A Green Thumbed Gardener Still Requires Muscle

A Green Thumbed Gardener Still Requires Muscle|Jillalexa.com

A Green Thumbed Gardener Still Requires Muscle

For many years I have known that even a green thumbed gardener still requires muscle and I needed muscle again this week. The lovely archway that my son Greg made as a gift for me three Christmases ago had a distinct lean and I called upon the same son to set it to rights again.

This turned into more heavy gardening chores which he was able to help me get done.

Gardening, a Passion or a Chore – Gardener Still Requires Muscle

Gardening became a passion for me when my Dad allowed each one of his children a small patch of his vegetable garden in Redcliff.

We were given slips of geranium, and nasturtium, beans, and loofah seeds to plant. Waiting for the seedlings to appear seemed to take forever but the excitement when they did, was tremendous.

There is nothing like picking the produce from your own garden. What fun we all had.

Learning-to-gardenNone of us ever thought of gardening as a chore which was a blessing as we have had many gardens to plant and care for over the years. We were to learn that however much we enjoyed gardening a Gardener Still Requires Muscle as some of the work is heavy and backbreaking.

We had to make sure our little patch was kept weed free and watered. Both my sisters and I became mad about gardening. Dad’s enthusiasm, and Mom’s for that matter, rubbed off on us.

Gardener Still Requires Muscle – Coping after Losing Elliott

My loyal and wonderful gardener, Elliott, who worked alongside me, for 17years died earlier this year and it honestly felt as though I had lost my right hand. It was devastating to lose him after so many years working together in the garden.

He was part of my life and that of my family for so long. He knew exactly what I wanted to be done in the garden and how I wanted it done.

Most of the time we worked together but if I needed to go out, I knew that Elliott would not let me down. I have yet to see anyone so meticulous, besides my Dad, with the clean up at the end of the day.

At around 3 pm I would say to Elliott that he could get ready to go home but then the big tidy up would begin and by 5 or 6, I would drive him to the station to get the train home. He refused to leave until he was satisfied with everything he wanted to get done, was done.

Gardening Challenges after The Big Move From our Home to Broadwalk Mews

When Matthew and I moved to Broadwalk Mews, which is a Retirement Village, I asked Elliott if he would like to come and help me with the garden here. I knew full well that I was going to require help from Elliott. However one thinks one can cope a Gardener Still Requires Muscle, and that is something I lack.


He was only too willing and between the two of us, we changed the garden, not only the two little allotments I was given to care for but,  also took on the care and design of the main garden.

Naturally, we had to stay within the bounds of the rules and regulations of the Home.

We had to take into consideration that people in wheelchairs and other residents, would require shady places in which to sit.

Making Changes to any Garden Takes Time and Energy and Gardener Still Requires Muscle

We could not take over all the garden for planting swathes of plants would need constant care and watering, especially with the water situation in the Cape.

Later on a good friend of mine, Doris helped me, as my husband needed more attention, and eventually, he had to go into the frail care section.



Due to time issues, Doris has now taken over the care of the main gardens which is such a help to me as during the drought we have been having it would have entailed me carrying bath water a good distance which is backbreaking.

Living in an upstairs flat didn’t help with that task either.

There are two hose pipes connected to the Grey water from the home which she uses, moving the sprinklers where they are required to keep the garden going.

It has been quite a great commitment on behalf of Doris.

Elliott worked for us in the main garden and in Doris and my gardens until the day before he died. His loss has been greatly felt. This quiet, hardworking man was a star, in our eyes.

Green Thumbs Plus…Gardener Still Requires Muscle

  • Imagination
  • Knowledge of plants and their requirement
  • love of plants
  • good composting (preferably organic)
  • feeding and watering
  • Knowledge of Garden Design and Planning
  • Making necessary changes according to climate change
  • Not being scared of hard work
  • One of the most important things for me is a good pair of gardening gloves. (I loathe having the soil get under my nails or even feel it on my hands. (need to keep my thumbs green, after all, don’t I?)

All these things are necessary to make for successful and happy gardening and plants that will thrive even in the harshest conditions.

Drought Conditions Brought with it many Changes

We have had to change our style of gardening in the Cape due to the drought condition and water restrictions. All our taps were secured and we carted water from the washing up, the water from the shower went into a baby bath etc. to our poor perishing plants.

A number of the residents here at Broadwalk Mews had Water Storage Tanks (JoJo Tanks) installed at their own cost. This has made a big difference.#Doris-freshly-laid-pathway#flourishing-and-well-loved

The installation of a Water Storage Tank required one to have a downpipe leading into your own garden.

Unfortunately, that was not possible for me so I continued to cart water downstairs until it became too difficult for my poor back.

As I have had one spinal fusion, I certainly didn’t want to end up with more back problems.

To the rescue came my dear friend Doris.


Many of the residents of the Mews have taken out some of the lawn and put in pavers which helps with the layout of their gardens, and the rainwater (when it comes) and when watering the garden, the water runs off onto the remaining lawn.

Many Changes at the Nurseries

The plants bought at the nursery now are mostly indigenous or at least water wise.

Not many beautiful roses and lush lawns, and delicate English styled gardens around now.

However, a number of wonderful aloes and other succulent plants have come to the fore and it is amazing for our bird life.#sunbird-on-aloe


Commissions by Design

For a number of years I had a small business in Garden Design and  a number of the gardens I have been commissioned to design and plant up in the past have been indigenous gardens which I have really loved doing as to attract the bird life in the area.

Now and then have had requests for more formal gardens and some people have color preferences. It all depends on what the client wants and keeping them happy.

My Happy Place

My own preference is a bird-friendly, indigenous garden with lots of trees, shrubs which flower and berry to feed the insects and birds.

I kept a record of the bird life that visited my previous garden and had 33 different species visiting regularly, in the season of course. It was so exciting when a new arrival would make its appearance.

There was nothing lovelier than awakening to the sound of bird calls right outside my bedroom window.

The first thing I did when I woke up was to open my curtains wide so that I could watch the birds in the plants outside. They must have become used to seeing me in my nightwear.


The small stream I created, leading into a pond drew many visitors of the wild kind. Dragonflies and damselflies would be up and down protecting their territory.

Skinks (a type of lizard) would sun themselves on the beautiful, carefully chosen and collected rocks in and along the sides of the stream.

I drive by the old house to look at the garden and see that not much has changed.

It was really the garden which sold the house and I am so pleased as I know that the new owners love it as much as I.


The water restrictions have been lifted to some extent. Now able to water with a bucket but from the tap downstairs on a Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for an hour, before 9 am or after 6 pm for one hour per day. No more lugging a bucket downstairs. Thank heavens.

It has been tough seeing fully grown trees dying due to the drought. Perhaps now that we have had a bit of rain again, all will be well.

A Green Thumbed Gardener Still Requires Muscle and Gardeners can be real Characters

Just as every garden its own particular character, so does the gardener.

This makes gardening so much fun and I find other gardeners are always so keen to share what they are busy with, their great ideas, and what has worked for them.

We are truly passionate people.

If you have a Garden Club in your area, Please tell me about it. If you don’t have one, I would encourage you to begin one and just see what enormous fun to you can have, and how much you can learn.

However much fun you have in your garden or through your Garden Club, never forget that #agreenthumbedgardenerstillrequiresmuscle.

If you don’t have an obliging son, you may need to recruit a gorgeous hunk to help you. Wouldn’t that be fun?

It would be lovely to hear all about your gardening trials, tribulations, and of course the joy and satisfaction you have gained by gardening.

Jill Alexa

Jill of all Trades. Master of Many. Too busy to die.


  1. Your article is very inspirational and educative Jill. I think that having a garden is very nice and it shows people what person lives there. I have a garden outside my house and both my wife and I take care of it. Now it’s the winter season but when spring comes, we have a lot of work cleaning and renewing a garden. Btw, your images are so beautiful, I will share those happy images with my wife.

    • Hi Daniel, Am so happy to hear how much you and your wife love gardening. It is such a wonderful thing to be able to enjoy together.

      Thank you for enjoying my post and for the great comments. Good luck for the big clean up when Spring comes.

      All the best.

  2. Thanks for sharing this touching story! I’m sorry for your loss.

    I’m very inspired about gardening. My wife worked for her city’s gardening for many years, and we really want to get our own garden started. We just don’t have the space for it right now. It’s a dream.

    Thanks for this helpful information you’ve shared! Do you also have some experience with indoor plants? What about fruit trees?

    • Hi Jordan, Thank you so much for great comments on this post. I am so glad you are looking forward to having your own garden one day. Yes, I do have indoor plants, well, more on the balcony and they make such a difference. Fruit trees are wonderful to grow and what I love about them is that they have such beautiful blossoms and then the fruit is always so attractive on the trees and then the joy of eating your own fruit, freshly picked. What could be better? 

      Both, you and your wife, will get so much pleasure out of designing and planting up your first garden and I wish you well.

  3. Jill I love your website. The way you incorporated your story with your pictures had me glued till the end. Having a love for beautiful and well maintained gardens, but also a brown thumb, your site intrigued me immensely.
    I like the incorporation with your socials and also the way you included the Amazon disclaimer.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Hey Jill,

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this article as it’s fun, interesting and informative. Gardening to me was like a passion and it’s just a blissful experience when you see your first plant grow. Seeing plants grow is like watching babies grow. It’s an amazing experience and I would share this article with my other friends as they can take a lot of positives from this. 

    Thanks a lot for taking your precious time in writing this post. Well Done Jill! 

    • Hi AV, You made my heart so happy when I read these lovely comments. It is so good to meet a like-minded soul who understands what it is like to watch something grow. It was always so amazing to me that you could put a tiny seed into the ground and watch it come to fruition. Amazing miracle. 

      I loved every moment of writing this post and am really pleased you enjoyed it so much. All the best. Happy gardening.

  5. My wife is the gardener in our house, she loves it and every year creates a botanical masterpiece throughout the yard, both front and back on the house. When I suggest the front garden is unnecessary work because we spend our time int he back yard she reminds me that our neighbors and passersby should have their brightened too by the beauty. Anyway although I’m not the gardened I can certainly relate to your writing how the gardener still requires muscle and that’s where I come in. My job is to haul, dig and transport anything and everything my lovely yard artist asks me too. 

    • Hi Myles, You see, I am right, one does need the muscle. My dear son is my muscle now that my husband is in frail care but when he was well, he would gladly give a hand when necessary but he was much like you. He loved the beauty of the garden but not the day to day working in it.

      Thank you so much for reading my blog and commenting, I do appreciate it and tell your wife I am sure we would get along well. All the best to you both.

  6. Yes I agree with you. To maintain and keep a garden green always need serious passion. If you see it as a chore then you will not the needed energy to do it daily. I’m not a garden person but I have a friend who can use all his life savings to buy new flowers to plant and design a garden. He takes so much pleasure in keeping a garden. And  to me that is a kind of way to appreciate nature and our natural habitat. No wonder  his house always looks very welcoming. 

    I must really appreciate your passion for gardens. Also I could see happiness in you for doing what you love doing. Nature is freedom. Cheers 

    • Hi Tsquare, Gardening is really a passion and I know it is not one that everyone enjoys. Thank you so much for reading my post and the great comments. I do appreciate it. All the best/

  7. Hi Jill! Thank you for this very pleasant read! I can’t resist getting excited as I read your story. Gardening is a passion. And it could even be considered therapeutic (just my point of view LOL).

    It’s a pity you have had to change your lifestyle because of drought condition and water restrictions. But I’m also happy to hear the restrictions have been lifted up to some extent.

    I love the idea of a bird-friendly place. It’s so relaxing to hear them sing. Looking at the pictures I must say you have a really lovely garden! You have given me some ideas to replicate in my garden.

    • Hi Henry, Gardening is really therapeutic and although can be hard work, one always gets that wonderful feeling of satisfaction of a job well done. My favorite gardens are indigenous as they really do encourage the butterflies, birds, bees (and of course, not to forget the beetles). All ready to do their bit in the pollination and also the feeding of the birds.

      Am so happy that you enjoyed my gardening ideas. All the best. 

  8. Your idea of gardening is really beautiful and I can tell that your experience and skill is top notch, However gardening can be mostimes stressful if done all alone. There is therefore the need for additional hands as helpers and also the use of the right gardening implements for various gardening tasks.

    Gardening design is by far the most important aspect of the gardening process. The future of the garden all begins here whether good or bad.

    • Hi Zuchii, I fully agree that the design of the garden is most important but sometimes one has to do the bidding of whoever is paying for the job to be done. They don’t always want to take advice and will scrimp on essentials. The tools of the trade are extremely important and I am also happy to say that when I did garden design and planted up the gardens, I had wonderful helpers.

  9. I wish I had inherited your green fingers Mom! And your vision. It takes a special person to look at dry, barren land and see the fully grown shrubs, trees and flowers that will appear in time.
    You make gardening sound like such fun. Once our renovations are finished, you can design our new garden and we can all garden together as a family. I’m sure young Benjamin will love it!

    • Hi my love, That will be such fun for all of us. I can’t wait. Bet I will see such changes when I get back from my road trip to Port Alfred.

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