Gorgeous Green House

The Renovation Journey of a 1940’s ‘Traditional’ to 2015 ‘Contemporary, Green & Gorgeous’


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Creating a Grassland Habitat in Your Garden

beautiful imageMany people believe that wetlands and forests are the most threatened habitats on the planet and are unaware of how critically threatened our grasslands are as well. It’s easier to convert grassland to farmland than forest or wetlands and property developers also incur lower input cost.  Of course they are also victim to mining and forest creep.  In much of the literature on the subject they are referred  to as vanishing biomes which is most alarming.

In South Africa’s  only 2.5% of our grasslands are formally conserved and more than 60% already irreversibly transformed. Internationally only 1.4% are protected the lowest of any terrestrial vegetation types. Our grasslands host over

Wattled Crane

Threatened Wattled Crane

 

 

 

 

Threatened Hilton Daisy

Threatened Gerbera aurantiaca

4 000 plant species, 15 of South Africa’s 34 endemic mammals, 22% of our 195 reptile species and one-third of the 107 threatened butterfly species. In addition, grasslands are home to 10 of South Africa’s 14 globally threatened bird species, including the Yellow-breasted Pipit Anthus chloris, Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea, and the Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami. As a consequence, grasslands have been assigned a high priority for conservation action.

The maps below show the level of threat to all biomes in KZN South Africa and how rapidly the problem is accelerating . I can’t find more recent maps (perhaps the province has not invested in further research into this area) and really fear for how grim the picture must look today.

KZN Vegetation TYpes Conservation Status 1995

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Meadow Garden

Meadow Garden

In Europe and the UK it has been fashionable to plant ‘meadow’ gardens for quite some time.  If the rest of gardeners on the planet could get excited about this diverse and exceptionally  beautiful gardening opportunity we could make our own small yet collaborative contribution to species conservation.  Best of all its really easy and fun!

Preparation

With all aspects of gardening prep is vital though my sense is because of the nature of the species the long term problem of unwanted grasses will be more difficult to manage.  I decided ‘scorched earth’ approach to be best because Cynodon Grass (common lawn species) can be extremely aggressive and I wanted to be sure I had all of it out.

Layering to kill off Cynodon

Layering to kill off Cynodon

Reluctant to use herbicide I used the layering technique, also called solarization if you use plastic.  Basically you cover up the soil with either layers of mulch and cardboard of plastic for an even quicker result. Hopefully I will be warding off years of tricky grass removal.

Planting

Now for fun part! We obviously want to use grasses local to our area so do a little research and see what you like.  This is what I’ve come up with for Durban

  • Melinis nerviglumis

    Melingus pubinervus

    Melingus pubinervus

  • Panicum natalense (prefers to be a little wet)
  • Andropogon eucomis
  • Eragrostris racemosa(prefers to be a little dry)
  • Eragrostis capensis
  • Themeda triandra
  • Hyparrhenia filipendula (tall up to 1.5m)

There are soooooo many bulbs and flowering plants to choose from.  I’ve got a long wish list of my own at the end of this post but here are a few gems  I’ve got in already:

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Hypoxis angustifolia

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Ceratotheca triloba (pink form)

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Senecio polyanthemoides

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Aloe cooperi

 

Gladiolus dalenii

Gladiolus dalenii

Helichrysum

Helichrysum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gomphocarpus physocarpus

 

Polygala virgata

Polygala virgata

Pychnostacys

Pychnostacys

 

 

 

 

 

The insects found me during the planting process and the birds (especially the Manikins) are delighted with the seed for food and nesting material.  I think it looks beautiful.  I’m looking forward to adding to it and seeing what new visitors it brings to the garden.

New vistors

New visitors

Two months after planting

Two months after planting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short list of potential flowering plants

FOr KZN South AFrica:

Aloe maculata

Anomatheca laxa

Anthericum saundersiae

Aristea ecklonii

Aster bakerianus

Berkheya insignis

Berkheya speciosa

Berkheya umbellate

Bulbine abyssinica

Bulbine asphodeloides

Crocrosmia aurea

Gerbera ambigua

Gerbera aurantiaca

Gerbera piloselloides

Gladiolus daleni

Gladiolus woodii

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Lobelia erinus

Plectranthus hardiensis

Pycnostachys urticifolia

Ruellia cordata

Scadoxus puniceus

Senecio coronatus

Thunbergia atriplicifolia

Thunbergia natalensis

Vernonia capensis

Vernonia hirsutus

Vernonia natalensis

Watsonia species

Helichrysum aureum

Hypoxis angustifolia

Hypoxis hemerocallidea

Hypoxis rigidula

Kniphofia tysonii

 


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Gorgeous Green House Covered by Papers Nationally

daily_news

It has been a fantastic week of media exposure for the Gorgeous Green House. Lindsay Ord has written up our story and shows how living green can be much more accessible than many people realize.  If you missed the article in your local paper you can see the online IOL version HERE.

Star 125cape-argus

 

 


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Gorgeous Green House Featured in Green Home Magazine

Cover Green home magWe are thrilled that our green message is being picked up by other publications.  Thank you Green Home Magazine for sharing our story.  They have shared an electronic version.  Click here  and go to p.12 to see what a wonderful job they have done!

Green home mag p.12


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The Indigenous Gardener Magazine Covers the Gorgeous Green Roof

logo2Six pages of gorgeous images and step-by-step guidelines to create a living roof.  The Indigenous Gardener Magazine has done a wonderful job.  Be inspired!  Enjoy!

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Natural Swimming Pool Ticks All The Green Boxes

We started with a traditional sterile pool

We started with a traditional sterile pool

Swimming on the hottest of summer days for many of us is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  What is not so enjoyable is the consequences of exposure to chlorine and other chemicals a traditional pool requires to be ‘healthy’. Sore eyes and itchy skin are experienced by most.  Others suffer more extreme effects such as eczema, rashes, asthma, allergy and breathing problems.

At the commence of the build the pool became a pond.

At the commence of the build the pool became a pond.

Our alternative can be to mimic natural healthy water systems and instead of suffering the toxic effects of chlorine, we are nourishing our skin and hair and experiencing the holistic full sensory benefits of water that is bursting with life and colour, buzzing with dragonflies and other insects and soothing the soul with the tranquillity of a mountain pond or stream.

Design Options

Tilapia added to eat mozzie larvae

If extremely close proximity to swimming, flying and buzzing creatures is not for you, the design of your pool can keep the wildlife at a distance (literally). You can still have a pool with a traditional aesthetic combined with the benefits of the plant filtration process the natural pool provides. Your design is limited only by your imagination!  Re-creations of the rustic old swimming hole are very popular but contemporary designs are equally adaptable.

Our builder was provided very sophisticated drawings detailing the swimming vs planting zones.

Our builder was provided very sophisticated drawings detailing the swimming vs planting zones.

Essentially, whatever the design you need to ensure that the planted area is roughly 50% of your swimming area.  You can integrate the plants into the swimming section, have them alongside or even around the corner!  As long as you install a pump that can move the water the required distance you can create any look you desire.

How does it work?

The planted area also known as the ‘regeneration area’ is responsible for cleaning, filtering and oxygenating the water that passes through it. Native (indigenous) aquatics also consume nutrients that could otherwise create algae bloom.  Animals and insects will be attracted to this area for its plant life, but these in turn will control any pest issues such as mosquitoes from laying their larvae into the water.  Plants are anchored in gravel and this assists with filtration as well.

Regeneration zone in 3 tiers allows for aeration.  Note how little gravel and water is designed for each section.

Regeneration zone in 3 tiers allows for aeration. Note how little gravel and water is designed for each section.

Aeration

Providing for water circulation is vital. It will clean and oxygenate the water and additionally add to an environment that mosquitoes do not enjoy. Without adequate oxygen, your pool could become stagnant, harbouring odoriferous anaerobic bacteria.

Breakdown commences.  New contemporary shape designed to fit into the boundary of the old

Breakdown commences. New contemporary shape designed to fit into the boundary of the old

Carefully consider your volumes and distances of movement as this will inform the size of the pump you will need.  Visualize how waterfalls or fountains can be introduced into the design as in addition to looking beautiful they sound lovely and can mask the sound of traffic or noisy neighbours.

Sunlight

Ensure that your regeneration zone receives plenty of sunlight.  Most aquatic plants need good quantities to thrive.  The healthier your plants the healthier your water. Your goal should be to achieve crystal clear drinking standard water!

The structure is in. Swimming area foreground, planted section behind

The structure is in. Swimming area foreground, planted section behind

Building Materials

Your options are vast.  People are creating natural pools by simply digging a hole, lining it with bentonite, synthetic material or rubber and then covering the bottom with 10 – 15 cm of gravel.  Not everyone is comfortable with the rustic (but very economical option) so more standard pool materials are also used.  If you can, it is advisable to line the pool the with fiberglass rather than marbelite as it repels algae far more effectively.

Care and Maintenance

No more PH testing and constant addition of chemicals.  But with all things a little care makes them work better.  Position your weir on the side of the pool that the wind normally blows the leaves to.  You can still use a conventional automatic pool cleaner and insert a leaf catcher like the Gator to collect surface debris.

Planted up and close up of on of the three 'waterfalls' in contemporary design.

Planted up and close up of on of the three ‘waterfalls’ in contemporary design.

Some people install a UV filter to assist with killing of algae. It is possible that they may also kill off many beneficial organisms so we have not done so.

The plants will at times need thinning out and excessive decaying material should be removed.  Overall though, once your system is established you will discover that you  have far more time to enjoy your mini wetland rather than work it.  If you live in the Northern hemisphere you do not need to drain the pool in Autumn.  Except for topping up now and then, you’ll fill the pool only once.

Selecting Plants

Be sure to choose plants suited to your climate. Your best bet is to obtain your plants from a native (indigenous) plant supplier as they will fare best. Try and get as much diversity of species as you are able as different plants offer different cleaning and filtration properties. Be sure to include submergent plants such as for their high oxygen output.

Finished result.  A beautiful green and healthy place for us to play and relax for years to come.

Finished result. A beautiful green and healthy place for us to play and relax for years to come.

Diversity of species will also attract diversity of wildlife for you to enjoy.

My pool is in Durban, South Africa and these are the species I have managed to source so far:

Cotula nigelifolia

Ranunculus

Ethulia conyzoides subsp. Kraussii .

Ludwigia adsendens

Ludwigia stolanefora

Crinum campanulatum

Ethulia conyzoides subsp. Cypes

Floscopa scandens

Berula  erecta

Isolepsis Live Wire Grass Seeds

Eleocharis

Carex acutiformis

Plectranthus mirabilis

Zantedeshia aethiopica

Kniphofia

Dissotis princeps

Mentha longifolia

Now we are just waiting for Spring when the water will be warm enough to jump into.  In the meantime we are already enjoying the plants and the wildlife and are amazed out how clear the water is in just a few short weeks since we planted.


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Daily News Covers The Gorgeous Green House

daily_news

Today the Daily News published the third article on the most Gorgeous Green House on the planet!

Click HERE to read the on line version.

Thank you Lindsay Ord and Marilyn Bernard for getting this information to a wider audience. Fingers crossed it will inspire and motivate others to look at some greening options in their own home.


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Photo Update (part 2)

Pond at front door in.  This is a vitally important element  as it will be stocked with Tilapia fish whose waste will feed the plants on the vertical garden behind.

Pond at front door in. This is a vitally important element as it will be stocked with Tilapia fish whose waste will feed the plants on the vertical garden behind.

Master bathroom mosaic/tiling done in double shower. Very happy!

Master bathroom mosaic/tiling done in double shower. Very happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original outbuilding (now demolished) had huge concrete sink outside, presumable for doing laundry in.  It is now re-invented as the mint planter under the tap - perfect!

The original outbuilding (now demolished) had huge concrete sink outside, presumable for doing laundry in. It is now re-invented as the mint planter under the tap – perfect!

 

Solar geyser in!  Fantastic.  This is such an easy energy/money saver  (minimum 40% on your electricity bills) so a win all round.  Please visi

Solar geyser in! Fantastic. This is such an easy energy/money saver (minimum 40% on your electricity bills) so a win all round. Please visit this post to see why we didn’t go the heat pump route

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Induction geyser  in!  Visit this post if you are curious as to why and induction geyser when we have also installed a solar geyser.

Induction geyser in! Visit this post if you are curious as to why and induction geyser when we have also installed a solar geyser.

 

My first Knipfophia of Autumn.  Will it turn into a red hot poker?  Time will tell as I have no idea which one it is.

My first Knipfophia of Autumn. Will it turn into a red hot poker? Time will tell as I have no idea which one it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, another yellow beauty, not commonly found:  Agrolubioum tomentosum.

And finally, another yellow beauty, not commonly found: Agrolubioum tomentosum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, our enormous pit that will house the water harvesting system.  This HUGE project is so exciting and the technology so amazing it will get a post all of its own.  Suffice to say its 9m X 3m X 2.5m deep and has taken weeks to build.  Happy to report that not a grain off soil went off site, its it the roof garden and being spread around the property.  Watch this space!

And finally, our enormous pit that will house the water harvesting system. This HUGE project is so exciting and the technology so amazing it will get a post all of its own. Suffice to say its 9m X 3m X 2.5m deep and has taken weeks to build. Happy to report that not a grain off soil went off site, its it the roof garden and being spread around the property. Watch this space!