Tag Archives: Gladiolus

Could try harder

The blog has suffered because I’ve gone back to school.  I’m doing a Masters in Philosophy in Coaching (MPhil means you do a significant research piece, that’s for next year).  Weeks like this one, spent at the business school, are intensive and in between there’s lots of study and lots of writing.  Along with launching my new business there’s just about time to run but not much time to write about it.

One of the subjects I was thinking about tonight on the run was the challenge of confidence and humility in business leaders, and specifically in myself as a leader and a coach.  I’d say I don’t have enough of either.  Confidence isn’t too hard to think about.  I don’t want to waffle on so in a nutshell, in many ways confidence is everything, it allows you to be grounded and forget yourself so that you can immerse yourself in the flow of whatever it is you are doing.  Lacking an edge of confidence might not be a bad thing though.  In my case it’s the endless “could try harder” I got as a child instead of positive reinforcement in the form of praise.  Yet it gives me an edge, makes me work a bit harder.  I’m a bit of an Avis type: I may not be No 1 but I try do harder.

Humility as a notion is altogether more difficult.  I’m trying to uncouple the notion from the famous role models like Mandela, Ghandi and Mother Teresa.  They may be shining examples of humility but it’s a public and political humility.  The kind I’m trying to understand is a humility that a great business leader or star sportsman or woman can epitomise.  Utterly genuine, held in a context of great work or great sporting success.  How can you develop and encompass that humility?  Indeed what is it?

These are the questions the study leads me to consider…

The evening was mild with heat from the warm day beating up into the cooling air and as we ran along the path at the very top of the farm we came across one of my favourite flowering bulbs, the gold and brown Gladiolus maculata.  Elegant and queenly, the flower heads arched into the path in front of us.

The Eriocephalus africanus is early this year compared to last – as are many flowers – the warm wet autumn must have a lot to do with it.

As we ran down the mountain Maebh paused and the last rays from the west caught the ghostly tips of her coat, illuminating her in the evening light.

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I have so many other flowers to post, but this magical evening run deserved a blog to itself.

 

The Polecat and the Porcupine

We were having dinner with my stepdaughter Robyn in Johannesburg earlier this week and she said “we can always tell when you are busy, Sarah, because you don’t write your blog.”  She’s right, it’s been a busy few weeks.  The runs continue but the blog has been neglected as I’ve travelled all over the place, and now a ton of reports need writing and people, horses and dogs have taken priority over the calm pursuit of blog writing.  So this blog is a bit of a mixed one, with several runs and bits of farm life all mixed up.

We share the mountain with many creatures that we never see, none more nocturnal and furtive than the African Striped Polecat.  Sadly we met one the other day, sad because she was deceased, Peter found her on the road and brought him home for a respectable burial.  I didn’t have the heart to take a photo of her, so I have taken this one from google images, with apologies to the photographer for the lack of a credit.  Of interest is that of all mammals, this is the stinkiest, stinkier even than a skunk.  Perhaps it’s a good thing that they are secretive and nocturnal.

 

African Striped Polecat

African Striped Polecat

We saw evidence as we ran up the mountain a week or so ago of another, less rare, nocturnal resident:  a porcupine quill on the road.  We quite often see the quills, and very occassionally the porcupines themselves and we love to think of them, snuffling around in the dark, happily digging up fynbos bulbs, of which we have plenty on the mountain.  Apparently this is the biggest porcupine in the world.  The photo of the quill is mine, the one of the porcupine also downloaded from google images.

Cape Porcupine

Cape Porcupine

 

Porcupine Quill

Porcupine Quill found on our morning run

The weather has been all over the place in the last few weeks.  We’ve had a wet but mild winter so far and now, suddenly, the temperature has dropped.  The water has been magnificent – as you can see from this photo: the mountain in the background is the Paarderberg and the full dams and the Berg River gleam in the last light of the setting sun.

The sun sets behind the Paaderberg

The sun sets behind the Paaderberg

On the same evening I went deeper into the thick fynbos above the house to see if there was anything new or exciting flowering   There was but I need to do a bit of research before I post it.  Meanwhile I took this charming evening view of the farm buildings.

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Another evening found us higher up the moutain and Jemima Chew is clearly enjoying being out on the mountain.

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Runs have also been early in the day when the light is poor, or at sunset.  I love how the Leucodendrum salignum glows in the gloom, a yellow-lime green colour, they shine on the mountain when nothing else stands out.

Leucadendron salignum Male

Leucadendron salignum Male

Leucadendron salignum Female, shining in the gloomy morning

Leucadendron salignum Female, shining in the gloomy morning

And the magnificant King Protea, Protea cynaroides, is in flower at the moment.  This is the South African national flower.

Protea cynaroides, The King Protea

Protea cynaroides, The King Protea

At the top of the farm, close to where we found the Gladiolus watsonius, is a flowering white shrub.  It looks like a Selago, but not any of the ones I find in my book, so identification is uncertain.

Selago

Selago

Finally a morning shot – with the Leucodendron salignum luminescent in the foreground, Paarl Mountain with the morning sun on it in the mid-distance and the Paaderberg in the background, covered in cloud.  This is a magical time of year in this part of the world, the soaking rain promises a great spring flowering season and good crops for us on the farm.  The light is magnificant, the days are getting longer and spring is getting closer.

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The Magnificent Gladiolus maculatus – Flower of the Day once again

Although I posted a couple of pictures of Gladiolus maculate, the Brown Afrikaner, the other day, I was not sure I had done full justice to this exquisite and delicate flower, with its lovely flowers perched atop a long stem and somehow withstanding the most violent wind and rain.  And although I’ve only ever seen one I thought it might be worth exploring if there were not more in the same area.  So on Friday the dogs and I walked up in the evening light to see if we could find them.  And we did, one other, a little less bedraggled looking.  I don’t know if these are rare but they are special indeed.

Gladiolus maculata in the evening light

Gladiolus maculatus in the evening light

Gladiolus maculata, two flowers atop a long, fine stem

Gladiolus maculatus, two flowers atop a long, fine stem

The setting sun shines through the petals of the Gladiolus maculate, the brown afrikaner

The setting sun shines through the petals of the Gladiolus maculatus, the brown afrikaner

Gloomy northern skies and dreams of fynbos flowers

Sitting in an office in Stockholm on a gloomy day it is hard to imagine the glories of Saturday morning’s run.  The light, the warmth, the howling wind.  Seamus and Meabh stand face on, heads up, loving the feel of the wind ruffling their coats.  As ever there is something new to see – this gorgeous Tritonia undulata which has emerged in quite a few places.  It’s very distinctive and very lovely, what a treasure to find on a Sunday morning.

Tritonia undulata

Tritonia undulata

I stopped to try and capture a good picture of it of course, and as I trotted on up the hill I reflected on how much less fit I am than I was when I started this blog.  You would think that blogging what I see when I’m out on a run would get me out running more.  But the problem is that my runs are longer – I can never resist a new flower, especially as anything that is a bulb may be gone by tomorrow, and each picture takes a few minutes as I try to find the best angle and the best light.  Sometimes, perversely, that even puts me off from going out at all because I don’t have the time I need to do a proper run and photograph the flowers as well.  It will be an ongoing dilema and really, as with so many problems in one’s life could probably be solved if I got up earlier…

One of the flowers that inspired me to start the blog has suddenly emerged.  It’s known as the comb flower, Micranthus junceus, and is one of the first that I identified because of its distinctive shape and pretty blue flowers.

Micranthus junceus, the Combflower

Micranthus junceus, the Combflower

As I do the research and leaf through the books hunting for flowers, inevitably one passes stunning flowers in the book and thinks – “never seen that one, I wonder if it grows on this mountain.”  This Roella ciliata is such a flower with its gorgeous lilac-blue and inky collar.  I spotted it out of the corner of my eye as we ran down one of the paths in the forest and felt like an excited hunter who has finally found a screcretive and exclusive quarry.

Roella ciliata

Roella ciliata

Much more common is this butterfly lily, the splendidly named Wachendorphia paniculata I posted it not long ago, but can’t resist posting this lovely example which is growing along the drive and which looked particularly fine against the sandstone wall.

Wachendorfia paniculata

Wachendorfia paniculata

Finally a couple of flowering bulbs that I haven’t identified, one blue, one yellow.   The blue one has a twisting spike out of which the flowers grow and the yellow one grows tightly out of its stalk like a delphinium.  I haven’t been able to identify them in the general fynbos books and I really need a night in with the encyclopaedia of fynbos bulbs to see if I can identify these and a couple of others that we still have not named.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of a better photograph and all is revealed.  A good project for hot summer nights when the pressure of new flowers has eased and we will start a job of identifying and cataloging what we’ve found.

Unidentified blue flowering bulb which has a distinctive twisting flowerhead

Unidentified blue flowering bulb which has a distinctive twisting flowerhead

Unidentified yellow flowering bulb that is suddenly flowering all over the farm, particularly on damp roads

Unidentified yellow flowering bulb that is suddenly flowering all over the farm, particularly on damp roads

Springtime – Pelargoniums, Proteas and Polygalas

Last week was a bad week for running with the dogs.  I’d hurt my leg and I had to go to Johannesburg on business and then when finally I was motivated to get out there, it rained.  But on Friday evening friends came to do a “flower safari” and it is always wonderful to see the mountain through their eyes – the wild beauty of it and the spectacular blooming of the fynbos all the more marvellous.

Sunday morning came with glorious sunshine, the dogs’ tails were wagging in anticipation and there were no excuses or reasons to avoid an hour of excercise interspersed with photography.  The morning light as the sun slants over the mountain lends itself beautifully to photos, so we were up at a reasonable hour and the four of us panted up the hill.

I probably repeat this too often, but although this is the 42nd blog this year, I have seen something completely new every single time I’ve been up the mountain and I know I’ve missed flowers as well.  Shrubs tend to bloom for a while, but flowering bulbs sometimes have only a brief moment of glory and the saddest thing is to come back from a trip, head up the moutain and see the withered shape of some lovely thing that we shan’t see again until 2014.

Yesterday we saw old friends and some completely new flowers.  The first to greet us was this coral-pink protea.  The buds have been there for ages and the anticipation was worth the wait when it finally bloomed. It could be Protea eximia, the large leaves with a distinctive border and the black tips of the outer petals seem indicative.

Protea eximia

Protea eximia

There are quite a few of these gorgeous fluffy white flowers just below the area we call the lookout and I think it might be Stilbe vestita.

Stilbe vestita

Stilbe vestita

Some flowers really create the feel of the mountain as there are prolific flowering shrubs all over the place.  I should do a blog dedicated to them.  I caught a lovely image of one, Oftia africana, on Sunday.

Oftia africana

Oftia africana

This pretty blue flowering bulb has been present in the same part of the farm as the Stilbe vestita and I’m also not sure what it is.  Further research will probably find it though, as I have lots of books on bulbs, but not always the time to read them before I post the blog.

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This white erica is really amazing – in one small part of the farm it has taken over and at this time of year there is a carpet of tiny white blooms – spectacular.  It’s a flat Erica that grows close to the ground.

Spreading white erica

Spreading white erica

The white Erica in close up

The white Erica in close up

Another Erica we love to see is this one.  It resembles several in the books, most closely abietina which one of my books says grows only on Table Mountain.  A close relation perhaps?  In any case it seems to flower for most of the year, with a brief break only over the worst of the winter months.

An Erica related to abietina?

An Erica related to abietina?

From time to time I post a photograph of the many Pelargoniums on our slopes, they are prolific, there is a variety of subspecies but not that I can identify for certain.

Pelargonium

Pelargonium

Strangely the same is true for this gladioli.  You really would think that something so very common and prolific would be easy to identify.  I often struggle with gladioli and for this one I have been through the Encyclopedia of Cape Bulbs several times.  The flowers are pink when in bud and turn pure white as they flower.  On the bottom petals there is a hint of yellow.  They are prolific and flower everywhere the slopes are damp.

Gladiolus - strangely unidentified

Gladiolus – strangely unidentified

A while ago I posted a blog entitled The Red Protea, fascinated by these red “flowers” that were growing on a protea bush.  It turns out that it’s the new growth of the lovely Protea nitida (see the Protea page for a picture of the lovely Protea nitida in full bloom).  Here is the very beginning of that new growth – it does indeed look like a flower in bud.

The new growth of Protea nitida

The new growth of Protea nitida

This flower, growing on a damp road right at the very top of the farm is clearly a member of the pea family, though unidentified at present.

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Another member of the pea family is Polygala.  There are quite a few of these and I’m not sure which one we have here but they are prolific in quite a few areas of the farm during the spring months.  The little white fringe confirms the identification as Polygala.

Polygala

Polygala

Finally, also at the top of the farm, we saw the first flower of Scabiosa columbaria.  Part of the charm of this flower is that it can survive the hot weather and will continue to flower all the way through the summer months when not much else is happening.

Scabiosa columbaria

Scabiosa columbaria

A spring weekend

I have been away too much over the past few weeks and am overjoyed to be back on the farm for a few weeks before I have to do any serious travel again. The last post talked about the Bulbinia fragens, the harbinger of spring. Spring here does not arrive over many weeks as it does in Europe. Within one unseasonably warm week I have returned to find the farm full of new flowers. This is building up to the height of the flowering season for Fynbos and the next few months are going to see an explosion of life. I’m already struggling to keep up – this blog will be quite long and I’ll be trying to keep regular posts so that we capture as much as possible of what’s happening on the mountain.

I’ve been looking out for this flower – it’s a dear friend, one of the first that made me realise the special nature of our fynbos bulbs. This photo is quite deceptive as this is a tiny iris-like flower – each petal not much bigger than my fingernail. This is Moraea tripelata and it has started to flower all over the farm. I spotted it first thing when I went running with the dogs on Saturday morning.

Moraea tripetala

Moraea tripetala

Peter then took us up to see the work he’s been doing clearing alien vegetation, especially the Port Jackson trees that choke the river. Every winter when the planting on the farm is done he attached this for a few weeks. Two winters ago we cleared around the waterfall and what was a chocked up watercourse that you couldn’t see is now full of vibrant fynbos life. He has just opened up this area, so dense with trees that you couldn’t get into it and has found the spot where the two rivers that run through the farm meet, before tumbling down the mountain to add their waters to the mighty Berg River that runs through the Paarl valley below us.

Clearing alien trees along the river

Clearing alien trees along the river

The place where the two rivers meet

The place where the two rivers meet

In the late afternoon I took some guests on our first “Flower safari” of the year. All we did was walk down the front drive and we were enchanted with the profusion of flowers we came across, many old friends that we have posted before, and quite a few new ones.

First of all we came across this tiny white gladiolus. I first saw it at the top of the bank, which gives an idea of scale.

Unknown gladiolus

Unknown gladiolus

Then I realised they are growing along the side of the road. I cannot find this one in my book at all – not even in the bulb encyclopedia. I’ve done this before, failed to identify a flower and then realised I’m not looking properly at the description, so if I do realise what it is, I’ll post it. It is quite enchanting, with a delicate fragrance, like so many of the gladioli.

Gladiolus unidentified

Gladiolus unidentified

Then we came across another example of the bell like pink Erica that I posted last week, this time a lot closer to home.

Erica with pink bells

Erica with pink bells

There are masses of these on the drive, and masses of what I guess to be Erica daphniflora, in colours of green, white, red and a particularly vibrant pink.

Erica, probably daphniflora

Erica, probably daphniflora

Erica, probably daphniflora

Erica, probably daphniflora

The Oxalis are still flowering away, these ones in white and pink profuse along the bank and the lands still covered in the yellow ones.

Oxalis

Oxalis

The next new find was this Erica – you can see it’s quite distinctive in the way it grow and flowers and the little white bells have the brown anthers exposed at the end. This was very attractive in the late evening light.

Erica, unidentified

Erica, unidentified

Another new find is this flowering shrub which is common all over the farm. I have always assumed it to be Cape Confetti, but with my evolving botannical eye I think it is more likely to be Adenandra villas, possily . I’m sure I will have many more occassions to photograph this stunning shrub.

Cape confetti - coleonem album or adenandra villas?

Cape confetti – coleonem album or adenandra villas?

As I was showing our guests one of the Protea nerifolias along the road we saw this little bud. We were delighted as it means these glorious proteas are going to continue to flower for some time.

The bud of a Protea nerifolia

The bud of a Protea nerifolia

The Felicia is such a wonderful flower. This is the first one I have seen this year and it will flower from now until the summer, along with the Lobostemum it is one of our commonest shrubs. That makes the first sighting of these pretty lilac flowers with their yellow centres no less exciting, both for their own sake and the promise of more spring flowers to come.

Felicia filifolia

Felicia filifolia

This warm weather won’t be with us for long, with temperatures expected to plummet during the week. Luckily up here on the mountain we almost never go below 5 degrees, so the flowers will be safe. In the valley below it can freeze, but the moutain seems to hold the heat of summer and protects us from the coldest weather.

We are coming into the best season for sunsets. Yet another amazing sunset this evening as I was finishing some more traditional gardening and the mountains behind turned a glorious orangey-pink.

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