A visit to the Fairest Cape – and a frosty welcome back home

panorama of Table Mountain

OK, fine. This is a gardening blog with a ‘come stay in my cottages’ slant. The fact that I’ve just spent several days in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, staying in an apartment overlooking that city’s icon, really is not important. So forgive me if it keeps creeping in to my conversation. The above panorama I took leaning out of the sliding doors soon after waking on my first morning there, in order to get the full 180 degrees in-your-face of Table Mountain…

Stellenbosch - Jonkershoek Valley

On a visit to a beautiful tea-garden in the Jonkershoek Valley above Stellenbosch I took this photograph… but to what extent was it the similarities with home that inspired me? Although this opposite view is very different to anything OUR mountain can offer!

Jonkershoek mountains

We went up Table Mountain on a perfect day. I deliberately avoided taking too many pics. And the one I choose to share with you I took back down in the road, right next to where our car was parked. It is one of the many beautiful proteas that grow on Table Mountain.

We returned home after dark on Thursday. And woke to a surprise. I had forgotten that our neighbour’s gum plantation was being cut down… We had dreaded the day, but our row of big gums now breaks the sheer expanse of the devastation beyond. This was the surprise as I opened the front door on Friday morning…

Gums down

I mark the end of autumn on 15 May. Anything after that is a bonus. And so it should not surprise me that the composition is suddenly wintery on the morning of 18 May… But winter has its flowers too and the early aloes usually get to flower before the frosts get too heavy.

First aloes

The Japanese Maple on the edge of the lawn was originally chosen for its rich colour which lasts well beyond most others. As it has grown it has not disappointed, and it ensures that autumn lingers.

Autumn maples and beech

The bare ground to the right is the top end of the Mothers’ Garden, which has lain fallow all summer. Come spring we need to at least plant the hedges…

Japanese maple

This morning there was a light frost. And as I set off on this afternoon’s walk I suddenly realised: that frost had been the first. The striped zinnias (about which I posted here) which yesterday were still flowering bravely were now browned. And from there on I kept seeing more signs of frost damage. Then whilst photographing the damage to the canna below there was a crash and a huge branch broke out of the biggest gum across the Makou Dam and fell to the ground. I have only known such things to happen on hot, still afternoons following on either heavy rain or great swings in temperature. When I got there I saw it was – before shattering – over 8m (yards) long and as thick as my thigh at its thick end. I was pleased to not have started my walk 10 minutes earlier…

Flesh coloured canna after frost

Strange how I set off to photograph the end of autumn, but kept feeling I was capturing the beginning of winter… Here is the view from the Makou Dam’s wall.


On Thursday whilst we were on our way back from Cape Town the local garden club paid a visit. I’ve received many compliments, but I do hope they experienced something slightly more like autumn! This is the view this afternoon from the bridge across Freddie’s Dam.

Freddie's Dam

As I walked I regretted not being here for the end of autumn, and thought of the Fairest Cape where I had been instead. The cable-way climbs from the station in this picture, taken from our window, to the pimple up on the top of the mountain. The elevation there is just over 1000m – and the see at its closest point can not be much more than 1000m away!

I thought of the trawler which in a bizarre accident was stranded last week at Clifton, one of the world’s most exclusive stretches of beach, and the words of one of the men involved in successfully towing it back to sea yesterday without any environmental mishaps… “that is the most beautiful empty space I have ever seen!” (Watch the video as the ship comes free here.)

I stood at the Cottage Garden at The house that Jack Built and I thought of the flight home across our vast and rugged country; of endless mountain ranges and valleys; of empty plains where there was hardly a homestead to be seen in the semi-desert; of rivers and huge circular patterns of irrigated lands, and of not reading one paragraph between take-off and landing as I stared out the window … and then I turned to my own piece of  paradise, and was pleased to be home.



2 thoughts on “A visit to the Fairest Cape – and a frosty welcome back home

  1. Once again, wonderful pictures, Jack! S.A. really IS a beautiful country, and you are lucky to live there. But isn’t it always wonderful to be home again? I know that I always feel that way, too – especially when I’ve been out of the country!

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