Garden Update #7- June 2014

I’ve finally made my way back into the garden – permanently this time.

I lost interest in it after Alf died – it made me too sad.

I watered it occasionally, and cut the grass infrequently, but that was about it.

Alf was very proud of what I’d achieved, and was always showing it off to our visitors, or watching what I was doing from our balcony. I miss him, and gardening reminded me too much of him.

Anyway, I’ve decided that it’s about time that I get off the couch, get stuck into it, and continue to make Alf proud.

Plus I can hear him say “Don’t you dare let that garden die – do you know how much we’ve spent on it!!!”

Luckily I planted a low-maintenance garden, otherwise I’d be in big trouble after ignoring it for six months! Good news is, nothing died, and everything kept right on growing. In some cases, a bit too much!

Square Foot Garden Bed

I dug up the bed as the soil had compacted and was rock hard.

I then added a mix of composted horse/chicken manure, perlite and coco peat, and dug that into each square.

The only things still there from last year were a straggly thyme plant, spring onions, half-dead oregano, and strawberries.

The original strawberry plants had died, but I transplanted about 20 new small plants that had grown from runners.

I’ve planted parsley, chilli, mint, thyme and sage seedlings, and I’ve sown the following seeds:

Capsicum (peppers)
Beef steak tomatoes
Roma tomatoes
Celery
Sugar snap and snow peas
Bush beans
Silverbeet (Swiss chard)
English spinach
Lettuces (including Cos for Caesar salads!)

Again, I’ve only planted things that are expensive or not available here.

I have six empty squares which I’ll use to plant more salad vegetables in a few weeks’ time, so that I get a staggered supply rather than have everything maturing at once.

And I’ve moved my cement statue into the middle of the bed – she adds height, colour and interest to the empty bed.

SFG BedAerial ViewUsing Compost as Mulch

One of the reasons the SFG bed was so dry (ignoring my bad watering practices for the moment!), was because last year I mulched it with the horse/chicken compost we bought.

The compost was either hydrophobic and repelled water, or it absorbed the water, and just held on to it.

I’m not sure which, but either way, it prevented water from reaching the soil.

I’m glad I’ve discovered that now, as I plan on mulching the entire garden with it at some stage.

As an experiment, I’ve soaked it in water, along with perlite and coco peat, and mulched the planter on the garage roof with it. This planter is in full sun for most of the day and dries out quickly, so I’ll soon be able to tell whether it’s effective or not.

Raw ingredients

Dry mix

Mulch

Soaked in water

Passionfruit

After almost 2 years, I have fruit! Only a couple, but it’s a start:

Lack of fruit on the vine can be due to insufficient water, so I’ve given it a good soaking, and used the mulch mix around the base of the vine to stop evaporation.

Passionfruit

What a beauty!

It’s been so long since I bought it, I can’t remember whether it was a yellow or purple variety – hope it’s purple – yellow clashes with the wall colour!

My Plus-Size Diva

My first statute (which has been nicknamed “Shirley Bassey” by some friends) is all painted and varnished, and she’s now ready for the garden:

Shirley FrontShirley BackClose-upand so far, I’m very happy with my makeover of that broken statue I found a couple of years ago – she really has become a diva!

Concrete DivaDiva FrontConcrete DivaDiva Side2Diva Side1Concrete DivaDiva BackI need to sand her, and depending on the result, I might also need to apply a thin coat of render to get a good finish before I can paint her into a swimsuit.

This course has been great fun, and I’m sad that it’s over.

However, Dev said that he’ll hold another course later in the year when he has some free time, so between now and then, I’m going to buy some cheap clay, and try to work out how I’m going to make those concrete heads.

I’ll need a lot of practice forming facial features – it’s one thing drawing a face, but another thing entirely doing in in 3-D!

Concreting the Statue

Sorry for the long break between posts – I haven’t been in the right frame of mind to write.

The class has been great fun, and over three lessons, I finished the statue.

I had to make some changes – she ended up wearing a long dress instead of a bikini, as the chicken wire armature was too big to allow me to shape her as I wanted – she would have had HUGE legs which would have detracted from the parts of her that were actually supposed to be huge!

And she won’t be holding a planter as her arms aren’t strong enough to hold a pot filled with soil.

Other than that, I’m happy with my first attempt…

Lesson 2

Using a wet and rough mix of concrete, small gravel, and sand (and wearing rubber gloves) we squeezed the mix into the metal armature:

Statue baseStatue bodyfinished1finished2

finished3I wasn’t too sure about her at this stage – she looked more like ET than a woman!

Lesson 3

This time, we wet the statue with water, brushed it with concrete glue, and started to build it up with a mix of concrete and sand (no gravel).

I soon learned that you had to do it in stages – I tried to add big boobs and a big bottom – but the concrete was too heavy, and kept sliding and falling off.

Patience, Veronique, patience.

FrontSideBackLesson 3

More water, concrete glue and concrete, this time adding bulk, shape and detail:

FrontSideBackI realised at this stage that I’d given her feet instead of hands – she has heels on her hands! Haha!

Lesson 4

To finish her off, I used medium-grade sandpaper to smooth off any rough bits, and then brushed her with cement glue to fill in small holes, and to even-out the surface:

FrontSideBackShe’s now back at home, and I’m currently painting her…once that’s done, I’ll give her a few coats of varnish, and she’ll be ready for the garden.

Dev’s Cement Garden

I mentioned that I was taking a cement sculpture course – well, we started last week, and it was so much fun, that I’m already thinking about what my next cement project will be!

The instructor, Dev, owns an art gallery in Point aux Piments (at the start of the road that leads to the Maritim Hotel).

Gallery entrance

Gallery entrance

Main gallery

Main gallery

Plaster casts

Plaster casts

Dev taught art at a tertiary level for many years before deciding to become a full-time sculptor, and over time has created a garden full of, sometimes whimsical, sometimes historical, sculptures.

He asked us to bring clay sculptures of our projects to the first class, so I made my first one ever, based on a statue we bought in Bangkok:

side…and on my painting:

big bumsback viewShe’ll be holding a pot filled with succulents:

with potThat’s the plan, anyway!

Dev had tables set up under the banyan tree:

Under the banyanwhere he taught us how to make the armature, which is the internal metal reinforcement for the statue – from calculating proportions, to cutting the metal and shaping it.

It was also where some of my classmates decided to play Tarzan:

Me Tarzan

…or should that be Jane?

Because my sculpture required the simplest armature, he used it as an example, and made the whole thing (another reason I need to make another statue – I want to have a go!):

welding

Note the welding mask sitting ignored on the ground!

WeldingOnce the basic shape had been welded together, he twisted on wire to give shape and bulk to the hands and head:

Wire headAnd finally, he covered the main body and base with chicken wire:

Chicken wire

In addition to providing strength, the wire will give the cement something to grab on to.

Finally, I actually got to do some work – painting the armature with metal primer to prevent rust :

painting

Smile, why don’t you – it’s fun!!!

Drying in the sun

Drying in the sun

Looks quite good as it is – I’m a little nervous about the cement stage – the clay was easy to work with – I hope the cement is too.

We’ll see come Thursday!

Garden Update #6 – Feb 2014

As I mentioned, I haven’t done any gardening to speak of since November – so once again, I’ve found myself with a very overgrown and weed-infested garden.

And because I also haven’t written anything for this blog since then, I only remembered to take “before” photos once I was halfway through the clean-up. How quickly we forget!

Grass, Rhoeo Edging, and Heliconias

The grass has spread from the beds into the paths, and some paths have all but disappeared as the rhoeo edging has flourished with all the rain we’ve had:

Grass-covered path

Weeded rhoeo to the right, and grass-covered rhoeo to the left

Narrow path

When you turn the corner at the end, there is actually no visible path

Unweeded bed

Overgrown bed

Once I finish weeding, I’ll be reshaping the paths by pulling out a lot of the rhoeo. I’ll use some of them to replant areas where the rhoeo has died, or been eaten by snails:

All chewed up

All chewed up

The heliconias are also migrating into the path – I’ll dig those out when I tackle the rhoeo.

HeliconiasMealy Bugs, Pawpaw, and Frangipani

One thing I did do, was to continue weekly spraying for mealy bugs with Amidor, and other than the frangipani and pawpaw which were both way too tall to spray, all plants are now free of it.

Last week, I decided to cut the pawpaw tree down to about 5 feet to make it more manageable.

Mealy bugs

Mealy bugs

Chopped pawpaw

Pawpaw trunk

There are already signs of new growth around the trunk.

I tried “drenching” the frangipani with Amidor, which involves pouring the diluted Amidol on the ground around the tree. It gets absorbed by the roots, gets into the tree’s sap, and kills the mealy bugs when they suck on the leaves.

It didn’t work, as the frangipani is underplanted with bromeliads, and not enough of the Amidor penetrated the soil.

Square Foot Garden

The final thing that fell prey to the mealy bugs were my vegetables – nearly everything got infested with it, and as I didn’t want to spray edible plants with poison, I pulled it all out.

At the moment, I’ve only got oregano, mint, thyme, spring onions, and strawberries left, and have been using the bed to propagate cuttings instead.

After I poison the grass and weeds that are growing in it, I’ll get out my seeds, and start from scratch.

So sad!

So sad!

Dracaena Marginata

I also cut the these down to about 4ft – they had grown too tall and were hidden in the frangipani tree. Also, they were covered in sooty mould, as is everything else under the frangipani. To quote The University of California website:

Sooty molds don’t infect plants but grow on surfaces where honeydew deposits accumulate. Honeydew is a sweet, sticky liquid that plant-sucking insects excrete as they ingest large quantities of sap from a plant. Because the insect can’t completely utilize all the nutrients in this large volume of fluid, it assimilates what it needs and excretes the rest as “honeydew.” Wherever honeydew lands—e.g., leaves, twigs, fruit, yard furniture, concrete, sidewalks, or statuary—sooty molds can become established.

Bloody mealy bugs!

I’ve got the tops of the dracaenas soaking in a bucket of water in the hope that they’ll root, and I can replant them in the driveway bed. I’ll also have to wipe the leaves individually with warm, soapy water to remove the sooty mould.

Again, bloody mealy bugs!

Dracaena trunk

Pruned dracaena – it should sprout a lot of new growth soon

Dracaena

Dracaena “cuttings”

Sooty mould

Sooty mould

I’ve transplanted a third dracaena from a pot to the driveway bed – I took three 4-inch cuttings from a friend’s plant a couple of years ago, rooted them in water, planted two in the ground and the third in a pot.

The ones in the ground were over 8 feet tall before I chopped them back, and the one in the pot might be 2 feet tall if it’s lucky. Huge difference!

Gardenia

I’ll be moving this to a new spot, as it’s growing over the path:

GardeniaI don’t know whether it will survive the transplant, but if it doesn’t, I’ve got a lot of cuttings on the go.

And having it closer to the house means that the perfume might drift up to the patio. Lovely!

Mulberry Tree

I had a lot of mulberries – but as I had to spray the tree with Amidor, I didn’t get to eat a single one!

After a recent visit to the Bagatelle Shopping Centre, and seeing these planted all through the carpark:

Tibouchina

Close-up of the flowers

I’ve decided to replace the mulberry with a tibouchina tree.

They’re gorgeous!

Vaneron Garden Centre in Trianon sell them, but at rs4500 for a 1.5m tree, I think I’ll shop around for a better price! So if you’ve seen them elsewhere, please let me know.

Anyway, that’s it for now – just a bit more weeding to do, and then I can move on to more interesting things.

I couldn’t work out how to start writing this blog again after Alf died, so almost didn’t.

Now, I’m glad I did – it’s brought a sense of normality back into my life, albeit in a small way.

I’m Back!

I won’t bore you too much with how I’ve been for the last few months – suffice to say that it’s been the hardest time of my life.

I’ve had a lot of very dark days, and imagine there’ll be a lot more ahead.

I think of Alf from the moment I wake up, right up to when I fall asleep, and miss him during every one of those moments.

I miss the things we used to do, and cry over those things we will never do.

On the positive side, I’ve made new friends, seen a lot more of old friends than I used to do, and started on a lot of projects that I was too lazy/busy to tackle before.

I’ve also started an art class, and will shortly be starting a concrete sculpture course – hopefully, my Plus-Size Diva will finally get her day in the sun, and I might even manage to make some head planters.

I decided it was better to keep busy doing things I enjoy, than to allow myself to drown in my pain – though it’s very tempting to go down that path sometimes.

Anyway, thanks for your support, and patience – I just need to finish getting the garden into shape after having ignored it for the last four months, and My Mauritian Garden will be up and running again!

Till next week.

Veronique

Lost in My Loss

I initially decided that the next few weeks of my life didn’t belong in My Mauritian Garden which was, and will hopefully once more become, a blog full of fun, laughter, and lightness.

So I thought about starting a temporary blog, where writing about my feelings in this time of flux would help me come to terms with Alf’s death.

It was essentially to be a place where I could talk through my feelings and thoughts when I had to; a place where I could talk to Alf without seeming like a crazy woman; a place where family and friends could be with me when they couldn’t be here physically; and a place where people I have never even met could share their thoughts.

But most importantly, a place where perhaps I could heal and find some peace.

Then I changed my mind.

Although I wrote all the posts, this blog was about our lives together, and Alf had input in many of the posts. Whether I listened to him or nor was another matter.

Anyway, this difficult period is still part of our lives, so if you’re just interested in gardening, check back in a few weeks.

For now, this is about me…

I’m trying to get on with my life – I’m accepting invitations from friends, I’m doing all my usual things, I’m getting things organised, and I’m getting out and about (though mostly, I just want to stay home).

I’m even thinking about new things that I might do.

But I don’t feel as though I’m moving towards anything – I feel like I’m doing things for the sake of it, and just filling in time.

What do I plan towards now? Everything – holidays, where to go for lunch, what house repairs were a priority – were discussed and planned together, with a mutual purpose in mind.

I can’t seem to work out the point of it all now.

Everything I do now is without Alf.

Today I cried in the supermarket, because I knew he wasn’t in another aisle – he’s gone forever.

I feel so sad and so alone without Alf – I could be surrounded by a thousand loving arms and I’d still feel the same.

I’ll never laugh with him again, never shout at him, tease him, discover anything with him, nothing. The wonderful life we shared is no more.

No matter what I do in the future will never include him, and therefore will never live up to what we had together.

It really is true that you don’t know what you have until you lose it – you can appreciate it at every turn, but once it’s gone, you realise just how huge it was.

The only positive I can find, is that although it happened suddenly, I have no regrets – I always told him that I love him, he always told me the same; when we fought, we never held grudges, and always forgave each other; there was nothing left unsaid, good or bad.

I don’t feel depressed, just unbearably sad.

I miss him so badly – he was a huge part of my life – there were very few times that we weren’t together, and at home, we were always chatting about life, the universe, and everything.

We really enjoyed each other’s company, and could sit for hours together, either talking or doing our own thing knowing the other person was right there.

We both always said that we were so glad to have found each other, and that we made each other happy, despite the difficult times.

Together, we were always able to overcome whatever hurdles life threw at us, and come out of it better people.

We complemented each other perfectly, and together, we could conquer the world.

Now, if I were handed the world on a platter, I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

I’m very strong, and I know that I can cope with this, but no amount of strength can take away the hurt I feel inside at the moment, nor the sense of being lost without him.