30 July, 2014

A Swartland garden in July

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity

Our garden decides which colour features thru the year. Red and yellow flames echo the kitchen hearth at the Owl House. I've learnt a deeper love for my blue-green Melianthus major as I see it cherished by Northern foreign gardeners. Theirs is cut down by frost, and mine is bravely cut to the ground, stalk by stalk as the seeds fall. Strelitzia is not only flame-coloured, but also flame-shaped.

Teeth on the leaves of Melianthus major
 about to open

My potted indigenous bulbs are dominated by the most vigorous self-seeder Lachenalia rubida. Thick fleshy leaves smother delicate bulbs. Tall spires of glowing coral-red flowers form an avenue between the ash trees. Scatter your path with rubies, my lady? I have a potful on the kitchen shelf.

Lachenalia rubida avenue under the ash trees

Down the driveway, the exposed to passersby part of our garden, the jewel among the olives is Japanese flowering quince Chaenomeles speciosa (from China) - a July birthday gift to the previous gardener and me. Seagull sculpture is a gift from my middlest sister, now far away. Memories locked in there - we went to the artist's studio when I was still at school.

Japanese flowering quince and gull sculpture

Our tiny baby leopard tortoise Stigmochelys pardalis is endemic to Africa, including Sudan to Ethiopia. They eat milkweed and succulents, then disperse the seeds they have eaten. In the wild, this little tortoise could live to one hundred. More pictures at ispot za.

Baby leopard tortoise with Aragon our cat for scale

Our garden flock of pin-tailed whydahs, sparrows, weavers, red bishops, doves and pigeons, is hungry, and happy to eat morning and evening - also between meals if we are showing the house. Aloes and pig's ears for the sunbirds. Witkaree berries harvested by red-cheeked mousebirds.

Winter birds dining with Spirulino

First impression of the garden is yellow. Two pools of sunshine in Euryops pectinatus daisy bushes. Finely divided soft grey leaves. Endemic to the South-Western Cape. Sparked by the carpet of lime yellow Oxalis pes-caprae - our neighbours weed with fury, but I welcome them. Potted for False Bay Ifafa lilies are blooming.

Euryops pectinatus with Oxalis pes-caprae
Ifafa lily

Chasmanthe floribunda in my chosen buttery yellow, but some tackle yellow with such exuberance that they revert to orange. Growing tall and heavy, they need to be planted deep.

Chasmanthe floribunda

As we tidy the garden for the next guardians, I rediscovered the repeating pattern of bulbs along the path to the front door. White trumpets of arum lilies are the July focus in Paradise (and Roses). Camphor bush has flowers followed by white puffs of cotton for the birds to line their nests with.

Front path, white arum
camphor bush flowers and seeds

July is our coldest month. Our previous record minimum was -0.6C on 13th July 2010. We remember that day as our solar panel sprang a leak. In 2014 we hit new record lows says the South African Weather Service, and we woke up twice, to frost in the garden, and 'icebergs' in the birdbath. 9th July we were -1.3C and on 8th July -0.7C. We watch the weather forecast, and the Ungardener drains and disconnects the solar panels till all danger of frost is safely past.

Neither my garden nor I am prepared for FROST! I gathered up lady finger banana, my mother's Hoya and orchids to spend 2 nights on our verandah where it was plus 1C. Today it is sunny and 25C!

Prepared for frost and waiting on the verandah
False Bay garden in transit

A wistful look back at our garden. One eye is looking to our False Bay garden where we found a carob tree!

Under the ash trees in July
Wildflower Wednesday @ Clay and Limestone. The quince, Hoya and orchids are non-South Africans.
End of the Month View with Patient Gardener. The bits the camera and I enjoy.

Pictures by Diana of  Elephant's Eye
(in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa)

(If you mouse over brown text, it turns shriek pink. Those are my links.
To read or leave comments, either click the word Comments below,
or click this post's title)


  1. Show days are the worst - I share your pain.

    How could anyone not want your property - it is just too gorgeous!

    1. getting closer! Last viewers said - mm smells like the Karoo.

  2. No wonder your birds are flocking together to stay warm....I love the coral of the Lachenalia rubida and the quince in its lovely setting. Your high of 25 is our high. Feels wonderful and warm :)

  3. Your garden is beautiful, doesn't matter what time of the year it is.

    Regarding my phone. I got a Samsung S4 mini and love the camera as well as the fact that I can now do Instagram.

  4. Your garden is wonderful - hope you survive the frost and cold. I guess you won't be moving to Chicago.

    1. not moving there ;~) but your Lurie Garden is on my bucket list!

  5. 'Scatter your path with rubies' indeed, but that quince is superb. Then I came to the yellows ... oh, my how can you leave it? P. x

  6. I hope you enjoy your new garden, it is so wrenching leaving behind your plants. Your garden looks so lush and tropical, I like the Calla lilies and the tubular flowers.

    1. some came here as bits from Camps Bay, and will in turn continue as bits to False Bay.

  7. Your garden is lovely, even in winter! I enjoyed seeing all the birds at the feeder--you must put out quite a banquet to attract so many.

    1. we are one of the few who do feed the wild birds. They fly in from all directions when the news is out - seed's here!

  8. A strange and poignant time, tending one garden full of memories for an unknown future while creating new memories as you tend the new. I remember seeing tortoises everywhere when we were travelling through southern Africa and finding it just one of many strange sights that we quickly acclimatised to. I love the seagull sculpture, and that Ifafa lily is a real beauty.

  9. All the yellow flowers are very summery. I must be lovely to have such mild winters.

  10. I am so glad to be able to comment - many bloggers only allow comments on google+.
    Thank you for your visit and comment. I see that we are in a similar state - about to leave a beloved house and garden and move on to new places. Your garden is so exotic to me - plants and colours that inspire curious. Gorgeous! I must go back to look at some of your past posts. It's very nice to have the chance to get to know your blog.

    1. Since I moderate, I'm free to welcome all comments. I use Google Plus, but not on my blog, nor to comment.


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.