I must have rocks in my head

2009-04-06 00:00

Reg Gush

Yes, I really do have rocks in my head — I think about them at night, during the day and often when I am in the garden.

I love nothing more than periodically rearranging the natural elements of rocks, succulents, tree stumps and grinding stones in our indigenous garden at our complex in Hilton to form new combinations of shapes, levels and textures. I liken the experience sometimes to “playing with my Meccano set”, for the variations in garden design are endless and the exercise involves nothing more than digging up the plants and manhandling the rocks, stumps and grinding stones to new destinations and replanting and replacing everything again.

The succulents in my garden, especially the aloes, are very forgiving as they can be cut or uprooted and left lying around in the shade for a few days before being replanted — and they immediately soldier on from there. The process of moving the plants also presents an opportunity to subdivide and thin them out for they are prolific multipliers. While I do repot some of them for resale or distribute them to friends and acquaintances, this exercise always results in a lot of plants regrettably having to be thrown away.

When I initially planned an extension to my garden, I laid out a hosepipe on the lawn, which allowed me to view the curves and layout of the new setup before digging out any lawn. The advantage of this method is that you can change the curves and shape of your extension until you get the exact effect that you want.

In my efforts to simulate nature as closely as possible, I feel that it is essential to have a number of attractive stumps of dead trees placed in strategic places in my indigenous garden. The dead trees and stumps that I have are all of the combretum species, which is a very hard wood that weathers into very interesting shapes and textures and does not rot in the garden.

Our area of Hilton is a rock-free one and the rocks in my garden have all been acquired over many years, with much trouble and at considerable expense. Some of them were acquired from garden shops or sand and stone merchants around Pietermaritzburg: for my more attractive large sandstone rocks I had to travel up to the Harrismith area, buy them from a local farmer and transport them down in my Toyota Venture.

With the prolific growth of everything in Hilton, I have found that my rocks periodically become covered in vegetation and slowly disappear into the soil as the decaying vegetable matter accumulates around them and turns into compost. As I now view my rocks as old friends and personal acquaintances, I am not prepared to see them slowly disappear into the soil or be covered with vegetation. When I want to expose these rocks more, I lever one side up with a fork or pick and while that side is raised, I pack soil underneath it before moving to the other side to do the same.

The African grinding stones in my garden are, if anything, even more personal. Not only does each of the stones have a story attached to it around how I acquired it, but the stones in themselves have a long cultural history of their own, going back to the time when they were first collected from the veld and transported to the tribal villages. Over time these stones saw many years of service, under a variety of hands when they were used for grinding many bags of sun-dried maize to feed the inhabitants of the local kraal. If the stones could talk they could surely tell many interesting stories about the life of the village where they were being used and the events in the lives of the people who lived there and so laboriously ground away on them.

Once again the Pietermaritzburg East Rotary Anns have arranged for six indigenous gardens (three in Hilton and three in Pietermaritzburg) to be open to the public on the weekend of April 18 and April 19. The event is to raise funds for their chosen charities. The entry fee for all six gardens is R30 per person (no charges for children) and a variety of plants and crafts will be on sale at specific gardens. Further information may be obtained from Jill Raybould at 033 342 2461.

Our garden will be open on that weekend, so do come and say “hello” to my rocks.

Open gardens

The following six indigenous gardens will be open from 9 am to 4.30 pm on April18 and April 19:

• David Moon, 240 Woodhouse Road, PMB.

• Barry Lovegrove, 35 Montgomery Drive, PMB;

• Doug and Terri Morton, 9a Old Howick Road, PMB;

• Patsy Brouard, 52 Hillary Road, Hilton;

• Reg and Bea Gush, 3 The Croft, 32 Acutt Road, Hilton; and

• Gilly and Taffy Walters, “Wedgewood”, 10 Elizabeth Drive, off Hilton Road.

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