(If you are a foodie, didn’t they tell you – this is a bring-your-own-sandwich-picnic. It’s not About The Food!)
Our neighbours almost all have Roquefort gardens. What the German language so efficiently calls Edelpilz. And English calls noble rot. Botrytis for Tokay wine. I don’t want to eat/drink rot, no matter how noble it is. Noble rot AKA lawn. No other plant is allowed to mar the sterile monotony of the lawn. No fairies may dance in inches of Oxalis, dressed by central casting in apricot, cream, peach, fuchsia and lemon yellow for the great ball scene. No caterpillars, bugs, bees, nor even earthworms (they leave those nasty little piles of soil!) One neighbour goes so far as to spray his patch with weed-killer twice a year. The It’s-green-it’s-nasty-make-it-go-away school.
We have a sourdough garden. With four open hands held out, we accept everything nature brings us. Except Paterson’s Curse, tho I’m glad to have seen caterpillars working on that plant too. And the mountain ash trees give us hundreds and hundreds of seedlings. If you don’t catch them while they are young, the battle becomes desperate. The Ungardener wages a POLITE war against anything green that comes up in his gravel paths.
Pretty picture of Aloe
at Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden July 2008
The green you see as background and wallpaper is Oxalis pes-caprae. What the Californians love to hate as an invasive alien. It is At Home here, where the leaves fuel caterpillars and harvester termites. The yellow flowers support bees. And those insects in turn fuel the next layer. The yellow and red bokeh dots echoing the aloe colours are Euryops, and Big Red Tecomaria – planted to give nectar for the sunbirds. As the Aloe does, when they want a change.
Our garden this June
This is a Garden we Planted. Not just what nature brings. The Aloes grow in the Klein Karoo, about 100 kilometres from us, roughly South-East to Worcester. Tucked between the Western Cape mountains with their fynbos. Still in the winter rainfall mediterranean climate, but drier and hotter than the fynbos patches or our renosterveld. So these succulents are dormant in the long hot summer, and happily flowering in the winter rain.
The brownish grey smudges are old grape vines. Removed by farmers because that variety is no longer fashionable … And used by our neighbours with enthusiasm as braai/BBQ wood, because it gives good coals. The Ungardener looked as those gnarled chunks of wood with their peeling bark, and built a boma. A ‘dry-stone-wall’ giving shelter and an escape route to lizards, slug-eater snakes and mice.
Old grape vines
The Ungardener’s picture captures the spirit and intention of our wildlife garden. The header of the mountain, is borrowed scenery, which anyone around here could claim.
Winter Aloe at Elephant's Eye
Pictures by Jurg and Diana, words by Diana of Elephant's Eye