I have learnt my lesson in the meantime. I thought, trees, shade, I’ll plant a woodland garden. Clivia. Plectranthus. A hardy fern. We didn’t want to upset the trees by digging into their roots or banking soil up against the trunk. We built planters, away from the trunk.
No (cheap) untreated hardwood available in South Africa, so we used ordinary concrete building blocks. Backfilled with a mixture of builder’s sand, compost, and horse manure. Sand for drainage against the heavy clay soil beneath.
Sorted out the shady plants from the pots that travelled from the old garden. This is where the Veltheimia capensis is planted. Also lots of Clivia, which is NOT happy. He says more water, I say better soil. A variety of Plectranthus, all but one have departed.
A year later it was greening up, but I am not seeing what I imagined. It is not shade. The branches are too high to keep out low HOT summer afternoon sun. Then the summer breeze, which picks up in the afternoon, blows across there. Just to help along the Not Cool, Not Shady effect.
We work slowly. All but the heaviest work is done by our four hands. Within a tight budget. Brick edged gravel paths eventually happened. No more skidding on gloopy mud, courtesy of the winter rain.
And so we come to today. Raining. And in this Mediterranean climate, after a long hot summer, it feels more like ‘spring’ than spring does, end of July, going into August and September.
Those spotted leaves are our indigenous/native Lachenalia in many colours, which I grew from seed thirty-something years ago. Tiny little bulbs, and we have hundreds. Pots full of them. I tucked the small ones in, along that central path between the two trees. Later we will have ‘knee high’ delicate flowers.
Just last week, the Watsonia bulbs, waiting not so patiently in storage, were sprouting. I planted about a hundred here. We have the leaves, hoping for lots of tall stalks of pink flowers. Some with a graceful swan/heron neck curving down.
We really don’t have any true shade in this garden. Trying to learn to spread around what is happy. Two sorts of Scabiosa. Five colours of Dimorphotheca jucunda (formerly Osteospermum). Many different scented Pelargoniums, with interesting leaves, even when they are not flowering. Two tough Plectranthus which will survive anything, even our summer.
Photos by Jurg and Diana, words by Diana of Elephant's Eye