25 January, 2017

January in our False Bay garden

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

We have two sorts of March lilies in our garden. The ones I found in Porterville which bloomed with joyful enthusiasm - a gift from Anna who gardened there before us and loves bulbs. (But the Porterville bulbs are sulking as they adjust)

The others were from our Camps Bay garden, and they longed for cool sea breezes when we lived in the Swartland, sulked and refused to bloom except in 2014. After two years of settling in, I have a first flower on Crinum moorei. Not March lilies, but Natal lilies!

Natal lily Crinum moorei from our Camps Bay garden

Thomas is an uncompromising minimalist in the garden. He favours a green Japanese look. No flowers. He smacked ALL the flowers off my Streptocarpus. Then he discovered the lily. I have built a defensive ring of pots around it, propped up the battered stem.

Thomas
the Flower Inspector patrolling for infractions

The lemon tree still has a residue of too much in the corner towards the house, where it once reached desperately to the light. Lemon by lemon I tidy the shape. I need to trim down the Plectranthus neochilus, which grows so high that fallen lemons disappear!

Lemon tree

I learn that garden bloggers tidy their patch for New Year. It has taken me a few weeks to work around our garden. Pruning shrubs and trees, and clearing the overgrown paths. Another week needed to trim back the octopus arms of the ivy walls.

Summer Gold path

The Ungardener has planted new legs and reattached the kitchen trellis. Granadilla vine and Senecio creeper grow day by day as we look out of the kitchen window - nicely filling that privacy gap between wall and our neighbour's roof. Edible banana gives us a tropical corner, with the leaves that intrude on my mountain view tied back by him, or chopped off by me!

Cornish Stripe and trellis

We get slices of sunset, this thru the bay window above the mountain - which yesterday was shrouded in drifts of sea fog, and sun, and cloud.

January sunset

There is colour in the garden, more obvious to me, than my camera. White Pelargonium, golden Hibiscus, clear yellow Hypoxis, white ivy-leaved and pink fragrant pelargoniums, sky blue Plumbago.

January flowers in yellow ...

Pelargonium in clear pink, salmon, raspberry, scarlet, crimson ...

January's red ish pelargoniums

Shell pink Abelia trumpets, deep azure Cape forget me not, blue butterflies of Rotheca, a lonely Agapanthus flower head, Septemberbossie (fending off Thomas' claws with their Here Be Dragons), kingfisher blue Felicia.

January flowers in blue ...

Cape Town's dams have dropped below 40% and in February water restrictions will be tighter. 'With dams running empty and less than 100 days of water stocks, many residents are informing on excessive use by their neighbours'. We are working on a grey water solution for our garden. We hope for autumn rain. Tuesday we had a grateful 3 millimetres of rain. We can expect poorer water quality as the dams empty, and rising food prices (since two thirds of our water goes to agricultural irrigation). The wider and long term view of CapeNature - it is strongly suggested that future water use per capita and water demand have to reduce.

Bauhinia leaves

Bauhinia leaves, difficult to capture their pair of butterfly wings, as they were folded shut against the afternoon heat, despite the fog and cloud coming and going all day. Green garden is good to see. Wonder how the garden will cope with the next two or so months?

For Through the garden gate with Sarah in Dorset
And Wildflower Wednesday with Gail at Clay and limestone (Proudly South African except the Hibiscus and Abelia)

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18 January, 2017

Glencairn labyrinth before the fire

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

In September last year, a kind time of year, full of green and flowers, we walked the Glencairn labyrinth on its second birthday.

Path in the labyrinth
September 2016

That huge rock slab broke into three when it was moved on Mandela Day. For me the heartbeat of the labyrinth - three in one, together we stand, the differently shaped pieces of Tutu's 'rainbow people of God' snugly joined. Stepping stone paths and a slatted wooden bridge crosses the soggy bit.

Searsia berries September 2016

I have planted Searsia in each of our three gardens, but never before seen a crop of berries like this waiting for the birds.

Labyrinth flowers in spring's September 2016

Koos Burger keeps a detailed record both of what he has planted, and what flowers month by month. When we walked in September we saw pink Erica, a buchu?, two delicate pelargoniums, soft yellow bursts of Struthiola, mustard yellow puffs of ??

Milkweed locust

Small lives find a place to call home here. Milkweed locust.

Eucalyptus September 2016

Eucalyptus and pine trees inherited from a different time, before we had learnt the value of our indigenous fynbos. Those trees blaze like torches when the mountain catches fire!

Koos Burger of the labyrinth

Koos Burger designed, built and nurtures the labyrinth.

Maths for a gate or a labyrinth

A mathematical mind which spans a labyrinth, and an optical illusion tumbling block gate (intended to distract from ... the bottom edge slants)

If you live in California, around the Mediterranean or Australia you know how you live on edge in fire season. That haze over the sunshine, the light is wrong. I smell smoke. Cape Town is staggering from fire to fire.

First it was Somerset West (Bezweni lodge), then Grabouw. Ours started in Ocean View, along the valley behind our mountain and across to Simon's Town (which burnt in November 2015!) - along the way it sadly reduced the labyrinth to ash. So grateful to our firefighters who managed to protect all but one house in Simon's Town. Riversdale. I heard sirens and we had furious wind and a fire raging at Noordhoek. Another at Lakeside. And the next fire in Tulbagh in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains (fire flowers at my first Elephant's Eye). Deer Park on the city slopes of Table Mountain. Yesterday at Paarl (wine farm gutted) a fire raged out of control.

Bulbs and orchids at the labyrinth in September 2016

Given time, some gentle rain, these bulbs and orchids will return - greenish Satyrium, glowing yellow Wachendorfia, pastel Lachenalia, white yellow and purple Dietes. Seeds will germinate. Fire-adapted shrubs and trees will sprout from their roots. Plants will appear that haven't been seen for decades - as they have where the fynbos is returning as the burnt pine plantation at Tokai is cleared.

From Koos Burger - The main idea is to collect plants, look after them and start to plant late in April after the first rains.
From Thursday's Echo (our local newspaper)- 'Most of what can regenerate, will grow from seeds. Those seeds are under the ash. When the first rains come in April, they should settle and grow. People are walking on the field - right over the burned labyrinth, with their dogs. This will dislodge any surviving seeds, and add to soil erosion: and then we will have lost everything' - Koos is going to put up signs to discourage the walkers and their dogs. (If that fails, he will have to put up a fence)

Each time we drive across Ou Kaapse Weg we enjoy fresh flowers as the fynbos re-establishes itself after the March 2015 fire. Ujubee says fire asparagus blooms two weeks! after fire to feed the bees.

The labyrinth in autumn's March 2016

My first labyrinth walk was in March 2016 and I wait for the bleak moonscape, with its 28 turns, to return to green with the autumn rain! Only DAYS after the Helderberg fire there are fire lilies.

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04 January, 2017

A Prairie garden in Frankfurt

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Last July we went from London to Bristol, then to visit the Ungardener's sister in Frankfurt. We had lunch at the Skyline Plaza. (I'll never see the High Line in New York but this was almost as good). The Skyline Garden is the 'fifth facade' of a shopping mall. Opened in 2013 and designed by landscape architects from Wiesbaden and Baltimore. The plants improve the urban microclimate by increasing humidity, lowering the temperature and reducing air pollution. Irrigated by rain, which in turn reduces stormwater runoff. Restaurant with an outdoor terrace (our lunch - cheese and leek veggie burger!), children's playground, sport and activity spaces. I'll be with the flowers!

Frankfurt prairie
July 2016

Prairie plants set against city skyscrapers echo the NY High Line and on a perfect day when all the flowers are at their blooming best.

Frankfurt Skyline Plaza Garden
July 2016

Lime green Echinacea flowers make my heart happy.

Lime green Echinacea
July 2016

Even my camera agreed to capture this bee on a pink Echinacea.

Bee on Echinacea
July 2016

Our hotel room was high up with a narrow balcony across the corner and a view out to two sides. One evening as I was reading I heard music ... more music. I looked down to see the multi-lane road closed to traffic with a gazillion rollerbladers skimming along, followed by a few police vans holding back the cars. Every Tuesday. It was such an unexpected sight! Pied Piper of Hamelin racing away?

View of Frankfurt from our hotel room

Frankfurt am Main. The Main River. As along the Thames, there is that contrast of very old and very modern architecture.

Frankfurt am Main

At the Römerberg is this reminder of a yet another time when 'we burnt books'. In Library, an unquiet history, by Matthew Battles, two of his seven chapters are book burning down the centuries.

Burning books

I had seen Indonesian Joko Avianto's Big Trees in internet pictures. I was surprised that it was tucked into a narrow side street. Those bamboo trees were HUGE.

The artist was inspired by the environment, redevelopment, urbanisation, displacement and marginalisation, the city mourning its lost trees. Bamboo is a reminder of traditional craft in Bali. Village bamboo forests in Java are disappearing for monoculture palm oil.

Joko Avianto's Big Trees

We walked in the Palmengarten. Lotus and sea holly.

Palmengarten

New to me was the idea of a Subantarctic House (there is another in Tasmania). Plants come from the mountains of New Zealand's South Island (also Patagonia and the Falklands). These 'fragile flowers' need to be kept cool in Frankfurt's inland summer.

Myoporum laetum is an invasive alien in South Africa. We had it in our Camps Bay garden. A plant my father recognised from his New Zealand home. It grows with ferocious enthusiasm into a shrubby tree with great thick branches that I was constantly pruning. How strange to see that same plant nurtured as an exotic in a Frankfurt greenhouse. Even stranger to discover that its home is subantarctic. Why does it grow so happily in Cape Town's mediterranean climate?! It is poisonous to livestock, and has lots of berries which the birds spread around. Maoris rub the leaves on their skin to repel mosquitoes.

From New Zealand in the Subantarctic House
Myoporum laetum
Nothofagus menziesii
Silver beech

From Frankfurt we took the train to Switzerland.

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