by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
In a Persian garden
“The word paradise originally meant a hunting park,
and it is still a Persian word for garden. Gardens of the Islamic world,
an oasis. All round stretch bare hills in the burning sun.
Within the garden, cool shade and the sight and sound of water.
High surrounding wall, trees for shade and fruit,
a pavilion, flowers in beds and pots.
Native bulbs, followed by roses. Garden is divided in four"
- slightly modified from Hugh Johnson’s The Principles of Gardening, 1979
This was my inspiration for the rose garden.
Magic-carpet-ride-Persian-gardens history and background
The house and a wall curved around two sides provide seclusion. A low informal hedge of Dusty Miller Centaurea cineraria plumes of velvety grey feathers. A view up to the Olifantskop (Elephant’s Head). We can hear the waterfall. Four paths, the four rivers of paradise – milk and honey, water and wine. An octagon in the centre. As focal points – there are four trees providing dappled shade. Years ago when we saw the White Garden at Sissinghurst, I realised that instead of a random collection of pretty plants – you can compose a living picture.
Pale flowers and silvery grey velvety foliage. A snow bank sparkling in the sun – subtle gentle colours. Great North – a pillar rose. Pearl of Bedfordview, white with pink edges to the petals.
Tree is Tarchonanthus littoralis, indigenous, water wise, grey leaved, with flaky grey bark. One of those shrubs/small trees I favour which can be pruned to taste. It is gnarled and twisted. Camphor scented leaves. A daisy tree with tiny white thistle flowers, which turn to fluff birds like for nest lining. Bauhinia natalensis, small shrub with tiny butterfly leaves and white flowers. Blousalie (wild blue sage), Scabiosa africana and incanum. Knoffel buchu (smells of garlic if you bump into it). Border of Santolina, cotton lavender from the Mediterranean, started as a few gnarled elderly cuttings from my mother. My mother's white pelargonium. White Dimorphotheca jucunda trails happily. Narcissus and Eucomis – bulbs I inherited from Anna, who gardened here before us.
Yellow, gold or orange flowers. Cream/gold foliage. Tropical Sunset for the stripes. Casanova (new house, how could I resist that rose) smells of apricots.
Trimeria rotundifolia lends itself to pruning into a shrub, or small tree. Focal shrub is Strelitzia reginae Mandela’s Gold. Came with us from the Camps Bay garden in a pot. Sansevieria (mother-in-law’s tongue), deep green and white striped leaves. Grasses – Mare’s tails, gardener’s garters. Border is Plectranthus madagascariensis (no it is not from Madagascar), green and white leaves. Liriope from the last garden, where it bided its time, here it is flourishing. Dietes, sword shaped leaves, with small, mostly white, typical wild iris flowers. Orange Chasmanthe taking over. Tiny yellow daisies and needle leaves on Euryops linearis.
Autumn Fire, The Dark Side
Dark dramatic colours. Into each life a little rain must fall. Papa Meilland fragrant deep velvety red. Burnished Sky two tone rose in a flamboyant combination of lavender with ruby. Karoo Rose bunches of small raspberry/watermelon flowers. Alec’s Red. Duftwolke, similar to Karoo rose, but larger flowers and fragrant.
My tree is Prunus nigra, for the deep dark leaves. It is deciduous letting light in when the flowers need it, with blossom to herald the start of spring. Diospyros whyteana has dark glossy leaves. Halleria lucida, tree fuchsia which bears its flowers on the bark of the branches (with nectar for the sun-birds). Mackaya bella has large pale flowers, deep mauve lines lightly inked on the petals, glossy leaves, and likes shade so it is against the curve of the wall. At its feet is a Begonia with glossy almost hand-shaped leaves. Fierce pink flowers give me Autumn fireworks. Focal shrub is Strelitzia reginae Bird of Paradise. Deep purple Dimorphotheca jucunda. Dark red Pelargonium from my neighbour Betty. Lavender with dark flowers.
Pink, set off by blue-grey glaucous foliage. Chaim Soutine deep pink and white striped rose.
Dais cotonifolia pompom tree which flowers thirstily around Christmas. For dramatic foliage I have Melianthus honey-flower. Artemisia afra wildeals smells deliciously of liquorice. Pink Dimorphotheca jucunda. Pink Pelargonium. Border is Festuca glauca. Echeveria Mexican roses. March-lilies Amaryllis belladonna. Dianthus allwoodii, which has blue leaves and pink flowers.
Pushed out of Paradise
Inherited roses were half way down the driveway. When the two-legged grey watering system got awful tired in summer temperatures pushing 40 C, the Ungardener made a new planter near the front door. “Anna’s red” dark, very fragrant flowers on 3 knee high bushes. Black Prince, very tall, fragrant, of a red so deep it is almost black. Lanky with deep fuchsia pink blooms? Smaller with apricoty flowers? Bought something fresh - Perfume Passion, pink and fragrant.
Roses need to be watered in each week with less than 15 to 20 mm of rain. Hand watering 10 litres of grey water to each bush; you can see which one needs more attention. No poison has ever been used in this garden, but otherwise I take my advice from Ludwig's Roses monthly newsletter.
I usually prune my roses late July. The happy ones I will simply harvest the flowers as they come, on LONG stalks. As I pick flowers, I leave an imaginary table top. A taller branch takes the water, and the short straw, dies.
Put a Vita Sackville-West posy, a flower in a tiny vase. On the kitchen window-sill, at the dinner table, by your bed, where you read in the evening.
Where in the garden is that rose? What is the name of that rose?
Pictures by Diana Studer of Elephant's Eye
(in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa)
(If you mouse over brown text, it turns shriek pink. Those are my links.
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