Introduction to SFG, and Shopping

Square Foot Gardening

I was googling vermiculite, and I discovered this website.

Wow – what a great idea for growing vegetables and herbs– you divide a raised bed into square foot sections, and depending on the fully-grown size of the plant, you simply follow a formula to plant up each square.

For example:

Tomato – 1 plant needs four squares

Capsicum – 1 plant needs one square

Cos lettuce – 4 plants to a square

Carrot – 16 plants to a square

We already have a raised bed, although it’s a foot wider than they recommend (10’ x 5’ instead of 10’ x 4’).

If I can’t reach into the centre, never mind, because Alf can – he’s got big long monkey arms.

No, not really, just normal man-size arms.

The beauty of this system, is that:

  • you can grow a large variety of plants in a relatively small area
  • your seeds last a long time (they recommend storing them in the fridge) as you only use the number that you need, instead of sowing the whole packet, thinning out the seedlings and throwing them away
  • again, because of the restricted size of the bed, you aren’t wasting water, as you’re watering a very specific area
  • as you harvest a square, you can top it up with compost, then plant it up again

I love this idea – I really hope it works for me.

The soil they use is a mix of compost, vermiculite and peat moss:

  • compost adds goodness to the soil, and thereby feeds the plants
  • peat moss helps retain water
  • vermiculite keeps the soil light and open, and allows air to circulate. It also helps with water retention.

We can get compost.

Apparently I can get peat moss, as it grows in the Black River Gorge National Park. No problem – I’m sure the rangers won’t mind me hiking through and stealing twenty or so kilos of it!

I know for sure you can get vermiculite (or something like it) because one of the local nurseries sticks it on top of their pots in the hope that you won’t notice all the clover growing in them.

What remains to be seen however, is whether they’ll sell me some or tell me who the supplier is. Probably not is my guess.

‘Cause that’s just the way it is here.

Shopping

Shopping in Mauritius is frustrating – the Yellow Pages are useless, so unless you’re lucky enough to bump into the right person, you’ve got little chance of sourcing things.

Most shop assistants aren’t very helpful – if they don’t stock it, they’ll rarely tell you who does. Maybe they just don’t know.

And when you ask a local where to buy something, 9 times out of 10, they’ll answer “Port Louis”.

What shop or at least which part of Port Louis? It’s a city for God’s sake, not a street!

It’s best to ask around the expat community because someone, somewhere, has at one point, wanted the same thing that you’re now after.

Also, if you see something you like, buy it now. Because if you go away to think about it, it will have sold out when you go back.

Anyway, back to my Square Foot Garden bed.

I’ll be starting work in it in the next couple of weeks, but it’ll be a while before my next SFG post as I have a lot of preparation to do before the actual planting.

Soil-wise, I’ll probably just end up mixing compost into the pile of soil that’s currently in the driveway, and go from there.

I hereby rename you, Square Foot Gardening Mauritian-Style.

Also known as Square Foot Gardening Without Peat Moss or Vermiculite Because I Couldn’t Find Any.

(Please drop me a line if you know of an outlet selling either of them. Cheers!)

Garden Update #3 – Mar 2013

Pots and Pot Stands

I found el cheapo plastic pots for the top of the stands, which I sanded, applied two coats of terracotta paint to, tiled and grouted, then applied a third coat to cover the grout, as it was much darker than the paint. They’re the right shape, but a bit smaller than I wanted. In Mauritius though, beggars can’t be choosers – you might end up waiting forever if you hold out for something specific.

Red potFinished potsUnlike when I bought the small pots, this time, I actually measured the pot stand so I’d know what size pots to buy.

Pot Stand

Perfect!

However, I made the fatal mistake of only measuring one of them:

Stupid pot stand

!!!!!

I’m starting to develop a serious dislike for those pot stands!

I’ll be planting the pots with ivy geranium, (after drilling holes in the bases – why don’t pots have drainage holes anymore? We have a drill, but I’m sure lots of people don’t). Hopefully, the geraniums will trail down and disguise the size problem!

Anyway, on a more positive note, I love paint – instead of ugly red plastic pots, I now have two lovely “terracotta” pots.

Even if one of them doesn’t fit! Grrrrr!

Moving on…with the pot stands, I’ve still got to apply rust converter and primer, and then spray them with either white gloss or matte black – I’ve yet to decide, though I’m leaning towards black. But I’d better do it pronto – with all the rain we’ve been having, they’re getting rustier by the minute – bits will probably start falling off soon!

Weeding the Beds

I’ve weeded the final two beds, and the only problems hiding under the grass were:

Easter Lilies

I have two plants – they both died back, but one is showing signs of new growth. My friend, Robin, said that you’re supposed to dig up the bulbs each year, store them, and replant them the following season.

Afraid not – I planned a low maintenance garden, and am not prepared to do anything like that – I’ve got enough to do! I’ll see how they go, and perhaps replace them.

Day Lilies

They haven’t grown at all (nor have the agapanthus). Maybe if you live in a tropical zone, you should stick to tropical plants! Having said that, the red ginger plants haven’t grown much either, so who knows?

Ruellia Hedges

I cut all the bushes back hard. However, I think it’s too little too late – most of them are growing sideways, and I can’t see them ever turning into the gorgeous hedge that at the moment exists solely in my imagination.

So I’ve stuck about 20 cuttings into a jar of water, and will start from scratch when they root – it will only take a couple of weeks.

This time, I’ll plant more of them, and reduce the spacing between them, so that as they grow, they can support each other.

Also, I’ll prune them regularly so that they become bushy, and turn into a low hedge instead of a tall, straggly mess.

The weeded garden:

Driveway bed

Driveway bed

Lemon bed

Lemon tree bed

Mulberry tree and front beds

Mulberry tree and front beds

House bed

Bed running the length of the house

House bed

Ditto

Side Bed

Side bed and passionfruit in the raised bed

Grass

The paths have been weeded and poisoned, and the grass in the new paths has been cut and poisoned, and the paths covered in sawdust.

The type of sawdust we get varies, depending on what wood the cabinetmakers are working with. So you end up with a patchwork effect when you first spread it as you can see from the above photos.

After a while, it fades in the sun and all looks pretty much the same colour.

The paths I’d already poisoned and covered were relatively easy to weed – it was mainly grass that had spread from the adjoining beds, so the roots were shallow and pulled out easily.

Half-weeded path

Half-weeded path

So to that extent, the sawdust mulch is working. Any grass that grows from now on will be promptly Roundup-ed or pulled out.

However, the grass in the beds is going to be a huge ongoing problem – the roots are very deep (even where I’ve previously poisoned), and it grows back very thick. It also grows back very fast.

Newly-weeded bed

Newly-weeded bed

Weeded two weeks ago

Two weeks’ growth

Half weeded bed

What I can expect in two months

There’s no point in just covering it all with mulch, as the grass will grow through it.

I don’t want to poison the beds as I killed some plants last time I did that – plus it takes forever as it’s too windy to spray, so I have to use a paintbrush. And it’s obviously not very effective.

I googled “weed mat” – the general consensus was that the soil underneath gets very dry, and because it’s loosely-woven, weeds/grass still grow through it. And it frays, so you get little bits of black plastic floating about the place.

Instead, I’ve decided to look for hessian (jute or burlap) fabric, and lay that on the beds before mulching.

It’ll let moisture through, and the grass and weeds will have to try pretty hard to get through both the hessian and the mulch. Any that do make it will be easily seen as the mulch is black, and I can poison them immediately. By the time the hessian rots down, the grass should all be dead.

Theoretically!

It will probably take a while to do, as I’ll have to cut the hessian to fit around the plants. But if it works, it’ll be time well spent, and I rather do that than face a future of eternal weeding!

So much for low-maintenance!

(If you live in Mauritius and know where I can bulk-buy cheap hessian, please let me know.)

Step

I downloaded an English gardening program called “Lovely Garden” by my all-time favourite gardener, Alan Titchmarsh, and in one episode, the garden owner had planted a tiny square of lawn in an otherwise brick-paved area. It was a bold statement and it made me laugh.

(As an aside, how is it that despite their terrible weather, the Brits are such fabulous gardeners? You can’t beat them!)

Anyway, initially, I thought that I’d buy some turf for the step by the front gates – this would be the only lawn in our garden.

However, after our problems with the grass and weeds, I’ve since changed my mind.

I HATE grass!

Instead, I cut some astroturf to shape and used that:

AstroturfIt doesn’t exactly look natural (or pretty – it’s a weird shade of green and is all sparkly in the sun – like Christmas tinsel!), but at least it’ll stop my shoes from getting muddy and the weeds from growing. Hopefully, down the track, I’ll find something better.

Well, we’re off to Perth for two weeks soon – lots of eating, shopping, and catching up with family and friends, leaving our house and Tipsy-the-cat in the capable hands of our housesitter, Amy.

Thanks, Amy, and enjoy Mauritius!

Garden Update # 2 – Mar 2013

The weeding is well under way – four beds down, and two to go. Plus the verge.

Driveway Bed

I’ve finished planting the ruellia hedge and moses-in-a-cradle along the driveway, as well as two more golden cane palms. The planting in that bed is now finished:

Driveway Bed

Driveway bed

Driveway bed

Ignore the pile of weeds in the path!

Shower Bed

The small bed next to the shower is also finished, but the bamboo is a bit out of control:

BambooI’m too scared to prune it without advice from someone in the know, as last time I pruned it, it grew even bushier. It has certainly enjoyed the massive amount of rain we’ve received in the last couple of months.

Until I find someone to advise me, I’ll be tying it up a bit so the plants under it can get sun and water.

House Bed

I’ve finally finished edging and planting up the bed that runs along the house:

House Bed

Lime tree

Newly planted section with potted lime tree

At the end of the bed, I’ve “planted” spider lily bulbs which I found lying on the ground when I weeded the lemon tree bed – I initially thought they were some sort of weird mushroom, but realised what they were when I noticed a couple of them had roots. I didn’t know which way up to lay them on the soil, but I’m sure Mother Nature will rectify any mistakes I’ve made! They’re the white dots lying around the place.

I looked on the internet, and according to all the websites I looked at, the only way to propagate spider lilies is to dig up the existing clumps and divide the bulbs. Well, the lilies in Mauritius don’t know this, because the bulbs I found were produced on the flower stalk, fell on the ground, and started to root:

Spider lily bulbFree plants – I love it! Definitely one plant you shouldn’t deadhead over here!

Lemon Tree Bed

One of the cordylines died, as did a couple of ruellia plants – they were all next to each other, so I may have inadvertently poisoned them when I was poisoning the grass. Oops!

Lemon Tree Bed

Aerial view

Other than that, everything’s growing well – especially the pawpaw tree that I planted from seed (it’s about 8 months old) – it’s currently standing at about 7 feet.

I need advice about pruning the top of the tree so that it doesn’t grow too tall – the last pawpaw tree we had grew to about 20 feet in two years. The only way to pick a pawpaw was for one person to shake the tree, and a second person to catch the fruit (or try to – mainly, they just went “splat”!). We cut it back to about 5 feet, but instead of sprouting new growth, the trunk rotted and the tree died, even though we covered the cut to stop rain from getting in.

Things I’ve Learned

Madagascan Frangipani

They fall over if they get to tall, too wet, or if it’s too windy (a bit like bananas!). That’s probably why, when you see them growing in Mauritians’ gardens, they’re usually against a wall so they receive protection from the elements. I never noticed until mine fell over.

Anyway, I gave them a radical pruning (I cut off about a metre), and tied them up.

The rash I got all over my arm from the sap is almost gone. I’ll be wearing long sleeves and gloves next time I prune them!

Ruellia

Buying tall plants is not the bargain that it seems – they’re too leggy, so they lean over, and new growth sprouts along the horizontal stems.

I imagined that my hedges would look like this:

Ruellia hedging

From a street in Quatre Bourne

Instead they look like this:

Ruellia Hedge

Ruellia Hedge

Ruellia HedgeHaha!

I’ve since noticed that Mauritians plant ruellia against walls for support.

I need a Mauritian gardening friend!

So, all the ruellia plants will also get a radical pruning, and I’ll tie them up until they get bushy enough to support each other.

Rhoeo Edging

Some sections are growing very unevenly – I think I may have bought different varieties.

Rhoeo edgingAs it stands, all the time and effort I spent ensuring that I planted in perfectly straight lines, or in sinuous curves, was wasted! I may as well have just plonked them in any old way!

Rhoeo edgingSo I’ll be replacing the uneven parts.

Even when they grow evenly, the 1 metre wide paths I planted have narrowed somewhat:

Rhoeo pathI’ll have to continually thin them out. Free plants, anyone?

That’s it for now – I’ll probably make a few more discoveries as I tackle the remaining beds, and see what’s happening under the weeds.

But I guess that’s what this whole process is about – learning how to garden in a tropical climate with a range of plants that I haven’t used before.

Hopefully I’ll finish the remaining beds in the next few days, in between weeding, poisoning, and re-sawdusting the paths.

Still, for a garden that’s less than a year old, I’m thrilled with the results so far – it’s grown so fast!

Most of it is as I imagined, and the bits that have gone wrong and that I need to fix will just make me a more knowledgeable tropical gardener in the future.

How’s that for positive thinking!

Garden Update #1 – February 2013

I’m a stepmother. Sometimes a wicked one, but often, fairly nice.

“Stepmother” sounds better in French – belle-mère – which translates to “beautiful mother”.

I like that so much more – it makes me want to twirl around, dancing and singing “I Feel Pretty” – just like Natalie Wood in Westside Story.

Anyway, being a stepmother is sometimes good (no giving birth, and you can always give them back) and other times it’s worse than Island Fever – I just want to slap someone!

Currently, Alf’s eldest child, Kieran, is on his first two-week stay with us.

He’s not into sightseeing or the beach – he’s finding it all a bit boring. Which makes me a bit bored with him – why did he come? There’s nothing else to do here! (And I don’t mean that in a bad way – that’s why people come to Mauritius – to relax and look around). Two days into his holiday, and I already started getting annoyed with him.

Then . . . he volunteered to do some weeding.

Alf told him that I love my garden, but am not well enough right now to work on it.

I don’t think Kieran’s ever set foot in a garden, let alone worked in one, so I was a wee bit worried that he’d turn into my ex-gardener and pull out plants instead of weeds.

But no!

Under Alf’s guidance (I’ve been too scared to look in case I shout and slap), the garden is slowly re-appearing.

And yesterday, the rain finally stopped.

It’s encouraged me to get back out there, finish the planting, do some serious pruning, and tie things up.

And finish making the passionfruit frame (I don’t know whether the passionfruit plant will survive being transplanted – it’s been sitting in the raised bed for so long, that its roots have grown into the soil).

Also, weeding, poisoning, and grass-cutting.

And once I’ve transplanted the passionfruit, filling the raised bed with the pile of soil currently blocking the driveway, and starting my Square Foot Gardening vegetable patch.

It only took 6 weeks for the garden to get this out of control. I really need to keep on top of things in future.

Anyway, Kieran, you’re the best! Come visit and find Mauritius boring any time you want!

Pre-weeding photos:

Vine-covered palm

Vine-covered palm

Weed-infested path

Weed-infested path

More vines

More vines

Weed corner

!!!!

Weed corner

Hopefully, the bougainvillea is still alive in the corner – that entire mass of green is weeds!

Raised bed

What happens when you don’t poison and cover the paths with sawdust…

path

…even the rhoeo edging (which is on the right of the photo) disappears!

jungle

Completely overwhelming!

Kieran

Poser, but my hero! Thanks Kieran! xx

Soil Wetter

Alf is turning into the Readers Digest Handy Hint Book.

He discovered, albeit by accident, a soil wetter for those pesky bits of the garden that just won’t absorb water.

He only gets part of the credit for this one though, because I noticed what happened and experimented with it.

What, he got 100% credit for the geckos!

Anyway.

Mauritius is very humid, so unless you want everything in your wardrobe or cupboards to turn green, you’d be very wise to buy tubs of de-humidifier from the supermarket (there are a lot of different brands, and they all work well). And they’re cheap – they cost around rs50.

DehumidifierThey sit in your cupboard, quietly collecting moisture from the air.

When they’re full you throw them out and buy a new one.

Unless you’re Alf.

He likes to empty the water out and use them a second time.

He emptied one out onto the sawdust path.

And the patch remained wet for a week. When it rained, that same patch stayed wet after the rest of the path had dried.

I watched that patch a lot. I didn’t stare, just watched.

The next time a tub was full, Alf carefully poured the water into an empty plastic bottle for me.

I poured a little into the watering can, filled it up with water, found some plants I didn’t mind losing, watered around them a little, then watered it in with the hose.

It works perfectly, and goes a long way.

However, with no ingredients on the label, I won’t be using it on the vegetable garden when I get around to planting it!

Thank you, Alf.

My Mauritian Weed Patch

I haven’t done any gardening since November – it suddenly got really hot, really fast, and really early – I used to be able to garden from 6 to 11am – I’d move from one shaded part of the garden to another, until I ran out of shade.

And then one day, there was no shade anywhere by 8.30.

So I got too hot (and too lazy), and decided to take a break.

I moved on to sewing curtains, patternmaking, and sewing clothes for myself (I started a lot of things, but finished nothing – again, lazy, plus I have a short attention span ie I got bored fast).

So I started researching recipes for our New Year’s Day party instead, and then the party itself happened. It was fun – update to come once I get copies of photos from a guest I’ve yet to chase down – I forgot to take any myself – due to busyness, organisational stress, and, towards the end of the day, alcohol. Hey, I’m being honest! No comment please, Eileen!

Anyway, then I got strangely unwell.

Mauritius, having a humid, tropical climate, has a lot of airborne bugs, and consequently, airborne viruses – usually flu-like. Plus, a lot of people here are not very hygiene-conscious, so you might eat something they’ve touched with their filthy, germ-ridden, unwashed hands, and get an upset stomach.

I’m very susceptible to both of the aforementioned. Also I had surgery earlier this year that I’m still recovering from.

However, I’ve been suffering from Weird Sleeping Sickness, which has nothing to do with any of those things.

For the last couple of weeks, on average, I’ve been sleeping about 15 hours a day.

I’d get up early, have coffee, sit around, go on the internet, feel tired, go back to bed and wake up around 3pm. Potter around for an hour or so, feel light-headed, go back to bed again, and wake up the next morning.

Every day for two weeks.

Plus, post-op soreness re-appeared. Family and friends know about that – everyone else – none of your business!!!! Girly stuff! Not your problem. Anyway…

I’m pretty short-sighted, so during those two weeks, the few times I checked out the garden from our patio, it all looked pretty overgrown – but green.

“That’s a good thing,” I’d think to myself, “it’s all still alive”. Then I’d go back to bed.

Anyway, I’m getting better, so for the first time this year (hello 2013!), I went out yesterday for an up-close and personal look at the garden.

Lordy!!!!!

And holy crap!

It’s a Jungle of Monster Weeds!!!

It’s been raining a lot, and I guess Mauritian weeds appreciate it more than Mauritian plants do.

Giant weed

It’s taller than the plants!

Weed attackMore weedsEven my pile of soil in the driveway is sprouting greenery:

Dirt pileSome plants have been totally covered by the weeds – are they even still there? Or have they been smothered?

Barely visible bromeliads

There are bromeliads in there somewhere! And my camera bag to the right. Oops.

Or maybe eaten by disgusting giant African snails (those things are so big, slimy, and gross!!!!!)?

Giant African snail

This is a baby – you should see its parents!

Other plants either got blown over by the tropical storm/cyclone winds and are now growing sideways, or got waterlogged and fell over.

Cyclone-affected mulberry treeFrangipaniOr drowned and died.

Drowned ruelliaEven the grass/weeds I poisoned are growing back.

Ex-weed-free path!

My lovely Roundup(ed) path!

We need to buy stakes. And a few replacement plants. Also snail poison – no Dettol for them! I still have Roundup.

Arriving back up on the patio, I took another look (albeit in a squinty kind of way – things are clearer like that for me – I really do need to get glasses) at the garden – if I don’t cut the grass and pull the weeds out soon, we’ll have no visible plants, and even the pots will disappear!

Weed-covered potMajor work coming up.

Not feeling up to it yet, I’m still tired.

Maybe next week. Or the one after.

If only I had a gardener!

Anyway, enough of this, I need a nap.

Ornament Wish-List

This isn’t so much a wish-list, as a list of things I will definitely get around to making.

When I work out how to.

When it comes to making things, my motto, to paraphrase a travel ad for Australia’s Northern Territory, is:

“If you never have a go, you’ll never, never know!”

I’ve got no clue how to make things – I get an idea, google it, stare off into space a lot, then when new thoughts stop coming, I try it.

If it doesn’t work out, all I’ve wasted is time and a little expense.

When it does work out, I’m thrilled and I have a new thing to sit and stare at for hours.

I like staring.

Concrete Head Planters

Head Planters

Courtesy davesgarden.com

Head Planters

Ditto

I love them. I want them. I can picture them basking in the sun and tossing back their succulent hair.

How will I make them? No idea.

I’ve never sculpted and wouldn’t know where to start.

So, first thoughts are:

  • Buy foam mannequin heads, slice the top of the heads off, and remove the insides
  • Attach them to a wide hollow base so they don’t topple over, but can still drain
  • Cover it all with a thin concrete mix (very technical!)
  • Do some minimal sculpting to re-emphasise the features.
  • Rub dirt into them so they don’t look like cement. Or maybe add dirt to the cement, or concrete stain if there’s such a thing here

More research required. Lots more.

Or a better idea.

Stiletto Planters

I cut this picture out of a newspaper many, many years ago, so excuse the photo quality – it didn’t scan very well:

Stiletto Planters

They’re made out of rusty metal, and the rosettes are succulents.

I can make the pattern – I’ll use a pair of my own shoes as the basis for a template.

Then I’ll go searching for an artisan called a ferblantier (tinsmith). They make household things like my watering can:

Tin watering can Once they’re made, I’ll brush the shoes with a salt solution to start the rust process – although, maybe tin doesn’t rust, as there’s no sign of it on the watering can. Will see.

Concrete Statue – My Plus-Size Diva

A frustrated and disappointed artist (I’m guessing!) dumped this outside the premises of our old café. I left her there for about 6 months in case they came back for her. They didn’t, and no-one else took her, so now she’s mine.

Concrete DivaConcrete DivaConcrete DivaConcrete DivaConcrete DivaDon’t laugh! She will be saucy and beautiful!!!

She needs arms:

  • I’ll drill holes where they’re broken off, and epoxy a bunch of twisted wire in. When it dries, I can bend them to shape. Might have to break off more of her arm as it’s at the wrong angle for what I want to do

This is the pose I want, but with her other hand on her hip:

PinupStop laughing!

  • Then I’ll wrap the wires and top of the arms in chicken wire to get the thickness I need
  • I’ll slather the whole thing with concrete and try to sculpt them into arms.

She doesn’t have to be perfect – just not a double amputee.

She needs a bigger head, a face, better boobs and hair (a slurry cement mixture, or so I’ve read, and some sculpting), and a more defined derièrre (filing with a rasp?).

Then she gets a tan, golden brown hair, bright red lips and fingernails (if she has fingers – she might just get lumps for hands – I’ll see what my skill levels are), and either a brightly patterned bikini or one-piece – will decide once she has arms and a face.

A purple base to tie her in with the rest of the garden, a few coats of exterior varnish, and voila!

Or, I might not like her, and dump her in front of someone else’s café.

If you can help with any of these projects, believe me, I’d be thrilled to hear from you.

The Verge

Some before photos:

verge rubble

Removing the renovation rubble

Virgin Verge

Mess courtesy of the dog next door

Factors I took into account before planting:

  • Our road is always in full sun
  • I don’t like to go out there to water the plants because it’s too hot, I sometimes have to chat with passers-by, and the dogs next door bark at me and give me heart attacks
  • The guys from next door play soccer in the street
  • Lots and lots of rubble and cement dust in the soil
  • The bin men throw the bin lid around
  • Dogs come sniffing around, so are probably peeing and worse
  • There are a lot of sticky fingers in Mauritius – not me – I just take small cuttings!

Keeping these things in mind, I planted the verge mainly with cuttings, so if anything happens to the plants, I won’t get too mad.

verge

vergeThe only things I bought were 2 palms, and I transplanted the bougainvilleas from the garden.

I’m hoping the bougainvilleas will grow up the wall, and tumble over into the garden.

bougainvilleaThe entrance into the driveway has the original banana trees, and the two golden cane palms that eventually recovered from the builders’ bonfire, and are growing back after being pruned down to 3 feet by the gardener.

bananasI’m going to lay crushed coral where the bins are, and mulch the rest with compost.

My scheme to stop the bin men crushing plants with the bin lid seems to be working so far. I’m laying lumps of coral (I need more but can’t remember where I found them) in a line, to delineate between the garden and The Only Place Bin Lids Should Go.

coral edge

They seem to have noticed, or it could just be a coincidence that they haven’t squashed anything since.

I lost about half the plants, and had to re-plant all the rhoeo (Moses in a Cradle) because the gardener weeded the verge on his last day of work.

But before he left, he made me a beautiful edging of rocks and rubble.

rubble edge

I’ll be replacing it with crushed coral one day.

Coconut Palms

We have two. We used to have three, but one had to be cut down for the new balcony.

We almost had none until I convinced our builder, Joselito, that if they damaged the house in a cyclone by banging into it, we would get the house repaired.

Full view

I didn’t mention them before as they feel more like part of the house than part of the garden because they’re so close to the house. Plus I forgot about them.

They’re old and huge, and they drop branches, coconuts and lots of little messy dead flowers. And we love them.

The branches and coconuts do fall onto the plants below – so I made sure to only plant things that can easily recover or be replaced.

You don’t really notice them from the garden – they’re just there. But from the upstairs balcony, the fronds droop down and sway in the breeze, and make a lovely fronds-swaying-in-the-breeze sound.

balcony coconut

I got Joselito to build a step in between them to create an entrance from the house into the garden.

garden step

The other entrance is another Joselito-built step by the front gate.

Should have put a third entrance leading up from the driveway and through the middle of the bed, because that’s the route the meter reader and all the workers take.

Anyway, from the ground floor patio, looking out, the step is flanked by two thick trunks that look like columns, with a curving path leading away from you. Very nice.

coconut trunks

Except you have to move really fast down that step or a coconut might fall on your head.

Pot Stands, Pots, and Shadow Painting

The Stands

A couple of years ago, we bought 2 wrought iron pot stands at an auction.

I got so caught up in the whole auction excitement that I committed the ultimate mistake – I didn’t check to see whether I could do the necessary repairs myself. Oops!

Mainly it’s OK, just a lot of flaky paint and rust to remove, priming and a new paint job (white gloss). I can do that.

But…three of the rings that hold the pots were badly bent. Double oops!

Not that oops was the exact word I used when I noticed.

bent stand

I tried hitting them with a rubber mallet. Nothing. Then whacked them with a hammer, until Alf screamed at me to stop. Still nothing.

What to do?

And then I remembered our friend Sam.

He loves to help, is extremely handy, and loves to make things.

He recently made a chariot out of 2 second-hand bicycles for their rottweiler, Betty, to pull.

The answer is, because he can, and he enjoys it.

And Betty likes pulling it.

He also has a welding machine.

Problem solved – they’re still a bit crooked but that’s OK. Now I just need to  paint them.

pot stand

Pots for the Pot Stands

I finally found some pots that looked, to my trained eye, to be the perfect fit.

Why don’t I measure these things, and how is it that I never learn?

They were about 3mm too small!!! I was close, but close doesn’t count if they just fall through the rings and smash on the ground!

So instead of just painting them terracotta, I had to mosaic and grout the top rim to increase the circumference. On all eight of them. Stupid trained eye!

painting the pots

tiling the pots

pot closeup

I used the same blue tiles that are on the shower and raised bed.

I painted the pots terracotta instead of purple because I don’t want them to be a feature.

I want them to disappear into the wall. Because…

Shadow Painting

Now, I’m not saying that I’ll definitely do this, because my skills, such as they are, may not be up to the task, but, the other day we were sitting up on the patio having a drink, Alf reading his book, and me glaring at the weeds, when I noticed…shadows.

Beautiful, curly shadows being cast by the pot stands.

I thought, why limit this gorgeous curliness to the ten minutes a day when the sun happens to hit the stands just right? Why not paint the shadows onto the wall?

Maybe using grey warmed up with a bit of terracotta so that the lines aren’t too stark. Or terracotta with a little black added? Or grey. Don’t know – never done anything like that before – I’ll have to experiment.

The softer colour will also be forgiving of my painting skills.

Black was never a consideration, as shadows aren’t really black – they just look that way. I think. Don’t take my word on it. I’m Mauritian. I make things up when I’m not sure.

Anyway, now that the rings have been straightened (no point having bent shadows), I’ll take a lot of photos, and trace the shadows onto the wall with chalk. Then I’ll go over it with pencil in case the chalk gets washed off when it rains, because it’ll probably be ages before I get round to painting it.

One problem that immediately comes to mind is the fact that the sun’s position changes so fast. I’ll have to be really quick with my tracing.

Also, how will it look when the real shadows are there?

Don’t know the answer, but if it looks stupid, I’ll just paint over it and the stupidity will just disappear.

Just like the grass will one day.