthwork Mama Africa (we expect Mama Africa fully covered with succulent groundcovers within 1 year from now.
Here some pictures:
It’s easy to copy things you see on the way. For us it’s a challenge not to be the sheep that follow but the one with followers.
Cuttings rooted on H2O. Took 2 months to develop roots of 2 to 5 cm. These are Eurphorbia resinifera but also other Euphorbia species root well in water. Ideal temperature is around 20 degrees Celcius (=68 F). Just started an experiment with 2 Lophocereus species. Keep you updated.
The reason for this experiment is that there is an overseas demand for this rooted plant material and as it’s a regulation that no soil particle is allowed to leave the country.. (etc. etc.). At this stage we are rooting a few hundred Euphorbia cuttings (diverse species) in water.
We are no scientists (just make use of them) but we like to experiment and prefer to choose for the most unlikable things. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes not but when you never try you will never know.
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And for PRECISE road directions, times, etc. you may (must) visit this site.
Every now and than we shoot in the garden; not with a shotgun but with a digital camera. Here 5 pics; one shows a part of the garden (totalling 11,000sqm and over 2500 different succulent plants outdoor); one showing an elephants foot (Dioscera elephantipes); one with a fruiting Pilosocereus lanuginosus; the fourth is a Adenium arabicum with flowers AND seedpods and the last is an overview of our retail nursery. It’s not all succulent here in The Green Cathedral of South Africa but that’s for you to find out; preferable on the spot where you can feel, touch, smell, hear and see.
One of our pollinators is BZZZZZZZBee and you might think that bees are always busy pollinating in the garden but this bee is the exception of the rule. Oh yes; BZZZZZZZBee pollinates but also enjoys life like cuddling with a co-worker and having a break.
See for yourself:
general plan dry garden
Six years ago the idea for a Dry Garden was launched for a piece of bare land with a surface of approx. 1500 square metres. It was the most brackish part of our 10 hectare (25 acres) property and soil analysis in The Netherlands showed a pH of 8.3 and an organic content of 3 percent next to numerous deficits of nitrogen, phosphorous and diverse trace elements. We choose for the organic and slow way in improving the soil by deminishing the brack and bringing the pH down to 6.8 by adding coarse river sand and plenty of compost in the top 50 cm of the existing (too clayish) soil. After that we soaked everything a few times to get the brack level down (<40ppm; was 200 ppm). And than again mixing compost and gritsand through the top 30 cm of the soil. Considering that it takes approx. 3 years before the new soil (micro-organisms, etc.) is established we waited that long before we made the first trials with some cacti, other succulents and some acacia species including acacia hybrids.
This year we made the final decision and two students (Pauline Gillet and Sybille de Cussy) from the landscape university in Blois, France (ENSNP) have been fully engaged in designing the garden and implementing their design in practice.
De Cussy and Gillet knew literally nothing about succulent plants and lack of knowledge often results in an unusual surprising approach.
artist impression of aloe bush
They created a dry garden with 7 spheres (totalling 78 different species, subspecies, etc.); creeping plants, shrubs/trees, rocks, cactus and euphorbia bushes, aloe bush, mixed border, agaves.
rock art in the dry garden
Students of the McGregor Waldorf School were engaged in rock art drawings throughout the garden as part of Land Art Project in South Africa that is initiated by Soekershof.
detail of aloe bush
A PDF-file with plan and plantlist is -free of charge- available for interested landscapers and other interested parties with simular soil ‘problems’. Request e-mail to info -at- soekershof.co.za
Last Saturday around 5 million people (merely Dutch) around the world watched our succulent gardens via the satellite. This 4 minutes item show a global overview of Soekershof and says more than a few dozen pictures. The (spoken) text is partly English.
Enjoy the movie
Every garden has some focal points. The art of landscaping a succulent garden is to have focal points which change with the seasons or even months or weeks. A few of this weeks landmarks:
We love to do extraordinary things in our gardens. That makes gardening a real challenge. Five years ago we ‘planted’ a wire baobob tree (3 metres high) at the entrance and this changed the life of street wire artist Messina Mussindo (“Joey”)
completely. Within half a year the second (same size) was acquired for the hall in the new South African embassy in Berlin (Germany) and since than Joey’s fame has been going around the globe. From a humble street wire artist Joey (not subsidised as many others) transformed into a wire artist in a real workshop but he remained modest.
Joey just started up with a new range of wire trees. The ‘Acacia joey’ can be found in several private collections around the world. Interesting however is also where his different ‘genera’ end up. The baobabs (‘Adansonia Joey’) are mostly found in German speaking countries and Australia plus North America and the flat-crowns (‘Acacia Joey’) in the UK, Ireland, Netherlands and Scandinavian countries. The one on the picture is made for South African account and designated for a wedding present.
Joey once said that he wants to go into history as
the ‘one wire artist’. He made a range of ‘one wire products’ of which the elephants and the geckos are the most wanted; followed by his ‘TokTok Egg Cups’. The more complicated elephants and geckos are not easy to make. It takes him, for example, two days to create a one wire gecko out of 6 metres of wire. The end result is a maze in its own right. And isn’t that one of the things Soekershof
is known about?
But Soekershof is more and Joey is a significant part of the experience for except telling visitors something about his life and his ancestry he also lets them “shake and rock and roll” and by giving so much, guests (including South Africans!!!) learn something about a (forgotten/unknown)part of the African culture. Joey has many friends for life around the globe!
Locally less known is also that the gardens of Soekershof are home of the largest OUTDOOR collection of succulent plants from around the world including the oldest cactus of South Africa.
And very soon a new object will be erected somewhere in the gardens: a laminated wooden cactus of 4.5 metres high. This cactus is created by another user of our workshop: local woodworker Marthinus Plaatjies. He is also the one who makes our seedboxes with embedded cotyledon.
Marthinus PLaatjies in workshop.
The Boojum in South Africa
The Idria collumnaris (Boojum) originates from the Winter rainfall area (coastal Northwestern part) of Baja California in Mexico (500 km South of USA along the Pacific). The environment is simular to that of the major part of the Western Cape (except Cape Town and direct surrounds). Our seeds were sourced at Cactus Plaza in Holland and B+T in France and virtually all germinated!!!
In June we planted one in a new rockery and, after some hesitation, it starts to grow. When transplanting take care for proper watering. Do not let the soil dry out until the plant starts to grow. This also applies for Fouquieria species such as F. diquetti and F. splendens.The Boojum does not like frost and high night temperatures in Summer. There is however one difference; the soil here is not of vulcanic origin. But this we compensate -since there is a lack of pumice in SA- with slags of coal fired brick furnaces (‘steen oond’). We learned this of an open minded nurseryman in Mauritius. It’s also the way of growing adeniums and other caudiciforms from Madagascar succesfully with less risk of neck- and rootrot.
For people with not enough space (flats with balconies, etc.) but who love (succulent) plants there is a simple solution. Hanging baskets (for sale in any nursery where-ever) or plant hangers. We prefer plant hangers for the simple reason that ceilings in modern building are low and bumping your head into baskets all the time is not always pleasant (for both; humans and plants). A year ago we developed our plant hangers which are made locally and we sell them in relativily large quantities (10 to 20 per interested customer). You can hang them on a wall and play with it; ‘painting with plants’ we call it. Just exchange the hangers with the different plants until a ‘new’ painting is created.
Plant hangers are also ideal for people in a climate which is not always suitable for having succulent plants in the garden. That’s also the reason we are selling quite a few to customers in the Cape Town areas where the majority of succulent plants suffer (or die) during the wet season.
Co-incidentally our hangers are nominated for the prestigious Dutch Toon van Tuijl Design Award. We don’t expect to win this award (19 October is the date of the official announcement) but the result is that the hangers and other products (such as our seed boxes) are in the international picture and that there is a (Fair Trade related) interest in selling them online.