Gardening on Royal Grounds

Winter gardens can be a challenge, or not?

One of the special features at The Crown Guesthouse would probably be the gardens. A lot of time is spent creating a peaceful environment for the pleasure of guests; quite a few people go home aspiring gardeners.

Autumn in the Eastern Free State can start as early as March – by then leaves have already started falling. Although March and April can still be pleasant, the cold can arrive suddenly. It’s best to try to stick to plants and shrubs that are hardy, but we do have the odd ones that need protection. The grounds are tree rich and quite a few of them shed their leaves, leaving the garden covered under a winter blanket, and come spring, fertilizer. Temperatures below zero are nothing strange; keeping the ground warm and protecting the roots results in stronger plants in spring.

Labour is quite a challenge. We try to, as far as possible, have a self-maintaining garden. Although we live in a water-rich part of the country, we try and be water wise by minimising the lawns and keeping an extended herb and vegetable garden. In an attempt to utilize every bit of land, areas have been created that are warm and sunny and protected – ideal for vegetable gardens. Although some veggies don’t survive our harsh winters, there are quite a few varieties that do. Raised beds for the vegetables make it a lot easier to maintain and protect.

Less lawn and more annuals and vegetables can beat the dreariness of winter. As the trees grew higher, our garden turned into a shady garden which is not necessarily good for roses. Turns out, roses do pretty well in pots, as long as it is sunny and they are watered regularly. Roses can reward you with a colourful show for as long as 10 months of the year.
Hanging baskets can require a lot of care, especially watering, but what delight they can be in winter when planted with pansies.
After a good summer, good growing season, it’s probably best to not cut the overgrowth back in winter – a lush garden is a warm garden.

There are quite a few garden pots that require regular watering; we succumbed and replaced the thirsty plants with succulents, transferring the former to flower beds where the irrigation reaches them. This of course resulted into an awareness of succulents; so easy to grow from a little slip. And the succulent-growing-fraternity don’t mind sharing. There is quite a collection of succulents on the grounds, some in pots in the garden and some smaller pots for the rooms, purifiers. Managing these purifiers is quite a job – every morning they are taken out to the sun and late afternoon they are taken back for the delight of the guests. We are forever taking slips and growing little ones into bigger ones. Of course one can buy the artificial ones, but we have the real McCoy!

When guests walk through the gardens taking pictures, we get a feeling of satisfaction.

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