23 December, 2011

Solstice wildflowers for Christmas

In South Africa the Christmas garden flower – what is picked in great bundles to arrange around the baby in a manger in our churches – is Agapanthus. Somewhat looked down on as commonorgarden, easy maintenance around office buildings. I love that colour and that the stalks stand high and Proudly South African. My version of the blue globes of Allium flowerheads.

Agapanthus sp.

Agapanthus sp.

Christmas-flowers-in-our-garden 2009. Sadly the Chironia  has gone.


The abiding impression in the garden now is blue or purple. The blue sage is a haze of flowers, echoing the colour of the sky, a vivid or a stormy blue depending on the falling light.

Blue sage

My pompom tree Dais cotonifolia is an odd shape, but it has been touch and go. This is the first Christmas that it is living up to its promise of covered in pink pompoms. The thirsty in summer tree is revelling in the autumnal La Nina weather this December.

Dais cotonifolia

Diminutive architectural blue spires around the pond are Plectranthus neochilus a tough aromatic groundcover. Easy to spread with cuttings in autumn (March to May). The other sweep of blue is Plumbago in a range of very soft sky blues which fade on camera.

Plectranthus neochilus

Dietes wild iris with bedhead this morning as it promised the afternoon’s rain. Filigree burgundy marking in the throat of Mackaya bella, its trumpet flowers arranged as one arm of a candelabra.

Mackaya bella, Dietes

Amongst the long since faded lime yellow Oxalis, this pink with easy to recognise large leaves, appeared in my pots. The scabious begins to bloom again. Purple Dimorphotheca jucunda has the first, slightly bedraggled flowers. We have aloes and pelargoniums which dance to a different colour theme, but they are scattered and less visible amongst all the blue.

Oxalis, Scabiosa
Dimorphotheca jucunda,
unknown succulent species

On the verandah in the shade, perched on the hub of an old wooden wheel (memories of Voortrekker women crossing the mountains barefoot) is my deeply purple Streptocarpus. The camera sees blue, and the Ungardener says – take the photos in the sun, as he always prompts me.

Streptocarpus in shade

Grumble. I take the pot to Paradise and Roses and park it next to the golden Mare’s Tail grass for a temporary photo op. Now the colour sings true to life, even on the camera.

Streptocarpus in sun

Yesterday the summer solstice. We would expect to be grateful for days getting shorter to help us thru the brutal heat of January and February. But it is chilly, quite grey and gently raining. Tomorrow the sun will shine. We live in an era called  AnthropoceneGlobal weirding. And a frustrating end to COP17. Youth delegate Anjali Appadurai says - Stand with Africa. Get it done!
I was asked how I ID our wild flowers. If I have a rough idea, I’ll use PlantZAfrica for the species. Kristo Pienaar's book is my second choice. Then I have a row of  wild flower guides from the Botanical Society of South Africa.

I wish you, my readers, a happy Christmas. Enjoy a break from work and time with your friends and family. May our New Year be peaceful and green. 

Pictures and 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. Diana, It is fascinating to see your Christmas blooms and to learn that there are those that think Agapanthus 'common.' Common is not a word I would ever think of when describing this lovely plant and flower. A joy to see all of your beautiful photos of blooms . . . especially since life is on hold here for a good while longer.
    Merry Merry Christmas!
    Amen to our having Peace and being Green in 2012!

  2. Beautiful blooms Diana. Nothing like that here as we are entering winter, with the promise of each day getting a little longer and lighter. Happy holidays to you and your family.

  3. Merry Christmas, Diana. Best wishes in the new year!

  4. Diana how lovely all the shades of purple and blue for Christmas...so unusual for us here in the NE US...your agapanthus is lovely and while common for you it is quite exotic and an annual for me...and I love it...thx for sharing these beautiful blooms and I wish you and your family a very Happy Christmas and a beautiful, green and wonderful New Year!!!

  5. Oh, some holiday blooms I recognize. I still have a few Agapanthus here, despite the deer's predilection for gnawing them to the ground on occasion! Wishing you peace and joy this holiday season!

  6. I loved seeing all your blues and purples. Oh, how I wish agapanthus was common here! I love that flower! I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!

  7. How nice to have such beautiful wildflowers. Wishing you a blessed Christmas and Happy New Year 2012, Diana!

  8. Beautiful blue & purple flowers. Merry Xmas Diana!

  9. Happy Christmas, Diana. I love the idea of a manger scene surrounded by the blue of Agapanthus. I echo Carol's comment that these are not seen as common at all here; "regal" would probably be a more likely adjective. This is one of several South African natives that I long to grow some day -- but they're not winter-hardy here, so they have to be grown in containers and brought indoors for the winter. -Jean

  10. Merry Christmas from Portland! I love the Agapanthus...they are so pretty...that blue/purple is just stunning. Those Streptocarpus are amazing...love them!

  11. Diana, you work so well with Mother Earth, if I can be nosy; what size of land is your stewardship over and do you do it all yourself or do you have helpers?

  12. I'm not familiar with agapanthus but always imagine it to be stately and exotic.

    May we all be green (but not Grinchish)!

    Happy Christmas


  13. Wonderful blue Agapanthus! Around here it is everything but low maintenance, thanks to winter temperatures. I have always wanted one that loses its leaves in winter, but haven't found one yet.
    Have a nice christmas!

  14. Brian - 1,600 sq metres, which includes the driveway. We are the four legged grey water system. The Ungardener had some help for the heavy work and hard landscaping. But gardening is us. Just discovered in Thailand our size is called 1 Rai.
    here you have a bird's eye view, when he was up on the roof, with camera for blog.

  15. Diana, agapanthus still a fav, despite many, many years of using it in floral design.
    Have a wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2012.

  16. Wonderful to see all your lovely Christmas blooms. Many good wishes to you and yours for the Christmas season.

  17. How lovely to have all those flowers singing in your garden at this time of year. Wishing you peace and joy at Christmas Diana and throughout the year to come xxx

  18. I love your Agapanthus, I've seen these in catalogues before but only as annuals. Such a beautiful colour, the shape does resemble an allium, I hadn't thought of that. Merry Christmas to you and the ungardener and best wishes in the coming new year.

  19. Wishing you the most wonderful holidays and that the New Year be prosperous.

    Have a wonderful Holiday,
    John and Liza

  20. It is so wonderful to be able to look at all of your flowers and blooms today. They are so pretty shining in the sunlight.
    Merry Christmas to you Diana and yours.

  21. Great post..I must get out and take some Ag shots..I grow quite a few forms and the seedling crosses can be very interesting plants! Merry Christmas Billy

  22. I used to love Streptocarpus, as a house plant, and still would if I had time for house plants. Easy plant indoors here; total death outside, of course.

  23. Had Christmas dinner with friends who are traveling to South Africa in February. So I decided to find out where Porterville is. I did a little "driving around" Porterville on Google Maps. Fascinating landscape. That mountain range to your east (I think) looks foreboding. It must be a wonderful place to explore.

  24. James - from the house we see only the gentle foothills. Behind the mountain Tulbagh is in a horseshoe of mountains - too enclosed for me!


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.

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