Thinking of paving over your garden to keep down your monthly water consumption? The bad news is that it will probably get worse.  The good news is, Cape Town now has its very own Climate Smart Campaign to help promote and support local climate change initiatives. Launched in March this year, the coalition of organisations and partners involved in the campaign have agreed to work towards proactively positioning Cape Town as a leading environmentally sustainable city, committed to practices that enable the city to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, so protecting and enhancing the natural, cultural, social and economic environment.

This info is straight from their website.

Cape Town is a coastal city highly dependent on power from coal power stations nearly 2000km away. Historically, cheap electricity has meant very low levels of energy efficiency in households and production processes.

Now the country has been hit by unanticipated severe and worsening national electricity supply constraints resulting in the threat of blackouts and sharp tariff increases. Urban sprawl is compounding these challenges and is entrenching social inequities as the poor generally live far from resources.

People remain dependent on private vehicles, and only now are the first steps being taken to replace a weak and under resourced public transport system.

Today, the City faces a triple challenge: a high carbon footprint, poor energy security and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

How does climate change affect Cape Town?  Although the effects of climate change will be wide spread, with everyone being affected to some degree; these are 5 of the most pertinent challenges that will arise as a result of climate change:

Firstly the risk of flooding throughout the city will increase as rain is likely to fall in heavy showers over shorter lengths of times.

This will increase the vulnerability of those living in informal settlements throughout the City, as well as place heavy strain on disaster management and emergency capacities during the winter months.

This will also put pressure on systems such as the storm water system.

Secondly the management of coastal areas will prove challenging. The coastline in Cape Town is long and storm surges and increased swells are expected as weather patterns change.

Thirdly, the city’s transport networks will be significantly stressed in instances of extreme weather events like flooding.

This will create numerous challenges. One in particular is food security as the large majority of the city’s food supply is brought in from surrounding areas.

Fourthly, the hotter, drier climatic conditions will make it difficult for the globally significant and economically valuable biodiversity to survive, which could threaten the city’s resilience – its ability to cope with natural disasters.

Finally, all these challenges are set in a development context, where poverty, limited access to services and poor provision of housing will only further exacerbate challenges associated with expected extreme weather events.

Read more about Climate Smart Cape Town.

I came across this flower during a hike up Elsie’s Peak above Simonstown this past Sunday, and was struck by the colours and appearance.  It’s not a flower that I’m familiar with so I took a photo to show my father and we looked it up in his reference book of wild flowers.  It’s called a Painted Lady and unfortunately, although you may find a plant called a Painted Lady in your local nursery, it’s not likely that you’ll find this particular flower.

Pretty, isn’t it?

So our garden gave us a bit of a pleasant surprise last week. One of our dinner guests, loitering around the kitchen before dinner was served, noted our kitchen window box and one tall, blue, flowery plant in particular. She asked us if it was a borage plant, to which we replied, as the knowledgeable gardeners that we are, “What??”. Thanks to the magic of mobile technology, quick as a flash our guest had googled the plant and confirmed it was indeed a borage plant.

Neither of us had ever heard of this plant and didn’t quite get her excitement until she pulled off a flower and urged us to taste it. It was surprisingly good – I don’t think my words will do justice to the taste, but there was something as sweet and creamy as honey mixed with the freshness of a ‘cucumbery’ flavour. Apparently borage flowers are very good in salads, who knew? The plants in our window box come from a lucky packet of herb seeds free with a local gardening magazine, which we used one slow afternoon as an activity for our four year old daughter.

The small blue, edible borage flowers are shaped like stars and borne in clusters that rise up above the plant’s leaves. Apparently, due to their cucumber taste, they are good also as a garnish for iced teas, lemonades, and other cold summer beverages. One article I read suggested freezing the flowers in of ice cubes then adding that to your drink.

The flowers can also be crystallized for use as a decoration for cakes and other desserts – don’t ask me how to do that though, that’s for another type of blog!

According to another article, borage plants are also great for the garden. Due to their sweet smell, they attract bees and other friendly insects, and it has been reported that they improve the flavor of tomatoes when grown together with them.

They grow well and tend to germinate easily to cover unsightly gaps. Be warned though that the plant can grow quickly, as we found out, and reach heights of about two feet. If you like really tidy beds they might not be the plant for you, but if you like a kind of wildish, colourful look, they’re perfect.

A couple of months ago I wrote about the rising popularity of garden walls, otherwise known as metro-horticultural, a great way to add greenery inside your home or to grow plants in a small place.

At the time I wasn’t aware of anyone in Cape Town offering this service, but last weekend the Weekend Argus ran an article about terraniums and vertical gardens that mentioned such a company.

Garden Up designs and installs Vertical Gardens and provides innovative and creative greening solutions for commercial infrastructures. If you’re interested, please contact them through their website www.gardenup.net and tell them you read about them here.

Every year come Spring I tend to get testy phone calls from clients asking me why we have not been tending to the weeds.

I always take a deep breath before replying.

As we all know Spring is a time for things in our gardens to begin to sprout – funny thing is there is no exception for weeds! One of the reasons they are called weeds is because they grow like … well, weeds actually.

For most of Winter it is too cold for most plants to have any new growth although this never seems to stop weeds. Come this time of the year – late Winter, early Spring – Cape Town is experiencing quite a bit of rain interspersed with a few sunny days, perfect conditions for weeds to jump into action. It seems to me that they think they are in some kind of race against other plants and they’re determined to win every year!

Truth is that everything in your garden is growing but the weeds are just doing it way faster! Because most of us despise them so much, we tend to notice them more. My team is continually spraying to stop weeds but it is a month or so of a battle before there are any signs of success as most gardens only get sprayed every two weeks. This is normal and nothing to worry about. It can take two to three weeks for the spray to take hold of the weeds and for any signs to appear that they are dying off. They will start to turn yellow and then their leaves should turn and deform. They will shrivel up and die and most lawnmowers just suck up what’s left.

There are some popular plants, like aram lilies, that will be affected by the spray so before you take action find out what plants in your garden might be vulnerable. A good garden outlet should be able to tell you this when you buy the spray.

If you would like to do the spraying yourself then use products like Banweed, Hormaban and Weeds. These are some of the most common and well used products that I favour and they are sold at most garden outlets. You do NOT want to use Ridder, Roundup or Wipeout as these products will kill everything and anything in the garden that is green! They are, however, very useful if you have weeds in paving areas or driveways that you want to get rid off as nothing survives these products.

Also always remember to wear gloves and any protective gear that the product recommends, follow the guidelines for use carefully. Rinse off all equipment after use and wash your hands and arms if needed.

Happy Spring everybody.

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