Monthly Archives: December 2017

Christmas flowers


The unidentified blue flowers I blogged last time have exploded everywhere on the farm, stunning and lasting quite a long time, so I decided I really should do a bit more research to identify them. The Colour Encyclopaedia of Cape Bulbs is a wonderful book and the dark spots on the lower petals helped give a clear identification. These are Thereianthus spicatus, considered rare and closely related to Micranthus, the combflower, also flowering prolifically after the fires.  Part of their charm is that like the Micranthus they flower just as the season turns hot and dry. Here they are again.

Even with a houseful of guests and grandchildren, the Christmas break gives me an opportunity to spend more time out on the farm. In the mornings I get up before everyone else. The guests are all great runners at 10pm, less able and willing at 7am, so I head off on my own with the dogs more often than not. There are baby proteas growing everywhere, much to our delight, but I stop frequently to pluck them from the roads, in no time they will be large plants blocking the roads and it’s much easier to weed them out now, before they establish roots. Tomorrow I plan to bring a trowel and a plastic bag and to transplant some to the garden, as well as some of these Thereianthus spicatus which should do well in dry areas of the garden and give us some Christmas colour.

There are so many flowers that I have neglected to post over the last few months, so the rest of this post is an attempt to put up some of the most interesting in galleries, along with an idea of when they flowered, to serve as a record of how the farm recovered from the fire and to help us see how it changes over the next year.

First of all this lovely yellow rush which is suddenly everywhere. There’s a good reason we haven’t seen it before as it flowers mainly after fire. It shares the lands with the Thereianthus spicatus so we have tall yellow underlaid with purple-blue, stunning flashes of colour, especially along the drive as we come into the farm.

I really think these must be Ornithogalum though I’m not sure which sub-species, there are over 200 fynbos sub-species. These are growing in masses in one specific dam and rocky area. In the same area is this very sweet little purple flowering shrub which I haven’t identified. And flowering close to the river is the easily identified Ornitholagum dubium.

Another delightful purple flower is Pseudoselago spuria, the lilac powderpuff, which is quite common but until this year we hadn’t seen many on the farm. I haven’t seen Pseudoselago serrata, its close relation, which, until this year, has always made a reliable appearance by the weir.

From the same broad family comes the charming Selago corymbosa, a reliable friend each spring. I’m aware that some of my photos are not great – we’ve had a windy spring and early summer and often it’s been impossible to get a good picture. Yet if I don’t take it, the flower may be gone when we next get out, so these should be viewed as a record, and not as fine examples of the photographer’s art.

Masses of Roella triflora were to be found at the top of the farm in mid-November.

And along the drive, far less prolific than usual but delightful to see and as elegant as ever, the lovely Aristea capitata in November. The other stunning Aristea which flowers in spring, late September, is Aristea africana.

There are so many pelargoniums and I have not done a great job of capturing them. One of my favourites, the delicate Pelargonium myrrhifolium. Pelargonium elongatum is another plant that thrives after the fire, there are masses of them all over the farm this year. And up by the weir, this pretty pink Pelargonium which I haven’t identified. These huge leaves on this will serve to identify it one day.

This is Roepera, flexuosa I believe though it should be mainly costal and there are as many as 50 Roepera’s in the fynbos, so the subspecies may be another. We see it every year, it’s a lovely shrub.

And to finish, the queenly Gladiolus carneus, the painted lady. Ours doesn’t usually have the distinguishing splash of pink on the lower petals, but after years of hoping that we had our own unique sub-species, we’ve concluded, the experts and I, that this is indeed carneus. This charming flower lights up our mountain in November.


Just an evening walk…

I have been remiss about posting the spring flowers, overwhelmed by the explosion of number and variety since the fires. The soaking winter deluges that could have filled the dams and saved the Cape from drought never happened, but we did get consistent rains, every few days, that were enough for crops and flowers to do well, so we have plenty of buchu to harvest, the olives are looking their best in several years, and the spring flowers have been extraordinary.

Maverick, the puppy is huge now, as tall as Maebh, and he goes a bit crazy in the evenings, so we have taken to evening walks on the farm to burn up his puppy energy. At this time of year the sunsets are late and glorious, the sun itself drops directly behind Table Mountain, 60 kilometres away. A couple of days ago Peter asked me to check on a weir in a place we don’t usually visit, so we set off on a perfectly still evening on a new route for Maverick who absolutely loves exploring the farm. I can’t wait until he can come running with us. Irish wolfhounds need careful exercising as they grow. Short walks are fine but he won’t be allowed to run with us until he is at least a year old. Here he is taking a short break with Maebh keeping an eye on things in the background.


Along the way we encountered thousands of little comb flowers, Micranthus junceus. In normal years we are lucky to see them at all, these are quite rare flowers. But this year, with the normal fynbos cleared by the fires, they are everywhere, paving the land in blue with their charming little combs. Out running this morning we came across a white one. The photo isn’t great, partly because the wind was howling and the light all wrong for taking photographs but I thought it essential to capture what seems like a rare find as the flowers are only referred to as blue in the literature. I will be posting this one on iSpot, which is the website dedicated to recording sightings of rare wildflowers.

Down by the weir we came across some Tritonia undulate which is growing all over the farm at the moment. I love its waxy white petals with their flashes of red. If I had the time and inclination to be a gardener I really could have the most amazing fynbos garden on this farm, with beauties like this just waiting to be transplanted to a location where they might thrive and multiply. One day perhaps.

I have never seen this blue flower before and I can’t find it in the book, so I shall have to put it on iSpot along with my white combflower and see if anyone can tell me what it is. Stunning, blue on a spiral, similar in some ways to the combflower but the flower itself is quite different. The splash of darker blue on the petals is quite distinctive.

After inspecting the weir we walked home in the darkening light, the sun setting behind the skeletons of burnt trees that overlook a puddle affectionately known as “James’s lake”. We took the long way home and crossed the dam wall with the setting sun behind us. The light was extraordinary and the farmhouse was reflected in the perfect stillness of the dam. We are so blessed.