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!

There were lots of golden yellow pincushion protea bushes. Leucospermum conocarpodendron ssp.conocarpodendron - the subspecies from the sunny side of the mountain with sun protection built into its grey leaves. The same species on the Kirstenbosch side of the mountain has grey-green leaves to deal with heavier winter rain and afternoon shade. Also many rampant (think caravan sized!) Rhus laevigata bushes. They've renamed that family Searsia. We have an abiding love and appreciation for that whole family of shrubs and trees. I remember a very delicate little wild blue gladiolus, G. gracilis, which disappeared, sadly.

The pond with mountain ash trees and white marguerite

What plants will grow in a mediterranean climate?

There is a map on my sidebar from GIMCW. Apart from the Western Cape in South Africa where I am, and the Mediterranean basin, remember SW and S Australia and central Chile.

Top L Rest and Be Thankful, R bruinsalie sage
Bottom L Karoo koppie,
R We plan to go walking in the last of the spring flowers on Friday?!

Seek out plants which are adapted to a difficult long, hot summer, cool wet winter climate.

Prunus nigra blooming for spring

A wonderful resource for our South African plants is PlantZAfrica from SANBI, the South African National Biodiversity Institute based at Kirstenbosch, one of nine national botanical gardens around South Africa.

Paradise our rose garden with Autumn Fire,
the Dark Side, looking as the gardener would like it to

And Dimorhpotheca jucunda with brown striped reverses to the petals
My niece Claire once asked, carefully, If it is A Rose Garden
Why are there no roses! But there are a few flowers
and many more coming to follow luscious leaves

I learnt the hard way that indigenous = South African – doesn’t necessarily mean the plants will like our climate. Not if they come from the summer rainfall areas – then they whine “It’s too hot, we are THIRSTY!!!” Not if they come from the arid areas – then they disappear because the roots rot!

Himself asked -
What is that strange smell?
They look good in a vase
but they do smell ... interesting.

Now we are in Porterville with Renosterveld. Still in the Mediterranean climate, but very hard to find information about what would have grown here, before the town and the wheat fields. Haven’t drawn much information, or help with Renosterveld. BUT I have drawn a circle of like minded people – who garden for wildlife as we do. And who are learning to love South African plants all over again, as they realise how many of their common-or-garden plants are OURS!

Pictures and words by Diana of Elephant's Eye


  1. Very interesting and why I love to visit!

  2. Gorgeous photos and property. Looks like a great place to live and garden. My landscaper tours South Africa every year and last year, I almost went with him. It would have been a great experience.

  3. Wonderful discussion -- it's always so thought-provoking to visit you. I also use PlantZAfrica, a sort of computer-based eco-tourism, if you will...

  4. Great post! In the SF Botanical Garden, they have a big region devoted to mediterranean climate plants, the variety is amazing. Proteas do really well there, by the way, though most gardeners in CA find the challenging.

  5. Hello Diana,

    I love Mediterranean climates - just like the one I grew up in Los Angeles :-)

  6. Dear Diana of EE, A very thoughtful and thought provoking posting. I had not previously realised, foolishly, that South Africa had different climatic regions so that something which will grow well in one area is unlikely to be found in another. All very interesting.

    I have enjoyed the views of the garden and constantly admire the way you work hard to attract all manner of wildlife.

    I do hope that you sorted out the 'Facebook' mystery. I should be interested to know to whom you tracked it down.

  7. Beautiful post Diana.
    All the wattles are in flower here at the moment, and seeing them all out makes it easy to understand how quickly they could become and invasive problem in the wrong spot!
    I love that last photo, it is just wonderful.

  8. I enjoyed my morning walk through your gardens... I always enjoy the different perspectives found in gardens across the world. We share much, but there is also much that is unique.

  9. Edith - Muvelt Kert (sp?) 'fessed up. Who would have thought I had two Friends in Hungary?!

    Gippsland your wattles are blooming here too. They look and smell delectable, but ...

  10. interesting read, micro-climates within a nation is fascinating, even here in the small British Isles we have such variations..loved the photos of the rose garden...

  11. Dear Diana,

    Visiting your blog is like stepping into another world for me. Then I enlarge your wonderful photographs and I spot flowers that also grow in my garden ...

    Gardening for wildlife has its challenges wherever we are planted. You meet yours magnificently!

    Enjoy the remainder of your spring!


  12. Like Pam says, visiting your blog is always a joy because it takes me away to a place I'll likely never get to visit without a big lottery win. So different from our climate, yet as much as we oooh and ahhh and are envious, you have your climate challenges too, don't you? And across the continents and hemisphere seasonal zones, we share similarities; love for wildlife and for gardening, and for combining the two into one outburst of life-affirmation.


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

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