The development of a Dry Garden

general plan dry garden

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.

preparation works

preparation works

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

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

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

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

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Basic Soil preparation

This post is “Under continious Construction”.

In the past we have mentioned a few times ‘soil’ and ‘soil preparation’. See here, there and there.

Every nursery has its own recipes and one may assume that these all work.

In addition to the info provided via the links above:

Succulent plants thrive in a wide range of soils each with their own characteristics. An Aloe plicatillus originate from acid soil (pH <6) near Franschoek in South Africa and and the Gunniopsis glabra originate from a saline flood plain (pH >7.5) in Western Australia.

These differences don’t necessarily mean that these plants don’t grown in different environments.

A good (general) pH of the soil is just below neutral (=pH 7); pH  6.8 is recommended. Soil analysis in the Western Cape is done by Bemlab in Somerset West Do It Yourself pH-meters are not always accurate.

An interesting article about pH is this one. With thanks to Ralph Martin of the south Wales branche of the British Cacti ad succulent Society.

The most important characteristic of the soil is drainage. Especially the top soil must drain freely an excess of water to avoid ‘neck rot’ and also (high temperatures after rainfall) mealy bugs. Ideal is a free draining top layer (10-20cm) of coarse sand or gravel rich soil and a sublayer (10-20 cm) which can accumulate a little bit of water. The characteristics of the sub soil (>30 cm) should be more or less simular to that of the sublayer of the topsoil and is important for deep rooting plants like collumnar cacti. Soil (top- and subsoil alike) may never be waterlogged.

Preferable poor soil (low organic content) but some compost (preferable of horse manure or composted mushroom medium) in sublayer and subsoil is recommended. In some part of South Africa (for example those with brackish/saline soil) an small dose of bonemeal can improve the soil.  Fertilisers (even dried chicken manure or ‘bounce back’)  improve plant growth but also make the plants extra vunerable for pests and diseases.

No-till

In large scale agricultural operations there is an increasing amount of farmers that implements ‘no-till’ in the cultivation of their crops thus as less as possible disturbing the soil.

Quote from WikipediaIn no-till farming the soil is left intact and crop residue is left on the field. Therefore, soil layers, and in turn soil biota, are conserved in their natural state. No-tilled fields often have more beneficial insects and annelids[12], a higher microbial content, and a greater amount of soil organic material. Since there is no plowing there is less airborne dust.

No-till increases the amount and variety of wildlife.  This is the result of the improved cover because of surface residue and because the field is disturbed less often than conventional fields.

If you know that your soil is suitable don’t dig. drygardenpreparationworks1Preparation limits itself than only to weeding, cleaning and planting unless you planned to make (small) rockery heeps, etc.  (see picture).

Thrip, aphid, worm and beetle control

Insect repellent teas can be made from any strong aromatic weed steeped in water for 48 hours.

A good result in the control of beetles, thrips, worms and aphids can be achieved with this recipe:

2 cloves of garlic shredded and placed in enough water to cover. After 24 hours add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, mix it and wait another 24 hours.

Add 500 ml water for a concentrate. You need only 10 ml of the concentrate for 1 liter repellant. Per liter repellant add 1 drop of bio-diswash liquid. Apply every 3 to 4 days until the populations of the different insects are manageble.

It works.

(The original recipe is from New Plant Nursery in George, South Africa)

Succulent Plants in Gauteng

almost 2500 different species of succulent plants outdoors

almost 2500 different species of succulent plants outdoors

Regulary we have nursery customers from North-Eastern South Africa, more precisely: Gauteng. And one of the first things we ask is the local climate; the occurence of ‘Black Frost’ in particular. Many succulent plants can survive (light) frost and others don’t. Simply Indigenous Nursery in Hartebeespoortdam (again chosen as South Africa’s best retail nursery) is one of those relatively few nurseries which values a good information service towards their customers. On their website you find the article ‘Captivating Succulents‘. Personally we prefer ‘Succulent Plants’ instead of succulents but that is a detail. The article serves well as a comprehensive guideline to all in that part of the country. Did you, by the way, that many nurseries (especially the mainstream) in Gauteng are located in areas with no (black) frost?

Pachypodiums

Pachypodium succulentumThe genus Pachypodium belongs to the family of the Apocynaceae. There are two seperate areas where they are native: Madagascar and Angola/Namibia. There is some confusion about the number of species. Fred Triep counts 13 species of which 4 from Namibia/Angola and 9 from Madagascar. Wikipedia totals 25 species of which 20 originate from Madagascar.   The truth might be somewhere in between for we have the impression that wikipedia also mentions some hybrids.

The most commonly known Pachypodium in South Africa is the P. namaquanum (halfmens) from Namibia. This is a very slow growing specie (in its habitat max. 2 cm per annum) and many nurseries unfortunately sell the fast growing P. lamerei from Madagascar as the ‘halfmens’ (= ‘half human’ because of its shape). The P. namaquanum is a protected specie in South Africa.

Another interesting specie is the P. succulentum (also from Angola/Namibia). Although not on the list of endangered species it’s less common in its native area than the P. namaquanum.

Pachypodium lamerei (left on picture)

Pachypodiums grow in a wide variety of mediums. Every specialist nursery has its own. In nature many of them grow in rocky outcrops on slopes and others in sand with laterite red soil (rich in trace elements) as subsoil. In our gardens and nursery we use a mix of red clayish soil with sand and carcoal. This we learned in Mauritius at Pepiniere Exotica (nursery) with which we maintain an exchange program and which  can be regarded as the Madagascar specialist nursery in the Indian Ocean. The soil around the neck is always sandy (prevents neckrot).
Pictures:
Top: Pachypodium succulentum
Bottom: Pachypodium lamerei (from Madagascar)  in our garden. Many nurseries sell this fast growing specie as P. namaquanum (Halfmens).

A simple, easy to maintain, succulent garden

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’.

Landscaping a rockery PART 3 (practical on THE spot)

During Festive Season (school holiday) 2007/2008:

At Soekershof Walkabout, Klaas Voogds West, Robertson, Western Cape, South Africa.

Daily at 11 AM and 3 PM:

Rocking the World; A succulent landscaping project in Robertson.

Designed for all (succulent) gardeners/landscapers who want to know more about the possibilities and impossibilities of waterwise gardening in South Africa with emphasis on the Western Cape. See this and that plus media release below.

R 150.00 pp including picnic and standard program with quest in maze and tour in succulent gardens (see http://soekershof.com).

Duration 3-4 hrs. Only prepaid bookings.

Number of participants per educational limited to approx. 10 PAX.

Subjects:    

1) Theoretical basics of landscaping rockeries (soil, composition, creating micro climates)

2) Landscaping a rockery in practice. Interaction between participants and the garden artists of Soekershof.

Discover that waterwise gardening is more labour extensive than generally perceived but also very much rewarding.

Info and bookings: soekershof@lando.co.za Tel: 023-6264134

Rocking the world

Robertson (Western Cape); November 13 2007 – Soekershof Walkabout, Mazes & Botanical Gardens, commenced excavagation works for two rockeries which will the ‘growing ground’ of approx. 1000 succulent species from around the world within two years. These new species are in addition to the 2467 registered different succulent plants in the existing succulent gardens.
The gardens of Soekershof Walkabout distinguish themselves from those of other botanical gardens in South Africa with all plants under the open sky (not under roof or shade cloth) and all plants are organically cultivated without the use of fertilisers and other chemicals. Furthermore is Soekershof Walkabout the only botanical garden in South Africa which is certified by Fair Trade in Tourism in South Africa (
http://www.fairtourismsa.org.za/).

Both rockeries are near the entrance; one will be the ‘growing ground’ of caudiciform plants (f.e. ‘bottle trees’, including several baobab species, from Australia, Madagascar and Southern Africa) and the other one will mainly consist of American succulent plants such as cacti, yuccas and agaves next to Brazilian ceiba trees (Choriosa speciosa). Most plants of the new collection are home grown from seeds and hardly or not on display elsewhere in South Africa.

The investment in the new rockeries is the first phase of a three year program during which all ‘gaps’ in the existing landscape of 10 hectares will be filled with different sphere gardens. In the beginning of next year excavagation works are scheduled for a very formal layout of sample gardens for the own nursery customers and the extension of the Langeberg Garden (in fact a maze without dead ends and home grown indigenous trees and shrubs).

Since the official opening in December 2002 Soekershof Walkabout is increasingly attracting (amateur) horticulturists, garden societies, botanists, etc. from around the globe. Locally Soekershof Walkabout is mainly known for its Klaas Voogds Maze which is regarded as the ‘largest hedge maze in the world’.

Walk
Wonder
and be
Inspired!
 
Soekershof Walkabout
Mazes & Botanical Gardens
 
Primary Unusual Destination
Certified by Fair Trade in Tourism in South Africa
 
Klaas Voogds West, P.O. Box 291, Robertson 6705, South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)23 626 4134
Skype: soekershof
E-mail:
soekershof@lando.co.za
Website: http://www.soekershof.com
Blogsite: http://soekershofwalkabout.blogspot.com/
Soekershof Science:
https://soekershof.wordpress.com
Dutch: http://www.dagboek.iblog.co.za
http://www.travelpod.com/members/soekershof

Mission statement:
Soekershof Walkabout is a sacred enterprise, based on an appreciation of nature, humor, play, creation, expression and respect for the land, and the growth and development of the people and plants that participate -employees and visitors alike.

Soekershof Walkabout is a personal event which is simply described as the “Largest Hedge-Maze in the world” and/or “a garden with more than 2400 different succulents from all over the world under the open sky”.
 
But Soekershof IS more than that.
The original concept goes beyond all prejudice perceptions.

Walk, Wonder and be Inspired!!!

Just let it happen and take your time; a few hours at least.

Experiencing Soekershof Walkabout is, globally, a unique and hugely entertaining exercise for Body, Mind and Spirit; not to be missed.

Daily Tours: 11 AM and 3 PM (sharp!!!)
See website for more details.