05 July, 2011

Midwinter in a Swartland garden

Winter interest? Seriously? We are not tropical, with NO winter. We are temperate, we do have seasons. But we are mediterranean, in the valley there is no frost or snow in the garden. So the garden stays green, with flowers, year round.

New gardener, with James. We are learning summer New gardening. Coming round to letting the plants rest when it is hot and dry, instead of frantically and despairingly battling with life support. The seeds and bulbs wait, the shrubs and trees furl their leaves. Our garden year begins in March, cooler, some rain, March lilies. Garden!

Try again, winter interest. Early in the morning the garden is spangled with dew. On a sunny day like today, and many winter days are sunny, the dew burns off as the sun climbs the sky.  The cats who observe work in their garden, find a gardener's shadow, no reason why we should BOTH be hot and bothered!

Early on a winter's morning, dew smokes from Dombeya leaves

At Rest and Be Thankful we have bark underfoot. Pine bark. And a charming little family of rich gold mushrooms. Will have to ask Wiseacre what they are.

Golden mushrooms

There is snow. Sunday before last we drove just out of town. I’m enchanted by snow capped mountains, just keep the ice up there, or in the fridge, thank you!

Farm avenue

Groot Winterhoek

Klein Winterhoek

Winter brings blazing red aloes, vibrant red Lachenalia rubida, and green winter snow drags the crop sprayers up to do battle with wild rye grass in the farmers’ fields. In our garden the gravel paths roll out the plush green velvet carpet, and we weed along, a bit each day. Learning another new trick – 'weed like a cow', as Henk Gerritsen did for Strilli Oppenheimer at Waltham Place.

Holding back the barbarian hordes,
work for tomorrow

Every plant which is still visible, is fringed and shawled with Oxalis and winter grass. Green and exuberant showgirl style. I learn new respect for birds harvesting caterpillars. When I remove the surplus to requirements bunches of Oxalis, out fall curled up caterpillars. Try today to find some to photograph and show you, maybe work out who they are, not a one in sight! They have harvested swathes of leaves, now a forest of strimmed green stalks. But Mother Nature invented sustainable. Left in peace, those stalks contrive to send out fresh leaves, undeterred.

Oxalis with leaves,
strimmed by caterpillars

Amongst the weeds, the Ungardener’s free spirited plants, I find treasure. While we wait for flowers, the jury is still out, on whether this thistle with the pretty leaves, is invasive weedy milk thistle or a welcome Berkheya species.  

Milk thistle or Berkheya??

A New garden needs a sense of place, its place in the countryside. Before the garden, the house, the town, the farm, there was renosterveld. Annual daisies (yes we have a few), bulbs (yes, lots, but are they local?), and small dark bushes (rhino-dark for the renoster and the Swartland) we need wild rosemary and renosterbos.

Euryops, winter sunshine on Ungardening Pond

Come back to walk the garden and harvest the commonorgarden foreign exotic alien flowers, and our indigenous wildflowers with Gail on the 25th, as I do each month.

Pictures by Diana and Jurg
words by Diana of Elephant's Eye
- wildlife gardening in Porterville,
near Cape Town in South Africa

(If you mouse over brown text,
it turns shriek pink.
Those are my links.)


  1. beautiful photos,I so enjoy coming here,

  2. Oxalis and winter grass - it wouldn't be Cape Town without them. My beds and pot's are overflowing, but I have made peace, in summer they will disappear. I also have something eating the oxalis, but I can never find them.

  3. I think I would cry every time I went out for a walk if our scenery were as beautiful as yours - and ours is pretty special!


  4. Such beautiful words and pictures of something I know little about: winterless gardening. From what I see here, however, you're doing just fine.

  5. Is it just the perspective (or my imagination or poor translation), or is Groot Winterhoek actually smaller than the Klein one?

    I like that "weeding like a cow." That was always my Dad's approach with dandelions, and it worked pretty well--until seeds blew in from somewhere else, of course.

  6. Stacy - yes, as we drive along, I swear those mountains dance around. But Groot is taller than Klein ;~)

  7. The milk thistle? has such a lovely design and shape...very interesting plant.

  8. "Weed like a cow"! I do that sometimes, but not intentionally! I've wondered about your winters, thanks for explaining.

  9. Diana, I very much appreciated your winter views! It's been so hot and dry around here any little bit of escape is lovely. The first image is breathtaking - you should frame that one!

  10. You really have spectacular views all around. Your pond in your home and your mountains outside.

  11. great pics as usual! i love the one of the dew and the landscapes...

  12. Oh wow! to the dew smoke photo. I love it.

    Here in Port Elizabeth it is cold and very very wet. We have had tons of rain over the last couple of weeks and everything is under water. My garden in the front and back is like a marsh.

  13. Thank you :~)) when I saw dew smoking on his computer screen - I knew that was the lead photo for this post.

  14. Lovely photos! I shared with a friend from SA and she got quite nostalgic!

  15. Diana - still wondering why I blog ... especially when I see posts like this !

  16. Valeri - armchair travelling while bloghopping? I do!

    b-a-g - not sure which way to take that ;~)

  17. Hey,
    thanks for your comment, nice to read. Here in North Germany its rainy at the moment and i would prefer bit more sun. very interesting posts here, nice blog.
    so many greetings from the north to the south.

  18. simply gorgeous as always - such a joy to visit your garden, thank you xxxx

  19. That last shot of euryops beside your pond is pure magic - winter is nothing to mourn where you live! I also appreciate the birds' taste for caterpillars, just wish they'd avoid the monarchs :)

  20. Hi there Diana and thankyou so much for your, as always lovely comment on the blog! How I envy you that Med climate. Being in the UK the year has turned and I am so not looking forward to my first UK winter for 8 years. But the bees are still buzzing for now :). Very nice to have had your support for so long.. Val

  21. I love your staccato narrative Diana - goes so well with stop and look of your garden tour. And the winter scenery is fresh and clear. Very beautiful part of the world.

  22. I found this post as enjoyable as ever but especially gentle and inclusive and protective, of landscape, weeds and other bloggers. Maybe this is the mood of our mild winter days.


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
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