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  • Writer's pictureLucelle Pillay

A Place to Potter....

The Green Rookie

Whether you consider yourself a ‘Green rookie’ like myself or a ‘Garden Pundit’, we all need a special little corner to pot up nature’s beautiful creations. I’ve always used nature as a source of inspiration for my art, which entailed observing organic forms, colours and shapes for drawing and painting. It's only recently that I began to see the therapeutic effects of getting my hands dirty and actually planting and growing things. The tactility and sensory benefit of working with soil and plants can be quite addictive if you give it try. When I started to work on our garden I knew very little about horticulture, and it showed, many attempts failed due to a lack of knowledge and experience. Perseverance however does yield benefits as I hit Google and YouTube hard and learned so much by watching the experts. Find a featured list of my favourite channels below.

YouTube Garden Pundits

Garden Rescue features the skills of garden guru’s Charlie Dimmock, the Rich brothers and Arit Anderson. Each episode sees two designers pitching their story boards to a client and then applying their skills in the garden to materialise their vision. I find it a most practical and entertaining watch if you wanting to learn more about creating beautiful green spaces to suite your budget.

Heron’s Bonsai is my absolute favourite, with the charismatic Peter Chan being my bonsai sensei of all time. Peter demystifies the complexities of bonsai for beginners by explaining and demonstrating his methods and ideology in a most approachable way.

Bonsai Diary has no narration, apart from a few English subtitles, but totally immerses you in a Japanese forest with the bonsai artist. The sounds and picturesque landscape are filmed in a humble and unassuming manner, that appeals to me. It proves that teaching by ‘showing’ is still the best method for learning. The artist specialises in foraging for ‘yamdori’ (collecting wild plants in the mountains) and then creating miniature bonsai with them.

Gardener’s world features the most famous garden pundit, Monty Don, who talks us through his own garden projects in his lush and robust English garden. I also enjoy other videos hosted my Monty such as French & Italian Gardens, he has also visited Cape Town (see link) to feature the gardens of Babylonstoren. (Accessed 05/02/2021)

An Ergonomical Potting Area

Remember how petrol stations in the late seventies used to be oil-stained grotty places? With an ingenious and innovative re-thinking of this space, marketers have given us the sleek, bright and convenient ‘petrol station come quick-shop’. This space now boasts, cute gourmet shops and coffee bars, ATM’s as well as essential grocery items that you can grab on your way home.

Using this analogy re-consider your potting space, you don’t have to be in a damp, dark shed at the end of the yard, or straining your back bending over in the blistering heat. Make your potting area somewhere shady and close to your living area, that way it will always be in your line of vision, to lure you outside. ‘Pretty’ up the space like you would your living room or study, just because it’s outdoors doesn’t mean it should be dull and utilitarian. Most importantly have a working surface that’s ergonomically (an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently) applicable to your height. If you like standing whilst working then your table should be about waist height or higher. If you would like the option to sit, choose a chair, bench, stool that easily allows you to tuck your knees under the table top. A high table top will avoid you hunching over, as this will in time cause back and neck strain.

Choose a shady spot that’s under cover, like a patio, lapa (thatch) or awning, this way you are out of the sun and your unfinished projects won’t get rained on. Basically make the space functional without compromising on your comfort, or you will never use it.

Don’t break the bank with a work table and seating as you most likely have something around the house you could use. A few cheap cement blocks with a ply wood top works well as a table and an old office swivel chair makes a great potting seat.

Adding ‘Bling’ to your Potting Area

Now that we have considered comfort lets get to the fun part, making things pretty. The area I chose is a conservatory under a metal-louvered awning, close to my kitchen door. My work table is a re-purposed school desk and I use a bar stool as seating. I also put up some wooden shelves close to my potting area in order to display my master pieces, but this will be dependent on your space. A place to keep your bags of soil and compost close by would be nice, because if you always have to trudge to the shed, you may lose motivation. I bought some cheap large storage containers from Chinese wholesalers and Wespack, which store neatly under a shelf. I chose dark colours like grey and black so that they disappear into the background. Keep your garden tools accessible in a pretty ceramic pot or on display hooks as these look cool and shouldn’t be hidden. The more old and worn out, the more vintage they appear. If you have a selection of old and new pots, have those on display too. Your recycling, like tins and plastic bottles are useful for planting seeds and young plants, just be sure to punch holes at the base for drainage.

Log-framed Mirror

The area I chose is quite dark when the roof louvers are closed, so I opted to bring in some reflected light with mirrors. I saw some beautiful examples of mirrors framed with drift wood (Pinterest) and wanted to try my own take with logs. We had our Privet border trimmed about 2 winters ago and the logs from the felling were quite dry and ready for the fireplace. I decided to slice some of the thicker logs to use as a frame for the mirror. The mirror I upcycled was originally square, I just placed the logs in a circular pattern around it. I applied the circle motif with a mosaic table and the smaller mirrors as well, since the space was quite odd and square, soft edges and organic shapes would help soften the angularity.

Cutting the logs into discs was the most challenging part of this project, I first attempted this with a circular saw, but the blade depth wasn’t sufficient. I would have to keep turning the log to cut the entire circumference, but I wasn’t confident about my ability to wield the saw in this way. So I decided to put safety first and use a basic straight hand saw. I used logs of various thicknesses to get a variation in slice sizes, then screwed the slices around the mirror. The mirror backing board was chip board, so I sealed all the wood (logs included) with outdoor wood varnish. The smaller mirrors were bought as plain circles from a craft store, I then glued them to a larger circular disc of thick (3mm) Masonite board and added some square mosaic tiles in a circular pattern. I sealed the masonite board as well.

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