Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Posting from summer

Pictures from my first late afternoon in my mom's garden  in Constantia, where the sun was dipping behind the mountain and where I was a bit cross-eyed after a long flight,  no sleep, and two missed connections in Johannesburg (who would think that snow at Heathrow would affect flights from New York?...but it did).

Last night, dinner outside on the patio, at the iron table covered in candles that never fluttered: yogurt-marinaded  leg of lamb, grilled, with my flopped elderberry jelly made last year (thanks to Rachel's recipe - her jelly was perfect, mine was overcooked), new potatoes with butter, salad of trout lettuce (Hudson Valley Seeds that my mom planted), fresh chervil and local olive oil. Dessert was raspberries and creme fraiche sprinkled with brown sugar. Wine? - a treat. Remember the Daggaboer Padstal? Well, Charl Pansegrouw very generously sent us a case of his daughter's wine, and last night we drank the Syrah, 2009. A bit early, but a deep plum colour, fine structure, and all the spice that Syrah promises. I can't wait to try the Sauvignon blanc/Semillon. Baie dankie, Charl!

I woke promptly at 3.40 am this morning and waited for the birds, who started at 4.49. The first was a stranger to me: a quick melody, immediately repeated in a minor key, and returned by another bird farther away. This continued until 4.59, when some robins started to twitter. A hadeda flew over, wahahaha, and the peacocks down the greenbelt cried, Miaoooooow! But at 5.08 it was the bedlam of the dawn chorus, everyone joining in.  I read my Steinbeck, and at 6-something fell asleep again. I woke at lunchtime, had coffee and a mince pie while my mom sipped her Red Hook rose and ate rice cakes and thin ham.

 Rosa 'Peach Sunsation '

This vegetable marrow will become part of individual ratatouilles at Christmas. We will start with potted prawns with Melba toast, followed by chilled celery soup, the ratatouilles, then Nigel Slater's leg of lamb whose juice drips onto potatoes beneath, with fresh herb sauce, and finally a pavlova that my brother Francois will bring.

Better pictures to come as I snap out of my jet-fug.

Tomorrow I will visit Kirstenbosch, our national botanic garden, and talk to Ernst van Jaarsveld, the curator of the spectacular Conservatory there (and after whom Plectranthus ernstii is named), and the author of, most recently, the beautiful The Southern African Plectranthus (Fernwood Press, 2006). I've mentioned it before, but the well known 'Mona Lavender' (whose cuttings sit on top of my Brooklyn fridge in a jam jar, as we speak, rooting)  was developed at Kirstenbosch.


  1. Reading from winter.

    Sounds lovely and like a fairy tale.

    A delicious fairy tale.

    back to work.....xo Jane

  2. Your planned Christmas dinner sounds delicious...and your summer pictures with all their warmth and color are pretty amazing, given the uniform shade of cold grey everything is here right now!

  3. Glad you arrived safely. Rest well and then tell us all about it!

  4. Summer sounds lovely right about now...
    Glad you made it safe :-)

  5. Welcome to Cape Town! Have a fabulous summer holiday.

  6. Yay! You made it with only two disruptions!
    We are watching an unpleasant low pressure system, but I am totally focussed on its not becoming cyclonic.

    I love that rose! But I'm not familiar with the name locally;sometimes, names are altered, like book titles, for a"different" customer base.I shall check it out.

  7. I've been eagerly awaiting news of your safe arrival. Sorry about the missed connections but hope you will soon be rested and relaxed.

  8. 'Kaika and I are very happy to hear that you have landed safely in the land of summer! Enjoy!


  9. Welcome! if you have time try and visit the botanical gardens in stellenbosch as well. smaller scale and less(?) well know as kirstenbosch but with a charm of its own.

  10. Thank you for mentioning there is a book on plectranthus. Have you encountered Plectranthus ciliatus? I had both it and Mona Lavender from a Massachusetts nursery this autumn. Mona was ok -- not as covered with blooms or as nicely shaped as I remembered it from my first brush with it in 2008. But the Plectranthus ciliatus really surprised me - it must be a parent of Mona's. Its leaves have similar purple undersides, but they have a nice minty smell when bruised (I find Mona has no aroma). Better yet, it has (I use the present tense because I brought it inside and its still blooming) spikes of little blue flowers that covered the plant and just keep going. Each flower about 1/2 the size of Mona's though the spikes are about the same size. I'm very curious to try more plectranthuses now.

  11. Geniet Ernst! Hy is 'n fasinerende man. Ek was maats met sy dogter Louisa toe ons in die laerskool was. Dit was die ultimate treat om by hulle te gaan kuier - hulle woon in die bos regs van die tuine. Die huis was altyd vol interessante dinge soos mikroskope en skelette van klein diertjies, en hy het klompe interessante stories gehad. Hulle het ook 'n wonderlike tou-swaai gehad. Mens moes in 'n hoë boomhuis opklim, dan spring jy op 'n ou trui wat onder aan die tou geknoop was, en swaai reg bo-oor die bome en 'n stroompie (wat vir ons 'n rivier was destyds!). Een nag het ek my toksak op die stoep vergeet, toe piepie 'n muskeljaatkat daarop. Dit het so gestink ons moes dit weggooi! Dit was die wilde wildernes daai!!

  12. Klaus, I think you need to come and visit South Africa in our autummn: plectranthus time. Even now my mom has a few in bloom, in the shade.

    P. ciliatus is apparently a parent of several cultivars, though though not of Mona Lavender. Ernst writes that he found good specimens of P. hillardiae in the Transkei, at Magwa - after which the best form of the plant was named; it was grown at K' bosch, and then it was crossed with P. saccatus. The horticulturist Roger Jaques then took up the project and after more work, and more expeditions, he came up with Mona Lavender in 2002.

    The book is very good, I recommend it.

    My Mona is a bit stinky.

    Kari, dis 'n wonderlike storie.


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