We 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!
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.
The build seems to have accelerated, or maybe its just because we are starting to get to the best bits. The most exciting installation, so far, is the vertical garden. I’m going to be really mean though, and not show you a single picture yet because it is so magnificent, and the landscape artist James Halle is so talented, it has to have its very own post with lots of elaboration. Watch this space!
The shuttering has come off the ‘floating’ staircase, and although this is not a green aspect of the build it is so beautiful I just need to show it off!
The interior painting has commenced. There are loads of eco-friendly paints on the market these days. They are much lower in volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) which basically means toxic stuff our bodies don’t like. Confirm this with your paint supplier though because you won’t automatically get a low
VOC paint as there are still mixed perceptions about its efficacy. Rest assured, they are equally effective and no more expensive than traditional.
The veggie garden now has 3/5 veggie boxes installed. We are using a plastic timber product. These recycled planks are now widely available. They are 100% recycled plastic so get great green points. We lined the base with chicken mesh too keep out the moles. Galvanized rods secure the sides from bowing out. This stuff will last forever, looks attractive, is easy to install and cheaper than recycled brick options which we had considered
I was really excited to see my Trichocladus crinitus (Black Witch-hazel) in flower. This small indigenous tree is quite rare and the petal form delicate and unusual.
There are lots of eco-friendly options for insulation these days. We’ve gone with a product made from recycled plastic bottles. The recycled newspaper product was a close contender. The team on site report that the green stuff is really great to work with as it doesn’t shed prickly bits like the more traditional pink products.
The off-shutter concrete wall has had its first of two buffs and polishes. It looks fabulous. I love the industrial /contemporary aesthetic and the honesty of the material. Its a great ‘hard’ contrast to the green abundance of the garden. Very happy with how its turned out.
The Erythrina humeana (Dwarf Coral Tree) are exquisite at the moment. A really showy splash of red at the bottom of the garden.
The pool has a new rectangular shape and fits snugly into the space of the old. The reed beds are almost complete. It’s going to be great fun planting them up. I’ll be sharing much more information on how to install an eco pool. Suffice to say at this stage that the plants will do all the filtering of the water and no harsh chemicals will be required. The plants and water provide the foundation for the wetland eco-system and we look forward to the
bird, amphibian and insect life we will be attracting.
Next to the veggie garden we have two of the Baunia’s in flower at the same time. Gorgeous!
The whirly gigs are on site. Prith and Eamonn are finding them quite amusing. Definitely a first for them as they are usually found in industrial builds. We are putting them in to draw and pull up the cool air that will pass over the pond outside and into the hallway. The best way to reduce the need for air conditioning in this space.
So overall fantastic progress! And still so many of the best bits to come:
- Vertical Garden (as promised)
- Roof Garden
- Rainwater harvesting
- Eco Pool
- Veggie garden
- Worm farming
- Grey water recycling
- Solar system
- Induction geysers
- plus…plus… plus
The Gorgeous Green House property was purchased about 4 years ago. In October 2011 the architects were briefed and it felt like the dream was beginning to materialize. Since then endless planning approval issues and delays have been taking their toll on general levels of energy and enthusiasm. I don’t want this space to be a whining forum so you will be spared the details until they can be condensed into a useful guide to navigate the new SANS (South African National Standards) 10400 building regulations. I decided I needed and injection of happiness and positivity and a reminder of what this project is all about.
I invited some special ‘green orientated’ friends for a picnic in the garden. We started with a stroll through the indigenous ‘forest’ to admire old trees and newly planted ones.
We marveled at an extraordinarily beautiful beetle then relaxed on the veranda and oohed and ahhed at the bird and butterfly life.
We ate a delicious picnic and talked about the future food that will be grown here, meals to be shared and parties to enjoy and about how absolutely fabulous this urban farm/nature reserve is and how utterly blessed my family is.
The house WILL come when the time is right 🙂
Thank you wonderful people. It really was a great reminder of the bigger picture and a bolster for the ongoing challenges we have in getting the house aspect of the project underway.
In South Africa we have a long history of importing trees. Many came to us by accident and I expect many immigrants wanted reminders of home and planted what was familiar in their adopted country. Many very common exotic and alien trees are quite pretty and so prolific that many people are not aware they are not South African.
It could feel unnecessary or even cruel to remove a beautiful large specimen of say, a Jacaranda, Hibiscus or Frangipani so what would justify it?
- Because exotic plants fall outside of their natural environment they often have to be pampered with extra water, fertilizer or sadly sometimes pesticides.
- Plants categorised as aliens go in the opposite direction. They are so comfortable in their new environment they multiply exponentially, crowding out indigenous flora, sucking up water and nutrients from the soil and reducing our biodiversity.
- Exotic/alien trees may offer some food to some bird species but they will never fulfill all the requirements for feeding, breeding, resting and nesting that our indigenous species do.
- Most of our other wildlife rely on our indigenous (native) flora for survival. Some are so fussy that only specific species will do. As aliens march onward crowding out indigenous plants all the life in the eco system in reduced.
- Indigenous trees once established need no further watering or fertilizing. Perfect for the lazy gardener!
- The joy that creating a natural wildlife habitat, rather than a garden planted just for its appearance, is an experience that our whole selves resonate with. It helps us remember that we too are just creatures in this amazingly complex and beautiful world.
Perhaps you’ve been thinking about taking the plunge to convert to or add more indigenous but are a bit overwhelmed by the idea of removal and wonder where to start. You could consider ring barking which will kill the tree off slowly and in the process provide a larder full of insects for birds and other wildlife to enjoy (and you to watch!).
Alternatively get in the professionals. They charge more to remove the stump but I think it’s unnecessary. Stumps don’t take long to become covered in fungi and mushrooms and rot away.
One more tip: when choosing your tree feller ask if they will chip your wood and as a bonus you also acquire a mountain of organic matter to add to your compost heap (and prevent it from going to landfill :-)).
Once you’ve cleared space in your garden you now have the fun of selecting the replacements! I’ve got a list of my favourites for a Durban coastal garden. I’ve put them in a table describing size, fruit, flowers, wild life attracting properties, and what butterflies they may be hosts for. I am delighted to share. Just write a comment and I will mail it to you.
My best tip: get yourself a copy of Bring Nature Back To Your Garden by Charles and Julia Botha. If you want to get closer to nature this fantastic handbook, written without pretension and much humour will be a wise investment!
In 2007 NASA identified grass production as the number one agricultural group in the US at a staggering 23 million acres. The second-place cultivated crop was corn at seven million. I couldn’t find any equivalent figures for South Africa but I do know that we love our lawns and I wonder why.
Lawn requires more water, fertilizer and weed and insect treatment (and work) than other parts of the garden. Grass is also mono culture and as far as attracting wildlife to your garden it has little to redeem it. Using chemical fertilizers and pesticides have a horrible environmental impact.
Why not consider converting some of your lawn to a veggie garden or to planting more indigenous (native) bird and other wildlife attracting plants in your garden? Using your lawn as a small rug in the garden and not the carpet will change the way the space looks, feels and impacts on your local ecology. In addition you will save money on your water and fertilizer bill. It will be a safe for children and pets and your will have a reduced dependence on lawn mowers and their maintenance. Think also of the time saved!
At my Gorgeous Green House there isn’t a massive amount of lawn, but more than I want and I immediately need to create beds to propagate plants for the roof and vertical gardens. Digging up lawn is backbreaking work and you never seem to get all the roots out. This is an old permaculture technique that works a treat and really is the easiest and greenest way to lose the lawn.
1. Layer down some cardboard (you can also use newspaper). Water it to soggyness. This layer kills the grass and weeds by blocking sunlight, adds nutrients to the soil as weed matter quickly decays beneath the barrier, and increases the mechanical stability of the growing medium.
2. Add an approximate 10 cm thick layer of compost.
3. Add some further woody and leafy matter, wood chips etc. If you have access to manure, fantastic! These layers are now encouraging favourable soil microbial activity and worms and enhancing soil structure
4. Continue to keep moist
5. In a few months the layers will have disintegrated and you are now ready for planting.
Your plants will get a fantastic start often leading to improved resistance to pests and diseases and your garden will always be filled with the sounds of nature, bees, birds and butterflies. .