Going through my blog to get the feel of reading it as a unit, I realised that I had left out a photograph in my 30 September ‘Spring Kicks In’ post. Do go take a look at it; it shows the view across the water to my cottage as the Acer palmatum atropurpureum comes into silvery leaf. I wrote about it, but never posted the photo.
Talking of coloured foliage led me to one of this week’s shots. It is of the plant association I am most proud of in my garden.
Flanking the path at the start of the axis down past the Ellensgate Garden are a pair of pungent junipers with lovely blue-grey foliage, not so ungreen as to be cold or dull. They are I would say Juniperus x media ‘Blaauw’ – or as close to it as I have ever been able to identify any garden conifer. Planted hard up against it – too hard at the moment as the junipers needs careful cutting back – is a particularly fine Prunus cerasifolia nigra. In South Africa no attempt is ever made to identify cultivars – in fact few nurseries do more than lump them together under Prunus nigra, the Black Plum. However each of my 7 or so plants is distinctly different, with flowers of different sizes and leaves of different shades. I found this one in some now forgotten nursery and was immediately struck by the small, lacquered leaves of an intense wine red. I’ve paired it with Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’ , just coming into leaf in the photo. Next to the berberis is one of the Abelia cultivars that were launched with great fanfare a few years ago, but have since seemingly disappeared – low-growing with a palish leaf with yellow and pink colorations. Finding its name would be a mission. Below the juniper is the Abelia grandiflora ‘Francis Mason’ hedge which masks the triangle of brickwork where the Ellensgate Garden is built up. This is the most successful and effective yellow-leaved hedging shrub in my climate, although Durantha ‘Sheena’s Gold’ is used more freely in the warmer parts of South Africa. Below that the willow of Alfred’s Arches, Salix caprea, is coming into leaf.
The foreground is one of the most neglected and satisfying parts of the garden. It lies above the wall and next to the steps leading down the axis. Given over to self-seeding annuals, it is seldom without something of interest and often magnificent. We started the year with a wonderful assortment of Nemesias now a little overshadowed by the green growth of early summer flowerers; no wait – the Namaqualand Daisies (Dimorphotheca sinuata, but no-one would have a clue what you were referring to here!) flowered from late winter and a few are still in bloom – cheerful sunny orange daisies. Cornflowers are coming along, and opium poppies are growing nicely. My all-time favourite, near-species Nicotiana elata add white, moody mauves and deep red; their seed has been nurtured in the family for over fifty years. By high summer the zinnias will be a show. Occasionally we pull out the spent flowers but only after they have seeded. Studying the content of the waist-high bed makes a wonderful last stop on a walk, before climbing the steps to the front door.