I am staying with my cousin and his family whilst on business in the beautifully green subtropical to warm-temperate climate of Kwazulu-Natal. His wife describes gardening here as being more about what you take out than what you put in, for everything grows here. One of the schools I visited, Kearsney College, just up the hill from them, has the most magnificent avenue of plane trees I’ve ever seen outside of a London park. Yet a myriad tropical and subtropical plants also thrive here. In Pietermaritzburg yesterday, on the more temperate end of the scale, I saw a glorious pink Pride of India (Lagerstroemia indica, Crepe Myrtle) intertwined with a purple Tibouchina granulosa.
My cousins live in a beautifully restored old stone farmhouse against Botha’s Hill, and one of the most ubiquitous plants in modern South African gardens is doing nicely as standards against the veranda – Duranta repens. Often the yellow-leaved variety ‘Sheena’s Gold’ is grown for topiarising, but this variety has the plain green leaf but larger white-edged flowers, and is as continuously in bloom as the less showy parent, which has not only lovely blue flowers, but also showy yellow berries. I don’t think I’ve yet seen berries on these – a sterile hybrid or clone perhaps?
The garden is over 60 years old and contains magnificent stone work, covered in lichens and mosses and opportunistic ferns and other plants.
A curved stone wall backed by terraces lies to the right of the lawn in front of the house. Here a magnificent begonia, a fuchsia and hydrangeas share space with various plants of a more tropical nature – just to the right of this shot a dracaena grows! Stately palms frame the backdrop to this wall.
Here is a close-up of the begonia, growing more luxuriously than any I have ever seen!
Bromeliads are another more tropical plant I am barely familiar with. This orange version has multiplied over the years and there are a vast number in the garden. Below is a red species, growing with a plant that is native on Sequoia too: Crocosmia aurea. In fact it is growing with a wide variety of other plants, including a plentiful maiden hair fern, and this photo gives an impression of just how lush this garden is, and what my cousin meant in her opening statement!
A complete surprise was finding a lovely soft pink Japanese Anemone growing in the garden. I know it exists, but have only seen the glorious white ‘Honorine Joubert’ and the over-saturated deep-pink (‘Prince Heinrich’?) versions in South Africa. This one is a soft pink and I will be back to beg a piece when next I am here; this time round I am away from home for another 3 1/2 weeks. But wait: I think I am hatching a plan for a nursemaid…!
One last picture, and an effect I love: a daylily (Hemerocallis) of the softest butter yellow seen against a checkerboard of stone and lawn. My cousin moans about her garden; I hope this tribute makes her see it in a new light!