Tag Archive | Gardening

A Gardener’s Christmas Wish

 Santa 001 Santa 002
Santa baby,
Here’s my Christmas wish-list.  I’ve been an AWFULLY good girl this year so DON’T HOLD BACK.

A gold-plated trowel with a diamond-encrusted handle – only joking but I WOULD like a new  trowel with matching fork, in designer colours, not because I really need one but because I want to look as good when I’m weeding as Maureen next door.

Ditto new gloves and gardening apron.  Not just the usual tacky old stuff from Bunnings that my husband always buys me, but

something from an upmarket gardening shop.

A new, big compost bin that really works.  I’m sick of forking it over in my old plank-and-netting two bin system.  Perhaps in a

designer colour rather than basic black.

A selection of roses that are really and truly and honestly resistant to black spot and aphids.

A gardener who looks like George Clooney – well, maybe a little younger than George.  Maybe Richard Armitage.

A hose that doesn’t kink, on a reel that doesn’t give me a hernia when I try to wind it up.

One of those exquisitely elegant Dean Durrant water features,  teamed with something new and exciting in garden statuary that isn’t either fake Italian classical shit or Balinese.

A new pair of knees – titanium would be good.

A pair of self-sharpening secateurs

An endless credit card so I can buy as many plants as I want (I say this every year and never get it – but I buy ‘em anyway!)

So that’s it Santa honey.  All pretty simple really.  Just get out that sleigh and whip up those reindeer and get shopping.  You know my address and yes, I’ve got the milk and cookies waiting.  And I’ll be wearing that sexy red and white thong you bought me last year…
Santa cutie, hurry down the chimney tonight…oh bugger, we don’t have a chimney.  Never mind, I’ll leave the back door open…
( And you might like to check out this great YouTube video – Eartha Kitt with Friends singing “Santa Baby”)

For those who hate gardening!


Many people hate gardening!  This is amazing to those of us who have spent long years dabbling in the dirt – but it’s true!  They hate the very thought of planting and weeding, hoeing and mowing.  The acquisition of some new and rare plant species does not excite those who get their thrills from a new pair of designer shoes or a set of golf clubs.  And, indeed, why should it.  Gardeners are a mad breed and probably very boring to those who don’t find greenfly or the latest azalea variety an enthralling topic of dinner party conversation.

So, I wrote a book especially for those who find gardening a chore and a bore.  I thought it was the least I could do, being one of the mad breed who would rather have a new pair of secateurs than a pair of Jimmy Choos.  Because, you know, I have noticed one strange thing in my years of writing  and talking to people – even those who wouldn’t be caught dead at a rose show still like to possess a good-looking garden. 

The book is called How to Have a Great Garden for Just Two Hours a Week ( www.wix.com/jrlakemedia/ezibooks )  and it’s proving rather popular with today’s post-yuppie, cashed up, mega-consuming, time poor home-owning generation which will spend a fortune making the inside of the house look like a Home Beautiful cover and wants a garden to match – but without spending a lot of time and money on it.

The secret of this book’s success is that today’s young (and youngish) home owners want solutions that are quick, easy, accessible and cost-effective.  Not for them the good old stuff about making compost and improving the soil and hunting slugs by torchlight.  They want a garden they can show off to their friends and neighbours  and which can easily be kept going – and growing – in those little niches of time still found between work and leisure.  And of course it’s an e-book so it can be easily downloaded to e-reader or tablet or phone – today’s home-owner is as likely to be found in the garden with a phone in his or her hand as a spade!

As it says in the beginning of the book, here you won’t learn about grand design or formal versus informal gardens.

Nor will you learn about the challenges involved in growing rare and temperamental plants.

Nor will you find anything about elaborate water features or espaliering fruit trees or the finer points of plant propagation.

What you WILL find is lots of easy information on how to create a really good-looking garden – and how to maintain it for just TWO HOURS A WEEK!

What it all comes down to is planning.  Get that right, I tell my readers, and the rest falls into place.

Thus I take them step-by-step through the planning stage, teaching them to think of garden features (lawns, flowerbeds, furniture, trees) in terms of modules than can be added to or subtracted from a simple plan.  This type of modulised thinking makes it easy for people to envisage the type of garden they want – and just how much work each module means in terms of maintenance.  When people have very little time for gardening it is just SO important to show them how to spend that time as effectively as possible because otherwise it is just seen as an added burden to an already over- burdened life.  Whereas I want my readers to see gardening as a relaxing pastime that’s just as lifestyle-enhancing as all those more expensive ways of getting exercise and relieving stress, such as yoga or going to the gym.  Above all, I want them to see it as FUN!

Once I’ve shown readers the benefits of formulating and following a basic plan, it’s easy to lead them through the other steps in the process of creating the ultimate low-maintenance garden – Preparation, Planting, Practice and Protection.  These are in fact the Five Principles (I’m tempted to say “the Five SACRED Principles!) of the GardenEzi gardening program which I founded some years ago. 

When it comes to allocating just two hours work a week to the garden, planning also has to include selecting the right infrastructure such as fencing, paving and edging.  Preparation means buying the right tools and labor-saving devices. Planting means choosing the right plants and putting them in the right place. Practice means developing the right ways of doing things around the garden.  Protection means learning the right – and easiest – way to keep plants healthy. In fact this book is so much about being right that the Tea Party would probably endorse it!

Perhaps the book’s most important feature is the Time Budget, by which readers are shown how to allocate and spend gardening time in the same way as they would (or should!) budget their money.  Follow this and you’ll come to see a couple of hours a week spent around the garden as a pleasurable workout rather than a chore. 

I’ve had a lot of fun over the years, telling people how to garden, and mostly I’ve been preaching to the converted.  It’s been a lot more of a challenge preaching to the UNconverted – to those who hate the very thought of gardening and need guidance just to establish a lawn and a couple of shrubs.  Yet it’s been very rewarding to hear from people who have turned dull, weedy plots into stylish and much-loved outdoor rooms by following the simple steps in Great Garden for Just Two Hours a Week.

I truly believe that if each one of us could just find two hours in our busy lives to spend in the garden we’d all be a lot healthier and happier – and the world would be a better and more beautiful place.




Getting your soil right for azaleas

Healthy blooms come from a healthy soil

Are your azaleas a sight for sore eyes this spring?  If not, you may need to improve your soil.

Azaleas need a rich, loamy, acid soil to thrive and flower well.  The only way you can achieve this is with lots of compost and mulch – and patience.

Step 1 – break up the surface of your existing soil and fork it over a bit, to open it up.

Step 2 – add heaps and heaps of compost.  If you don’t make this yourself, buy it in.  Or you can buy in a load of good soil – but that can be expensive.

Step 3 – test your soil for acidity.  This is measured on a scale of 1 – 14, with acid soils at the lower end of the scale, alkaline at the other and a neutral, balanced soil in the middle.  Azaleas like a soil acidity of 4 – 5.5 on the scale.  You can have your soil professionally tested or buy a kit from a garden centre – it’s easy to use.  If you can’t be bothered with any of this, just assume your soil needs acidifying and do this with…

Step 4 – mulch, using acid materials such as pine needles, shredded pine bark or leaf mould.  Mulch is NOT the same as compost – compost is the rich, soil-like product of mixing organic greenwaste and manure and heating it to a high temperature to break down these ingredients.  Added to your soil they enrich it and add essential nutrients.  Mulching with coarse, uncomposted materials improves the structure and texture of your soil and as it composts slowly, over time (much slower than pre-made compost) it also adds some nutrients.  Using compost and mulch together is the best and fastest way to improve soil, creating a growing environment for plant roots that is nutritious and able to retain moisture.

And that’s all there is to it.  Do this now, and keep on mulching regularly during the year and by next year you should have a soil that will grow perfect azaleas.  If you do, send me a photo!

In praise of old azaleas

People often ask me, what are the best azaleas to grow?

I always tell them – go for the oldies! Because where azaleas are concerned, the oldies really ARE the goodies, if what you want are big, strong, floriferous and reliable plants to fill a space or make a show.

In this regard, the old indica species azaleas such as “Alphonse Anderson”, “Alba Magna” and “Exquisite” still out-perform every other type.
They go on blooming year after year, decade after decade, and all they require is a bit of water in very dry weather, regular mulching with acidic stuff such as leaf mould or straw, and a good cut-back after flowering.

Of course, there are lots of lovely azalea varieties available today in all sorts of colors. And when it comes to selecting varieties of indica, mollis or kurume much depends on your climate – as a general rule indicas are the best for warmer climates while the deciduous mollis and compact kurumes thrive only in cold or upland climates. Azaleas have been so hybridized and genetically mucked about that the range available in a garden centre can be bewildering, unless you have a definite color scheme in mind.

The faithful old tall-growing indicas already mentioned here don’t produce autumn flowers, as do so many of the newer hybrid varieties . But though they only flower in spring (with occasional – but rare – spot flowering throughout the year) they do produce a good show for several weeks. And they are much less prone to petal blight and just plain dropping down dead than the newbies, where breeding seems to be aimed more at bringing out yet another flashy-flowered brief sensation rather than a vigorous plant.

My books

For those of you who followed me on my previous blog, this is what happened: my books on gardening and camping were previously hosted on our (my husband Bob and myself) Camping Australia Guide and Gardenezi websites. When our service provider ceased to host the server, we were forced to create new websites, marketing platforms and blogs. While this WordPress site will continue to provide a (mostly) personal blog, our books on camping, gardening and a novel on Africa can be accessed via the following links: Improving Your Soil – The natural Way, Camping Guide AustraliaA Garden in Africa, Growing Great Azaleas, Great Garden for Just Two Hours a Week and Tropical Foliage Gardening, $9.95 at www.amazon.com/kindle. (Search title and download to PC or eReader). Camping Guide Australia website and blog: Ctrl/click on: www.wix.com/boblake72/camping-australia-blog

Information about the books as well as free gardening advice is also available on the new Gardenezi website at


Bob and I so much enjoy sharing our gardening and camping knowledge with you on our blogs and websites and also exchanging chat about Africa on the Facebook group Kenya Friends Reunited.  We’re also happy to help people planning to visit Australia with free advice on where to go and what to do, particularly if they are campers, birdwatchers, hikers or nature lovers of any kind.