Who works the hardest in my garden? Nature! That’s why we can manage (well, almost manage) and afford (ditto) 6 hectares (15 acres) of it…

1 Tree ferns at the overflow Case in point: Nothing in this area – the overflow stream of Freddie’s Dam – was planted. Tree ferns germinate readily in vertical ground ‘cliffs’ like this and on the dam walls; over 80 thus in the last 30 years. And slap bang behind the dogs grows a wild calla lily – Zantedeschia aethiopica. A picture of another in flower anon. Ferns and grasses and little wild twiners are all self-sown. There is a small amount of path maintenance here, no more.

2 ferns and Ledebouria cooperi Large parts of the garden are paths cut through the natural vegetation and often the only additional ‘gardening’ is the planting of trees. These paths develop their own ecology and are colonised by low-growing plants. One of these is an indigenous Alchemilla or Lady’s Mantle, seen below; it consoles me when I fail with the exotic Alchemilla mollis.

Alchemilla  Because of our benign mountain climate, natural colonisation happens easily – and unrulies are disciplined by the frosts. It was whilst looking for a path pic that I saw these clumps of leaves and identified the Ledebourias – I think L. cooperi – unfortunately trampled, but they survive and seed perfectly when prone! Notice the ferns colonising the shade beneath an old mother-pine.

3 Ledebouria detail And not too far off, growing on the edge of the stream that feeds our dams, a calla. Or as we call them in Afrikaans: Pigs’ Ears!

4 Zantedeschia aethiopica The flower below, which I bought and planted, is the well known Black-eyed Susan – Thunbergia alata. Traditionally it is a strong but soft orange with the dark eye which gives it its name, a gentle twiner which grows wild in many parts of South Africa including here – although I’ve only once seen one anywhere that was definitely wild. This softer yellow sport became available some 10 years ago and around the world the wonderful modern versions with burnt orange, rusty and other subtle shades of flower have of late become popular. I have a packet of seed waiting to be planted…

5 Thunbergia alata - Black-eyed Susan So you can imagine my surprise some years ago when one of the first wildings I identified turned out to be a relative…

6 Thunbergia natalensis Thunbergia natalensis is also called the Forest Bluebell, and its softest of blue flowers with a yellow throat grow on knee-high perennials in the shade. But when you take a closer look (lower flowers), especially at the balloon-like calyx, the family resemblance becomes clear.

7 Thunbergia natalensis side-onl 8 Thunbergia natalensis detail

St. John’s Worts the world over look remarkably similar: identical flower shapes and colours, similar leaf arrangements… We have two, one of which produces a fleeting spring show of thumb-nail-sized blooms on an equally diminutive plant, and the other which is one of the three main plants in our indigenous scrub. It is never as showy as the garden varieties, but provides a long season of good interest and is beloved by our local creatures, big and small. That is it below on the left, Hypericum revolutum, with whichever of the garden varieties it is we grow on the right. Both photographed yesterday.

9 Hypericum revolutum 10 Garden hypericum

Silene, or Campian,  is another of the international garden flowers that we have a wild version of on Sequoia. I have introduced it into the garden in places. It makes a striking almost-white highlight, but by later in the season its poor breeding shows, when it sprawls drunkenly across whatever is available and needs sobering up. Below is Silene undulata photographed in the wild, together with a garden Silene I first grew from seed 15 years ago which has been with us ever since, often in unexpected places. It was photographed up against the Ellensgate Garden where it currently makes a pleasing composition with two shades of Nicotiana alata and some miniature agapanthus. Sometimes the glorious deep pink (and the scent!) of the Bourbon rose ‘Mme Isaac Pereire’ is part of this composition. Today we need to be satisfied with the memory of its spent blooms.

12 Silene undulata 13 Garden Silene

14 Ellensgate entrance Sigh. I really should have swept the paving before signing my name to it…

Lastly, we grow wild the species form of that most popular of garden flowers, the Trailing Lobelia – Lobelia erinus. Although never as dense ad impressive as the hybridised versions, its tiny blue flowers act like a magnet in the vast expanse of the wild garden, bringing the photographer to his knees, and the dogs with their big clumsy feet running…

15 Lobelia erinus 16 Lobelia erinus

17 Lobelia erinusThis post on the wild flowers with garden relatives that grow on Sequoia was inspired by Wildflower Wednesday, a garden-blogging-world-wide reminder once a month that flowers are not the creation of man… Thank you, Gail, of  Clay and Limestone for starting the push!


2 thoughts on “MAKE NATURE WORK!

  1. Dear Jack, How wonderful to have self sown Tree Ferns and Zantedeschia. These are such elegant plants and would grace any garden, but, for me, have proved very tricky to keep alive at all. I certainly agree that with 15 acres to manage, having Nature’s helping hand is a very good thing indeed!! But, how obliging that she should give the gift of Tree Ferns!!

  2. Dear Edith, Welcome to Sequoia Gardens! We are indeed fortunate here. I often wonder if I would have become a gardener had it not been for our encouraging climate and setting!

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