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.
Just an example (we use it for our nursery customers) of a simple, easy to maintain succulent garden. We made it within 4 hours (3 staff) including the sculpture. Plants used are diverse Echiveria species and Aloe barbadensis (Aloe vera).
It’s ideal for people who want to have a different garden but don’t have the time for extensive maintenance.
At Soekershof, Private Mazes & Botanical Garden in South Africa, we are continuously busy creating new gardens. Some are simple to make (see picture); others can take a few years before they are ready. For the rockery at the entrace we count that we still need two more years to finish it. Partly because we are still growing plants which are still too young and partly because it’s very labour extensive to arrange rocks (different sizes and colours etc.) and gravel between it. The rockery (below an artist impression of how a part of it looks now) covers a surface of around 2000 sqm (almost 1 acre) and is divided in a caudiciform garden; Australian/Asian succulent garden; American succulent garden and an All Africa Succulent Garden. Yes; we are ‘Rocking the World’.
On our website you can find a brief history of cacti in South Africa. Last night we received a nice addition from the USA:
“The restablishment of the Soekershof garden after many years of
neglect is fantastic — the photos were fantastic. Here is what I
have in my records for Marthinus Malherbe:
Malherbe, Marthinus [Maarten] (1885-1976); RSA nurseryman & amateur
botanist; creator & owner of Sheilam Cactus Gardens nursery in
Robertson, RSA on and after 1936; designed succ garden at Soekershof
Walkabout 1965; explored & collected in RSA; introduced cacti &
other Amer succ in RSA 1910; spouse Molly [nee Darling] Malherbe
Nananthus (Aloinopsis) malherbei was named after him and he
discovered Haworthia comptoniana, now Haworthia emelyae var
In addition to this: The name SHEILAM is an abbreviation of the names of his children. During the first 15 years the nursery was named SHEILA and the M was added in 1951 when his (second) wife gave birth to their daughter Marsha.
The group of succulent plant lovers in South Africa is, as everywhere around the globe, a small bunch of dedicated people. They have their own share in the Garden Forum.
This morning we published five photo’s of flowering succulent plants which were taken this morning (hundreds of different succulent plants flowering in our garden in this South African Winter, by the way).
No fertilisers, no hormones, no chemicals; just Nature with a friendly caring human touch.
We love it.
P.S. In the South African Garden Forum (general section Aloes and Succulents) you’ll not only find more of our contributions but also those from others.
Most succulents need full sun and are not (really) suitable for cultivation indoors. But there are also quite a few exceptions. Sometimes we advise nursery customers from Cape Town to keep certain plants indoors because of the local environment. Regulary we are approached by restaurant owners for low maintenance table arrangements.
The succulents which are suitable indoors are the ones which grow, in nature, in the shade of other plants like Gasteria- and Hawhortia-species. Some crassulas also grow nicely inside and so do some cacti. It surprised us, visiting Dallas (Texas, USA) once, to see so many peyote cacti (Lophocereus williamsii) behind the windows. And that in a state with such a restrictive drug law enforcement.
The suitability indoors is also related to the local environment such as the light intensity inside the house (dark- or light walls, ceilings; at a North- of South facing window; etc.). It also, partly, depends on your location. There is a difference in light intensity between different latitudes. That can imply that plants will do very well in Sweden behind a South facing window but in South Carolina a North facing window is recommended. Back to the Western Cape in South Africa: for the more ‘advanced’ knowledgable succulent lover are there also Lithops (as most of Haworthias and Gasterias indigenous to Southern Africa). Be patient and those ‘suckers’ will reward you with a stunning floral display in season.
The Euphorbiaceae family consists of around 300 genera and about 7500 species of which approximately 870 are succulents. About 50 genera and 487 species are native to Southern Africa including Madagascar. These figures excludes the numerous varieties and hybrids such as those of the E. milii and E. pulcherrima (pointsettia).
The International Euphorbia Society covers the whole spectrum of this plant family including the non-succulent ones.
General information about succulent Euphorbias can be found here. The most valuable Internet source (including photo’s and cultivation info) however can be sourced at this site.
Euphorbias are named after the Greek surgeon Euphorbus.
Most of the succulent species of the Euphorbia are easy to grow in most parts of South Africa provided that there is sufficient drainage and the humidity is low. High humidity causes mildew and, combined with high temperatures, mealy bugs. Good drainage prevents Euphorbias from root mealy bugs and root rot (caused by fusarium fungus). Plant Euphorbias preferable on a slope and in well drained soil. Large collumnar plants always surrounded by rocks. In general Euphorbias are less susceptible to diseases than other succulent families. In the past we already submitted something about pest and disease control the green way . See also this contribution and these ones.
Propagation can be done by sowing and by means of cuttings.
Some Euphorbia species hybridise easy and to prevent this as much as possible is hand-pollination with a brush. Always plant two of more plants of the same specie next to each other.
As for cuttings: cuttings of succulent Euphorbias can best be taken towards the end of the dormant season. We normally take them towards the end of the South African Summer (February-March) and always in the early morning but preferable in the late afternoon. Keep the cuttings under a running tab until the cutting stops ‘bleeding’ latex. This milky sap is poisonous (always wash your hand afterwards and or wear protective clothing). Let the cuttings dry in a dry shady area with good ventilation for at least 3 to 4 days before planting them.