Thursday, December 31, 2020

The terrace year, in brief

January 2020. Still blissfully ignorant of what was coming.

And in February? Nothing, because for the whole month I was visiting my mom in Cape Town. And thank goodness, because lockdown was imminent. 

As the new reality slowly seeped in (there was denial - "it's like flu, everyone underestimates flu!"), the March pots began to wake up and offered the plant therapy that never fails. Shoots began to shoot. Pansies were planted.

In April we rattled and beat our pots and bowls for essential workers every evening with the rest of the neighborhood. And then sat out at the stone table, well wrapped, for a drink. Pansies and South African nemesias bloomed in the window boxes, beside new-sown arugula. I learned that Sq. Irrel is deterred by chicken wire, so I covered the terra cotta pots where I had planted lily bulbs. I bought a new black raspberry from the Gowanus Nursery (bottom right).

May saw the citrus and the bay tree back on the terrace, after their long winter indoors. Pots were shuffled around. Braais were lit and I cooked over coals while it was light. (The green pillows are by Skinny LaMinx - they ship Stateside from Cape Town for a flat fee of $15). 

By June the terrace had fluffed out. Petunias and portulaca replaced cool-weather pansies. Echinacea opened. Basil began to basil. Lilies formed buds. Days were long and we dined outdoors every bright evening. 

In July it was jungle-lush and our living space shrank as plants broadened and greened. Agastache began to flower at last, inviting bees, and lavender was squeezed into the windowboxes for the nostalgic Frenchman. (These cushion covers are also South African, by A Love Supreme. Yes, we did a lot of online shopping...)

The windowboxes of August spilled onto the terrace with fragrant petunias. The neighborhood's trees were plush, and sometimes filled with green monk parrots, visiting from Green-Wood Cemetery, where they nest.

By September new moonflowers were opening every evening. The balloon plant (Gomphocarpus physocarpus) made balloons.

                                  In October the fingerlimes began to ripen. 

In November the leaves of the black raspberry turned yellow. The myoga ginger stayed green until the middle of the month, then died back for its winter rest.

And December gave us an early gift of snow.

May your 2021 be happier than the year behind. Plants help. 




  1. Dear Marie and V. Smoothman. We wish you a healthy new year. Those of us in the scientific community knew, but were silenced. Its like gardening, we make mistakes we learn we try again. Eventually something different will bloom again. Your blog helped. I have offered before if you have questions ask.

    1. Wishing you a good New Year, too. What kind of work do you do?

  2. Thank you for your calendar.
    And on ongoing thanks for using the botanical names. We immigrants find the common names confusing and they are always different in a new country, did you not find? And lets not go down the path of culinary ingredients, varieties of onions, for instance!
    May 2021 be good to you and yours - and to the world.

    1. Most people are very intimidated by botanical names, but as you know, they are often the only ones that make sense! Wishing you a happier New Year, too...

  3. How lovely that you have the whole year in photographs, and that you could make such good use of your outdoor space. I love the green cushions (pillows) and the rug.

    Happy New Year. xx

  4. Your balcony always looks lush even in the snow. Happy New Year to you and the Smoothman.

  5. Plants help, and so do your words and photos, thank you. Happy New Year to you and the Frenchman.

  6. Your terrace is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, both in snow and in the more lush growing seasons.

  7. Beautiful! There is so much beauty all around us.


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