One hundred frames exactly from this afternoons walk. None wonderful and the subject I set out to photograph for this first week in April rather lacking in context… so the question was (which is what it should be every week anyway)… : which pic best shows what is happening currently in the garden? This one. Undoubtedly. It is the first maple to colour purposefully across the dam from The House that Jack Built. I bought it (as well as another to the right of the pin oak) as Acer pseudoplatanus. Which both ain’t. But they aint the same either – I think. Their autumn timing and colour differ too much, yet they come from the same source. My guess is A. cappadocicum, but guess is the operative word. No-one seems to know much about acers in Africa… Anyway – the strong reds combined with rich greens marks the start of autumn proper in my book. Till now it has been voice exercises and warm-ups. This is a melody!
April 2, 2010
March 22, 2010
Time to take a look again at the Anniversary Garden – laid out to celebrate my parents’ golden anniversary, it is a yellow-gold garden with blue-mauve-purple accents. The central path is flanked by a rosemary hedge and wisterias grow into the pergola.
Today we had our first ever visitors to the open garden: a local family who visit often; a family from Johannesburg who were the ‘official first ever visitors’ and were wonderfully enthusiastic; and a couple from Botswana. It is a long weekend in South Africa. Yesterday the Ebenezer Mile Swim took place, organised by our Rotary Club, and the village is abuzz with visitors. An article in our local quarterly newsletter, which appeared on Wednesday, alerted readers to the fact that Sequoia Gardens is open. Such is the wonder of modern communications that you can read the newsletter anywhere in the world should you so wish, because it forms part of our eponymous website www.mountain-getaways.co.za – you will find me on page 6.
Now I need to spend the rest of the day getting the marketing side of my blog updated. You’ll see changes in the header line below the masthead. Any comments on how I’ve gone about it – or should have! – will be gratefully studied.
March 18, 2010
Two walks today, after a night of lovely rain and some early sun which unfortunately I did not manage to capture. Early on my morning walk I came across this Nyssa, (or is it perhaps one of the Cornus shrubs – there are some plants about which I am doubtful, all seed-raised). Anyway, it is well advanced into autumn, and the shock of the discovery set the tone for many of the day’s observations…
However after gentle rain during the last days, the overwhelming impression is of soft green late-summer. Although I had to brush through most of these (wet) grasses edging a path between Dawn Redwoods and Water Oaks, the tallest stalks met over my head.
Apparently an introduced plant, Hibiscus trionum is ethereally beautiful in flower and in bud.
I simply call this the Wild Sweetpea. It is more like a sweetpea, in growth, flower and seed than any of the literally dozens of plants in the pea family that grow wild for us. They are all difficult to ID positively. Flowers are tiny – about 12mm (1/2in) across and intensely blue-violet in colour.
But the overwhelming impression of the two walks today was of happy (and often patient!) dogs and the first autumn leaves…
March 16, 2010
Plenty to celebrate at the moment, and it all comes together in this one shot. Firstly, we have had welcome rain over the past 36 hours. The roses are into their autumn flush. The Japanese Anemones are in flower – the white ones are the most ethereal flowers of the year. And then, as I do every year, I celebrate a willing blue annual which first entered our garden 20 plus years ago as a single chancer in a plantbag with something else. It self-seeds profusely, but is easy to remove where it is not wanted, and is never thuggish in its behaviour. It enhances all around it. For years it was known as ‘That Blue Annual’. And then I discovered its picture and a name. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the ultimate chorus line: Browallia americana!
March 15, 2010
I said in my last post that I would have to do a follow-up on this plant! Crocosmia aurea, flowers slightly later than C. paniculata and does well in both heavy shade and full sun; above they grow in full sun amongst flag irises and the photo below was taken with flash in heavy shade.
One of many different Helichrysums (everlastings) that grow for us, I associate the tall, elegant, ghostly outline of H. mundtii with arriving on the farm at night from Johannesburg, and thinking as they loom up in the headlights that late summer has arrived.
They really are colourless, their grey felty texture against the neutral backdrop of the water – a position they chose themselves – being by far the most effective way to view them.
Another waterside plant is Kniphofia triangularis. This plant was moved from across the stream which feeds the dam into the Cottage Garden. It is slighter and more herbaceous than the typical South African choice, K. uvaria.
Possibly our most noticeable wild flower, Hypericum revolutum can grow into a leggy, woody shrub of over 3m, but is easy to keep to proportions that work better in the garden. It flowers on and off for many months.
We’ll ask the ferns to modulate to a quieter theme. I have never got to grips with identifying the various ferns. There are thousands, and everything seems to happen in intermediates. Here they grow on a shady bank, a meter high road cutting.
Conostomium natalense is one of those wild plants that don’t quite make it into the garden; the flowers are just a little too small (about 5mm or 1/5in across), borne erratically, and the plant too insubstantial to make a statement. However one constantly notices it during its long flowering season in the wild parts of the garden, where it enjoys growing on the edge of paths up against grasses and other plants.
Smaller still is this flower, each perhaps 3mm across and borne in panicles which are quite dense around the new year, but by now are spaced out. It is one of those delightful plants which once noticed are worth taking a close look at. I think it is a Pentanisia species – but don’t quote me!
Growing close by is an even better example of a little flower I only really came to appreciate once I had photographed it in macro. It is, I am pretty certain, Nemesia albiflora and the flowers are so tiny that unless you stoop to study them, the blue veining is quite invisible.
I have yet to do justice with my camera to Rabdosia calycina. Of the mint family, the flowers are barely 1mm across, covered in minute hairs and with a bubbly texture as though one is aware of each cell that forms the flower. It is the ultimate look-closer flower!
There are many Senecias that flower from late summer through winter – some are substantial creepers, others are weedy herbs. This one, S. decurrens, always looks lovely against the water of the dam below the stone cottage – also known as The House that Jack Built.
Rumex sagittatus or creeping sorrel is another harbinger of autumn. It drapes itself across other plants, usually elegantly but sometimes thuggishly, and its chartreuse flowers quickly fade to papery reddish clusters that look more like seeds than flowers.
I’ve kept this for last, in the hope that inspiration will strike. I’ve searched through all my books, some twice. I thought I knew this flower, was surprised in fact that it didn’t feature in each of them. But nada. Its clusters of powder blue flowers are about 20mm or nearly an inch across, and it likes to thread through other plants near water, so that the flower panicles are spaced wide enough apart for the whole plant to make for a rather featureless photo. I suspect it is of the mint family, but will have to fetch a peace for closer scrutiny. I did not think, photographing it on Sunday afternoon, that identification might be a problem. Any ideas?
Later: “suspect it is of the mint family“… Well if only I’d picked a sprig then to examine… it is the source of the ubiquitous mint smell which you so often get having brushed through the undergrowth. I tasted it – like spearmint. I came back to my books and looked up Mentha… It is M.aquatica, flowering only in Feb-March, but a constant presence. How come I’d never made the connection? And then of course there is that marvellous source of confirmation -a Google Image search… so Mentha.aquatica it is!
March 12, 2010
How time flies! It is a month since I set aside some of these images.
(Sorry. I am obsessed this afternoon with mortality and the passing of time. Really, Frances! To refer to Twiggy as “a long ago willowy British model.” I mean she hit the planet only… what? Over 45 years ago? OMG. I better fetch a whisky. And here I’m trying to avoid mentioning the first autumn leaves are here again. Darn! There I go do it! I’ll make it a stiff one… No wonder mid-March and the sudden arrival AGAIN of autumn leaves in the summer heat has hit me like a sledge-hammer. 45 years, you say? I didn’t even realise I was that old…)
These are Crocosmia paniculata. I remember discovering unexpectedly a clump in full bloom in a pine plantation years ago (don’t think about it, Jack) and immediately making a note to bring them into the garden. It is so strange to find so bright a flower in heavy shade. And the leaves are so luminescently green. The first ones grow (and glow) above a fishbone pyracanthus in the Long Border. The second (I am slightly ashamed to admit) grow in a nondescript area which some might call a compost heap.
They are such distinguished plants – graceful and beautifully coloured and detailed. And like most bright reds, they don’t photograph too well on a digital camera; remember how some blue flowers were always mauve on Kodachrome, before they took my kodachrome away… (Don’t go there, Jack!)
This is Eucomis comosa. It is a particularly fine and robust example growing in an uncultivated area right in the middle of the garden (If you go to the aerial photos, in the elbow between the Beech Borders and Standen Walk. (Or the top right area between the red axis lines; this is where I want to move all my old-fashioned roses to – but I must mark this particular spot before I do any moving!) I was thrilled to see, when I went closer for the photo, that several of its off-spring were flowering around it.
We have several different species of Eucomis growing wild, and in addition we’ve a few improved varieties from which I’ve propagated successfully. But today I’m only looking at recent photos – which reminds me; after today’s walk I realise there must be a follow-up post – to include the orange Crocosmia aurea as well as several other endemic plants in bloom.
Dissotis canescens is also known as the Wild Tibouchina – those from sub-tropical areas will know these glorious flowering trees and shrubs. It is a perennial which grows in marshy areas (the background is the surface of my dam) and the combination of luminescent magenta flowers with rich brick-red calyxes is startlingly beautiful. It is past its prime here, but that is when I love it the most, when the brick-reds dominate.
I was caught by surprise by two clumps of this growing in the Long Border. What was it? And when did I plant it? I knew it was indigenous – somehow – but I am baffled by it history, other than a vague memory of the same thing happening last year. (What, Alzheimers already, you say?) Research seems to indicate that it is Chlorophytum krookianum, closely related to the well-known hen-and-chickens. Known as ‘Reach for the Sky’, its delicate panicles stand over 2m tall. Luckily it doesn’t gallop like the much more diminutive hen-and-chickens, or it would be a real thug! I strongly suspect that these were moved into the Long Border by Phineas or Frans, who found a clump in the veld. I know I didn’t plant them…
I think I’ve saved the best for last. I recently discovered in flower, quite out of season, one single plant in rows of Dierama seedlings in the nursery. Some years ago I planted seeds of white Dierama or Angels Rods; some were from plants growing near mauve ones. These are the first ever flowers – and they are white with the subtlest tinges of mauve about them. I really look forward to next spring to see what they all look like!
March 10, 2010
After a spectacularly bad set of pics taken early this morning (the lens was really dirty!) I went out in the midday heat to recapture my weekly pic. It is of the view that greets visitors as they arrive, but taken looking down the drive rather than up it. The annual bed which featured so regularly in October is now a mass of self-sown zinnias, whereas the middle ground is mainly yellow and blue flowers amongst roses, with the white Japanese anemones really beginning to make a statement in the shade. Mateczka the Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy came out to see what I was up to…
The view from a little further back…
March 8, 2010
I remember from my youth the embankments at road cuttings bedecked with gorgeous white lilies, very similar to St Josephs, but flowering in late summer – February and into March. And then they ended up on the Invasive Aliens list and I was up in arms. There are terrible weeds which are tolerated because they are less noticeable. But this flower, which has a small footprint so that it doesn’t elbow out other plants, and doesn’t collapse in a messy heap over other things, is seen as the enemy for the simple reason that it is SEEN.
And so it gives me great joy to strew the seeds in my meadow, and see every year how more young lilies make a show among the grasses. In many places they are in decline. Because they are now up for grabs by anyone wanting to make a quick buck by selling them by the roadside (remember this is Africa, and a tourist area), their seeds seldom have the chance to germinate. Much more worryingly, the concept of picking wild flowers and selling them to strangers becomes a known source of income – and so arums (calla lilies) and ferns and such like follow…
It is interesting that lilies are mostly considered anything from temperamental to difficult or even impossible to grow in our climates – but over quite a large area Lilium formosanum grows so happily that it has attracted the ire of the greenies and been banned nationally. There I have another gripe: there are such diverse climates in South Africa that a national list of invasive aliens makes no sense.
It comes from the island formally known as Formosa – today Taiwan, and that might explain its love for our area: few lilies come from such warm areas, and the island sits astride the Tropic of Cancer; we are 70km outside the Tropic of Capricorn. Like ours, summers are hot and humid. Yet the climates aren’t too similar. Our winters – when the lilies are dormant – are very much colder. Be it all as it may. These beautiful lilies are proudly known in our area as Haenertsburg lilies – and long may they grace our area!