Kirstenbosch

669Just back from a very special holiday to South Africa and managed to spend a couple of hours at the world famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town.689

The gardens lie on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and cover a thousand acres, much of it natural low scrub or ‘Fynbos’ but a good part of it landscaped and developed into themed display gardens.686

Sadly, although there was much to see, spring was late this year and the temperatures were only just beginning to rise when I was there so the Proteas which I had longed to see were only just beginning.665

However, there was enough to get my horticultural ‘fix’ as these few photographs will show. The main species in flower were the early flowering Leucospermum cordifolium (above) in creamy yellow and peachy apricot and Leucadendron xanthoconus or Sickle Leaf Conebush which is actually an Australian native but is now well established in South Africa.676

I was slightly too early to see the King Protea, Protea cynaroides, in full flower but the tightly packed buds were in abundance just waiting for the temperature to rise before opening their huge and very beautiful flowers.680

The other highlight for me were the Strelitzias in shades of yellow and orange and, in particular, the sunbirds which feasted on their nectar.583

Their beautiful colours flashed in the sunlight and they were a joy to watch as they flitted from flower to flower in search of food. They were remarkably tolerant of visitors and posed for the camera! 681

The Strelitzia regina, so exotic and difficult to cultivate in our climate, grew everywhere  like weeds! They were used in places where we might grow Phormium or Cordylines as their tall stiff spear-like leaves are evergreen and clump forming. 597

Of course, there were vast areas covered with Osteospermums and Dimorphotheca, Gazanias and Mesembryanthemums which brought the beds and borders alive with their bright colours and sheer exuberance.

I was impressed with the little I saw and would like to go back at a different time of year to see the Agapanthus and myriad flowering shrubs and plants which I missed. In the meantime I have some very happy memories and about 300 photographs to remind me!

Lovely Clovelly!

When we were in Cornwall we went to the famous old fishing village of Clovelly on the north coast near Bideford, and I am really glad we did. Despite the obvious difficulties of the steep hill and the cobbled streets, it was a fascinating place to visit and well worth the effort.                                                                                                                                  Why anybody in the 1850’s thought it was a good idea to build a village on a sheer rock face and with everything having to be transported on sleds and pulled by donkeys is a mystery, but they did and it is testament to their ingenuity and determination that they succeeded.                                                                                                                   Anybody who has been right down to the Red Lion Inn on the harbour will know just how painful on the knees it can be! I managed to get down to the really steep last 100 feet of steps and gave up!                                                                                                               My wife, who is far fitter and more agile than me, made it all the way down and, more importantly, back up again!

As this is a gardening blog, I thought it had better have some horticultural content so here it is! On the way down the hill, in a little side street, I came across a Fuchsia tree! It was obviously very old judging from the stem which was gnarled and at least 70mm thick and it was growing against the house in very little soil. However, it was flowering well and looked very healthy. Has anyone any idea of the variety?

 

A Break from Routine

Breakwater Cottage

Left the garden in good hands for a week and driven down to one of our favourite spots in North Cornwall, Summerleaze Beach in Bude. We come down here mainly to give the dogs a holiday on the beach, they love it!

View from the Cottage

 

The place we rent is called Breakwater Cottage and is literally a stones throw from a beautiful, clean, dog friendly beach, the estuary of the tiny River Neet and the sea lock of the Bude Canal. A fascinating place with a lot of history, well restored and carefully managed. Lots of interesting walks on the coastal path above the breakwater and around the headland to Crooklets Beach. We look out onto the canal, the river and the sea and the sand dunes, which lead to an open air sea pool cleaned and refilled by every high tide.

Whilst I’m here I thought I would jot down a few notes about the garden because it is always interesting to reflect on other peoples gardens, particularly when it’s right next to the beach and exposed to salt laden winds.

Mind your own Business

 

The owner of the cottage lives in London but he obviously employs a keen gardener to look after things for him while he’s away. It is a challenging garden to tend being on a steep slope but the terracing and rock features help to hold the sandy soil back and plants have been chosen carefully to provide stability and coverage. Not for the faint hearted, the potentially invasive Soleirolia soleirolii, commonly called Mind your own Business, has been introduced and looks perfect clinging to the rocks and sheer faces of the granite walls. Fuchsias, hydrangeas and hardy geraniums love the improved but well drained soil and a Tamarisk tree is constantly swaying gently over the driveway. On the upper levels, hebes and hardy fuchsias form a tall hedge and phormiums, cordylines and santolinas bask in the sun. Outside in the road, glossy black tubs are filled with yellow anthemis and red begonias creating an attractive welcome to the cottage.

The other key feature of all the gardens and stone walls in the area is Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber, which grows out of every nook and cranny.

Common Fleabane, Erigeron karvinskianus, has obviously developed from one plant into many and now billows over the steps. 

One of the clever things about the garden is the way the different levels provide differing views and the higher you go, the more you see. At the very top, perched alongside a tall Cordyline you can look over the cottage roof, over the estuary and out to sea.The air in Cornwall somehow seems to be cleaner, and the light is brighter and sharper. I’ve heard that’s why a lot of artists and photographers have moved here and I’m not surprised. The dogs love it too!