midsummer shadows

After plenty of cloud cover, the sun has been shining a lot more of late, and on yesterday’s walk I was photographing in the golden light when I suddenly realised: our dinner guests were due in 5 minutes and I was  still on the opposite side of the valley… Today it was the midday shadows in the plantations that caught my eye. But then 12.07 noon on 21 December and 51km south of the Tropic of Capricorn (I know, I’ve just measured it on Google Earth) is about as close to the sun directly overhead as one is likely to get. Thus the above photo. And the one below.

Golden hour

Sunday morning – and last night was the shortest night of the year. Another perfect day today, as was yesterday, with a lingering sunset from friends’ west-facing terrace followed by a starry starry night. All of which is represented by this orange dahlia:

Orange dahlia

Seen here against my favourite foliage combination which has featured so often over the years…

Orange dahlia against my favourite foliage

Everywhere there are signs of the garden recovering after the hail, with the first roses in Trudi’s Garden starting to flower again, covered in buds and healthy foliage.

Trudi's Garden

The bank of hydrangeas in front of the old barn, knocked to bits by the hail, is flowering, although the flowers are not the huge heads of a really good year.

Hydrangeas  after the hail 10 Nov Hydrangeas recovering

Plants I considered discarding are recovering and soon will be ready for reconstructive surgery.

stripy accent plant

But the poor tree ferns will continue to look like well-used feather dusters this summer, although a little judicious pruning won’t do any harm!

Battered tree fern

High summer is the time of green. After plenty of gentle rain and lots of TLC from my wonderful staff, the last few walks were ripe with  the fullness of summer.

Beech Borders

Willow at the Lily pond

Freddie's dam panorama from wall

Almost natural - ouhout and grass and a few planted shrubs

Vitis vinifera

Vitis vinifera detail

The House that Jack Built reflected

Blue window, blue hydrangeas


Big House across dam

Most beautiful of all the greens is a particularly green Gladiolus dalenii, our local wild gladiolus which tends to greenishness; I have over the years selected plants which stress the green, or are more brightly mottled red.

Green Gladiolus dalenii Green Gladiolus dalenii 2

I just love the limey greens of this plant, and the subtle contrast with the flower stalk.

Green Gladiolus dalenii 3

Here is one of the redder plants.

gladiolus dalenii  redder Redder gladiolus dalenii 3

Redder gladiolus dalenii 2

I can’t resist one last detail from this plant. Then I post, and go off on my Sunday afternoon walk. There are plenty more pics from the last days clamouring for a post…

Redder gladiolus dalenii 4




Ellensgate Garden

I was planning a post on our wild flowers to slot in with the celebration of Wildflower Wednesday and have been saving suitable pics for days – it being high summer and wild flowers plentiful. But my own recent writing has prompted thought on the subject (see my nature/nurture pic on my previous post) and as a direct result of that  post I discovered http://thinkinGardens.co.uk This is a fascinating forum for serious talk about gardening and why we do it; about gardening as art, or at least as highly conscious construction.

Ellensgate Garden detail

This morning when I stuck my head across the gate of the Ellensgate Garden it struck me, not for the first time but more forcibly than before, that this most considered and contrived of my gardens had shown me a toffee and done its own thing – rather spectacularly well. What is more, self-sown wildings like the ferns, the mass of Gladiolus dalenii and the yellow arum, Zantedeschia albomaculata contribute substantially to this mutiny. As do the mosses and lichen on the very expensive sandstone trimmings from 800km away I commissioned – even if they now might just as well be cast concrete…

Ellensgate Garden detail 2 Zantedeschia albomaculata

The Ellensgate Garden  was the first development along the new axis from the front door. I started on it in 1996. It came to be because my father acquired the gate made by his father for their family home back in the 30s – read more about it here and follow the link given for full explanations of the material used etc. That original description, first used on a gardening forum nearly 10 years ago, makes for amusing reading against the backdrop of my present plight – is this carefully designed and built garden all about control? Is it the living abandon within the framework of control that makes it a success or a failure? Is what we are witnessing now simply the result of neglect? And then we can ramble on to the ethical/aesthetic debate around “can a garden which is the result of neglect even be considered to be a ‘good’ garden?” And as every gardener knows, that question leads on to all sorts of issues like the passing of time and the need for maintenance, which are like frame and wall to a painting…

Under the Ouhout

You see, the above is to my mind one of the most successful parts of my garden. Snag is that the only human intervention here has been the removal of some dead branches every few years. The trees were planted by nature. So were the grasses and the creeper. All natural, indigenous, endemic, native. Does that mean that it is not a garden? Or that I am such a poor gardener that I can’t compete with something so totally random?

Wild yellow daisy

What if I told you that the deepest joy of my gardening is these random incidents? The moments where Nature says – so it seems to me – ‘well done, Jack, and as a reward I will give you this as well!’ Witness these wild daisies in the arboretum growing, you guessed it, amongst wild grasses and other wild plants but against a backdrop of highly exotic camellias.

Wild yellow daisy detail

Here it is in close-up: Berkeya setifera, called Buffalo Tongue because of its large rough leaves…

Lobelia and agapanthus

Of course it is easy for me in our mountain’s kind climate with its varied flora to call on nature to contribute… The garden lobelia in the pot and the agapanthus beyond are close relatives of our wildings.

16 Lobelia erinus

This is Lobelia erinus, the species of the garden hybrid, photographed growing wild on the farm; individually possibly more beautiful, but not as floriferous as the garden hybrids.

Agapanthus inapertus

And here, planted in the narrow bed up against Alfred’s Arches and raised from seed from a wilding on the farm, is Agapanthus inapertus, a different species from those most garden Agapanthus hybrids originate from.

Crinum & Agapanthus inapertus

Above, the same two flower heads, photographed a few days earlier from the opposite side, together with possibly our most spectacular wilding, Crinum macowanii, seen in more detail below.


Of course not all the wildings are spectacular. The two flowers below are each no bigger than a finger nail, the yellow Hypoxis hiding in rough lawn and the blue Wahlenbergia floating inches above it on thin stems.

Hypoxis Wahlenbergia

Some are little more than weeds. Weeds? Ah, there too is a whole argument. Rephrase: some are so fleeting in flower and willing in seed that they have no garden value, tend to spread, and have value only as sudden little incidents in the wilder parts of the garden. Ergo, the kind of flowers I love. The flowers of Vernonia, below, are a case in point, especially in a strongly coloured example such as this one, seen against a little fern. Ferns too are worth an investigation on their own…


I have told the story before of how, on a tour to Sissinghurst, I was first attracted to Phygelius. ‘Don’t you know it?’ asked a lady on the tour, ‘It is from South Africa!’ I didn’t explain that just because one came from Washington DC it meant one knew the president. But I remembered the flower.

Phygelius aequalis

To my absolute surprise I discovered huge sheets of it just below Freddie’s Dam’s wall on my return to South Africa. But one needs to wade through the marches to get to see it in close-up. Which is well worth doing.

Phygelius detail

It took me another 15 years to strike a cutting, and that has been languishing for over a year on my kitchen window sill. That is the kind of sharing of one’s inadequacies which leads to angst – or perhaps stills it. (Never mind; I’m not nearly as angst-ridden as you might suspect. Winking smile) However it does reopen the debate about neglect and good gardening… Change the subject.

Samaria irrigation dams

We move further and further away from Wildflower Wednesday, and I have been away overnight to my cousins on Samaria near Mapungubwe – see this post which tells more about Samaria and links in to many of my other current thoughts. It was hot – night-time minimums equalling day-time maximums in less extreme parts of the country during last week’s heat-wave. And I want to share just one plant from this visit: an indigenous plant but considered a pest by many farmers; its English name, Devil’s Thorn, gives just one reason. The seed has vicious prickles. I have more than once had it go right through the sole of a shoe into my foot!


My sister tells of arriving in the arid city of Windhoek as a young woman. Dotted around her sandy ‘garden’ were the prettiest yellow flowers. So she dug them up and planted them on either side of her concrete entrance path. She wondered why the neighbour looked at her strangely. Until the seeds developed and she understood…


Sticking to the joys of wildings, I am pleased to report the survival of an attack by baboons (which you can read about here) of the Eulophia orchid. Here is its first flower of the season, on the only stalk. Not as robust as before, but alive!

Blue Thunbergia 4

I end this post, written over several days, with a reference to one of our quieter but more pervasive wildings, a flower that grows on you with close scrutiny – Thunbergia natalensis: a perfect example of the charms of a wilding as expressed by gardeners around the world on Wildflower Wednesday, a monthly post initiated by Gail of ‘Clay and Limestone’.


Gladiolus densiflorus

I could start this post in many ways – but there is nothing like the wow-factor to get you reading… So let me introduce you to this beauty: it is Gladiolus densiflorus.

It is one of many plants I wish to touch on in this post, my contribution to Wildflower Wednesday, a monthly look by garden bloggers around the world at those plants which are native to their immediate area, started by Gail of Clay and Limestone several years ago.

Self-sown Tree ferns

I suddenly became aware again a few days back of a truth I’d come to take for granted: I grew to love gardening on this farm because everything grows so harmoniously here. Many years ago I walked through the young ‘garden’ with a friend, very much a city boy, who could not believe the scale and assumed every bit was considered and conceived, planned and planted. “Surely THIS you planted!” he would exclaim, pointing at three species with minute flowers and a small-leaved groundcover growing on a path which curved amongst grasses and ferns. “No,” I’d say, “we only mowed a path through the existing growth, which caused other plants to dominate in the more open habitat.” My mother once described it as a scarless world, and that sums up the way in which it was possible to gently expand the human presence without pushing nature aside.


Even the big lawn consists of grasses – and other greens! – that grow wild here, although other areas are kikuyu – a thuggish (exotic) grass which is by far the most popular lawn grass in most of South Africa. It was originally planted here back in the 40s and 50s as pasture for the mules used in the early days of timber-farming, and keeping it from spreading insidiously has been one of the on-going tasks in the garden. The picture above regular readers will recognise: the stand of Ouhout (literally ‘old wood’) trees – Leucosidea sericea – with a wild evergreen grass and other plants beneath it: all entirely the work of nature, with no more than the  judicious removal of dead wood every few years by us. And one of the most beautiful spots in the whole garden… for 12 months of the year! In the photo above that you can see the mixed growth along a low cutting that first gave me the theme for this post: self-sown tree-ferns are becoming fine specimens, and an assortment of wild flowers, grasses, ferns and shrubs partial to conditions here have made this their happy home – all with minimal interference by us.


In many areas velvety mosses have covered bare earth – either because nothing much grows there, or because we have consciously kept the ground clear to encourage them, such as in the Japanese Walk where seven years on there is now sufficiently shade on the ground for my vision to start becoming a reality…

Japanese Walk

But this is all about wildFLOWER Wednesday, so let’s see what is blooming…


The rustic fence at the main entrance from the dirt road frames a lovely composition in blue and yellow – the blues appearing paler on film than in reality. The blue featured recently in a post: it is Wahlenbergia undulata, known locally as a ‘Bluebell’ ; the yellow is Hawkweed (Taraxacum officinale, and officially an exotic weed, but I claim it as one of our loveliest wild flowers…) and another smaller yellow daisy – one of the ubiquitous yellow daisies that we so easily just dismiss as weeds – possibly one of the many Senecio species.

Wahlenbergia undulata Yellow weedy daisy - senecio

Small flowers abound, and many I have had great trouble trying to identify. The next two might or might not be species of Selago or Tetraselago; I tend to think not. It is frustrating, but does not detract from the subtle beauty of these late-summer bloomers with their heads of minute flowers, each only about 3mm across.

Blue panicle

Blue panicle2

Blue panicle 3

There is a white flower too, almost certainly the same species.

White panicle

White panicle 2

We have our own indigenous knotweed, or Persicaria, P. attenuata I think it is; it might not be as attractive as some of the species I have seen in English gardens, but it does have the added value of being used to treat venereal diseases… Doctrine of Signatures, perhaps??

Our knotweed2

Something much more dramatic. In the fading light (and shot by flash) I come upon Crocosmia aurea just breaking bud. I have never noticed it like this before.

Crocosmia aurea

Immediately I think of the stock description of our other native, Crocosmia paniculata:  “inflorescence zigzagging, each zigzag ending in a flower.” Can I still find paniculata in flower to show this, although one can also see it from the swelling seeds on the stalk? They flower a little earlier. Ah yes. Here it is.

Crocosmia paniculata

On a walk I get to my hedgerow – a mixed planting, dense, forming a rough hedge, in honour of England, in memory of a specific walk in Gloucestershire some seven years ago… There is nothing remotely indigenous in this view…

Standen Walk

Standen Walk (besides the inherent paradox in the words) I named after Philip Webb’s Arts & Crafts home in West Sussex, where I saw one of the most magnificent garden features of my entire 1995 pilgrimage: a long narrow walk with a shrub border on one side and on the other, beyond a low parapet wall, a long view over  a meadow and across a valley. You can see it on one of those 360 degree thingies over here. In miniature I have something similar in Standen Walk. And the plants all come from Europe, and North America, and the East… Yet I heard, coming from an equally exotic conifer, the screechy hiss of one of South Africa’s most iconic birds. I’d heard it there the previous day too. What was this lover of afromontane forest doing in an exotic conifer?

Knysna Loerie

The Knysna Loerie – or Turaco as we are now encouraged  forced to call it – is an elegantly shaped and marked green bird, with bright red on its wings, pictured here in what is simply known as ‘Roberts’ – the bible of Southern African bird books. Like so many beautiful birds, its assorted calls are harsh, ugly. For years I hardly ever saw or even heard it in our gardens. Now, due to the many exotics here, it is resident. May I include it amongst the wild beauties in this post?

Hedgerow rose

Was it after the heps of this rose in the hedgerow? Was it after the pyracantha berries below? Who knows. It was there, and it had not been there. I believe in the value of judicious planting of exotics. I rest my case.


I circle and flush the bird and  manage a shot. It is blurred, without detail, but the shape is unmistakeable…

Knysna turaco

And so, in the glow of a summer evening, we make our way home.

But wait. I have not yet showed you all my shots of Gladiolus densiflorus. It is after all my subject for Wildflower Wednesday. My first memory of it is of a tighly packed double row of almost grey flowers. It was in neatness that its beauty lay. Densiflorus is an apt name, and nowhere clearer than in the elegant spike of developing flowers.

Gladiolus densiflorus in bud Gladiolus densiflorus flower spike

I have never deliberately grown these in the garden, although I am planning to harvest seed this year. Like so many of the wildings, the flower is small (each about the size of a thumbnail), but more importantly: their season is fleeting and their charm increases tenfold when come across unexpectedly in their season. And so, as I often do throughout the year, on a walk I will ask myself: ‘I wonder if xyz is flowering yet?’ And watching out for it adds immeasurably to the pleasure of a walk… As does finding it.

Gladiolus densiflorus side view Gladiolus densiflorus stand at entrance

gladiolus densiflorus close up

OK. We were returning home in the glow of a summer evening, tra-la…

It is a good time to sit on the stoep – veranda – with a drink and watch the colour drain from the world, and then slowly from the sky. Besides which: on two occasions this week five very indigenous Woolly-necked Storks (I posted about them here) soared in in the gloaming and settled with utmost grace in our very exotic big bluegum tree…



Agapanthus inapertus - study in blue

I promised a post on a spot nearby where the Agapanthus inapertus flower in sheets at this time of year. Here it is.

Massed Agapanthus inapertus

I am cheating a little, for these pics are five years old. I was there last week and realised I needed to return in thick jeans and gumboots, due to the brambles and the dampness of this marshy area – and when eventually I do that, it might be too late. Besides: these are of the loveliest photos I ever took!

In a marshy area - a huge field of Agapanthus inapertus

You can read more about Agapanthus inapertus, which calls ‘Here am I!’ so elegantly at this time of year, over here.  Its hanging, tubular flowers are different from all other agapanthus, and its deciduous nature is unusual.

Agapanthus inapertus is unusual in that the open flowers hang down

The depth of blue varies, but most are a particularly lovely, deep shade.

Agapanthus inapertus is of the deepest blue of all agapanthus

A clump in my garden is flowering beautifully, creating a foreground through which to view Alfred’s Arches from the top terrace.

Looking through agapanthus inapertus towards Alfred's Arches

With a bit of imagination you can see in the above pic some more of them along Alfred’s Arches, amongst the rudbeckias. Here they are from close by.

Alfred's Arches with rudbeckia and agapanthus inapertus

All of these we grew from seed collected off wildings in the garden. I think we should do so again – even if it takes several years for a clump to develop its full potential!

In need of TLC

I awake in the middle of the night, without reason, and gradually descend into an anxiety attack, something which happens to me much less often than it ought to. So I get up and write this.

The water spout 

A visitor to my garden, someone I know and would have thought to  – literally and figuratively – understand the bigger picture, told me during the week that my garden was in need of TLC. I looked at her blankly. “There are pots with nothing in them,” she explained. I looked her in the eye, struck her off my list, and said flatly before moving on: “What you see is what you get.”

in need of TLC

The pots do not have nothing in them. They have weeds. Which ironically makes them a lot emptier. And the dustbin lid which for eight years covered the dustbin reservoir beneath the water spout, still lingers longingly from a prime position. At the end of the festival week it is still there, although she did not mention it. What you see, lady, is what you get.

The Italian Pot and Rosemary Terrace

What I see is the opposite of her statement. When I popped home from school unexpectedly midweek I saw four people sitting on the bottom end of the big lawn, weeding out my beloved yellow gazanias from the turf. Lucas, my foreman, is a much neater person than I am, and clearly he is working towards having a perfect lawn. The fact that I would consider strimming the grass up against the wall on  the Rosemary Terrace of higher priority is not important. Truth be told, there is a whole team giving the garden TLC. And when one considers that no matter how you argue things, most of them earn a pittance and are pleased for a job, their TLC is to be very highly prized.

Breath deeply.

Ouhout forest

The Ouhout Forest is the most natural and possibly the most beautiful part of the garden. Self-sown trees and grasses, all in their natural environment. But even here a judicious pruning out (again) of dead branches and twigs will be an improvement. We will get there.

garden at Croft Cottage

During autumn Lucas planted up a corner of raw earth at the recently completed Croft Cottage. I wondered if it would survive the winter. Last week the first ever visitors were greeted by a charming display of red, blue and lilac annuals and perennials. There’s TLC for you.

First rose in New Old Rose Garden to bloom - Pink Grootendorst Rosa hugonis,- first to flower


The first roses are blooming in the New Old Rose Garden, to where my staff transplanted 125 out-of-ground roses and some 75 bagged seedlings and cuttings in late winter. There’s TLC for you. (They are, for the record and the curious, ‘Pink Grootendorst’, a rugosa as the thorny twigs show, and Rosa hugonis, always the first to bloom.)

Bench which will overlook the Mothers' Garden

Whilst we installed and fine-tuned the irrigation system, they watered all these roses daily with a hand-held hose. At least 90% will survive the move. There’s TLC for you.

Freddy's Dam

They have managed the edge of the Makou Dam – so unobtrusively that I barely notice a difference, so well that for the first time in several years I saw not one, but five Iris sibirica in bloom this spring. I thought we had lost them! There’s TLC for you…

Iris sibirica and Cyathea dregei

And so it is  to my staff  I dedicate this photo of Mateczka, my closest garden-walk companion, an unfurling tree fern, Cyathea dregei, and a Siberian Iris. And to you, lady, with all my love (take a deep breath): a basket of raspberries !


Phygelius below Freddy's Dam

Three weeks ago I carefully made my gumbooted way through the marshy ground below Freddy’s dam to take this photo – and to collect material for cuttings, now growing on happily outside the back door. They are the first cuttings I’ve ever taken of this wild flower, despite knowing it strikes easily, and despite wishing to do so for nearly sixteen years. And thereby hangs a tale…

Phygelius aequalis

Any guesses as to what it is? (And I’m not talking of the yellow flower which is so clearly a St. John’s Wort, one of two species that grow wild on Sequoia!)

Yes. It is Phygelius aequalis – together with a Cape native that tends to yellower shades, P. capensis, it is the parent of the great many popular Phygelius hybrids available around the world today. All of which I knew nothing of that perfect July morning in 1995 when, on a group visit to Sissinghurst, I stooped to admire the strangely dull pink tubes of a very attractive flower –  and discovered that inside the tubes  were brightly coloured! “What is this?” I exclaimed and one of my fellow tourists laughed and said “But you are from South Africa – don’t you know Phygelius?” I said I did not, and took the following photo – shared here with you thanks to the  technological wonders enabling the scanning and editing of old slides – complete with a bit of Sissinghurst brick in the background!

Phygelius at Sissinghurst

It must have been six months later that a shower of pink flowers below Freddy’s dam wall, which I had never noticed before, attracted my attention. I investigated. They were Phygelius! Never since has the show been as impressive, but every year I notice them, and promise myself to take cuttings of the rather lank and dull plants, if only to be able more easily to tell the story to visitors. Last spring for the first time I got to buy five glorious hybrids from a local grower who is introducing them to South Africa. I planted them near Rosa mutabilis with which, in all its shades, they form a splendid match; but never yet have I managed to photograph them together. I think one of these cuttings should join them.

What was that about a prophet in his own land…? And I speak of Phygelius, most definitely, and not of myself. Winking smile

This post is dedicated to Gail of Clay and Limestone who started us all blogging about our wild flowers on Wildflower Wednesday, the fourth  Wednesday of every month. Hail to thee, O Gail, from The Fool in the Veldt!


1 In the pine plantation

Hurry, this will be a quick walk, almost a jog. Little time. And no books on hand to confirm niceties of names. We went to check on the cutting that was happening.

2 Crocosmias in the forest

Crocosmias love the pines. So do the dogs.

3 plectranthus leaves

In late summer plectranthus with white or pale blue flowers grow in abundance in the shade. The most attractive have a blotch, caused by an air bubble under the outer ‘skin’

4 Plectranthus Flower detail

They are gently hairy and the tiny flowers in long spikes are worth a closer look.

5 Flowers of Plectranthus

Eve Palmer rather fancifully maintains that from the right angle the flowers look like little mice. (Note to self: A post on her book Under the Olive which I’ve just reread.)

6 Silver shade-loving helichryssum

Another note to self. Try propagating this silver-leaved helichrysum which unlike most grey leaved plants which are that colour to protect against heat, seem to be mirrored in order to catch as much light as possible in the shade which they love.

7 Forest hibiscus

We call it the forest hibiscus, a herby shrub with coin-sized flowers in late summer. Usually they are apple-blossom pink. This white one caught my eye. It too needs to be propagated!

8 Dogs love forest walks

On the home stretch. The dogs always love a walk in the pine forests.


Crocosmia aurea close-up of flower

The most striking, the easiest – indeed, you might even say the weediest – of our wild flowers on Sequoia is Crocosmia aurea. It is orange. Amazingly, overwhelmingly orange, as only a plant that uncompromisingly exists in all its parts and stages in shades of one colour can be.

Crocosmia aurea en masse

Flower spikes are carried high on wiry stems that zigzag appealingly from bud to bud. They are beautifully graphic in the bud stage, but somehow become muddled and unphotogenic once opened. I so wish I had taken the above picture a few days earlier to show you…

Crocosmia aurea flower spike

Even this photo seems to have angled itself in a way that barely shows the zigzag; but it looks good against masses of its own leaves as well as those of flag irises where it has sown itself with great enthusiasm in the bed opposite the garage, and strikingly visible as you approach the house by car from under the avenue of Sequoia trees that line the driveway.

massed Crocosmia aurea

Here is that view, with the Ellensgate Garden, which the living room looks out onto, beyond.(Read more about this garden here.) And below is a photo taken from the stoep (veranda) which shows the extent to which this mass of orange has made itself at home. I guess the first plants were brought here from where they grew wild on the farm, but only a few. 25+  years on they are the centre of the March focus in this part of the garden.

weedy crocosmias

Tatyana: does that make them as weedy as they are in your garden? I have elsewhere removed them. I should have removed them three years ago already from the Ellensgate Garden, where they do not do justice to the soft pink ‘Bewitched’ roses, also blooming their hearts out at the moment. Whether it is laziness that I have not yet done so, or bad management, or just my laissez-faire attitude to the superior will of plants when it comes to knowing their place, I  will leave to each of you to decide. I know that this easy local is one of my favourites in the garden.

Growing wild on the farm I also have the red, rib-leaved C.paniculata which flowers a little earlier; it is the parent of the famous ‘Lucifer’. Ironically I have never had success with any of the (few) Crocosmia cultivars available in South Africa, including one I sceptically bought as ‘Lucifer’ And if the wilding is so willing, why cry over the cultivar…?

This post is inspired by Gail of ‘Clay and Limestone’ who started  Wildflower Wednesday on every fourth Wednesday of the month.


Cascade Rose
You might recall that the previous set of blooms opened progressively paler. These were consistent and faded gently, ‘Cascade’ rose is at all times more intensely coloured than ‘Ballerina’, though: it is a richer, darker pink. (Photo taken 2 March) With the old blooms fading and falling, the,4th generation is coming into bloom. Considering how young this plant is, its readiness to flower is amazing, and I suspect it really will rival ‘Ballerina’ as a shrub rose! (Photo taken 21 March)

I have reported several times on the exciting little rose I discovered growing IN fast flowing water and IN the shade, three tiny pink blooms drawing my attention to it. The last time, with links to older posts, was here. As I learn more about ‘Cascade’ – as I christened it after its place of birth – I become more and more convinced that I’m onto a winner.

Do you remember the post in which I told of the orchid which had been trashed by baboons? I cut up the flowering stems and planted them. Not unexpectedly the six rootless ones did not take, but the one which had a small piece of root attached remains as green as when I planted it, and I am confident that it will survive. Note the growing medium. I found old decayed pine logs that I could break with my fingers, and their spongy chunks form the basis of what looks to this amateur like rather professional orchid growing medium. Smile 

So much for plants – what else in this progress report?

Fence at entrance

I started 2011 with a new foreman; I was rather pleased when eventually my previous foreman and I parted company, and I had already identified his replacement. Partially the previous foreman was responsible for four of my staff not being with us anymore and in November five temps started to work with the team. We were fortunate. They proved so willing and capable that I decided at the end of February to employ all five, rather than  three as  I had intended. In the process I decided not to replace my ‘estate lawnmower’ but rather to continue using the two strimmers for the purpose of cutting meadows and lawns. Such is the reality of rural Africa that the purchase price of an  industrial lawnmower is not much less than the annual salary of one man. In the process I keep mechanical costs down, leave  a smaller carbon footprint, and put food on the table of one more family. With rural unemployment at over 30%, you will realise the importance of a single job to an extended family. But why the pic? The fence at the entrance, and the work on it, was their idea. Made of invader wattle lathes and finished at the joints with wattle bark, it has already lifted the approach to Sequoia Gardens in a way I love – it is clear but unassuming. And it is a symbol of a new beginning in the way things get done at Sequoia Gardens. This was a casual photo taken the day I came home from teaching to find the fence half built. I will in due course feature it more fully.

Croft Cottage

Croft Cottage is also nearing completion. In fact all that needs to be done is the last furniture to be bought. Oh – and now that my trailer has been reconditioned – a process that took longer than it aught – I can fetch old tires to line the soak-pit beyond the septic tank, thus completing the plumbing and making the cottage habitable. The original stone structure was built sometime in the early 20th century. I broke out the side wall and doubled it in size, put on a new roof and added a shower-room towards the back and a stone-pillared veranda in front. Because for many years the stone-walled room was used as a store or inhabited by farm workers, I decided to call it Croft Cottage; a crofter being, in the north of the UK, a tenant farmer. It has been a slow process, for we owner-built it all, but I am very happy with the end product.

And so, here I am, at the end of a hectic period; this morning I completed my first-term reports. Yesterday our Rotary Club hosted the Ebenezer Mile Swim, our major fund-raiser for the year. On 1 March, the beginning of the financial year, I officially bought the crop of pine trees from my father, and all income from and responsibility for the farm is now mine. (It is a lifestyle farm: 40% of my salary plus the income from the farm is needed to sustain it, one of the reasons I’m developing tourist accommodation.)

By Friday I will be on leave. We are making progress in all sorts of ways. There are plans afoot. I am happy.


Dissotis canescens 2

Growing wild on Sequoia you will find this remarkable colour combination: a flower of the most vivid magenta held in luminescent brick-red cups. Startling it is, and beautiful.  The Wild Tibouchina, Dissotis canescens, is well named, for the intensity of its petal colour is very similar to the real Tiboushina. Indeed, they both belong to the family MELASTOMATACEAE, but that is as far as I can comment, for unlike something like the BEGONIACEAE where I can nod along sagely and say “A, yes, the Begonia family” and at least have a picture in my head, the family MELASTOMATACEAE contains only two names I’ve ever heard before: Dissotis and Tibouchina. Perhaps there is a path worth following here, for I suspect I will stumble upon a garden of tropical magnificence… Ah yes. And then not be able to grow it… Below are pictures I took in a nearby sub-tropical garden of the two colour forms of one of the most spectacular of all flowering trees: the Brazilian Tibouchina granulosa.

Pink and purple Tibouchina granulosa trees across a valley

Pink tibouchina granulosa in flower

The pink can be dismissed as ‘just a pink’, but the purple is more than purple: it is as though the richest red chiffon has been overlaid with the richest blue, and the two colours jar and shimmer in forming purple.

Purple tibouchina granulosa

Compared to these magnificent trees, my little perennials are slight. But a few years back I spread seed in the boggy ground around the water of Freddie’s Dam, which they love, and this summer saw thirty or more plants in flower – and each year there will now be more. We are moving from a local who hid away from visitors, to one of the stars of our show.Dissotis canescens

Dissotis canescens 3

Close-ups, above of our Dissotis and below of the much larger flower of Tibouchina granulosa again make their  relationship clear.

Close up of Tibouchina granulosa flower

To see more wild flowers from around the world, visit the blogs participating every month in Wild Flower Wednesday, an event started by Gail of Clay and Limestone.