Get Inspired By Maureen Viljoen's Garden

Maureen Viljoen gardens in Cape Town, South Africa. She is a member and 2013 chairperson of The Constantia Valley Garden Club, which raises funds biennially via an Open Gardens Weekend for Abalimi bezekhaya and Soil for Life, two non-profits providing financial and practical support to enable underprivileged South Africans to grow their own food.
She is also my mother, the woman who taught me to garden and to love plants almost as much as she does.
View the Slideshow above for images of my mother's garden.
1. Why do you garden?
I garden because I absolutely have to. There is nothing I enjoy more, nothing more fulfilling, more pleasurable...It makes my life good.

2. What inspired you to garden?
When we built our first home in Bloemfontein in 1957 I was presented with an empty piece of ground. We'd had a lot of rain that year and it was a morass. My mother had always had a garden, and my sister had a garden. And as my garden grew, so did my interest.

3. What was the first plant you grew?
My first garden was in Pinelands, Cape Town, where I was a little girl. I constructed a small house of bricks and made a tiny garden. Most of the plants were weeds pulled out of my mother's garden.

4. How often do you garden?
Every day! The garden has a lot going on in it and is not low maintenance.
5. What is your garden's climate?
Mediterranean [winter rainfall]. But in Cape Town we have this chunk of rock - Table Mountain - in the middle of the city, which dictates the climate, so my garden has its own microclimate.
6. What size is your garden?
A little less than half an acre.
7. What plant has most disappointed you?
I'm tempted to say roses, but they looked gorgeous last year because I fed them a lot. Broad [fava] beans. They haven't grown well here in Cape Town. In Bloemfontein where I had a big, sunny vegetable garden I had wonderful broad beans. And the tomatoes here get blight.
8. What plant has made you happiest?
There are so many...I'm looking at the garden as I speak. Maybe the Agapanthus. I have so many different kinds, now, all sorts of hybrids and cultivars.
9. What do you love about your garden right now?
It's green, it's peaceful, spring is springing. The sky in the evening is faintly pink as the sun goes down behind the mountain. And there are lots of arum lilies in bloom which just came up by themselves; I didn't plant them.
10. What do you feed your garden?
Lots of compost, lots of organic stuff. I use Bounce Back - made from chicken manure, in pellet form. I have 80 bags of compost delivered three times a year. I use the compost I make in my own bins as a mulch - they are not in a warm enough spot in the garden so the compost breaks down slowly.
11. What would you like to grow that you can't?
Vegetables. But I would have to knock out a whole flower bed. I do have cabbages and baby marrows growing in pots.
12. Food, flowers, native or ornamental?
Flowers. With a little bit of food.
13. Most inspiring garden writer, thinker, blogger, personality?
My daughter! You often plant things and then I think, I must do that, too. And Christopher Lloyd, because of his flowers. He put the most amazing colors together. Great Dixter - I saw a photo of his patio there: He had everything crammed in there - those big aeoniums, like beacons, they were beautiful!
14. What plants do you dislike?
Oh! Jasmine. Not the Trachelospermum jasminoides, but the other one [Jasminum officinale], because here it is so invasive. Once you plant it, you just can't get rid of it. It goes everywhere. It smells nice, but it gives me hayfever, too. When it flowers I have terrible sinus trouble.
15. Would you like more sun or more shade?
More sun. If I chopped down a lot of shrubs and trees I would get it, but that is not going to happen. Trees become very important.

16. Where is your favorite public garden?
Wisley, in England - the headquarters of The Royal Horticultural Society. In Cape Town, Kirstenbosch, of course, and the garden at The Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel. Jean Almon created the sort of garden there that I aspire to. Fabulous roses with interesting groundcovers beneath them. It's a garden that has been put together with love.
By 66 Square Feet (Photo Credit: Marie Viljoen)

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