That is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, not the days of my youth! Or, for the rest of the world: in the 20s Celsius. And had I been up at first light I could have told you if there was little or no frost on this perfect Saturday in winter; but I was not. Smile


Early afternoon I set off to see what I could find to show you our winter colour at Sequoia. In fact we also set off to put flowers and wine in The House that Jack Built for a couple from sub-tropical Tzaneen who wanted a romantic breakaway with a fire tonight. We left pink camellias and white azaleas for them to find; but I did not photograph them.

Japonica 2

Chaenomeles – japonica – always gives joy in late winter, and is just beginning its season. This very plant flowered with the wisteria last year and I hope it will last as long again.


Australian native, Grevillea, also has a long season starting in winter. Because the sunbirds (our version of hummingbirds) love them, I have planted many more during the last years, including one in front of our bedroom window. They are not showy (though might seem so in this close-up), but they are easy and dependable.

Nandina berries

Nandina can always be relied on to provide a show in winter – older plants mainly with their berries and young ones with more spectacular leaf displays, which strictly is simply very late autumn display.

Nandina 3 nandina

Other leaves also impress: one of our local shrubs I have never identified. We simply refer to ‘the little wild shrub with the occasional orange leaf’. But at this time of year they are more than occasionally orange…

Orange-leaved shrub

One year I realised that there were a number of yellow-leaved eucalyptus seedlings growing at a spot along our road. I dug up several, but only one survived. I coppice it every two years to keep it under 4m, and every winter it obliges with its orangey-yellow leaves, which then, like many conifers, turn back to green in the warmer weather. I find it interesting that this broadleaf, which also behaves so much like a conifer in other ways with its quick upright growth, should do this. I know of no others than those from this little patch. Anyone else ever come across something like it?

Eucalyptus with yellow winter leaves

Time for a diversion. When I went into the greenhouse to close up later this afternoon I remembered that there were a few shots I wanted to take there…

Fuhsia in the greenhouse

If there is a symbol of the difference having a place I can keep – through insulation only – over 5 degrees, it is the fact that the fuchsias are blooming in July…

Sweetpeas in pots

Sweetpeas planted into tall pots will be transferred into the Upper Rosemary Border come the Haenertsburg Spring Festival end September to add colour from more than just the ubiquitous azaleas and flowering cherries. Hold thumbs for this one!

Hanging basket in the greenhouse

And then there is this ‘hanging basket cactus’ which a friend gave me; one of the most common  plants of its kind in South Africa and easy to propagate and grow, if kept a little above freezing. But I’ve had a devil of a time putting a name to it. Does anyone know it as Schlumbergera or as Christmas Cactus? Other ideas? …Back into the garden.


The rosemary hedges were buzzing with bees and looking stunning. What a joy they are in winter; correct that: all year! But the great uplifting moment of the day was the sudden intense honey-sweetness of the Buddleja salvifolia. Usually this thrill first hits in early August, so I was doubly excited to smell it today!

Buddleja salvifolia

Recognisably a buddleja from both the flower and the scent, it lacks the stunning colour of B. davidii which is almost a weed in Europe but not so common here, although very easy to grow and to propagate. I have identified and propagated a few which are slightly bluer, or pinker, or have a stronger yellow eye. Mostly, frankly, they are a dirty pale grey; and this is one of the latter.

Budleja salvifolia 1

A scent warm and sensual like that,  coming as it does at the tail-end of winter, can be forgiven anything!


12 thoughts on “MID-WINTER–IN THE 70s!

  1. That looks just like what we call a Christmas cactus here. However, I had one for years that reliably bloomed on my son’s birthday in November, so I called it a Joshua cactus! BTW, it sounds like the young couple staying at the House that Jack Built should have a wonderful get-away. I’m sure they love the flowers and wine!

  2. Christmas Cactus – Friends used to call them, “Zigocactus”, Jack. They were Jehovas Witnesses, and didn’t want to say the word, “Christmas”, so they looked it up and came up with that name.

    • Zygocactus sure looks like it to me, Diana! But then so did Schlumbergera… So I turn to Google and find the following statement: “The term Zygocactus is the name predominant in the plant industry despite what the taxonomists have decreed are now Schlumbergera.” I would say it is quite obvious why Zygocactus is the preferred name… linguistic barbarians, those taxonomists… 🙂

    • Hi there! I suppose you live in a climate where the seasons are less clear than here. Each climate has its advantages and disadvantages – just think of all the wonderful plants you can grow that i don’t even dare try!

  3. Jack, I had no idea that South Africa used Farenheit temperatures, too; I thought it was just the US that refused to modernize. I know that plant as both Christmas Cactus and Schlumbergera — but, like Deb, I find that mine blooms well before Christmas; I think of it as a Halloween Cactus!

    • Jean, we metricated in SA in my early years, so I grew up aware of a dual system. But since statistics prove that nearly 40% of my readers are American, and they can often not relate to Celsius, I aimed the heading at them: I didn’t want people to think I went ice-skating! 😉

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