Tuesday, September 29, 2015

West Coast Days.

From the tiniest little pinprick of a flower...

To the big, bright and showy:

The West Coast is abloom.
Just in case you thought a brown flower can't be pretty:

And of course, there's always something more weird, more wonderful.

That's Hydnora Africana - a parasitic plant the size of a chicken egg. It has three very suggestive openings and will eventually open up completely, like a starfish. For pollination, it lures dung beetles, so you can imagine the smell...

A starfish of a different sort, Ferraria Crispa - a member of the iris family. I couldn't stop sniffing this beauty - burnt sugar, amber, vanilla. Wonderful.

We stayed in one of the oldest cottages in Churchaven. The walls are all skew, the doorways low. Hot running water and a tiny bathtub - almost unheard of in these parts. I was utterly charmed.

If you look closely, you'll spot our very vocal guest.

She came every day, along with three fussy guinea fowl and all the others. The birds are very busy - it's nesting time. Soft grasses, feathers and twigs are airborne.

At night we fell asleep to the hooting of the owls and the shirrr of something else, over and over again.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bush lily love.

They are everywhere. In our garden I watch them lay themselves bare, from palest green to deepest orange.

They grow in the shade of the ancient figs in the Company Gardens.

And then there is Babylonstoren, where they go on forever and ever.

Where I discovered colours I didn't know. From the palest creamy yellow to green throated copper, to a deep, dark red. Where I discovered the elusive scented varieties. And I walked, at times completely alone and I was content.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


I'm thoroughly enjoying this book. A bouquet of sundry characters merge in an organic way, peppered with plenty of swearing and permeated with wonderful fragrances : lapsang souchong, black cardomom, moss... There's the eighty year old great-grandmother, who discovers internet porn by misspelling "clocks" on Google. The documentary maker who films - over ten years - the fifteen metre journey of the walking palm Socratea Exhorrhiza. The philandering botanist and his questionable escapades. There are interiors overlaid in Liberty fabrics, mysterious seedpods and a frankincense tree.
There is even a bit of robin chat:
"It has woodness, but also intense fertee."

Spring is here now, in all of her finery. I have loved being at home this winter - living and breathing our garden. Seeing the light in emerging things, the painterly patterns deep inside flower petals.

In October I will be back at work for a very long time.
I will think of these days with much longing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Early Spring.

What greater delight is there than to behold the earth apparelled with plants, as with a robe of embroidered worke, set with Orient pearles and garnished with great diversitie of rare and costly jewels? - John Gerard, Herbal, 1597.

In her fantastic South African tome, Indigenous Plant Palettes, Marijke Honig talks about the exceptional diversity of bulbs, evergreen and deciduous - my own favourite. Jewellery for the garden, she says. I love her idea of planting them under a spiral of gravel.

I have been drawn to Lachenalias since I saw them blooming a year ago in the wild, on a mountain pass near Ceres. I had forgotten about them. Also known as the Cape Cowslip, Afrikaans people call them Laggienaggies - small laughs in the nighttime. 

My friend the botanist has pointed out that this is in fact an orchid. Which is even more wonderful - as it was growing very close to snow!

We have some of the hybrids now - they are large, loud and flashy compared to their wild cousins - although I find them rather wonderful.

In the hotter front garden, the pincushion bushes are exploding with buds and flowers. They are airy and filled with light. In the golden hour at the end of the day, they become setting suns.