Lizette JonkerThere’s a garden in my backyard!

It is not the first time I am telling the story of my garden to an audience – I did that for five years when I had the most wonderful audience of garden lovers across sunny South Africa, all readers of the popular South African monthly magazine, SA Garden. Now – through GardenDrum – I hope to find a new audience of gardeners who would like to share my garden with me and share their gardens with me! For those of you who have not read any of my garden articles I published the past 10 years, let me introduce myself: I have gardening in my blood.

One of my favourite roses, Rosa 'Mutabilis' - I have four giant bushes in tall pots. They flower practically 12 months a year in my garden!

One of my favourite roses, Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ – I have four giant bushes in tall pots. They flower practically 12 months a year in my garden!

My granny and grandfather always had the most charming, down-to-earth garden in a time when plant propagation was pretty much up to the number of slips you could carry in your purse, and seeds were saved for another season. My mother taught me plant names at a very young age, when I joined her early morning watering sessions in the front garden. She now lives with me, and she has her own little garden – a frilly, frothy riot of flowers and colour right through the year.

Rosa ‘Jean Geldenhuys’ is a tough rose, with petals that do not fall, which means the blooms stay on the plants until the rich cream bleaches to white with pink tinges around the edges of the petals. The plant is disease-resistant and extremely vigorous

Rosa ‘Jean Geldenhuys’ is a tough rose, with petals that do not fall, which means the blooms stay on the plants until the rich cream bleaches to white with pink tinges around the edges of the petals. The plant is disease-resistant and extremely vigorous

The Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' fills in spaces in my flower beds and covers the bare legs of hybrid tea rose bushes. This dainty plant continues to amaze me - it is actually quite tought and drought resistant

The Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ fills in spaces in my flower beds and covers the bare legs of hybrid tea rose bushes. This dainty plant continues to amaze me – it is actually quite tought and drought resistant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I became editor of SA Garden magazine, South Africa’s beloved rose breeder Ludwig Taschner named a rose after my mom. The ‘Jean Geldenhuys’ rose, a tough and gorgeous pillar rose, can be found all over my garden. My dad was always a farmer in his heart, and I remember the prize vegetable patch that he tended tenderly every afternoon after work. Most of my siblings also love gardening, even though some of them only discovered the pleasures of muddy feet and dirty hands somewhat late in life!

I had a whole wall of tomatoes until recently – we had a real tomato feast all summer long. I noticed baby plants all over the garden today!

I had a whole wall of tomatoes until recently – we had a real tomato feast all summer long. I noticed baby plants all over the garden today!

Another plant table made out of recycled wooden pallets. I love my cactus plants in the background – can you spot them?

Another plant table made out of recycled wooden pallets. I love my cactus plants in the background – can you spot them?

I’d like to think I have an ordinary garden. I let it happen around me, and, although it gives me many moments of intense pleasure, I am never satisfied with it. I am always finding new drab nooks and dreary corners in need of urgent fixing. I am the world’s most impatient gardener, having being spoilt beyond the point of no return by DIY gardening articles I have been writing for various magazines the past 10 years. Writing such articles means you have to style up the garden around it as if it has been growing for at least a season or two. Which is of course far from the truth – you simply buy fully grown shrubs, perennials and annuals, and plant a little show garden! Instant gratification – almost like eating junk food, complete with the expected heartburn and unhealthy weight gain as a result! When planting for a garden photo, you try to fill every centimeter of space, and all gardeners know this will certainly bring regret later.

In my courtyard – silver thyme in a pot

In my courtyard – silver thyme in a pot

Another firm favourite rose in my garden – Rosa ‘Garden Queen’ – its giant magenta rose is very fragrant

Another firm favourite rose in my garden – Rosa ‘Garden Queen’ – its giant magenta rose is very fragrant

Fortunately the instant bits in my garden are just pockets of un-reality all over my normal garden, where I grow seeds with lots of enthusiasm and hope, where I delight in every single bulb growing and flowering and where I am always filled with great wonder if I can eat something I have grown in my own backyard.

Although I have lots of space in my garden beds, I still love gardening in containers – a strawberry and a sweet pepper in white galvanised pots next to my planting table

Although I have lots of space in my garden beds, I still love gardening in containers – a strawberry and a sweet pepper in white galvanised pots next to my planting table

My round herb garden

My round herb garden

Autumn in my garden

• Autumns are mild up in Gauteng where I am, so we still enjoy being outdoors and working up a storm in the garden. Nights are cooling down, but the days are filled with sunshine and light breezes in my garden.

• Compost time has arrived in my garden. Although we make compost through the year, my giant London plane starts donating its heavy load of leaves in May. This is my compost recipe: layers of shredded leaves, grass clippings and wet torn newspaper. I do not include fruit or vegetable peels or any rotten fruit from trees in my compost hole, because of a rat infestation in the area. I have seen rats eat rotten fruit in my pomegranate tree, and immediately cut off and threw away all rotten fruit.

I have read of a local company bringing rat traps to your garden, as they feed them to their rescued owls. They also erect owl boxes in your garden, which would be my next step. I am an organic gardener, so rat poison is not an option.

My tomato tree or tamarillo in its first season, with plenty of fruit

My tomato tree or tamarillo in its first season, with plenty of fruit

Enjoy the images from my late summer garden and please visit me for a daily chat on my Facebook page, Garden Diva

First harvest of sousou in my garden. I have learnt to cook it too – peel and slice thinly, then add to stews or stir fries. I have only one plant, and it has leapt into the neighbour’s trees. It is very rampant

First harvest of sousou in my garden. I have learnt to cook it too – peel and slice thinly, then add to stews or stir fries. I have only one plant, and it has leapt into the neighbour’s trees. It is very rampant

I grow a variety of chillies, which my husband and son love eating

I grow a variety of chillies, which my husband and son love eating

Elegant St Joseph lily. Instant, of course – I bought the fully grown plants form Garden World nursery. I did wait a bit for the flowers to open!

Elegant St Joseph lily. Instant, of course – I bought the fully grown plants form Garden World nursery. I did wait a bit for the flowers to open!

White miniature water lily in my lily pot

White miniature water lily in my lily pot

Pink rose without name in my mom’s garden in my backyard

Pink rose without name in my mom’s garden in my backyard

One of my favourite David Austin rose in my garden – a potted Rosa ‘The Prince’. This one is quite disease-resistant and it has an old-fashioned, spicy scent

One of my favourite David Austin rose in my garden – a potted Rosa ‘The Prince’. This one is quite disease-resistant and it has an old-fashioned, spicy scent

 

 

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Lizette Jonker

About Lizette Jonker

Lizette Jonker, the South African Garden Diva, is first and foremost a gardener, albeit a very restless and impatient one! She has worked as photojournalist and stylist for several South African magazines the past 20 years, inspiring readers with creative gardening, décor and craft ideas. Her last full-time job, as editor of the very popular SA Garden magazine, ended last October when the publisher decided to close the magazine. She now freelances for Finesse and Garden & Home magazines, and gives regular garden talks at garden centres and garden clubs. She comes from a family of plant lovers who understand the need to share and explore everything that grows. She travels South Africa and the world in search of beautiful gardens to capture, usually accompanied by a small tour group organised by Thompsons Holidays. Her other big passion is singing - she is a trained dramatic soprano and vocal coach, and is part of the operatic group XQST. She shares a home in Pretoria, South Africa, with her handyman husband Chris, her son Duard, who is a first year opera student, and her mom Jean, who also loves gardening and has a rose named after her.

12 thoughts on “There’s a garden in my backyard!

  1. Hello Lizette and welcome to the Gardendrum. I feel honoured and humbled to share the space with such a talented gardener. You do sound like my type of gardener, too, ie letting it happen and then poking about to fill in and change and add colour and movement from season to season. You certainly come from good gardening stock and how wonderful to have your mum and her garden living with you now. I cannot claim such heritage, alas, but my late father did love his roses and with eight of us children tearing about the suburban Brisbane yard we grew up in, he fought for as patch of side garden to grow them – but unwisely it was alongside the sloping trolley path where we tore down at great speed getting our speed thrills. Cunningly we only had to have one tumble into the thorny bed to take more care each time. So perhaps I inherited the love of gardening from him. It just erupted with me around the age of 22, when we bought our first house – and subsequently made many planting mistakes, but it has been a great and rewarding and calming journey. I thank God for my garden and the peace and fulfilment it gives me and the great and interesting people it has brought into my life. Look forward to reading more from you. Julie

    • Lizette Jonker on said:

      Hi Julie, thanks for the welcome! It is interesting that you mention you were eight children playing in the garden – I am the eldest of eight children! Almost all eight of us are garden lovers, even though some discovered it in their thirties or forties! I love experimenting in my garden, and I have learnt a lot of people don’t mind if they read about my garden successes, but also the failures! That way they see what not to do! I do regard my own garden as a real garden – with all the normal critters and joys! I find gardening makes me calm and focused, although I do get irritated if a project drags out.

  2. Lizette Jonker on said:

    Indeed, sousou is also known as choco, or chayote.

  3. Loved your first blog! I never realised your mom’s rose was officially named after her, thought it was your pet name amongst yourselves. What a privilege!
    Although I cannot join any garden-speak because it is neither my passion nor my blessing (arid Namibia in grip of nightmare drought), I sure love eaves-dropping.
    Like your style — keep it rolling!

  4. Goeie more Lizette, altyd lekker on jou insetsels op FB te sien!! Om Divas en Gurus se sukses-stories te lees en dat julle ook soms sukkel, inspireer my om weer te probeer. Ek sal ook graag so ‘n Sousou in my aftree-seetuintjie wil plant. (Met saad?) Lekker groen week vir jou en baie dankie!

  5. SpicyRedHead on said:

    I am looking forward to reading about your garden. Having visited SA back in the 90’s I found the climate (especially in Durban) and plants so very similar to here in Sydney. Very interesting to see your sousou or Chokos as they are known here in Aus. I was given kilos of them by a friend recently and am about to turn them into Relish/Chutney. There is a free recipe book under Chokos on the web that has about 30+ pages of recipes for Chokos, everything from sweet to savoury dishes. Your roses look beautiful and how wonderful to have one named after your Mum. Happy gardening…..

  6. Janet Knight on said:

    Hello Lizette.
    Never met you but love you already. How wonderful you are working with what you love.

    Kind regards
    Janet Knight
    Born to garden – forced to work

  7. Tony Bent on said:

    Dear Lizette

    I used to speak to you each year and ask you to plug our Bonsai Show in December – I no longer have your email address and I can’t get a response from 072 1122309.
    You told me last year that you oragnising an online mag and I should still send info to you.
    Please, could you send me your email address?
    Many thanks
    Tony

    083 2305348

  8. Marcelle Senekal on said:

    I am looking for a plant that grows flowers throughout the year. I am in Cape Town ( as we have the 4 seasons in one day), and would like to put something in my Flat/ back garden that has direct sun half day to 3 quarters of the day. I need colour. At the moment I only have a Zuka in my backyard. Any ideas or suggestions. I have limited groud to work with as this is those type of sement looking areas. Back wall sement and front sement blocks.

  9. Monera Bhyat on said:

    I am trying to find information on how to plant sousou/chokos gourd/squash) in Cape Town South Africa can you please advise me. Can I but the seed or does it only sprout from another one? please advise

    • Lizette Jonker on said:

      Hi Monera, try to contact http://www.livingseeds.co.za or Margaret Roberts for the seeds of the sousou. They are really easy to grow! Once you have one you will never be out of seeds

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