27 August, 2014

A Swartland garden in August

- gardening for biodiversity

As August unfolds, the aloes open on our Karoo Koppie. The weaver birds bicker over whose turn it is for the nectar. Aloe marlothii  buds are little yellow bananas on maroon stems with prickly leaves. Aloe speciosa has red buds, which fade to white as it opens, with blue leaves. For False Bay I will be looking at Worcester's Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden for smaller aloes. Succulents like Euphorbia, Crassula and Cotyledon - which I'm harvesting for cuttings.

Yellow and red Aloe marlothii
Red and white Aloe speciosa

Our garden formally welcomes spring by lighting up with delicate blossom on the Canadian plum. Prunus nigra is in Autumn Fire for its deep plum leaves.

Plum blossom Prunus nigra
Across Ungardening Pond on a grey winter day

With those bought at Ludwig's Roses we have four inherited with the garden. Black Prince is one of Gwen Fagan's Old Cape roses. The epitome of a true rose. A red so wine-dark sea that it shades to black velvet. So fragrant that a deep breath makes your head spin. I've taken cuttings for a glazed pot in False Bay - and they grow!

Black Prince
an Old Cape rose

Winter's cool and wet suits the roses. They've been fed with wood ash and certified organic fertiliser. In summer we try to keep leaf cover to shade the stems. The sun cooks the sap and the stems die, the leaves fall, the flowers are ratty. Then, once the roses are growing and flowering - I should prune in July or August?!

Masha of A rose is a rose taught me annual summer pruning in July 2011 - 'I know some eminent rosarians who live in South California with very mild winters, and summers on the hot side. Their roses tend to want to bloom all winter long, and because the weather is mild, the quality of blooms is high and they last a long time. In summer however, with heat and a lack of rain, they tend to go dormant, blooming much less and with inferior quality blooms (smaller, fewer petals, washed out color, less fragrant). It makes a lot of sense to prune them when they are at their worst (and semi-dormant to boot) and let them bloom when they like. 
Here in North California, we have colder winters and a bit less heat in the summer. My roses bloom into January, then stop. There is a lot of leaf loss due to high winds. It makes sense for me to prune them in winter for these two reasons'

Since our Western Cape roses are not cut down by frost, perhaps we need to learn to let them be cut down by Pam's Texas Death Star. I'm going to try pruning at the end of February. This August I pruned only Perfume Passion to reduce its height.

Pruned Perfume Passion, new leaves on Duftwolke
Tropical Sunset, Pearl of Bedfordview

Blooming among my potted bulbs are vlei lilies and freesias. The wild orchid he rescued bastertrewwa or Common Monkshood Orchid (Corycium orobanchoides) is slowly raising a flower spike.

Vlei lilies with wild orchid

Freesia alba, Oxalis pes-capreae
Merwillea plumbea,
bulbs potted to move 

Lemons and tiny figs carpeted with nasturtiums. Cuttings as an instant garden are for our former garden helper Pani of the Falls.

First fig, Tahiti lime potted to go
Good crop of lemons, lavender

Pani's instant garden, nasturtiums

For Wildflower Wednesday the ash and fruit trees, Canadian plum, roses and nasturtiums are my exotics today. Aloes, bulbs, daisies and pelargoniums are South African.

Dimorphotheca jucunda, knoffelbuchu, pelargonium
Dimorphotheca jucunda, bruinsalie
pelargoniums
Euryops pectinatus, Melianthus major, Freylinia

The ash tree leafs out chartreuse within days, reflected by Euphorbia mauretanica. Potting up herbs and revelling in the spectrum of scent. I tried SAD cuttings in clay soil. Then remembered what I've learnt (for Beth at PlantPostings) - to combine compost, sand and garden soil.

Ash trees
Across Ungardening Pond to the mountains, potted herbs

Pictures by Diana Studer of  Elephant's Eye
(in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa)

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Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
His Panasonic Lumix FZ100 (info from Panasonic)
My Canon PowerShot A490 (info from Canon)

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Midnight in Darkest Africa

Midnight in Darkest Africa
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