Here we are on the 5th of December, and still I have not posted. But the academic year is over and the holiday season is upon us. 50mm in a magnificent storm on Friday night made me think of a watery pic this week, but I was not too happy with the photo of the weir at the Makou Dam. Mateczka’s expectant expression as she stood IN the flower garden at the beginning of a sunny walk late on Saturday won the day. With the penstemons coming into bloom, the Rosemary Border is doing exactly what I intended it to do – provide a long frame for the Makou Dam behind it, when seen from the house.
December 5, 2010
December 28, 2009
How to end the year, other than with yet another hydrangea? Perhaps a dense mass of varied leaves? “mebalabala ya botala” is the phrase I learnt this week in Sepedi, the local vernacular: ‘many colours of green’. But thinking back to the days when December was the time I came to the farm on holiday, and the gardens weren’t nearly what they are now, I set out this afternoon to photograph a little wilding that grows in the cool shade of the forests and pine plantations and demurely displays its soft blue flowers at this time of year. It is called Thunbergia natalensis and is related to the Black-eyed Susan, a well-known little creeper with a black centre and an orange or yellow face. This one is an upright herb with a prominent calyx, which, together with the bottom of the leaves, is covered with soft hairs. Yet when you compare the flowers you can see that they are related.
December 21, 2009
The grasslands on the Haenertsburg Common can give a magnificent spring floral display, especially if the long grass was gently burnt during the winter, and there is sufficient early rain. I don’t have that (I’m working on it!) but my summer meadows, which start maturing around now, are pretty good. Here Doubly is waiting to see if this will turn into a walk or whether he has followed me out under false pretences. Below is the jewel in our meadow’s crown – Gladiolus dalenii. It is strange that there are two completely different strains: one in bright yellow and orange which flowers in autumn, and this one, more common in our area, which flowers around mid-summer. This one is quite colourful – often they are a soft lime-green with brown markings. (Incidently – we mark summer from around mid October when the spring flowers are over to Easter or later – over 5 months we call summer! Spring is less than two months, as is autumn, which leaves only about 3 months for winter… But I am thinking of all in the North today, for whom the longest night has finally come!)
December 18, 2009
I’ve been looking at old photos of late for the posts I’m preparing on the Rosemary Borders. Along the way I found some of the Cottage Garden. Hmmm. It is very green this year. I like the look of it, but there are too few flowers in the mix. On the other hand it is never without flowers either!
In these views the tall yellow verbascums and the Hydrangea serrata dominate, but the eryngium (see detail below) and solidago also add colour. The dark Eucomis (Pineapple Lily) bottom left is starting to make a strong statement, but not many would say that it ‘adds colour’ and of course the zebra grass has tremendous presence. The gauras are slow off the mark this year and the salvias are getting going…
Near the front door a pink Gaura and Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ compliment each other beautifully. This is the first year of their co-habitation – and I have not the slightest idea if the combination is deliberate or not, so I shall claim that it is yet another sign of my gardening genius!
I’ve moved down onto the road below the house now, where the way the trees around the dam form a wall of green these days can clearly be seen. Much of what is now super-green becomes super-bright by autumn. But I’ll keep you waiting till early April before I start that show !
The above photograph illustrates the rather over the top inspiration for the Tulip Tree Avenue; when we first conceived it my dad jokingly suggested calling it the Avenida da Liberdade – Marques de Pombal after this impressive (and impressively named) avenue in Lisbon – the Marques having been the man responsible for rebuilding much of Lisbon after an earthquake in 1755. Our Avenue has developed into a very beautiful feature. The linear layout now melds happily with the organic paths through the arboritum, and the concept which we feared might jar is, if I may again modestly say, rather good. These pics are specially for Deborah from Green Theatre, who I know will enjoy our avenue!
For the view of the Tulip Tree Avenue in the two pics above, I’ve moved across the dam and a little downstream. There are ten Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip) trees on either side of the avenue, which is around 70m long and 10 meters wide, stem to stem. A path runs up either side of the avenue and between the path and the trees there is a planting of hydrangeas in a mix of blues and whites. Between the paths is a solid mass of azaleas, photos of which have featured in a previous post . Like so many of our trees, they were grown from seed by my father. The hydrangeas on the left (upper) side can be seen in the first photo and those on the right in the second one.
This last photo is chosen rather randomly from the walk. But since this is a rather random post, it seemed suitable. The hydrangeas are crying out for a post of their own, but this chance combination with a self-sown native, Crinum macowanii , the River Crinum, really caught my eye!
December 15, 2009
‘Bobbeltjies’ they are called in our family – ‘Little Baubles’, and how appropriate that I thought to feature them this week, because it was only whilst processing the pic that I saw the Christmas connection! The diminutive is important. The water drops give a sense of scale – each bauble is less than 2mm or about 1/16in. across. The flowers are so small that I’ve never seen a petal with the naked eye – but they can just be identified bottom right. The flowers are pink, the seeds ripen quickly to orange and then black. I have no idea what the plant is called, and whether it is considered a weed by some. (Any suggestions?) All I know is that to me it has always been a symbol of a happy garden, this willing little plant that makes so much impact with its small flowers and seeds daintily carried above bright green leaves. It finds its spot and compliments whatever might be nearby, the epitome of the welcome self-seeder!
December 11, 2009
For weeks I’ve been gathering material for this post, but the more I got, the more random the theme became; it has not been a good year for rose photographs, and there is not really the time to delve through my archives, so this is it – a selection of the season’s better pics…
‘Buff Beauty’ is one of the most charming of all roses, and one of my favourites. Her colour can vary from a dull straw to apricot, depending on the light and the temperature. She is a graceful climber and sweetly scented.
Here she grows with ‘Veilchenblau’ on the Wisteria Arbour in the Anniversary Garden. As they get bigger it becomes less of a contortion to get them both into the same shot. I must remember that come the pruning season!
I am certain that ‘Veilchenblau’ is an ancestor of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, one of the most talked about of recent introductions. The way they have a red rather than a grey undertone, their velvety purple aging and their lime green foliage differentiate them from most other “blue” roses.
I’ve spoken before of Rosa chinensis ‘Mutabilis’ and here the various colours, from bud to dark maturity and faded old age can be seen. A glorious rose; and of course, a species rose not a hybrid… amazing, isn’t it!
Rosa rugosa is another unmistakable species rose, repeat-flowering all season, with heavily corrugated leaves and a suckering habit. It has single magenta flowers, which are not to everyone’s taste, especially when seen with the huge orange heps – a startling combination!
Usually R. rugosa comes true from seed, but this is a hybrid! However it won’t make my fortune as it is a little shy to flower and the blooms don’t last very long or produce any heps. A curiosity for my garden only!
After all the lack of genealogy… a bit of breeding. This is a Hybrid Tea known as ‘Garden Queen’ or (in the USA) as ‘Buxom Beauty’. She still stands in her unglamourous bag near the front door. I thought she might be the answer to my prayers, but her shrill pink colour and flaunting shape don’t appeal to me as they ought. I’ve come to appreciate subtler beauties. I guess she’ll find a spot in the Beech Borders. Yes, I did say bEEch. She was intended for the Ellensgate Garden, but I think something less of a trophy will work better in that comfortable and intimate space…
‘The Squire’ on the other hand has no pretensions to grandeur. He knows he represents the Best of British and happily stood around in Trudie’s Garden for a year before I gave him a more permanent home there. Now, of course, in a quiet way, he lords it over the other roses. He is, after all, one of David Austin’s English Roses…
R. roxburgii plena is a strange Chinese fellow and was originally thought to be a species, until the single form was introduced and he had a plena added to his name. In fact he is so strange that there are those who question whether he should be called a Rose at all… His buds are covered in spikes, giving him the names Burr Rose and Chestnut Rose ( you can see one top right) and his silvery bark tends to peel in a most unroselike manner. He has 12 tiny leaflets to a leaf, although that is not nearly as unusual as one might think amongst the species roses.
My ‘New Dawn’ roses are all grown from cuttings. They strike more easily than any other rose I know. The one below the waterlily pond has had literally hundreds of blooms over the last two months – of the softest pink. It is about as typical a rose as one can get, and possibly one of the easiest flowering plants to grow, relative to its contribution in the garden. You do realise that I rank this rose rather highly, don’t you?
‘Tausendshon’ – thousand times beautiful – is an aptly named rose. Almost thornless, it flowers continuously with flushes of apple-blossom pink blooms. Another easy rose from cuttings, although a little prone to mildew with me. But I have yet to spray it; it pulls through of its own accord.
This is not, I guess, a close-up. At least not of the roses, not even quite of the foxglove. But I’ve been wanting to show you the Anniversary Garden, where mauves and yellows combine. Most of the roses in this shot are ‘South Africa’, a very disease resistant and robust soft orange rose which I can’t praise highly enough, bred by Kordes of Germany.
Here it is in close-up. Worthy of oohing and ahing over…
I’m certain David Austin waited a long time before he dared name a rose after Graham Stuart Thomas, the doyen of old-rose specialists. He made a good choice. I believe this has become the most popular yellow rose in the UK. In South Africa it is best grown as a climber. After trying to contain my two bushes for three years, they are now blissfully happy on reed structures, each about two meters high and three meters long.
I said the theme was yellow and mauve, didn’t I? I’d actually misplaced this shot of ‘Veilchenblau’, (taken last year and sought out for this post), but I’m pleased it happened that way. I think it rounds of this little show quite nicely!
December 8, 2009
The Afrikaans name for hydrangeas is Christmas Roses – appropriate, as they dominate gardens in so many parts of the country during December. Last Saturday our Rotary Club hosted the annual Christmas lunch for pensioners, and each table had a large flat dish of baby blue mopheads, three white candles and a sprinkling of thread-like silver tinsel. Not quite the way northerners picture Christmas – but very appropriate in South Africa!
Personally I tend to favour a well-grown lacecap to a mophead, as the plant is more graceful. Having said that, I collect every hydrangya I can lay my hands on. But I have yet to grow a climbing hydrangya successfully – I suspect few other have because one seldom sees them for sale, and I have never seen H. aspera, which I truly crave, and several other famous species and cultivars in South Africa. Above is H. serrata ‘Blue Bird’ in the Cottage Garden, and below H. macrophylla ‘ Blue Wave’ and H. quercifolia grow above the wall below the big house.
December 5, 2009
What got me going was the realisation that for the first time ever I have a clematis (other than the basic white C. montana) flowering for the second year! Usually ‘twigs mark the spot’!
Nearby what I call the Floating Irises were in bloom. Like so many flowers where the bloom lasts one day only, they all flower together. Who says plants don’t communicate?
Before dashing off to catch something interesting in the Long Border near the entrance, I photograph the evergreen dogwood, Cornus capitata, against the garage.
The Matilija Poppy, Romneya coulteri, is in flower – I thought I had lost it! I don’t remember it flowering last year, but today I found several stems ( they tend to wander away from where one has planted them) and two gorgeous flowers. They are, as far as I know, the only ones in South Africa. I imported the seed after admiring them at Jenkyns Place in the UK.
Near the Romneya is a stand of white Dieramas. I have the monograph on the genus Dierama, but I’ve never identified my white plants positively. The original plant was given to me by a very dear friend and in this, the year of my Rotary presidency, she is my club secretary; much has happened since first she gave it to me with the stern admonishment that it was a very special plant, one she wouldn’t give to just anybody. One of the great compliments and declarations of friendship in my life! It is, I often think, a plant of even greater beauty and grace than even my most beautiful roses.
Much less unique, in fact quite weedy, but one of the most cheerful sights imaginable, is the mixed stands of coreopsis and ox-eyed daisies that dominate much of the garden at the moment.
Hypericum or St Johns Wort is another cheerful and unaffected flower. This is one of the garden varieties, but we have two species that grow wild on Sequoia. One has flowers that are almost as lovely, but on a stocky and untidy shrub compared to the neat softness of the garden variety. The other is a miniature shrublet with a fleeting season. Its yellow flowers, clearly hypericum, are the size of a thumb nail.
I’m delighted with this shot of a santolini in bloom. I thought as I took it, all I’ll get is fuzzy yellow balls – instead there is much more detail than I’ve ever been aware of… tomorrow I’ll go take a closer look!
Lastly a few roses: Rosa chinensis mutabilis is a species rose and a wonderful shrub, about which I WILL still write! This is a particularly lovely example of an open bloom.
‘Cornelia’ is another of the Hybrid Musk roses I am so fond of. It was introduced in 1925 by the most famous breeder of Hybrid Musks, Joseph Pemberton.
Lastly a super-macro of ‘Mermaid’, the beautiful single yellow climber introduced in 1918. They say it takes years to establish itself and soon thereafter you wish it would slow down! This, the fifth year, is the first my ‘Mermaid’ is really performing well. It grows into a beefwood tree at the bottom end of the Long Border.