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May 29

Mancom Talk: Kathryn Peck on keeping up the garden

Kathryn Peck – Garden Maintenance

This year I have volunteered to give some attention to the Beit Emanuel garden. I earned my living as a gardener and in horticulture for about 7 years in my 20’s and trained in the UK in horticulture in 1976. Gardening has remained a great passion for me. Sadly, when a garden is very old, and rather neglected, the first place an experienced gardener finds themselves starting, is clearing up. These gardens contain shrubs and trees that no-one knew could get to the size they are, unless perhaps you have walked around The Gardens in Cape Town, or other very old gardens. Every arborist who comes to our place comments on the wonderful trees and their size as well as the need for some hygiene. Over the years, the Beit Emanuel garden has also tended to become a seed bed of bird sown tree seedlings, which can be 100% the wrong plants in the wrong places, especially if one knows that the root profile of a tree can be comparable in size to the unpruned upper profile of a tree.

Very sadly we have had to lose some lovely trees: saddest of all were the Ficus benjamina growing next to the Slome on the garden side, and the very large tree growing in the plant box at the entrance to the Shul. None of the tree companies could i.d. this huge tree, other than that it was from the Eucalyptus family, which as we all know, tend to become giants. While Ficus trees are among the most beautiful of trees, all varieties are well known for their very destructive roots, because the roots seek out cool moist places under buildings and around pipes and sewerage systems. We were advised more than 10 years ago to remove the tree. Visible damage has already happened to the structure inside the “sisterhood” kitchen. The Eucalypt was also slowly breaking open the plant-box, and invisible damage was probably underway at the main building foundations and walls. Root pruning is not a realistic option for trees of this size, as it would just increase the risk of the tree falling over and causing more damage.

The other work was straightforward: cleaning up 8 palms of dead fronds and old woody seed cases, and cleaning out the plant box at the back of the Shul which had about 50 weed tree saplings (Ailanthus) crowding it out and threatening to break the box. In addition, an avo, an oak, a Celtis and a jacaranda had some dead wood taken out, and branches rubbing against the Shul roof lifted. The giant Natal Wild Banana, next to the stairs on the way to the chickens was also removed, as this had long outgrown the position and was destroying structures on every side.

While much of our garden renewal can come from moving plants we already have to better positions, and sub-division, we are now need some eager sponsors for a list of desirable plants such as 2 named fruiting pomegranates, and 2 named almond trees, as well as some small waterwise and shade tolerant plants. We are aiming to avoid plants that are known to get very big, or that are very water hungry. We also need compost and slow release fertilizer, not to mention a new spade and rubber rake for Edgar. Anyone interested in helping with sponsorship, please contact me on 082 82 42280.