Monday, March 18, 2013

The Constantia Garden

Here are some more pictures of my mother's summer garden, taken in December, when we were in Constantia for a week. Speaking of Constantia - the Cape Town suburb and wine-growing region where my parents live - there was an article in The New York Times a few weeks ago that focused purely on Constantia (rather than Cape Town in general) as a getaway. European visitors have known this for a while, but now the American bobcat is out of the bag. I actually wrote to The Times to suggest a small correction - the article talks about the Alphen Trail that goes right past my parents house, and say that it ends on the Constantiaberg. It doesn't. No matter. Apparently their guide was also confused, and so was a local website to which they referred me.

There are many mountains. And it is funny to think of that trail - used primarily by dog walkers who never scoop their poop - a terrible South African practise, as a destination.

Anyhoo: above - butterflies (garden acraea) at home on the Confederate jasmine that festoons the arbour over the patio every early summer.

Bulbine, indigenous to South Africa, is something I'd love to grow here. Impossibly, my friend Dan plants it as an annual on Fire Island. I have no idea where he finds it. I suppose I should ask.  Its succulent, gel-oozing leaves have wonderful healing properties for skin ailments, and I think it makes a very good cut flower. Witness the flowers for my dad's 80th birthday (actually, you can barely see them in the linked pictures: there was precisely one in each vase. I kept stealing flowers from the garden and decided my mother would kill me if I took more!)

Cannas and fuchsias grow at the bottom of the garden.

The David Austin rose Graham Thomas is about eight feet tall.

My niece Rebecca gave this protea (a hybrid called Pink Ice, I think) to my mom, and it does surprisingly well. Proteas can be fussy in gardens, but this one is in the right spot, with excellent drainage. 

Gorgeous opium poppies...

A nameless and flourishing orchid.

And a little piece of England? With Asia thrown in, in the form of day lilies...the mixed border in front of the large tree tomato. I love the bronze fennel in the middle of everything else.

I think my mom's garden will be open* to the public again next year, when her garden club hosts its biennial Open Gardens Weekend, a fund raiser and spectacularly successful event which attracts thousands of garden visitors. Money raised is donated to two local not-for-profits (Abalimi bezekhaya and Soil for Life) which support edible gardens on the Cape Flats.

* Update: Nope, I'm wrong, hers will not be. But the dates for next year's Open Garden weekend are November 14th and 15th, 2014

The view from my bedroom window

But before then I'll see it this May - late autumn for the garden. I have not seen the garden, or Cape Town, at this time of year since I left South Africa for what was meant to be a six month study trip. Many, many years ago.

I really can't wait.

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  1. Wow, you left for 6 months? Never to return?

    many stories waiting to be told.

    xo J.

  2. I live in a beautiful coastal area in the panhandle of Florida. Bulbines are a favorite here and are grown as perennials. They bloom continuously all year.

  3. They're all lovely photos, but really, that first one is breathtaking. What stunning contrasts! And thanks for the remark about the Bulbines. I grow them here in Orlando and love them, but I didn't know they had beneficial attributes.

    1. The gel is used for burns, scars, rashes, chapped lips, cracked skin - reapplied several times a day...

    2. Great! Thanks for the tip. Sounds like what I use my homemade calendula ointment for...without all the effort of making the ointment!

  4. That view out of your bedroom window would have gotten me to rethink my entire position on leaving in the first place. WOW! What a lovely legacy your mother will leave for the good people of Constantia- and you.

  5. That protea - OMG gorgeous. I could almost give up my infatuation with ranunculus for protea - almost!

  6. Correction - my garden will not be open next year. But I agreed to be chairlady again, so plenty of action ahead. For anyone nearby, remember the dates -
    Open Gardens 2014, November 14 and 15

  7. Breathtakingly beautiful... another place I long to visit : )

  8. Please let me send you a 4.5" pot of Bulbine as a continuing thank you for your help with our South Africa trip several years ago. I'll include a few other plant goodies too just to fill out the box. It will be my pleasure. Speaking of which, one of the many charming things we discovered about SA is how so many people respond to "Thank you" with "My pleasure" or some similar variant. It's so much classier than "No problem" we almost always hear from waitstaff here. The plants should be ready in two weeks or so. I'll drop you a line when they ship.


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