Loose ends, but not at a loose end

Blue & Yellow

Interesting stats at the moment… I have most likely never published as few posts per week as I have over the last three months. I have had fewer comments posted than ever. I have posted very few comments on other’s blogs. Blotanical is right off my radar. Yet Feb 2012 has seen the highest number of visitors per day to my site since I started blogging in July 2009. Why? Bleak winter weather in the North? Could be – I’ve noticed that my viewership peaks in Jan-March, but ‘soared‘ rather than ‘peaked’ would be the right word this year. More potential business? Could be, as I advertise the open garden and the holiday accommodation much more intensely these days – yet not many people leave the sort of trace that I can recognise ‘business’ visitors by, such as clicking on the ‘visit/stay’ page… Be that all as it may, the above pic with its blue and yellow (daylily) was a composition that reminded me of one of my few remaining regular blogging correspondents, Jean from Jean’s Garden, and thus I dedicate this photo – as well as my interest in the academics of blogging – to you, Jean.

Haenertsburg lilies

In my previous post I spoke of the Haenertsburg Lilies, Lilium formosanum; last weekend a couple planned their wedding in my garden to coincide with the lilies. An interesting wedding, where the guests were to bring their own picnic baskets and the setting was all. Unfortunately an almighty shower in the early hours of Saturday, followed by what looked like set-in heavy rain, made them move the venue back to Polokwane, 60km away, were they and most of their guests come from. By 10am the sun was shining and the roads passable… But no-one would have guessed that at 8… They were back to spend their wedding night in the cottage, and they will be back to take the ‘official’ pictures.  The above photo, taken from the veranda of The House that Jack Built, is dedicated to Amrian & Liebie.

The enemy

Now this is random. I was photographing some of the various wild flowers for next week’s Wild Flower Wednesday and decided to include these grasses. But then I saw The Enemy – and include it here. You might recall my letting off steam last week about horrid invaders that are not on lists whilst the beautiful Haenertsburg Lilies are. Well, I was specifically referring to the plant just to the left of the grasses, known in our family as The Enemy. It is Conyza albida, also known as C. sumatrensis and commonly as fleabane – although there are garden-worthy asters that also go by that name. So potent is it, that it can shoot up from near invisibility to this flowering stage in only a few days. What is more, a plant pulled out at this stage (luckily quite an easy action) needs to have its flowers stripped off, otherwise the buds will go to seed on the dying stem!

Ginger 1

Change of mood. Something bright for the northern winters again. The Ginger lily – Hedychium gardnerianum – is considered one of the really bad invaders, despite its beauty and scent. I have seen how in frost-free areas just a few kilometres away it spreads wildly. But here they get frosted to the ground every year before the seeds are ripe, and so I allow them in controlled garden conditions. Their leaves are lovely and their rather untidy flowers form beautiful heads of orange and soft yellow.

Ginger 2

It is a while since I posted dedicated dog pics. Here Louis is playing with Mateczka, teasing her with a length of bluegum bark off the big tree.

Louis & Mateczka 1 Louis & Mateczka 2
Louis & Mateczka 3 Louis & Mateczka 4

The canna beds were recently replanted and their varied leaves form the first layer across the water in the view towards the big house. I love the massed effect of their dramatic leaves that lasts all summer. Mateczka loves the rustling sound they make when she charges through them. Ouch! That doesn’t make for good dog discipline…

Reflection of house

On the home stretch of an afternoon walk I look up to see my favourite plant combination in the whole garden catching the late light. Besides: the gate after which Ellensgate is named has recently been cleaned up, the golden abelia hedge is trimmed and Monty is striking a pose…


Here it is in close up: the junipers that frame the top of the axis path are desperately in need of trimming, perhaps even replacing with young cutting-grown specimens. They are too big now… I have just gone through my books and I am pretty certain that what I have is a species form of Juniperus squamata. It is not blue enough to be the form ‘Meyeri’, but there is a definite blue tinge to the foliage. It grows with Berberis thunbrgii ‘Rose Glow’.

Ellensgate 2

When the planting was still very young I discovered somewhere in a rustic nursery a particularly fine form of what is sold in South Africa as ‘Prunus nigra’, regardless of the detail of leaf or flower colour. More correctly, I guess, because no-one has made this clear to me, it should be classified as Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra group’ as there are pink and white flowered forms in various sizes, but all are of the earliest blossomers. It was simply through growing them myself that I became aware that they differed greatly, and I started looking out for special examples. Which this one was. The leaves seemed thinner and more delicate, so that their claret colour had a translucent glow, very different from the lugubrious darkness of some examples. I planted it hopelessly too close between the juniper and the berberis. However the scale has always been perfect, and it has always remained a small shrub in ideal proportion to the berberis.


The above photo was taken in November 2006 (which proves how long this has been a favourite composition!) The photo below follows on the upper ones and illustrates a remarkable quality of this prunus: as summer progresses and the leaves thicken, they gradually take on a bluish tinge which relates them more closely to the juniper than the berberis.

Ellensgate 3

At a later stage I added one of the Abelias introduced a few years ago – when I snoop around Google Images the name Abelia x grandiflora ‘Confetti’ rings a bell. (I know it is not ‘Harlequin’, which I have yet to try…) It adds further interesting leaf colour and foreground stature to the composition (see the first two pictures), but it is the threesome which represents my idea of a perfect foliage mix!


9 thoughts on “Loose ends, but not at a loose end

  1. Jack, How nice to open your blog today and find not only a lovely yellow and blue composition, but find that you’ve dedicated it to me! That was very sweet of you. What is the blue flower with the yellow daylily? I love the soft yellow of the ginger lily.

    Your reference to the academics of blogging makes me realize how completely I’ve been neglecting that research this year. I got out of touch with it during a fall semester that might reasonably be described as hellish; now that things have calmed down, it’s time for me to get back to it.

    Enjoy your summer days; we’re starting to see some hints of spring in southern Pennsylvania.

    • Hi Jean. The blue flowers belong to Ceratostigma willmottianum, Chinese Plumbago. It has a particularly lovely, slightly twirly look about its thin stems and small leaves, and through the second half of summer carries flowers of the most beautiful blue. They are seldom seen in vast quantities. It is one of those low-key shrubs that reward careful study, and is dead-easy in my climate.

  2. Blog stats are curious. There is that frustrating/rewarding quirk that when you don’t post for a week – the stats climb. Why? Are the regular readers coming back again, to make SURE you haven’t put up a new post? Who knows. My stats tipped to over a hundred readers a day, with just the one weekly post.

    I have to really on summer’s heat and drought and gardener’s instincts to control the invasives.

    • How strange Diana – I found your comment amongst the spam, which i check through once in a blue moon to see if anything is being misdirected there… at one stage all of Jean’s comments went there… %~(

  3. ‘Confetti’ abelia is another plant we have in common, on different continents. It is a lovely plant, though mine has lost a lot of the variegation that attracted me to it originally. I also think your foliage combinations are beautiful. No doubt that is just one of the things that attracted the young couple that wanted to get maried in your beautiful setting. Recently my husband and I were discussing having weddings at our place, but I think it really is much too small. But I like the idea!

    • Debs, I am terrified of weddings. I said to them “As long as I don’t have to deal with mothers-in-law or caterers!” Which, it so happens, dove-tailed perfectly with their own ideas…

      Prune your ‘Confetti’ quite severely and you will find the new leaves back to what you want. It seems characteristic of all the ‘fancy’ abelias that pruning brings out their richness.

  4. Am always impressed Jack with the studious way you think aloud as you take virtual visitors on a tour of the garden. Giving us your considered wisdoms of planting schemes and balancing it all with images of pure beauty, fun and relaxation (which is what a garden is for)
    p.s. magical reflection of house in water especially as so much further away .
    p.p.s. any plant with bane in the name is surely destined to be considered a blight!

    • Thank you, Lady Laura 😉
      ‘Bane’ means poison, but ‘bane of my life’ makes me share the blight association. Not simplified by the fact that a well-known farmer and horticulturist in our area’s surname is Blight… Talk about Doctor Death!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s