To Paris, With Love (and Admiration)

A short time after I posted last week’s blog on vertical gardens, a friend of mine shared a news article with me out of Paris which I thought related, and was honestly quite inspiring. I hoped it might also be of interest to you all.

As a city, Paris is know for it’s fashion, food and culture, as well as romance and art, and now, the forward thinking hub will also be known for being one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world.

Image via Inhabitat

Did you know that the first Sunday of every month in Paris is Car free day?

Did you know that Paris recently banned plastic plates and cutlery? They are the first country to do so.

PLUS any new commercial buildings constructed are required to be partially covered with plants or solar panels. Wow.

Paris has recently passed a new law allowing anyone to plant an urban garden within the city, whether it be on the exterior of their home or office, in fact upon receiving their permit they are free to grow their garden on walls or in boxes, on rooftops, under trees, or on fences. The new law, effective from July 1st was passed quietly, and has only just started making international headlines- crazy, as I think we should be singing this news from the mountain tops!

Image via Hip Paris

Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, has encouraged Parisians to create living walls and green roofs, with a goal of 100 hectares by 2020! And out of that, she would like to see 1/3 dedicated to agriculture. Parisians are encouraged to be creative with their gardens, and are able to apply for renewable 3 year permits, and even supplied with a gardening starter kit which includes top soil and seeds. Whilst they are encouraged to be creative and use their imagination to green the city in many ways, they are required to plant only local species, and maintain the city’s visually appealing aesthetics. It has also been suggested that they plant honey plants to assist with the worldwide diminishing bee population, which is believed to bring catastrophic affects for our futures. The new law also sees Parisians using sustainable methods to grow their plants and avoiding all pesticides.

Image via Ecowatch

The new garden program has many goals in mind, and as such has been designed to meet the city’s need for green spaces, improve air quality, improve building insulation and acoustics, mitigate the effects of climate change whilst also encouraging biodiversity. They also hope that the program will boost the beauty of the city, improve the quality of life for the city dwellers whilst improving relationships between neighbours by creating more social links.

I think Hidalgo has a beautiful big picture view, and this program is only one piece of her ‘green’ plan. In addition, there will be the creation of 30 hectares of public gardens, 20,000 new trees planted, 200 re-vegetation projects as well as the creation and development of educational farms, orchards and gardens within schools.

Imagine living in a city where you could choose to grow Espaliered fruit trees on your rooftops, or trellised tomatoes and beans up the front of your apartment building? Imagine living in a city where the aim was to add green to the landscape, not cut it down?

I think it is a refreshing vision for the world, and one that I for one would love to see adopted here. Lets add green back to our lives. Green is good.

Fwf x

Feature image from Inhabitat

Read More


Vertical Gardens- The Sky’s The Limit

These days, the current trend in housing sees more people enjoying apartment living; with no lawns to mow and fewer rooms to keep clean and tidy. Where they are in a house, (at least in homes around me) so often we witness the original homes being bull dozed to the ground, and monstrous mansions built in place with little or no garden or yard left. This means that if you are at all interested in gardening or producing your own food, you must get creative.

Image: Brilliant Besser Block stackable garden, Apartment Therapy

Vertical gardens are an innovative way to optimise the space you have by building your garden UPWARDS! Essentially it is a new take on an old technique, instead of simply using a trellis, we now utilise all sorts of products to create these gardens.There are certainly specialty products available now that can make creating your vertical garden pretty straight forward and simple; a combination of wired frames and pots, but there are plenty of other options too.

Image: Bunning, Ready to go vertical garden kit

The great thing about this resurgence in popularity of the humble vertical garden is people have started thinking about new ways to do it, and with that has come a rise in ‘upcycling’ concepts. Plastic soft drink or milk bottles can be used, along with reused wooden pallets to create unique upright structures to plant your garden within.


Vertical Garden Using Plastic Milk Bottles.  This would be a great thing to do at school - maybe give each child a couple of seeds and see what grows?:
Image via 1001 Gardens, Coach House Crafting
Image: ZelfMaak Ideetjes


Vertical gardens are a unique way to disguise unattractive areas- in our case, we recently attached a vertical garden to the outside of our pool filter box which was previously covered in a dark bamboo fencing which looked visually very heavy. These gardens can also be used to draw your attention to a particular area as is the case with green wall creations on premier hotels or office blocks, both inside and out.

Image: Outdoor Design
Image via Tournesol Site Works, The living wall at the Singapore Institute of Technology & Education – images courtesy of Victor Tan, Elmich

This is not a garden solution for someone who is after something low maintenance. As you are creating the garden beds upwards, they tend to be fairly shallow or small areas that are filled with soil, and therefore are unable to hold large quantities of water. This means they require regularly watering or irrigation systems, and of course need to be appropriate plants for this situation.

Vertical gardens can use almost any plant you like provided you provide them with appropriate conditions, however for the most interesting affects, consider using a combination of climbing plants, and plants that are naturally pendulous as well as plants that provide bulk.

Here are some of my suggestions to get your vertical garden, or green wall looking really interesting; sedum and other succulents, bromeliads or other air plants which require little soil, ferns, Chain of hearts, Silver Falls (below), Colius (below).

Alternatively, you can use your vertical garden to harvest your own herbs and vegetables. I suggest lettuce varieties would be useful in most homes, as well as tomatoes if you have the room for a trellis, or other support. Beans are quick to harvest so are interesting to grow if you have young ones in the house as they can quickly see progress :-)




So whether you are short on space, or simply want to create an interesting display somewhere you have a blank wall, vertical gardens are a beautiful, effective way to bring your space to life, quite literally!

Fwf x

Read More


Carnivorous Plants- Hungry For Life

When you hear the term ‘Carnivorous’, if you are anything like me, you imagine not merely a meat eater, but perhaps even a flesh eating creature, hell, a man eater. But in the case of plants, a carnivorous plant, simply eats insects and other anthropods. The plants have adapted to life in areas where the soil is thin, or poor in nutrition, but where there is ample light. They are structurally designed to capture their prey in order to survive, and absorb the necessary nutrients from that prey, to thrive. Carnivorous plants derive most of their nutrients from eating animals they have trapped within their plant structure, an adaptation due to the environment in which they are found. Charles Darwin wrote the first literature on this plant type, ‘Insectivorous Plants’, in 1875.

There are at least 583 species of carnivorous plants that trap and kill their prey, each displaying one of the 5 different trapping mechanisms;

The basic trapping mechanisms of carnivorous plants. Image via pinterest
  1. Pitfall traps.
  2. Flypaper traps.
  3. Snap traps.
  4. Bladder traps.
  5. Lobster pots (aka eel traps).
Image via Science Daily
Brocchinia reducta Image: University of Conneticut

Pitfall Traps: generally trap their prey within a rolled leaf structure which contains a pool of digestive enzymes at the base. They are a passive trap, attracting prey with nectar secretions. The pitcher plant uses this trapping mechanism. The inside of the pitcher plant is covered in a slippery wax, which causes the insects to fall into the pitcher. Once inside, the digestive enzymes and bacteria begin to break down the prey so that the plant can begin to absorb it.

Like most of the plants within the pineapple family, the Bromeliad Brocchinia Reducta has a tightly packed spiral of waxy leaves that form somewhat of a cup. Water collects in this cup and often provides a habitat for frogs and insects, however in this case, the cup turns into a specialised insect trap.

Sundew Plant Image Huffington Post via Rhys Marstons Horticulture
The Cape Sumdew Plant uses its Fly Paper trap to secure this Dragonfly dinner. Image: Huffington Post

Flypaper Traps: use a sticky mucilage, like glue. The leaves have mucilage secreting glands, but also a rapidly responsive leaf surface with responds to the prey; rolling the leaf blade to prevent the insect being washed away by rain, or the leaf creating a dish like surface underneath the prey to form a shallow digestive pit.

Image: A Learning Family
Image: Lighthouse News Daily

Snap Traps: The most well known snap trap is the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea Muscipula). The trapping mechanism has sometimes been described as a mouse trap/bear trap or man trap referring to the speed of movement and the shape.

The Snap Trap is an active trap as it used rapid movement in order to trap it’s prey. Snap traps have fine hairs inside the lobes which are sensitive to touch. They also have a hinge -like mechanism along the midrib, which changes in shape, and is caused to quickly slam shut when the hairs are triggered. The process takes less than 1 second!

Image via Pinterest

Bladder Traps:  pump ions out of their interiors, with water following which creates a partial vacuum inside of the bladder. At the opening of the bladder sits a small opening/door which has a pair of long trigger hairs. When the hairs are touched, the door is opened and the invertebrae is sucked in.


Image via The Orchid Source Forum

Lobster Pot Traps: have a chamber that is easy to enter, but extremely difficult to exit because the exit is either hard to find obstructed.

Image: Apartment Therapy

There is a great variety of carnivorous plants available that can be grown in your gardens, and they make an interesting addition to arrangements too, undoubtedly due to their unique shapes, and colourings. Experiment with these delightful plants for something fun, new and interesting- you are sure to create a talking point at least!

Fwf x

Read More

long legs, mosquito big mosquito close-up pictures, in the north of China

Nature’s Best Mozzie Repellants

I don’t know about you but I love the warmer weather. As spring progresses and the temperatures rise, I enjoy the increasingly balmy weather, and the sun against my skin more and more each day. But as the Summer months approach, some little things start to bug me, and I KNOW I am not alone there. Already we are finding the mozzies are around and biting. And given we are new to the area, I suspect they are enjoying our ‘new blood’.

Sure, you can lather yourself in insect repellant, but, I like many parents with small children, like to avoid excessive use of chemicals, and lotions and potions tend to annoy my middle child’s skin, as many store bought formulas contain toxic substances irritating to sensitive skin.

You may or may not be aware that many plants that are naturally repellent to mosquitoes are highly fragrant, and I was happy to discover that many of your common herbs are repellent too. Talk about two birds :-) I love that many of these naturally repellent plants have a dual purpose, so here are some of my picks for your garden to keep the Mozzies under control this Summer!

Image: Pod Gardening

Basil (Ocimum americanum)

Basil leaves have essential oils that can be extracted and used as a spray to repel mosquitoes. You may also find that Basil is an effective repellent when grown in your yard near entertaining areas.

Catmint (Nepeta faassenii)

Catmint or Catnip are a genus of flowering plants which are found to be very attractive to cats but super unattractive to many bugs, including mosquitoes. Research out of Iowa State University shows that the oil extracted from catnip (Nepeta cataria) contains nepetalactone and has been found to be almost 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET.


Image: Clipzine via Pinterest

Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus)

Citronella grass generally grow to about 2m and when crushed releases an oil that acts as a repellant. It can be used alone on the skin, or mixed with other oils to create a repellant concoction, in candles, or in aromatherapy.

Image; Jennifer Stackhouse via Homelife

Garlic (Allium sativum)

Garlic can be used as a natural way to repel mosquitoes by cutting up the bulb and sprinkling it throughout your outdoor areas, or mixing it with oils to create a body spray. Be careful not to be too liberal with the body spray, or you may find you repel more than just the mozzies!

Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citrates)

Lemon grass is related to Citronella grass, and as such contains citronella oil, an effective repellent. Plant this along your garden border, and enjoy the Asian flavour in your kitchen too!

Image: Bonnie Plants

Mint (Mentha)

All mint species are repulsive to insects, so mint is a great addition to any garden. This versatile herb is great in cooking and in teas, as well as in homemade repellents.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Highly fragrant Rosemary is a great addition to any garden as the plant keeps mosquito infestation under control. Cuttings of the plant, as well as the plants oil, also have repellent abilities.

Image: Linda Ross via Homelife

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender is a lovely addition to any garden, and many people enjoy it’s strong perfume. It is certainly a versatile plant; you are able to use it to create tea brews, sleep remedies and ward away pesky mosquitoes. Mosquitoes dislike the Lavender perfume so plant it around your yard or use it’s oil alone or mixed with other essential oils as a body spray repellent.

Mexican Marigolds (Tagetes lucida)

Marigolds odour is not only offensive to mosquitoes…many bugs and most people find it unpleasant too! Keep cut flowers around the house to ward off the mozzies, or plant them near entertaining areas in your yard to keep the bugs at bay while you enjoy the Great Outdoors.

Image: Secretly Obvious

Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)

Clove plants can be used around the garden to keep bugs under control, but can also have the oil of the plant extracted to use in concentration on your skin.

Many of these plants can be crushed and rubbed on your body as a quick and easy repellent while others repel simply by being planted nearby. Mosquitoes find Lemon/citrus fragrances repulsive so you may choose one of many varieties of plants with a citrus fragrance such as Citronella Grass, Lemon Balm, Lemon Geranium, Lemon Thyme, Lemon Grass or Lemon Verbena to keep bugs at bay.

For those of you that back on to nature reserves or bushland, you may be happy to hear that these highly fragrant plants are also helpful in keeping snakes away (another Summer loving friend), so think about planting rows of them along your properties border.

Remember that despite planting naturally repellant herbs and grasses, other factors, such as stagnate water can encourage mosquitoes to hang around, so make sure you keep wet/damp areas under control and clear out any water vessels regularly. Mosquitoes lay eggs in stagnant water so it is important to dump out the water that collects in the saucers of outdoor containers and change bird baths water regularly.

To make your own simple repellent, check out these recipe ideas.

Time for me to buzz off and get busy in that garden

Fwf x


Read More