20 April, 2016

From rare plants to a labyrinth

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

At the Rare Plants Sale at Tokara in Stellenbosch (wine, olives and a restaurant) I bought 2 trees and 2 herbs. Calpurnia aurea, yellow flowers, planted, after I cut back the fiddlewood. Pavetta is waiting for the third raised bed at the 'final' heap of excess garden soil. Where does it come from?? Creeping thyme and marjoram planted at the blue pot, after I moved the mint, which doesn't creep. It explodes!

Tokara from the dam wall


Our previous Rare Plant Fair was at Rustenberg. Tokara is attractive, but the garden is not quite as appealing. At an extensive dam a 'boat' house contains a braai / barbecue and a huge table for al fresco lunches.

Tokara dam

Stellenbosch is inland from the city of Cape Town. Away from the moderating influence of the sea, and it gets HOT. Very grateful that most of Tokara's garden is in dappled shade from tall trees. The flowering agave was reaching up thru an oak tree!

Tokara garden

Japanese anemone, 'my' violent purple Mexican sage and orange cannas. In the pond a blue water lily, capensis. We have one, with three leaves. Hoping for blue flowers in a year or two.

Blue water lily
Mexican sage, Japanese anemone and canna
in Tokara garden

How the 1% live. In a garden big enough to include a cork oak forest along one bank of the dam.

Cork oak forest at Tokara

That same day we went to Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden. An interesting teaching garden with unusual exotic plants. A spectacular bonsai collection. Including a Californian redwood from 1980. And a cork oak from 1965!! That Saturday mummies and daddies were catching up with sons and daughters at the university.

Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden
Redwood
Cork oak

When my sister was here we went up Cable Hill behind Simon's Town to Just Nuisance's grave. This Able Seaman was a Great Dane who would round up the sailors and escort them home on the train. A memorial to WWI and a reminder of my grandfather. Victorian sanatorium at Klawer Camp, sadly often shrouded in cloud (not ideal for their TB patients), as Table Mountain has its Tablecloth, and I look out at constantly changing cloud across our mountain. Hopefully the future holds kinder plans for this story-filled building.

Victorian sanatorium at Klawer Camp above Simon's Town

We looked down to the Naval Base at Simon's Town (with submarines and Naval ships in the harbour), along the coast to Cape Point, and back towards home. The aerial cableway whose story we heard at the Simon's Town Museum recently. Closed to people on Fridays when they transported cargo and laundry - in those British days someone in London decided, since it was always 'breaking down', to close it altogether. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, which inspired this one, is still running (and well maintained!)

Back to home, down to Cape Point
Aerial cableway, Naval Base at Simon's Town

Little wild Gladiolus monticola that I glimpse as a flash of colour from our car - here I could admire in detail, and name it.

Gladiolus monticola

Easter Saturday we walked with a group from St Francis church in Simon's Town. Glencairn labyrinth is open by appointment. Built on the mountain slope it has interesting topography. Stepping logs, causeways and bridges ford winter streams. That day we had heavy grey skies, turning to buckets of rain as we scurried to an abrupt finish. I hope to return in another season and follow the progress clearing invasive and thirsty Eucalyptus, and the steady planting of indigenous fynbos.

In September with spring flowers

Glencairn labyrinth on a grey day

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Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer
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25 comments:

  1. I remember Stellenbosch from a wine country tour that we took about 8 years ago -- charming and the landscape in that area is beautiful.

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  2. what an amazing place to see, I think your sister must have enjoyed sharing this experience with you,, the cork oak,, thats amazing and that grave marker,, was it a dogs grave,,
    ( please pardon my stupidity if its not ),,

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    1. yes, a Great Dane, called Just Nuisance.
      With his statue at the square in Simon's Town

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  3. I'm enjoying all the beautiful scenery and delightful stories from your part of the world. The labyrinth looks to be a fascinating walk following the terrain and so different from those typically found on level ground.

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    1. It was disorienting in a good, think out of the box, way. Turning to approach the mountains on either side from different angles, and winding thru trees. On Google Earth you can see the labyrinth, but walking there, the path unfolds in mystery.

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  4. Great scenes! And you have some fun new plants, too. The labyrinth is amazing! I so enjoy rock and stone features in a garden.

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  5. My mother would have been so homesick had she read your post.(she died some years ago, but the Cape was always in her heart) Lots of lovely memories...I had forgotten about Just Nuisance (my Mum's favourite story)We were in Stellenbosch a few years ago (we loved all the white elegant buildings) but I wish we had known about Tokara. From your last post you mentioned Jacarandas being considered as problem trees to be eliminated in SA...that is a pity! In Australia plants are considered weeds and then later taken off the list...hard to keep up with it all!

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    1. I've learnt that different climate areas of South Africa have different problems. Yesterday we were at a talk about invasive European and German wasps. Daunting, but they are working steadily at the problem.

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  6. I followed your link and read all about Just Nuisance - what an amazing dog!
    Loved all the beautiful scenery, delightful post.

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  7. That was a fun trip. The cork oak trees sure are different. That cableway is way to scary for me but sure did give you some great photos...very cool. Good luck with your new plants, I hope to be getting some new plants soon.

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  8. Tokara may have been hot but the scenery is beautiful! I loved the view shown in the first photo.

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  9. I really enjoyed our last visit to Tokara although I must admit we spent more time in the restaurant than the garden. Lovely sushi + delicious wine. Your post brought back a particularly happy memory.

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    1. It was a one off opportunity. The private garden is a long way down a narrow road that had never seen such a traffic jam before!
      The restaurant is just off the main road.

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  10. Gorgeous scenery! I can imagine the Great Dane rounding up seaman to escort them home! On vacation once we came across a Doberman who determined to escort us on our beach walks and made sure we returned safely to our condo each day. We were caught in a sudden and ferocious storm one morning, and the dog did not run for shelter but doggedly stayed with us. We later found out he belonged to the condo's manager and took his "lifeguarding" responsibilities seriously.

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    1. shepherded home - what a wonderful enfolding feeling that must have been!

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  11. Honestly, I was gripped at rare plants, wine and olives, you didn't need to go to all that trouble of wonderful cork oak and beautiful views! This post reads like one of the best holidays. If we could have just felt that heat (it's snowing here at the moment), it would have been perfect! Isn't it tantalising when you glimpse a flower from the car and have to continue on your way? There should be a special drivers' lane for gardeners and birders.

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    1. Hope that was winter's last gasp in Norfolk - and you have sun tomorrow?

      Sometimes I can hold the idea, colour, shape of plant - then when we hike I think ah THAT is what I saw. So tantalising indeed!

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  12. I have always wanted a blue water lily. Unfortunately we have the wrong climate.

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    1. (it's taken me 60 years, and I have no flowers yet ;~)

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  13. That is wonderful scenery and plants. I would love to visit Stellenbosch. Sarah x

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  14. I enjoyed accompanying you and your sister on this wonderful trip, Diana. Love the collage of flowers in your garden too. Do you have a problem with Buddleja being invasive? It is on the watch list here, because on the roadsides it has started to crowd out the native milkweed needed by monarch butterflies. I feel guilty having two in my garden. P. x

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    1. I am wary of the tons of Buddleja we have cleared from our garden. Leaving just one that I trim frequently. It isn't on our invasive list.

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  15. A rare plants sale sounds like quite a treat. Did you encounter new plants that you hadn't previously known about?

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    1. Yes - it is an annual (or two yearly depending) opportunity for specialist nurseries to reach new customers. And for gardeners to shop in one place instead of driving round in circles.

      Our trees were from Toos van den Berg - who is our first choice for a generous selection of indigenous trees. The herbs were from a new to me nursery.

      With a smaller garden I must choose my few plants carefully.

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  16. A most interesting post. I really like the look of the Tokara near the dam....my mint explodes too along with anything else from the mint family.

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