29 November, 2010

November flowers 2010

A fresh Advent wreath in 2014

Towards the 25th of each month I wander the garden. We have been away for a week. How disconcerting to see a difference, only a week, but the front path closes over.

Blue sage

The garden is declining into summer dormancy. It presents a much gentler, hazy blue picture now.

15 November, 2010

An egg, young birds and photos by GINKs

We see and hear many young birds now. Teenagers who with their fluffy feathers are anyway bigger than mum and dad. Standing there with open beak, shimmying their wings. Yelling Feed Me Now!

European starlings bringing caterpillars

12 November, 2010

November, walk thru our garden

We have ten olive trees. The first two planted at the road. Those weird new English people – have underplanted with pig’s ears and Bulbinella and a bit of Dietes, and Agapanthus. Passersby stop, to look. Then we planted two pairs to cover our neighbours green shaded caravan and garage. A rustic trellis, and I will train the olives to a gentle espalier. We planted four between the post-box and the pecan and the heat wave hit them. Dead. But see, they are growing up again!


27 October, 2010

Fiscal shriek, sorry, shrike

Jacky Hangman. Dressed in black and white. As the judge used to wear a black hood, when sentencing a prisoner to death. Yesterday the sparrows, weavers and starlings were spinning in distraught circles. Why?

Fiscal shrike

19 October, 2010

First day with his new camera

He is in his element. Trying out the new to him features one by one. Panasonic Lumix FZ100. U3A photographers sit while waiting for the birds to fly in and out.

First day with new camera

13 October, 2010

Baby forest and earthworms at Org de Rac wine estate

For five years we have driven past Org-de-Rac, and wondered, what does that mean? Organic from the shelf – explains the owner.

Org de Rac - organic wine estate

www.bwi.co.za Biodiversity in Wine Initiative grew out of the fact that our vineyards are often laid out where fynbos used to grow. Conserving endangered plants and animals and producing wine sustainably. Org de Rac is planting trees, returning game animals, and rehabilitating the farm land.

11 October, 2010

October, walk in our garden

At the bottom of a long narrow entrance, on the road we have a pair of olive trees. Brick piers. Not Stately Home Lions, cottage lions. We inherited the shocking pink watsonias with their graceful swan necks. But they have never looked this good before. This – is their year. We did plant the golden yellow Arctotis with the trailing silver leaves.

Entrance at the road

05 October, 2010

Buddleja salviifolia - Sagewood

UPDATE 2nd December 2013 - thank you to Jardines y Estanques in Argentina who shared this post on Facebook - and welcome to new readers!

Once upon a time, when we let the Camps Bay house, the new tenants said – you’ll have to cut that back so we can see the sea! It smells good, honey flowers. Looks good, ‘sage’ leaves. And it grows good – ideal as a screen. So it was on my short list when we moved in here. What shall we plant to cover that wall, the neighbour’s garage, and emergency drain pipe, and twirldry green washing line? Another year should do it!

2008 2009 2010

27 September, 2010

Photographing birds, in our garden, mostly

If a black stork lands in our garden and we don’t see it, was it really there? This was our wildlife garden’s shining moment. My birding niece said Never Seen One of Those! We wouldn’t have known there were black storks – if we hadn’t seen this one here.
 (On the verandah, about 7 metres from the bird on the island.
 Taken with the dear departed Old Canon.)

Black stork

22 September, 2010

Garnished with September’s flowers

Around the 25th I wander around our garden gathering a virtual bouquet. Today is Wildflower-Wednesday at Gail's Clay and Limestone.

Lachenalia bulbs in pots.


09 September, 2010

September garden walk and our beginning

Where did it all begin?

In the late 70s I was in Prof Eugene Moll's first plant ecology course at the University of Cape Town. That was when, despite growing up in Cape Town, I first met fynbos. Because of Prof Moll our first garden high up on the Camps Bay slopes of the Twelve Apostles, was predominantly indigenous/native, trying to be fynbos, and preserving as much vegetation as we could. We had to remove Australian invasive aliens, Port Jackson wattle and Hakea, which has really vicious spines on the tips of its needles.

L sitting on the doorstep, R looking towards the front door
Path urgently needs a machete. Ungardener nearly lost an eye!

30 August, 2010

In my August vase

What's in your August vase? - Noelle the azplantlady asks for her monthly meme. The lavender is lolling over the path. No access. When we went walking today we passed a garden where they had hacked back a wheelbarrow full of lavender clippings. Packed in bags and off to the dump - how ungrateful and ungracious. Even if it goes to compost or mulch - what a waste!

Lavender and Marguerite

26 August, 2010

Winter August flowering into Spring

What flowers are in our garden in August? Still winter, but we have had rain and the winter snow grows as I watch. Sometimes in quiet horror. That handful of gravel is all you can still see of this path, which is next on the list for weeding and cutting back. For clearing, so the cats can still get thru. They make it quite obvious when they are not satisfied with their garden service.

24 August, 2010

Rain gardening

Gardening to deal with winter flash floods. June 2007, just after we moved in. Floods! We have heavy clay soil, and the swamp monster will get you! Can I have my foot back, please? (Catching up in September 2013)

July 2008. Floods, again. But now we have a buried drainage pipe to clear the driveway. We have gravel paved paths, and the flood waters recede quickly. 

11 August, 2010

August daisy chain walk

It is a month since you walked around my garden. Those white daisies which have just begun to open, are Dimorphotheca pluvialis (hear the rain?) Rain daisies. My mother, born in London, grew up in Cornwall, waits eagerly each year for her favourite wildflower on the slopes of Signal Hill, behind the city of Cape Town.

Today just one of my stars is not an Asteraceae. (We used to call them Compositae, with ray florets for the OTT, and Fibonacci spirals in the heart of the sunflower)

09 August, 2010

Weaving dreamcatchers

I am not a poetry person. Words, I love, and the last line of this poem is embroidered on my mind.

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven
 by William Butler Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

06 August, 2010

Vlei lilies in Plum Creek

At the edge of the wheat-fields and along the road side verges, where the farmers spray weed-killer and the authorities send out teams with ride on mowers. One of the plants they fight, in the boggy hollows where the winter rain collects, is this vlei lily. Wurmbea stricta

26 July, 2010

Deepest darkest Winter - flowers in July

It is the 25th. My day to walk around the garden and remind myself what is catching the eye this month. First the same old same old. Japanese flowering quince, a bush we inherited, halfway down the driveway, always blooms for my birthday. And for Anna's, who planted it. Usually blooms on spectacular bare branches, but this year, there are still leaves ...?

14 July, 2010

Roquefort garden or sourdough garden

(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.

06 July, 2010

Stroll thru our garden with me

It is Saturday morning and you’ve dropped in for a quick cup of tea.

Bury your nose in pink Perfume Passion and deepest red Black Prince. See, the fig has lost its leaves, leaving a few tiny second crop figs, which will fall to the ground. The hoopoe, from niece Claire, came with us from the last house in Hoopoe Avenue. Where we saw no live hoopoes, to this town where we usually see some on our rare walks. We’re out in the garden, come thru the open garden gate.

02 July, 2010

The Web of Life_____www

One morning in June, after rain, when the early light fell, just so, the Ungardener captured this picture for me. Now how can I use this image? Can’t spin out the spider story. I didn’t meet her.

At the top are the consumers, devourers, users. Us and the cats. Top cat looking down on the rest of the world? But most feral cats have a short, nasty life. Chocolat found us. 

25 June, 2010

June flowers in red and yellow

Starting last Christmas, around the 25th, my camera and I stroll thru the garden to see what is in bloom this month. Not an exhaustive archive, nor when did it open. Just the OTT, in your face impression. Right now it is red flowers. And yellow flowers. Or red AND yellow flowers for a change? June, winter, is our garden at its most flamboyant and exuberant. Everything that is green is growing. With a lush ankle deep layer of Oxalis 'three-leafed-clover' everywhere it can be.

The OTT prize goes to the Japanese flowering quince we inherited.

11 June, 2010

Fever tree, umbrella thorn, mimosa, Port Jackson

Edited October 2014 the fever tree has been renamed Vachellia xanthophloea

The umbrella thorn, Acacia tortilis, with its flat top is so much the epitome of Africa that FNB, First National Bank, has used the silhouette for its logo.

We have planted fever-trees, Acacia xanthophloea, in our garden. The Ungardener for its thorns to discourage climbing over the wall. I choose it for that shimmering, luminous, lime green bark. An unlikely, unreal colour, like a mirage. Just briefly while deciduous, long enough to worry the Ungardener, the bark is spectacular. The thorns are long and vicious, to be observed from a respectful reverent and cautious distance, as with the Agave. In fact the thorns are so long and sharp, that they were used as sewing needles by early settlers.

26 May, 2010


May in our garden is about two things. First the rain has brought BULBS bursting thru everywhere you look. Quite literally millions of Oxalis pes-caprae, wherever someone else didn't get in there first! If you've read here before, then you know I love foliage. Half my bulbs are chosen for their leaves, and the flowers are just a lovely bonus.

24 May, 2010

Elephant’s Eye is three years old today

This post is for our Swiss friend Andrea, who asked for photos of all four corners. And for Clara who still hasn’t seen the ‘new’ house.

No, not the blogaversary, not yet. We slept in this house for the very first time, three years ago. Digital photos make it so easy to sort out year by year, with Picasa’s help for the collages. So we, and you, can see how a garden emerges from the builder’s blasted earth bomb-site.

This virtual garden on the blog, appears, frozen in time, in two dimensions. If you could walk with me, you would see the third dimension, around the corner, looking back, over here, and NO DON’T look that way. The fourth dimension, of time, and change, is the most important, year long time lapse photography in the collages.

12 May, 2010

The long and the short view. Walking around Ungardening Pond

M’sieur Chocolat frequently brings us presents. He is greeted by me wailing - What have you got NOW?! We try to rescue the presents. ‘Please, don’t bring all the garden inhabitants home to play’ But if he is considerate enough to bring them in - we do get a chance to photograph something we hear. A gentle splash as we approach the water, or an almighty din when the moon is out.

10 May, 2010

Ash tree planters

In the very beginning, there were two ash trees. Our trees are about thirty years old. A good reason for us to chose This plot. We call them Dolf and Anna, for the gardeners who left us these trees, fruit trees, bulbs and Anna’s Red rose. Also lots of spinach, which just comes up, like that, of its own accord.


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.

06 May, 2010

The Ungardener’s Free-Spirited Plants

The plants I treasure most in my garden.
Are not the ones that cost an arm and a leg.
Nor the ones that were on my wish-list, and took years to find.
Not the ones I grew from seed, then waited years for flowers.

What I delight in, are the ones that just appear. A surprise out of the blue. Gifted by nature. A solitary seed that slipped into the wrong packet. Trespassed in the wrong pot. (You  know, what the Ungracious and Ungrateful call WEEDS, and reconciliation ecologists would recognise as locally adapted wildflowers) Our Ungardener calls them Free Spirited Plants!

Bietou in April

28 April, 2010

European Starlings. Thanks, Cecil John Rhodes

You asked me doubtfully - do you WANT starlings?

We have had 3 or 4 pairs together, nesting in our roof. Corrugated metal with bird-proofing. The bird-proofing came in a long strip to fit the profile at the open edge of the roof. Way back when, I see one of the labourers with a pair of scissors. Carefully cutting that strip into single-slice-of-bread-pieces. What is he DOING?! Ah well, sheepish look, we forgot to put it on, and now the roof sheets are screwed down. As the years pass, winter wind and delighted birds are ripping those bits out, one by one.

February figs

26 April, 2010

April showers bring us flowers 2010

8C last night, 48F in your money, freezing here - I can hear you giggling Alaskan Christine. Watching Spirulina (our Italian sparrow, likes mozzarella) at his morning bath while I eat my muesli. Dip a toe in. EW W W that’s COLD and he takes off in horror!! Try again later. Still Cold! Oh well, get on with it. And he has a jolly good bath, using his battered wings to shower water all over the veranda.

Left new yellow variety, right same old orange

19 April, 2010

Apple Creek and the Elephant’s Eye Light Railway

Once upon a time the Ungardener had a toy train. Somewhere along the way, as he grew up, his mother gave it away. As a child, I never had a teddy-bear. I inherited one from my sister. Grown up, I said to myself - stop whining - you want a teddy-bear - GET a teddy-bear. 

October 2008

12 April, 2010

Autumn roses in the Paradise Garden

Still containing my soul in patience. Waiting for the weather to be kind enough, that the prunings can be tucked into the 'didn't make it thru the summer' gaps. I call the rose garden - this way to Paradise. Paradise is a Persian (now Iranian?) word for garden. An oasis of cool shade, with water to be seen and heard. A high surrounding wall, somewhere to sit. Flowers (of course), bulbs and roses. With the four rivers of  Paradise, four paths, four beds.

07 April, 2010


Back to mid-February, when the fig tree still had voluptuous leaves for Bathsheba to bath in/on. And luscious fruit. This tree is just outside our kitchen window and the Ungardener was playing with his new zoom lens. 

A MOUSEbird because it climbs around in the trees, hand over hand like a monkey (or a parrot?) not hopping sparrow-like along the branches as we expect All Birds To Do.

06 April, 2010

On Ungardening Pond 3

This is about Ungardening. The construction of the pond (1) started in November 2006.  Pani's Falls was one of the Ungardener's earliest projects, while the builders were still working on the house. NON-gardeners LOL at people who work on the garden, when the house is still not done - and we, we wonder what on earth they are laughing at? How can you NOT garden if you have 'Give me land, lots of land ...' Why Black Stork Island? We first filled the  pond (2) in January 2008.

Here the water level has already dropped somewhat

29 March, 2010

Scandent Scarlet

Think of an English country garden. A Large English Country Garden. With a Rambling Rector in an old apple tree. Now scale your thoughts down again. This is a climbing aloe. The only one amongst 450 species which climbs.

25 March, 2010

March garden flowers

This morning I made my usual monthly record of what's in bloom. At last. Or as usual. (Click the Dozen for Diana tab, for earlier months) First fruits. A solitary orange on our three newly planted citrus trees at the Mediterranean Sun Circle. The berries on the Australian brush cherry - why don't the birds eat them? There is a layer of fallen, ripe berries on our gravel driveway. One of our handful of apples, from three trees! And the guavas are coming, sprouting from the roots of trees we dug up to make the driveway. Now I can see for myself why they are frowned on, as invasive aliens, which we are supposed to only grow with a permit!  

23 March, 2010

Father and Son sunbirds

Remember Bathsheba in her fig leaf bath. With her understated olive grey plumage. This fig tree is right outside our kitchen window, so the zoom lens on our new camera was working overtime.

18 March, 2010

Our kingfisher is back

Last January we got terribly excited. We had an adult kingfisher teaching junior to fish for lunch. Papa said ‘Now watch carefully dear. We dive gracefully, perfectly, like an Olympic Gold Medallist. If those clumsy two-legs listen V E R Y carefully, they may ‘just’ hear me touch the water with my beak.’ And papa flew back into his perch on the tree, and swallowed his Lunch.

Best the old Canon could do, last January

11 March, 2010

Sunbird bathing

Imagine. Being so small. That you can bath in a few drops of water on a fig leaf. That was the very first light shower we had after the summer heat.

Wash the right wing … (Right is first)

26 February, 2010

Flowers in February

Christmas collage, January and now February. Went around the garden today. Once the rain had stopped, and the clouds were starting to part. The flowers are spangled with raindrops. The roses have eaten their belated dinner, and were nicely pushing thru bunches of burgundy leaves, and fat buds. But that one very hot day has left ‘frostbitten/sunburnt’ brown leaves.

Left – Dainty Bess twice, Elizabeth of Glamis, Help Kids
Centre – Karoo Rose, Elizabeth of Glamis in bud
Right – Maverick, Alec’s Red, Burning Sky, Chaim Soutine

23 February, 2010

Dragons and a damsel

The Ungardener is having fun exploring the possibilities of his new camera. Sometimes - why won't it do that? Why doesn't it focus? What on earth is it doing? And then he caught a blaze of dragonflies (Tx Wikipedia collective nouns), and a far more elusive and fragile damsel. But despite the name, these are all highly visible MALES.


18 February, 2010

Wagtails and a frog

We have frogs. I said FROGS!! There are enchanting little clicking reed frogs, usually start up around 4 in the afternoon. A gentle little murmur in the background, very soothing and reassuring. The woodwinds. Sadly we only see them when Chocolat has found them, and I don't like to post sad pictures of the (walking) wounded. If you have a cat … you can fill in the dots for yourself.

Then after dark the real frogs get chirruping. A little louder, but still a restful noise, a lulling lullaby. The string quartet. We do like our frogs. A good noise, the sound of the sea rolling peacefully in, and out, or a river flowing by.

This frog was photographed at night 

15 February, 2010

Dozen for Diana 11 - Phyllis van Heerden

This garden has over 30 rose bushes. The first garden was on a mountain slope above Camps Bay - west facing into the sun, prevailing South-Easter which once tore the roof off our neighbour's house. Now we have heavy clay, summer heat, and in winter it Rains. The next garden will be sand, salt sea breezes - not suitable for roses. We will concentrate on the endangered indigenous plants.

I am imagining that townhouse/courtyard garden. No lawn! Somewhere to sit with a tiny pond. And we welcome birds, bugs and all.

COLLAGE First 11 of Dozen for Diana

12 February, 2010

I want to start gardening, she wails!

(Broken links for photos restored October 2021)

Lots of plants.Waiting impatiently in pots. Been there for more than a year, while the house was built. The Ungardener did most of the Ungardening (read hard landscaping) himself, and that takes time. Months of time.

Remember we had floods, on heavy clay soil, with no paths. You can imagine the mess, inside and out! The driveway was functional to give the builders access to our panhandle plot. But we needed four single steps built, to get to the outside doors. And washing lines (we are allowed to dry our washing in the sun and the breeze). Everywhere I try to dig there are gobbets and sheets of concrete, broken bricks, broken glass, bits of plastic and metal rubbish.

2007 planted in June, bulbs in July, by November it was green,and the bricks for the edging

29 January, 2010

Figs, olives and apples

Our fig trees are laden with masses of luscious ripe figs. When I eat the fruit, straight from the tree, it is usually warm and sun baked. But this morning we had high cloud again, and the fruit was cool. Thru the kitchen window we hear the starlings feasting with delight, who used to nest in the gutters, next to our insulated metal roof. The bird on the nest was often standing on the outer edge, beak a gape. And delighted to go off duty, and have a quick bathe in the pond. Or at least to catch a quick drink, before dashing off shrieking - Food, Food, Food, they always want more Food!!! There are also a crowd of red faced mouse birds - with their long tails, and jaunty little crests. But too shy, and gone, before the camera was out. 


28 January, 2010

Dozen for Diana 7 - Restios

Since Piet  Oudolf, gardeners have learnt to see swathes of various grasses as desirable. Things of beauty. No longer weeds=OUT. Reeds and grasses have morphed into something we seek out. To plant in our garden, and enjoy.

(This post was originally published on the 9th November last year)

If you have been following Dozen for Diana, so far I have chosen a focal point/informal hedge, a small tree, a variegated groundcover, some colourful groundcover daisies, a white arum and a white pelargonium - for my imaginary smallish, townhouse/courtyard garden. 

26 January, 2010


What is that small noise? Frantic flapping. Follow that cat. It is a Blue Emperor dragonfly, lying on the water flailing his wings. I am guessing it was newly hatched, and pumping up his never been unfolded before wings. So I fished him out of the water, perched him on a nearby pelargonium. Distracted the cat from his prior claim. Sadly, later in the day, the Ungardener found a dead dragonfly lying in the water. Same one? Old or injured, rather than frail newborn?? (Remember this post from September? Young dragonfly going to fly)

When I worked in Zurich, I used to walk to work via the bridge over the Limmat river. One morning as I approached the water I heard frantic, fighting with his last breath for his life, flapping. From the bridge looking down into the water, I saw a pigeon. Just one of those 'flying rats' . Not being a water bird, the more he flapped the wetter, more sodden and heavy he got. And slowly, patiently, languidly circling, not much farther above him. Were the seagulls. Being Swiss, they have all had their heads dipped in good Lindt chocolate. Their menace, just waiting until the pigeon is too weak to fight any more. Those minutes walking across the bridge, time stood still in horror. Living thru Hitchcock's The Birds.

But pigeons are a problem in the city. Because the people, who are the real problem, leave lots of food out. So on another morning early. The sharpshooters were out, dressed in their regulation camouflage.

And on one of these lovely cool fresh mornings, with high cloud cover, when the insects are displaying themselves, while waiting patiently for the sun to come thru. This red-veined dropwing dragonfly - was one of the last pictures our dead camera took.

Photos and written by Diana of  Elephant's Eye 

25 January, 2010

January flowers in our garden

Just before our camera threw up its hands, and said - Right I'm off - and gave up the ghost …

Abelia and Adam-ant

We had a morning with the tail end of sea fog rolling in from Langebaan lagoon, and rising when it hits our mountains, to give us a dense cover of low cloud. One grateful reason why, altho it gets HOT in Porterville, it doesn't get as hot as it does, over the mountain, and inland to the Karoo. Semi-desert.

11 January, 2010

Bulrush or Bullrush

We have been gardening for over 30 years, so I no longer remember if we once bought this. At the annual plant sale at Kirstenbosch? Or if it came as a bonus with another waterplant? Or if birds, or the wind gifted it to us? There was a clump of bulrushes in the patio pool at the first house. And that was one of the plants that travelled with us. Had to find a temporary home for the ‘pond’ while we were in a rented house, and the second house was built. Then of course it took a long time to make the pond since the Ungardener does the Ungardening himself, with some help for the really heavy labour. He didn’t actually DIG the pond himself.

We used 2 large baby baths April 2007

Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

Midnight in Darkest Africa

Midnight in Darkest Africa
For real time, click on the map.