Gravel Garden

On the other side of the house is a short, fairly steep slope that runs the boundary between my house and my neighbour's. It has a low containing wall and the centre section which runs parallel to the house flanks a concrete patio, part of which is porched with a corrugated roof.

There are trees in my neighbour's yard in the front and back that provide some shade to this slope, but that central part that runs alongside the house is a fully exposed harsh, dry terrain that gets sun almost all day.

Faced with this, two things sprang to mind. First, the story of how Beth Chatto used the rubble filled, thin dry soil around her house to her advantage to create her mediterranean garden (which incidentally is no more, although I did get to see it in person many years ago, it is now a scree garden). Second, as a corollary to the first, I saw an opportunity to grow the kind of things that I've long envied that thrive in California and South African gardens, namely cactus and succulents. Go see my inspiration pinboard.

Some backbreaking work went into improving the rock hard clay soil. A lot of sand, bags of compost from a friend who makes the stuff from oil palm waste and the gravel garden started to take shape. There were a lot of rocks on the property, that all got moved to this section. Then there were quite a few runs to the nurseries with some investment in some larger plants to get it all going. Finally the gravel mulch. I'll confess that my fussy designer sensibilities finds the gravel too blue of a cast but I'm hoping that with time it will age to a warmer hue, if not some further top dressing might be on the cards.

I inherited quite a few Sanseverias, so they were a shoe in, I added some more unusual ones like the Sanseveria Cylindrica in the foreground. I wanted some things to grow in there that ultimately would provide some shade to the patio and opted for citrus trees. I got a Mandarin, a Key Lime and a Kaffir Lime.  I'm hoping they remain fairly dwarfed, but might also do whatever that's going on in this photo.

All kinds of succulents like Aloes, Cactuses, Agaves and Euphorbias have found a home here as well as an assortment of Dracaenas that not only look right but also add a tropical or sub tropical feel. Some things failed miserably- I tried some bromeliads that got fried and the pretty orange Portulacae that you see in the pic just got really messy. What is doing spectacularly well are the Aloes, Euphorbia  and Cactuses that have almost doubled in size. There's more to tell of all the other choices that are also doing well, but I'll leave it at that for now to just get an establishing shot of this garden and also say that despite it's largely non native plant selection, it makes up for that by performing well as a low maintenance xeriscaped one.

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