Mountain fires and rainbows
by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa
On the 3rd of March Cape Town was the hottest place on earth 42C (107F)! It was cooler at only 33C (91F) on False Bay. 'The sky would crack and split and thunderous crashes would rearrange huge blocks of air as though the universe itself were in the throes of some vast quake' from Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout. One almighty clap of thunder on the 4th of March started another fire at Cape Point. Fires began on Sunday 1st March and fire crews and spotter planes monitor for flare ups. RIP Hendrik Marais whose helicopter made a forced landing.
When we moved in, the mountain burnt on the other side of the valley. We walked in November 2009 in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains in search of fire flowers. With the efficient disaster management which began after Cape Town's huge fires in January 2000, I am encouraged to read a botanist's calm explanation of why and how fire is good for fynbos. At the Porterville museum is a San Bushmen exhibit with the shaman doing a rain dance. 'Male' rain is hard and destructive, causing flooding. 'Female' rain is soft soaking into the soil, so the grass can grow, for the animals they hunt. For the crops the women gather. To heal our burnt mountain.
|Groot Winterhoek November 2009 flowers after fire|
We hope to move in to the new bedrooms at the weekend. Meanwhile I distract my mind with a kaleidoscope of plants. In pots from Porterville (and Camps Bay before that). The wild flowers I dream of planting as we turn to fynbos. Our garden will be mostly about Ungardening structure and texture and colours in leaves. Rivers of Paradise, milk and honey, water and wine, four colour themes.
The newly enclosed front garden will be the Karoo Koppie. Mostly succulents with flowers in flaming sunset oranges and reds. An icon of winter, driving across the anti-claustrophobic expanse of the Karoo are spires of aloe flowers, where that vibrant colour is a jewel.
|Nerine sarniensis April 2014|
Fill the frame. Tell the story. Sun and shadow on the petals, swirling skirts in sultry colours of a flamenco dancer.
|Tecoma capensis April 2013|
Tucked in the shady but windy corner near the carob tree, I plan yellow flowers. Happy yellow Euryops. I favour a soft true yellow that sings, not a sharp one, but I love the lime green of Euphorbia.
|Euryops May 2010|
Hibiscus tiliaceus was bought at Kirstenbosch. One of the few that Kristo Pienaar listed as WORLDWIDE. It always has some glowing red-orange-yellow leaves scattered amongst the green.
|Leaf heart Hibiscus tiliaceus|
The shady side with a washing line pergola framing the lemon tree will be blue and purple with some white. Dreaming of bluebells in English woodland, a blue Himalayan poppy in the garden of a Swiss cousin, high up in Lauterbrunnen, gentians in the Alpine garden at Schynige Platte.
South African plants are spectacularly blue. Blue African lily Agapanthus (= for love of a flower). The only blue daisies, a luminous, freshly washed after rain, blue sky? Felicia (= happiness), the kingfisher daisy. Very gentle, just blue, of a hazy sky on a high summer day – Plumbago! Clerodendrum ugandense with its Oxford and Cambridge style two tones of blue. A spring pool of annual blue flax at Postberg.
|Postberg August 2007|
Dimorphotheca is a purple so deep, it is almost black and adds drama. Plectranthus come in every mauve or purple. Scabiosa gives a haze of mauve. Canadian deciduous Prunus nigra with plum leaves to match its fruit.
|Prunus nigra September 2013|
The sunny side in pinks and white shimmering against velvety grey leaves.
|March lilies 2013|
|Wild chincherinchee October 2009|
We clear Port Jackson wattle because it takes water we need and is a fire hazard. We forget the links invasives break in the web of life.
Pictures by Diana Studer
of Elephant's Eye on False Bay
(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red.
Those are my links.
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