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

Someone suggested leaving a dead tree standing, for the birds to perch on. To see what came up from the seeds they leave there. Too long term for me. But this bietou, bush-tick berry, whose berries turn black - was a gift from the birds in our last garden. Despite being part of the daisy family it grew into a woody small tree. And the cutting has become a shrub in this garden.

Rain-daisy in May

With autumn and the winter rain, I go into the garden hopefully and expectantly. From May thru to August we can have drifts (and even whole fields from kind green farmers) of snow. White rain-daisies.

Gousblom in August

In our garden, we also have a soft buttery straw yellow daisy. Gousblom, with purple seed fluff that the harvester ants collect.

Summer Snowflake in September

Down the centre of the gravel driveway, we have a middle-mannetjie. That strip in the centre, where plants can grow, between the tyre tracks? There one day I found a blue summer snowflake. A true Geranium (radial symmetry, no pansy face looking at you).

Pink flax in October

This took me by surprise, in the Apple Creek. It looks like blue flax. But it’s pink! Which colour our wildflower book takes for granted. Tiny flowers but with a vibrant flash of colour.

Oxalis in August

When summer has left us with swathes of baked clay. That look as if we’ve given up on the garden, and gone for simply covering the problem with a layer of concrete. It rains. And overnight it all turns green. Then a shimmering party dress. Lemon yellow with lime overtones. Embellished with triple heart shaped leaves. (And the Californians are yelling WEEDS WEEDS!!!) See, if they were primroses in an English wood (same colour), people would come from far and wide to admire them, but here they’re Just Weeds.

Fern in April, with rain in the pond

If you love ferns, perhaps like mine, your favourite, is the one which came unaided, said - I like it here - and flourishes. We used clay pipes for drainage in the retaining walls in the last garden. There was a tiny self-sown fern I loved. Builder had a look at something, large boot in a convenient foothold. And that fern was history. Sniff. But now in our waterfall we have … A Fern.

Photos by Jurg and Diana, words by Diana of Elephant's Eye


  1. What lovely surprises! So interesting that the first daisy pictured has the habit of a small woody tree.

  2. Ah yes, we are guilty of yelling weeds...especially when it's the evil yellow oxalis...but only because once we have it, a flame thrower couldn't eradicate it!

    I love your little fern, it looks so at home in the waterfall. Let's hope there are no more errant boots in the garden.

  3. Curbstone - Our neighbours also fight the Oxalis. I am relieved that I like it, for we surely have MILLIONS of tiny bulbs here.

  4. Nice pix. The rain-daisies I've seen for sale in Illinois nurseries as a spring annual. You're lucky to have such lovely natives. I admit I try to keep the yellow oxalis under some kind of control, meanwhile trying to encourage our native oxalis, or purple wood-sorrel. Oh irony.

  5. Lovely free-spirited plants! This serendipity is one of my favorite things about gardening.

  6. Diana, "Free-spirited plants" is such a wonderful description. I have many such plants in my garden. Right now, the primary blooms on the back slope are the free-spirited Viola blanda and the Fragaria virginiana. I encourage both of these. The violets will disappear by the time other things really get going, and the strawberries will provide me with delicious fruit in a few weeks. Later in the summer, I will have free-spirited Solidago plants that were already growing in the blue and yellow border when I created it and that I just worked around. But I sure would love to have a free-spirited geranium in that color of blue! Gorgeous! -Jean

  7. What a lovely blog - its a pleasure to meet you Diana. We have a pink Oxalis and I'm afraid I fight - and I'm not even sure why. It may be on our list of invasive intruders: many of which are poisonous and alien. I'm guess Oxalis has Oxalic acid which is a problem for cattle, but then of course so does Rhubarb and Sorrel. I shall have to check it out. I think your rain daisies are delightful. We have something a little similar called Osteospernum which I think is Sth African.

  8. This is a really interesting post because your wild flowers are so different from ours. I think I've posted some of our on my blog site. I'll take photos of the ones in the garden but as you say in the blog some of them like the primroses are lovingly looked after here.


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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.

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