Gorgeous Green House

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


Gorgeous Green House Puzzle Complete!

puzzle 001When we embarked on this greening project (an eon ago!) we drew up a long list of goals. Some had to be abandoned early on (e.g. bio-digester prohibited by city by-laws), some exceeded all expectations (roof garden, eco-pool and vertical garden) and some are still a work in progress (pump issues for water harvesting…sigh).   The final item on the original list falls under the Urban Farming category.  I am so excited to report that the newest members of the family, and final list item, are our gorgeous, egg laying chickens.

This, however, is a cautionary tale and although it pains me to share it I do so in the hope that others will be able to avoid our mistakes and possibly secure encouragement from our successes.

My intuition to delay until all our ‘eggs were in a row’ (sorry, can’t resist) was correct.  The eggs in this instance related to appropriate housing and the assimilation of the birds with the dogs. We have two Dachshunds (originally bred for badger hunting) and one Rhodesian Ridgeback (bred for lion hunting).  I have no interest in owning chickens that are not properly free range but also had no intention of parting with my beloved dogs.  We were perhaps a little too casual about what would be involved in ensuring 100% free access to the garden for all parties concerned.



'Butter won't melt in my mouth' Georgie

‘Butter won’t melt in my mouth’ Georgie



We started off so well! My son Peter scoured the internet for chicken house designs and came up with this wonderful plan that provides a large covered resting place,with perch, in the event of bad weather (coop) with  smaller cosy laying box attached.  This would be located in a much larger chicken mesh run so the birds and dogs could be separate whilst they were getting to know each other.

chicken house 001

Son, with a little help from dad, had the house up in no time and with much happiness we went to collect three 20 week olds from friends who farm down the road.

coop with laying box en-suite

coop with laying box en-suite

Chickens were installed and we observed the dogs.  The Ridgeback gave them a sniff and wondered off as if to say ‘so what’.  The black daxie ran in to my arms in terror. Georgie our brown daxie licked her lips, panted and quivered incessantly.

Fenced Run with ladder to coop

Fenced Run with ladder to coop

Day 1, Georgie bit into a corner of the roof.  Day 2 she dug under the cage.  We reinforced and re-worked.  On the 6th night, when she was meant to be tucked up in bed she sneaked out and literally ate through the chicken mesh (the irony) and murdered 2 of our precious ‘girls’.

After much weeping and wailing and resolving to return the surviving Huxley to her original home, husband worked a massive reinforcement with weld mesh, and we girded ourselves for another try.  Petunia and Gertrude were brought home (the farming friends, generous with empathy, not just replacements) and I popped them into the run and went to make supper.


If I had done my homework properly I would have learned that even chickens that have 8 square meters of space, when newbies enter their home, may attack.  We woke up the very next morning to a carotid punctured Gertrude and a smug looking Huxley.  Google later informed this very ashamed chicken parent, that a temporary second run should have been built alongside. This would enable them to peck and scratch each other safely through the mesh until the novelty wore off.   Noted for next time but the chickens were still not free ranging and Georgie was still salivating.

Heavily reinforced run

Heavily reinforced run

Friends and family admonished to abandon the idea of ‘free-range’ and take comfort from the commercial definition of free range.  (Smaller than our current run). This just made me feel more determined and I decided that whatever it took Georgie would learn to be nice to the chickens.

This is what it took.  Days 1 – 3 my office moved to a chair next to the chicken run.  Georgie was on lead, chickens were bravely stepping out. I was working/voice disciplining Georgie for lunges and whining.  Days 4 – 9 my office moved 10 meters away, Georgie off lead, but not out of sight, discipline continues.  Georgie is starting to get bored.  Days 10 – 21 office moves to veranda.  Chickens and daxie frequently out of sight (but not hearing).  Georgie eventually completely bored with the whole process and resumes her previous life of sun tanning and hunting moles and pigeons.  Chickens happy and FREE!DSC08259DSC08065

So it’s been a bit of a mission but worth every bit of it.  We are now a few months in and the excitement of running down to the chickens to collect eggs has not worn off. The eggs are getting richer and darker and more delicious.  The DSC08253chickens peck and scratch their way around the whole garden (and sometime inside the house!).

They come when called and enjoy having their backs stroked.  They are a complete delight and have truly brought another level of joy to the Gorgeous Green House family. I would absolutely encourage you to go for it if you are feeling inclined.

Even the science is supporting how good growing our own food is for us.  Apparently we are programmed with neural pathways to give us chemical rewards when we do so.  This, however, is an activity that generates more than little spurts of dopamine/oxytocin. Take a fresh warm egg from under the bottom of a beautiful healthy chicken and whilst it is still warm, crack into a pan of caramelizing butter and you’ll know exactly what I mean.  The final piece of our Gorgeous Green Puzzle is complete.  It feels good!




A Case For Investing in Solar Energy: East Coast Radio Interview

ECREast Coast Radio are running a wonderful series on sustainability and eco issues with Kerry Dell. It is aired on Wednesdays at 09:00 pm.  I was included to share our experiences around investing in Solar Energy.  My intention is to help people think about this investment in a broader context,  which includes the ROI!  Here is the link:





Earthbeat Now On DSTV 190


The new season of Earthbeat has begun!  African followers can tune into Channel 190 every Wednesday at 8:25.  The line up is as follows (with the usual repeats):





GREEN HOMES:  THE FUTURE IS NOW! 11 NOV  Featuring the Gorgeous Green House



Owls Can Be Encouraged to Nest in Your Garden

Spotted Eagle-Owl,  B. africanus

Since we moved into the Gorgeous Green House we have been in thrall of the regular night time visits of a magnificent Spotted Eagle-Owl.  He/she loves to use the screen on the house as a perch to hunt from. Not surprising, as we have their favourite prey (small mammals, birds, insects, frogs, and reptiles) in abundance. A little research led us to learn that, although this owl is not threatened, and has become well adapted to human dominated environments, many still die from human actions.  Top of the list are poisons (usually given to rats), cars, and people who fear them or wish to use their body parts in traditional medicine.  We were instantly inspired to try and attract our visitor to bring his/her mate and start a family.  Although we are fortunate to have a number of large trees in our garden we thought it might increase our odds by setting up a nesting box.

Nesting box No. 1 on the roof garden

Nesting box No. 1 on the roof garden

That was over a year ago and there has been no interest at all!  Several wildlife experts have suggested that although the design is correct the position on the roof garden may be too exposed.  We had been so concerned about monkeys terrorizing the chicks (they are very destructive to other bird species in the garden) that we thought putting the box on top of a greased pole would be the business!  Apparently are fears are unfounded as most creatures that try to take an owl chick run the risk of being killed or injured by the highly protective parents.

Greg has been mulling over what to do with the left over bits of bamboo from the kitchen and decided to build nesting box no.2 and for it to be placed in a more sheltered position.

Stunning new work bench recycling the doors of the old house

Stunning new work bench recycling the doors of the old house

He has recently finished constructing the new work bench from the old doors in the house and has been itching for a project to break it in.

There are lots of plans on the internet we found ours here.  The result is quite spectacular!  Fingers crossed that we’ve got the location right this time (side of the house but still good visibility) and perhaps this posh version will attract a couple looking for a more high-end abode. Just in time, October is the last month for breeding!

Construction time less than 3 hours

Construction time less than 3 hours

Complete with weatherproof roof and installed on side of house

Complete with weatherproof roof and installed on side of house

This project took Greg less than 3 hours and we hope that you may feel inspired to make your own nesting boxes.  Alternatively if you are not DIY inclined check out your local resources, many cities/town have organisations that advice on owls that fly in your area and supply and assist people to get set up.


House and Leisure, Sunday Times and Top Billing

This months House and Leisure feature the Gorgeous Green House in its ‘Sustainability Supplement’.  You’ll need to flip to the end to find us on p.162.  Glynis Horning has described our journey well.  Pity the photos that were selected don’t link in a cohesive way to the copy.  Not sure what sustainability/green message there is in our bed image and where is the eco pool, veggie garden, bee hive….?  (sigh, Sally took so many amazing photos).  However, the vertical and roof garden do look spectacular and hopefully that will draw people in.  (Scroll to end for image of vertical garden).
Sunday Times

This Sunday the Sunday Times are doing an ‘Eco’ feature. It will be interesting to so how they present our home and lifestyle.

Lastly, for followers outside of South Africa and those of you who may have missed the Top Billing TV coverage, here are the first 7 minutes of the show:


House and Leisure image

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South Africa’s wind and solar power busts major renewable energy myth

Solar and wind power

THIS SHOULD BE ON THE FRONT COVER OF EVERY NEWSPAPER!  As per previous post, we really don’t need to be spending billions on coal and nuclear power stations.

Re-blogged  from My Broabdand

Mainstream Renewable Power, a global wind and solar energy company, has released a research report which states that South Africa’s wind and solar power generation matches electricity demand in the country.

Mainstream analysed wind and solar resource data from 2013 for 18 wind and solar sites across South Africa.

The sites analysed represent a potential combined generation capacity of 42,000 megawatts – 30,000MW wind and 12,000MW solar.

The analysis set out to predict how much electricity the 18 sites could generate and at what times of the day.

The results showed that local wind and solar resources generate power at times of the day when it is needed.

The research further found that when wind and solar generation are combined, the net effect is a significant contribution to baseload power.

Mainstream’s CEO Eddie O’Connor said the initial analysis underpins the government’s commitment to renewable energy.

“Not only are wind and solar power cheaper than new fossil fuel generation here in South Africa, but when combined, they can make a significant contribution to baseload power at the time of day it is most needed,” he said.

The graph below shows the country’s wind and solar hourly generation profile, and the 2008 national demand profile.

Wind and solar power in South Africa

Busting a major renewable energy myth

Penny-Jane Cooke, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Africa, said this research is significant in busting a big renewable energy myth.

“This research effectively busts one of the biggest myths created by the anti-renewables lobby: that we require coal and nuclear generation to provide for baseload demand as renewable energy sources cannot meet this demand,” she said.

She said what is interesting about this research is that this phenomenon does not occur everywhere in the world.

“This means that South Africa is in a unique position to make the most of renewable energy.”

“Contrary to what has been argued about how renewable energy is not available when it is most needed, in South Africa the sun shines and the wind blows when electricity is most needed.”

“This should be enough of a reason to remove the barriers to renewable energy immediately – it’s not rocket science.”


What is the Cost of Going Solar?

Solar geyser and panels on The Gorgeous Green House

Solar geyser and panels on The Gorgeous Green House

Government mandated power outages for South Africans are to be part of our lives for many years to come.  As we complain and our economy suffers  one might think that many people and organisations of reasonable means are installing solar systems.  This is not so.

Barriers to entry are certainly perceived high cost, but also general lack of knowledge of how these systems work.

One of the frequently asked questions about The Gorgeous Green House is ‘how much did your solar system cost’?

I’ve learned that if I answer the question directly people’s eyes tend to glaze over and they mentally check out of the conversation.  I wish to challenge people to think differently about the subject as it may lead to a different set of conclusions (and hopefully actions!).   So I now answer that question with the following questions:

  • Do you know what you are currently paying for electricity? (you would be surprised at how many  people can’t answer this question)
  • Do you know what increases are on the cards going forward?
  • Have you drawn up a spreadsheet to really get to grips with what you will be spending over the next few years?

We did this exercise, and based on our rather shocking, (but not unusual) $200.00 (aprox. R2000.00) per month electricity bill, we projected our forward costs based on the 12.2% increase that we experienced this year and the 25% increase that ESKOM are asking for. As we have installed, these costs are now savings.

This is what it looks like in South African Rands (divide by 10 for a rough conversion to American dollars):

Old (Non-eco) House Electricity Account:

Aprox 2 000.00 per month

  12.2 % Annual Increase Accumulative Saving 25% Annual Increase Accumulative Saving
2014 24 000.00   24 000.00  
2015 26 880.00 50 880.00 30 000.00 54 000.00
2016 30 105.56 80 985.56 37 500.00 91500.00
2017 33 337.48 114 323.04 46 875.00 138 375.00
2018 37 899.46 152 222.50 58 593.75 196 968.75
2019 42 523.19 194 745.69

Like us, you may be rather shocked at how much you will be spending on electricity over the next few years.  The reality is, however, that South African’s have benefited from relatively low rates compared to the rest of the world and on that score we have little to complain about.

Medupi Coal Station.  As unattractive as it is unhealthy.

Medupi Coal Station. As unattractive as it is unhealthy.

Our government’s solution to our energy crises is the building of even more filthy, polluting coal powered stations and extremely controversial nuclear stations.  The science shows us that with some political will and sensible interventions we can avoid these options with healthy, earth affirming renewable energy systems.  Starting at home seems like a good place to begin.

If you do you sums as above the next step would be to consult a reputable solar provider  for a quote.  You may be very surprised at the ROI time frame.  Ours will be somewhere between 4 and 5 years. If your quote to go ‘off grid’ is not possible, why not start smaller.  You can add to and expand your system very easily as your means allow.  In the meantime at least benefit from avoiding the incessant power failures!

We plan to be in our house for many years so relatively soon we will be scoring financially and using electricity in a way that serves our concern for the health of the planet!

In addition, we continue to lobby our authorities to implement systems to pay small scale electricity generators  for their excess electricity as this will offer further incentive to others to get on board. Watch this space!


Top Billing Visits the Gorgeous Green House

The Gorgeous Green House  will be making her TV debut this Thursday 16 July via the very glamorous No.1 South African magazine programme Top Billing. ( 07:30 p.m. on SABC 3). For those outside of SA there will be a shorter segment on You Tube – will advise when I know.

This 3 day process was absolutely fascinating. At times it was nerve wracking, and at times tedious (“take 43”!).  It was also overwhelming and humbling as I know how the intro goes:

Good evening and a very warm welcome to Top Billing. Tonight we come to you from the Gorgeous Green house in Durban, the culmination of one couple’s desire to ‘live more gently on the planet’. It’s quite fitting as this Saturday is Mandela Day, a day to remember that everyone can help to make the world a better place.

This was how we experienced the overall process:

Day 1:  Lorna interviews Jane, Caitlin (daughter), Chen (architect) and James (vertical garden designer) about the house

Jane extolling the virtues of the eco kitchen

Jane extolling the virtues of the eco kitchen

Interviewd In the lounge: "no we didn't get in an interior designer, the garden is the decoration:.

Interviewd In the lounge: “no we didn’t get in an interior designer, the garden is the decoration.









James, Jane and Lorna explaining how the vertical garden works

James, Jane and Lorna explaining how the vertical garden works

Walking, talking and shooting, eeks!

Walking, talking and shooting, eeks!

Day 2:  Lorna arrives in elegant evening gown, make-up artist in tow, to do all the ‘links’ that appear between the different segments of the show

Sparkling Lorna Maseko

Sparkling Lorna Maseko

Lorna next to the pool

Lorna next to the pool

Lorna verandaLorna bedroomDay 3: The director and team return with a drone to take aerial images!

Thanks Top Billing for this wonderful opportunity to get our “living green’ message out to such a wide and diverse audience.

Awesome team: Adrian (director).Lucky (Technician),Mfundo (Camera)

Awesome team: Lucky (Technician),Mfundo (Camera), Adrian (Director)

Setting up the drone

Setting up the drone

Away it goes!

Away it goes!


Final Indoor Space all Greened Up!

Since moving into the Gorgeous Green House our son has had a metaphorical ‘NO ENTRY’ sign on his door.  All appeals to decorate have been declined except for reluctant access to the bathroom with a thumbs up for a grey/black colour scheme.

I got mosaicing, moving as quickly as possible, as mom’s presence in boys bedroom was desirable to neither of us!DSC02505


I’m of the firm belief that the definition of ‘living green’ includes the expression of all of the parts of ourselves, including the creativity that we all have (even if we haven’t accessed it yet!). My daughter is especially talented with a paint brush and has been itching to be let loose on her brother’s walls.

The next process began with with energetic calculations and measuring.  DSC02496I hotfooted out of the way as geometry and algebra are but faint blips in my memory banks but was thrilled to see the sibling collaboration.

The grey/black/white theme has been extended with glorious chunks of green.DSC02497

Peter’s personality is expressed through the addition of his butterfly prints from our friend and leading lepidopterist Steve Woodhall, the mosiaced horns and a specially constructed (by Peter) display cabinet for his precious crystal and fossil collection.

DSC02535DSC02538The final result it quite spectacular. These images really don’t do justice to how dramatic and beautiful it is.  I hope a space to draw my university student son home as much as possible.



Wonderful Professional Images of the Gorgeous Green House

Our architects Sagnelli Associate Architects are entering our project into the  AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture.   The exceptionally talented Grant Pitcher has been commissioned to take the photos for entry.


My favourite is this one. It is a birds eye view shows off the solar technology, roof garden and eco-pool from a vantage point not seen before.

gorgeous green house

Good luck Chen Sagnelli and team for the competition!


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













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!


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.


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:


Hypoxis angustifolia


Ceratotheca triloba (pink form)



Senecio polyanthemoides


Aloe cooperi


Gladiolus dalenii

Gladiolus dalenii






























Gomphocarpus physocarpus


Polygala virgata

Polygala virgata








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



Extraordinary Beauty and Diversity of the Painted Reed Frog.

Take out the chemicals and convert your swimming pool to a natural haven and instantly you have 100’s of new creatures sharing your space. This is a visual celebration of just one species of reed frog we live with. (photos courtesy Peter Courtney).



Net Metering: South Africa slow to compensate small scale generators for excess energy

Solar Panels on the Gorgeous Green House

Solar Panels on the Gorgeous Green House

South Africa’s current energy crises resulting in up to 6 hours of blackouts (the term load shedding is misleading) on any given day has everyone’s attention.

In this post I would like to focus on one opportunity that is not yet getting traction in our country but has been fairly commonplace in developed countries around the world for several decades.

Net Metering is a fairly simple idea: it is generally an arrangement with a service provider whereby excess electricity generated by a customer who has installed their own solar/wind/other electricity generating technology is used to offset electric energy provided by the electric utility to the electric consumer during the applicable billing period.

For example, this system has enabled German citizens to build and own nearly half of all the wind turbines, solar PV, and biogas plants in the country. Individual German citizens—not their utility companies–have invested more than $100 billion in renewable energy. They have done so because they are paid a fair price for their electricity and because they can install the size, type, and amount of renewables that is the most economic for them and the best fit for their communities.  energyblog.nationalgeographic.com

This model appears to be a ‘no-brainer’ in its potential to incentivise property owners who can easily calculate a faster return on an investment in alternative energy while contributing to a greener planet.  A document recently released  by NERSA (National Energy Regulator South Africa) has pointed out:

MECHANISMS should be developed to allow the integration of electricity generation by solar panels on residential, commercial and industrial buildings into the power grid.

Nersa’s document comes during what it says has been a great increase over the past year in the number of private rooftop photovoltaic (solar) panels installed on residential and commercial/ industrial premises at the cost of the owners. These are connected to the grid and could feed surplus power back into it.

The owners of a number of rooftop grid-tied solar systems have agreements with municipalities on net-metering, which sets off the electricity consumed with the surplus electricity supplied to the grid.  The Gorgeous Green House has signed such an agreement with our local municipality but are yet to see any credit for surplus electricity. The Mercury Newspaper and IOL have been covering aspects of this story and approached eThekwini for comment as to why the process has not been implemented.  The full story can be accessed here.  Leshan Moddliar from eThewini’s response was:

 “Currently, the municipality is not ideally structured to remunerate renewable small scale embedded generation, as processes are designed to buy power from Eskom and supply customers. When a customer wants to generate electricity, power is now flowing in the reverse direction and it does pose a challenge to integrate to current systems.”

 One can’t help wondering why this ‘structuring’ is taking so long to sort out. We signed our Power Purchase Agreement in October 2013.  Perhaps the real reason is as the NERSA document points out:

“The widespread installation of rooftop solar panels, which is also referred to as embedded generation or distributed generation, poses a real threat to municipal and Eskom revenues,” 

My follow up questions for Leshan are as follows:

  • What has eThekwini/NERSA/ESKOM been doing in the last few years  to address the structural issues that are preventing the implementation of our PPA?
  • Why is it that other municipalities have pilot projects running and NERSA are not inhibiting them?
  • What is eThekwini/NERSA/ESKOM doing to learn from these models and other successful projects around the world?
  • To what extent is eThekwini prioritising this opportunity in light of the energy crises?
  • What are you time lines?
  • What is your comment in terms of the NERSA document (quote above). Is it possible your reluctance to move these projects forward is because it poses a threat to your revenues?

Unfortunately, several e-mails and messages left for Leshan have elicited no response.

Leave a comment

Indigenous Gardener Magazine Showcases Vertical Garden

The Indigenous Garden Magazine  inspires, informs and advises not only on indigenous gardening but the larger eco-systems they contribute too. Not only gardeners enjoy this publication as there is much to offer all people who have an interest in the natural world.

The Gorgeous Green House has been thrilled to share aspects of our gardening journey and the latest article features our vertical garden.  Enjoy and sign up, its free and fabulous!


 Indigenous GArdener cover page


Gorgeous Green House Complete!!

Party House!

Perfect Party House!

This post is somewhat later than it should be but I have the best excuse!  We’ve been sharing this beautiful space with our overseas family (10 in all) for 6 weeks and have been incredibly busy chilling, having lots of fun and feasts and just joyfully hanging out.

A good test for a home is a lot of visitors for a protracted amount of time and I am thrilled to report that the GGH works beautifully. The kitchen and open space living area flows brilliantly and dozens of meals were seamlessly put together without bodies bumping into each other.

Thanks to our super efficient solar system we were blissfully unaware that Eskom (SA’s only power utility) gifted South Africans with numerous power outages during this time. We remained switched on, connected and cooking!

The natural swimming pool coped with the daily invasion of overheated, sunscreen coated humans and the fish, shrimp crabs, plants and birds seem no worse for wear for sharing ‘their’ space with us.

The large covered veranda is perfect for our African climate.  It coped with many for several big celebrations (including Christmas Day) and all meals were enjoyed al fresco. This has been our first chance to soak up the beautiful garden within which, to date, we’ve enjoyed whilst hard at labour rather than relaxation!

The veggie garden, although not properly planted as yet, provided an abundance of deliciousness and a foretelling of how are food lives will be in ‘normal’ mode.

In celebration of the finishing of the house I thought it would be fun to document the journey with ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘now’ images.  At the beginning of this journey I wrote on my ‘About’ page that part of OUR MISSION was to provide:

inspiration, information and motivation to others to follow suit.  We wish to de-bunk myths such as ‘green is ugly’…….

I also shared in one of my early posts:

Several years ago when I started talking about my dream of building a ‘green house’ a friend said “oh I saw one of those … a kind of hobbit house…really ugly”.  So the first misconception to clear up is that green design has nothing to do with the aesthetics of the house!  Whatever your taste (hobbit-like or otherwise) one can incorporate green design principles.  Essentially it means building in harmony with the natural environment and cooperating instead of fighting with the regional climate. 

Now we are at the end of the project (at least the building part) I do so hope that these images represent a realization of that early goal.  I look forward to your feedback.

Front View 'Before'

Front View ‘Before’

Front View During

Front View ‘During’

Front View 'Now'

Front View ‘Now’

Back View LHS 'Before'

Back View LHS ‘Before’

Back View LHS During

Back View LHS During

Back View LHS 'Now'

Back View LHS ‘Now’


Entertainment/barbecue Area 'Before'

Entertainment/barbecue Area ‘Before’

Entertainment/barbecue Area 'Now"

Entertainment/barbecue Area ‘Now”

Pool 'Before'

Pool ‘Before’

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

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

Reshaping The Pool Area

Reshaping The Pool Area

Constructing the Reed Beds to Filter the Pool

Constructing the Reed Beds to Filter the Pool

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

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

Old Garage Wall

Old Garage Wall

Old Garage Wall Becomes Backdrop for Vertical Garden

Old Garage Wall Becomes Backdrop for Vertical Garden.  Click HERE for more information.

Mid Way Through Planting Process

Mid Way Through Planting Process

Planting Just Completed

Planting Just Completed


Old Garage Wall Today!



Old Roof Above Kitchen and Lounge

Old Roof Above Kitchen and Lounge

Flat roof replaces old pitched roof providing foundation for roof garden which is off the master bedroom.

Flat roof replaces old pitched roof providing foundation for roof garden which is off the master bedroom.

Layers of Geotextile (white) then Flow Cell mats.

Layers of Geotextile (white) then Flow Cell mats.

Early stages of planting

Early Stages of Planting

Roof Garden 'Now'

Roof Garden ‘Now’. Click HERE for more information


Outside Dinning Area Before

Outside Dinning Area ‘Before’

Outside Dinning Area 'Now'

Outside Dinning Area ‘Now’

Old Outbuilding with Lemon Tree foreground

Old Outbuilding with Lemon Tree foreground

New Veggie Garden with Lemon Tree Still Pride of Place

New Veggie Garden with Lemon Tree Still Pride of Place



Back View 'Before'

Back View ‘Before’

Back View 'Now'

Back View ‘Now’

Original Store Room and Washing Line Area

Original Store Room and Washing Line Area

Storeroom now a Granny Flat and Washline Screened off with Recycled Plastic Fence

Storeroom now a Granny Flat and Washline Screened off with Recycled Plastic Fence

Area Outside Kitchen 'Before'

Area Outside Kitchen ‘Before’

Outside Kitchen Area 'now'

Outside Kitchen Area ‘now’